How to Become a Certified Substitute Teacher in 2023 | Teachers of Tomorrow (2024)

Substitute teachers offer an invaluable service of teaching and handling other classroom responsibilities whenever the regular teacher is away. They fill a critical gap in the education system by ensuring no student falls behind in their education and all the teachers feel the presence of an expert they can consult.

In many states, substitute teachers cannot serve schools or school districts without certification. Certification serves as proof of expertise and competency. If you desire to serve the community as a substitute teacher, this article can help you get started.

In this article, we will discuss why you need a substitute teacher certificate and how you can start your journey to being a certified substitute teacher.

What is a Substitute Teacher?

A substitute teacher is a certified or experienced person who fills in for a full-time teacher who is either ill, on leave, on vacation, on vocational training, or handling other critical issues. Some substitutes become part-time employees, while others take up full-time positions.

Substitute teachers step in for different reasons but mainly to maintain student progress. They may also be called guest teachers, casual teachers, relief teachers, supply teachers, sub-teachers, backup teachers, and emergency teachers.

The responsibilities of a substitute teacher vary based on the school’s needs and the directives left behind by the full-time teacher. But here are some of the responsibilities you can expect to conduct as a substitute teacher:

  • Carrying out administrative duties like recording and monitoring attendance, filling papers, photocopying, keeping an eye on the students, and reporting incidents and accidents.
  • Guiding the students with the help of the lesson plans provided by the full-time preceptor.
  • Curating lesson plans with the help of the absent teacher in case the teacher had not created some.
  • Administering exams, marking them, and writing performance reports for each student.
  • Keeping a structured record of all the activities and lessons taught, compiling the records into a report, and submitting the report to the regular teacher when they return.
  • Keeping the parents up-to-date about their children’s performances and any other necessary observations.
  • Assisting with outside class activities such as sports and school trips to ensure student safety and proper behavior.

How to Become a Certified Substitute Teacher in 2023 | Teachers of Tomorrow (1)

Requirements for Substitute Teachers

States and school districts have varying requirements for substitute teachers. The minimum requirement in some states is a college degree, while others demand a high school diploma, and some settle for at least some college experience.

Some States delegate all the requirements-setting duties to the specific school districts and do not get involved in the process. For example, Texas, New York, Vermont, Tennessee, Montana, Oklahoma, Hawaii, and South Dakota leave the requirements-setting responsibility to the individual school districts.

Other than degrees and certifications, other States and school districts require substitute teachers to be licensed. Prospective substitute teachers can have a legal or regular substitute teaching license. Having either of the licenses qualifies one to be enlisted as a member of the local group of substitute teachers.

As a requirement, schools or districts undertake a background check for the safety of the students, fellow teachers, and the community. Some necessary background checks include credit history, education, work history, criminal records, drug screening, and medical immunization and history records.

Substitute teachers must check in with the relevant education departments and authorities in their state to ascertain whether they satisfy the requirements because they are expected to fulfill the responsibilities of a regular teacher, such as:

  • Liaising with the student’s parents to help with daily schooling issues.
  • Maintaining classroom neatness, order, decorum, and discipline.
  • Preparing and submitting end-year reports as specified by the school guidelines, especially when they chip in for a long period.
  • Staying up-to-date with curriculum developments and trends to ensure the students are well-informed and current.
  • Consulting with the principal and other departments in case of issues and when seeking guidance.

Steps to Becoming a Certified Substitute Teacher

The requirements for becoming a certified substitute teacher may vary depending on state and school district. Here are the typical steps you’ll need to follow:

1- Get a bachelor’s degree

A bachelor’s degree in education is the minimum requirement in most states to be recognized as a certified substitute teacher. Alternatively, an associate’s or master’s degree can be used.

Pursuing a master’s degree in education gives you more job opportunities and the potential to earn more income. You also receive advanced training and become a better teacher capable of holding various leadership positions.

Some options include a degree in childhood education, general teaching, elementary learning, and secondary education. The degree can be in any education subject, such as Biology, English, or History.

You can also choose to minor in education and undertake a non-education major. However, you may be required to provide an education post-baccalaureate certificate to serve as a sub-teacher. Going through teacher training would also boost your chances of landing a job due to the expertise gained.

2- Get certified

Certification proves that you underwent further specialized training and passed the set examinations. Based on the degree you hold, there can be several certification options. You should choose the one that favors you the most.

Getting certified gives you more stability. The hands-on training improves your leadership and classroom management skills, efficiently preparing you for the real world. The examinations challenge your thinking and allow you to demonstrate your understanding and justify your instructional techniques.

You can negotiate yourself into high-paying or long-term roles with a certificate because of your competency. You can also increase the chances of being hired by multiple schools by networking with other certified substitute teachers and school principals.

3- Sharpen your skills

After completing a certification program, you should actively participate in teaching practice and internships to learn teaching strategies. You can take a paid teaching role or volunteer to tutor students part-time.

Besides growing your practical skills, you should also work on soft skills such as patience, interpersonal, and communication skills.

Communicating vividly with students and fellow teachers boosts your possibility of being considered for better positions. It also strengthens the bond and understanding between you, the students, and other professionals.

Soft skills such as leadership and teamwork make it easy for you to adapt to different situations as the number of schools hiring you increases. You can also smoothly transition into new classroom situations.

If you do not get internship teaching opportunities, you can opt for teaching-related programs such as public speaking, people management, and communication training to improve your skills.

Participating in people management roles demonstrates your capability to direct and handle students. Moreover, being a great public speaker shows you are capable of gaining the attention of crowds and effectively presenting information to different types of audiences, which will help you get hired as a substitute teacher.

4- Apply for substitute teaching jobs

The application process to join a substitute teacher pool varies from one state or local school district to the other. It also depends on your availability to step in for a full-time teacher or substitute part-time.

Usually, substitute teachers approach schools and district schools directly and apply. You’ll be required to complete an application and upload essential documents, including a resume, essay, references list, and evidence of certification.

If you fit the qualifications of the school or school district, you get called in for an interview and undergo background checks.

Once you are accepted, you are taken through an orientation process to learn the procedures and policies of the school or school district. Lastly, you are updated on the correct process of accepting substitute tasks and showing up for them.

Alternatively, you can apply through school or school district staffing agencies to be a part of a substitute teacher pool. Submit your application through the organization’s website and follow the set steps.

Desired Skills for Substitute Teachers

When evaluating the effectiveness of a prospective substitute teacher, schools and school districts go through the skills outlined on your resume. There are several skills a substitute teacher may have, but these are the desired ones:

Active listening- A great substitute teacher must be able to listen keenly, understand, respond, and recall instructions or any information provided. Being fully attentive during a conversation, asking questions, using non-verbal cues properly, and listening not to judge but to understand demonstrates a high level of active listening skills.

Empathy- An empathetic backup teacher can easily share and understand the feelings of students and colleagues. Such a skill builds a stronger connection, creating more trust between the students and substitute teachers. It is much easier for students to approach an empathetic substitute teacher for help and consultation.

Communication- Since substitute teachers deal with different groups of students and teachers, they should be able to pass information vividly and effectively. The students and teachers have different traits, and conveying information in a way they understand ensures they are all on the same page.

Clear communication yields a positive learning space and enhances the substitute teacher’s and students’ trust. Students are likely to perform better because the teacher clearly explains the concepts and facts of the subject in question and answers questions without losing the student’s attention.

Problem-solving attitude- Each institution that calls upon a substitute teacher has a need that is, in most cases, different from other institutions. Therefore, a relief teacher must develop a problem-solving attitude to adapt and solve novel problems quickly.

For example, a substitute teacher might get to an institution and realize that the lesson plans are out of place, solve the problem, and start teaching only to be booked in the middle of the day with another school requesting a lesson plan on short notice.

A sub-teacher with a problem-solving attitude will handle these two problems positively compared to one without.

Public speaking- An emergency teacher with outstanding public speaking skills is cable of capturing students’ attention and keeping it. The teacher hooks the students by maintaining eye contact, uttering words clearly and adjusting the tone to suit the subject under discussion.

Patience- At some point, relief teachers are faced with frustrating situations like having to deal with stubborn students. Some students react negatively to a new teacher taking over their class. A patient substitute teacher can deal with such students by reacting to their repulsion more calmly and helping them understand the need for the changes.

Flexibility- Working with different institutions and handling varied daily duties can overwhelm a substitute teacher. To handle change better, a sub should practice flexibility and adaptability to help sustain their commitment and enthusiasm to their career path. A substitute teacher must master time management and priority settings for greater flexibility.

Certification Options for Substitute Teachers

Having a bachelor’s degree can open up more opportunities for you, as some states require substitute teachers to have a degree, while others don’t.

If you have a degree, most states can allow you to take up a substitute teaching position without going through a teacher training or certification program. But some states are strict when it comes to having previous classroom experience.

How to Become a Certified Substitute Teacher in 2023 | Teachers of Tomorrow (2)

Teaching without a Certificate

Some states, such as Florida, Georgia, Texas, and several private schools, hire substitute teachers without a certification. In most cases, the states or private schools demand that the teachers have some college experience and a clean criminal record.

There are states that allow you to substitute as long as you have a Diploma in education too. Most of the states that go down this lane usually have a great demand for teachers.

Note that having a certificate in the states that don’t check for it gives you an advantage over substitute teachers without it. You can be paid a higher income, get more benefits than the rest, and potentially land a full-time position quicker.

Research your State’s Certifications

Teaching and substitute teaching certifications vary among states. States, like Arizona, California, Kansas, and Kentucky require some form of teaching certification before you can tutor as a backup teacher.

Popular certification programs you can pursue include Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), Educational Certificate: k-12 (Ed:), First Aid, CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and AED Instructor, and Microsoft Certified Educator (MAE).

The validity of the certification you select depends on the specifications of the program. You are responsible for renewing expired certificates to keep teaching as a backup teacher.

In some states, you might have the luxury to keep teaching while taking your certification. Such states are usually in dire need of teachers to teach subjects like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and foreign languages. Examples of these states include Mississippi, Wisconsin, Missouri, Texas, California, and Kentucky.

However, some states require you to complete a certification program before you’re considered for teaching. In other states, you must have a provisional certificate that serves as temporary evidence that you are pursuing a teaching certificate. A provisional certificate becomes invalid once you get the original certificate.

Substitute Teaching without a Degree

In some states, such as Missouri, Texas, Kentucky, Mississippi, California, Wisconsin, and Arizona, you can be hired as a substitute teacher without a bachelor’s degree. Some states employ substitute teachers with GEDs, diplomas, or some college experience.

You can also be hired as a sub in some states as long as you have proof of certification in education. You must submit a teaching certificate as evidence and undergo a background check before subbing.

Some states can hire you while undertaking your certification, especially when schools need teachers urgently. These states issue emergency substitute teaching certificates to students with a teaching certification, diploma, or some college experience.

Emergency substitute teaching certificates have a validity period of two to three years, and you would teach for a specified period. For example, an emergency certificate issued in California would be valid for a year and limit you to 30 days of teaching per year.

Being able to teach as a substitute teacher without a degree indicates the necessity of subs in the education system. Substitute teachers embody regular teachers and maintain the image of absent teachers through their skills, such as empathy, active listening, and verbal communication.

Salary Expectations for Substitute Teachers

Based on Indeed’s data, substitute teachers earn about $37,999 annually, and the overall wage range is $24,096 – $59,923. According to ZipRecruiter, subs can be paid as high as $25.72/hour and, at times, as low as $7.21.

Although there’s a disparity in hourly pay, the majority of relief teachers earn between $11.54 (25th percentile) to $17.07 (75th percentile) per hour across the US.

Some cities paying substitute teachers higher wages in the United States include:

  1. Los Angeles, California – $50,233
  2. New York, New York – $48,836
  3. Phoenix, Arizona – $46,141
  4. Detroit, Michigan – $43,641
  5. Chicago, Illinois – $39,161

States such as Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, and Arkansas pay substitute teachers 25 % less than the stipulated national average salaries.

Job Outlook for Substitute Teachers

Data provided by BLS shows that the demand for substitute teachers is rising and will increase by 2.8% over the coming years. Among the many institutions needing substitute teachers, elementary schools top the list.

Here is a list of other institutions and services that are in need of substitute teachers:

  • Elementary and Secondary Schools
  • Employment Services
  • Local Government, excluding schools and hospitals
  • Child Day Care Services
  • Educational Support Services

Some of the states hiring substitute teachers include Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois, California, New York, and Indianapolis.

Ready to Become a Substitute Teacher?

Without substitute teachers, numerous students would lack their right to education. Backup teachers step in and step up to replicate and advance the teaching experience the absent teacher offered to students.

You are more than welcome to serve as a substitute teacher. Most states require that you have a certificate in teaching or a substitute teaching certificate before you can teach. Ready to get your feet wet? Apply for certification to start your journey toward a fulfilling career.

Teachers of Tomorrow offers alternative teacher certification options that can help you fasten your journey of becoming a teacher. Visit us today and get your professional teaching certificate.

How to Become a Certified Substitute Teacher in 2023 | Teachers of Tomorrow (2024)


What is the quickest program to become a teacher? ›

4 Ways to Become a Teacher in No Time
  • Enroll in a One-year Master's Program. ...
  • Pursue a Single-subject Teaching Degree. ...
  • Obtain a School District Internship. ...
  • Teach at a Private School. ...
  • Complete the Core Curriculum of the Fast-track Certification Program. ...
  • Apply for State Licensure for Teachers. ...
  • Apply for Teaching Jobs.
Mar 25, 2023

How to introduce yourself as a substitute teacher in the class? ›

Introduce yourself to the students.

Write your name on the board. When you greet students, introduce yourself and gesture to your name on the board so students know where to look if they forget. It can also be helpful to share a little bit about yourself to make a connection with the students.

Can I teach in Alabama without certification? ›

Those aspiring to become teachers must obtain an Alabama teacher certification to teach in our public schools. All certification providers must adhere to the Alabama Department of Education regulations for the certification process.

What is required to be a substitute teacher in Arizona? ›

A Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Official transcript(s) required. A valid Arizona Department of Public Safety Identity Verified Prints (IVP) fingerprint card (plastic).

What is the easiest teacher to become? ›

10 Easiest Subjects to Teach
  1. Math. Math is a subject that is mainly conceptual. ...
  2. Physical Education. If you're like most people, you probably dreaded having to go to gym class when you were in school. ...
  3. Art. ...
  4. Music. ...
  5. Language Arts. ...
  6. Science. ...
  7. Health. ...
  8. Spelling.

How long does it take to become a teacher in the States? ›

Prospective teachers must earn, at minimum, a bachelor's degree in order to be eligible for certification. Traditional bachelor's degrees take four years to complete, meaning that at the very least, it takes four years of schooling to become a teacher.

What do I need for my first day of substitute teaching? ›

Bring along your favorite 10-minute activities, games, and contests to keep the class focused if lessons finish early. Talk to staff at the school and ask them to give you a quick rundown of students that may need more attention or may be ready to help you out.

What should I say in a substitute teacher interview? ›

Sample Answer: I am a very outgoing person who loves to be around people. I have been a substitute teacher for five years and have worked in several different schools. I am very adaptable and can work with a variety of students. Question: What would you do if you arrive to a classroom and there are no lesson plans?

How do I get a substitute license in Alabama? ›

In Alabama, the way to earn a substitute teaching license is through the superintendent or other district administrator placing a recommendation to the state for your licensure.

How much do substitutes make in Alabama? ›

The salary range for a Certified Substitute Teacher job is from $32,904 to $45,037 per year in Alabama.

How do I get an emergency teaching certificate in Alabama? ›

An emergency certificate may be requested by the employing school superintendent if there are no qualified teachers to fill a vacant position. The emergency certificate candidate must have at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution.

How much do subs make in AZ? ›

How much does a Certified Substitute Teacher make in Arizona? The salary range for a Certified Substitute Teacher job is from $34,690 to $46,367 per year in Arizona.

How do I get an emergency sub license in Arizona? ›

Application: A completed Request for Emergency Substitute Certificate. Fee: The required fee is $60. Per Board-rule, certification fees are non-refundable. Request for Emergency Substitute Certificate: Submit the Emergency Substitute Request form completed and signed by the district or charter school superintendent.

Do you need a bachelor's degree to substitute teach in AZ? ›

Arizona has a relatively easy path to certification for substitute teachers. In fact, no additional testing requirements are necessary, although you will need to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university.

What is the lowest paid teacher? ›

Where teachers are paid the least. On the other side of the pay scale, teachers, on average, earn as little as $47,156 a year in Hawaii, the lowest-paying state. It may be especially difficult to make ends meet on wages that don't keep up with the state's notoriously high cost of living.

What grade is the hardest to teach? ›

The Verdict: Fifth grade~ what a special grade. But do you see many of these factors as deal breakers? Do you have more cons than pros? If so, teaching fifth grade may be the hardest elementary grade for you to teach.

What is the lowest level of teacher? ›

Teaching at memory level is considered to be the lowest level of teaching. At this level, the thinking ability does not play any role. students only cram the facts, information, formulas, and laws that are taught to them.

How can I get teaching license in USA easily? ›

Enroll in a teacher certification program. Complete the online core curriculum of the fast-track teacher certification program. Participate in a clinical placement/field experience. Apply for state certification to officially become a licensed US teacher.

What skills do you need to be a teacher? ›

Some qualities of a good teacher include skills in communication, listening, collaboration, adaptability, empathy and patience. Other characteristics of effective teaching include an engaging classroom presence, value in real-world learning, exchange of best practices and a lifelong love of learning.

Why do I want to be a teacher? ›

"I want to become a teacher so that I can make a real difference in children's lives. I take the task of developing young people into kind, thoughtful and contributing adults very seriously. I have always been so grateful to my teachers and the educational system for making me the person that I am today.

Can I substitute teach everyday? ›

With this permit you can: Teach as a day-to-day substitute in any classroom. Work as a substitute teacher for up to 60 days for any one teacher during the school year (or up to 20 days for an individual teacher in special education classrooms).

What to do when students misbehave for a substitute? ›

Make rime during a class meeting for students to give each other compliments or appreciations about specific things they did to help the substitute. If you have to deal with a student who has been discourteous to a substitute, share your own feelings respectfully, and ask for help in rectifying the situation.

What are four basic questions you should ask when called to substitute? ›

5 Questions Every Substitute Wants Answered
  • Where is the restroom and do I need a key?
  • Where should I send attendance…and with whom?
  • Where's the vending machine?
  • Do you have any extra activities?
May 11, 2021

What is the biggest challenge in substitute teaching? ›

One of the biggest challenges for substitute teachers is keeping students engaged and focused. It's important to show the hiring manager that you want to keep students active to help them learn the course material.

What is the most difficult task for a substitute teacher? ›

Perhaps the most daunting challenge that awaits any substitute teacher is the classroom full of students. New substitute teachers may worry about individual student needs, misbehavior, and how to keep a classroom of thirty students, or more, on task, focused, and cooperative.

How fast can you become a teacher in California? ›

There are two primary ways to meet this requirement. The first is to complete a four-year undergraduate degree from an accredited institution, and then complete a graduate program in teacher preparation—usually a Master's degree. This has traditionally been the route completed by most teachers in California.

How long does it take to become a teacher in SC? ›

The traditional teacher certification path in South Carolina typically takes a bit longer than four years. Students complete a state-approved bachelor's degree focused on educator preparation. They also pursue a semester-long student-teaching internship.

What is the fastest way to become a teacher in Texas? ›

For a prospective teacher with a bachelor's degree, the fastest way to become a teacher in Texas is through an alternative certification program. These programs can be completed in as little as six months (when you opt for an unpaid clinical placement).

How can I become a teacher fast in Texas? ›

What is the fastest way to become a teacher with no degree? Completing an alternative teaching certificate in Texas through Teachers of Tomorrow typically takes most individuals 9-12 months to complete.

How do I get a 30-day teaching permit in CA? ›

The candidate for a 30-day permit must have earned a Bachelor's degree or higher and must pass a Basic Skills Test with minimum scores. The testing requirement may be met through a variety of options including the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), SAT, ACT, Advanced Placement (AP), and others.

How to become a substitute teacher in California without a degree? ›

The Emergency Substitute Permit for Prospective Teachers allows students who are enrolled in a teacher preparation program to substitute before earning a bachelor's degree. The applicant must have completed 90 or more units of coursework, fulfilled the basic skills requirement, paid fees and had a background check.

What is the fastest way to become a teacher in California? ›

After completing an approved program, the fastest and easiest way to apply for a California teaching credential is online. The program sponsor must formally recommend you for the appropriate certification via the CTC's online system.

Can you teach in SC without a degree? ›

How to Become a Teacher in South Carolina. To meet the basic eligibility requirements for teaching certification in South Carolina, candidates must have at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, pass the required Praxis assessments, and complete a background check.

How much do substitute teachers make in SC per day? ›

Average Kelly Substitute Teacher daily pay in South Carolina is approximately $104, which is 14% below the national average.

How much do teachers make in SC a week? ›

Teacher Salary in South Carolina
Annual SalaryWeekly Pay
Top Earners$43,833$842
75th Percentile$34,144$656
25th Percentile$22,147$425

What state has the highest paid teachers? ›

1. New York. New York is among the best-paying states for teachers. Reasons include an average annual salary of $92,222 that, although below the state's average income of $107,000, is still more than the salaries paid in other states.

What is the lowest teacher salary in Texas? ›

Public School Teacher Salary in Texas
10th Percentile Public School Teacher Salary$38,132TX
25th Percentile Public School Teacher Salary$46,492TX
50th Percentile Public School Teacher Salary$55,673TX
75th Percentile Public School Teacher Salary$67,896TX
1 more row

How fast can you complete Texas Teachers of tomorrow? ›

Completing an alternative teaching certificate in Texas through Teachers of Tomorrow typically takes most individuals 9-12 months to complete. This is because the curriculum for the online certification program happens at your own pace with the support of mentors and an online community.

How fast can you get a Texas teaching certificate? ›

To teach in the state of Texas, the certification process can take 4 to 6 months if you have a bachelor's degree. If you do not have a bachelor's degree, your work experience may still qualify you for an educator preparation program in which your timeline to certification would remain the same.

Can I teach in Texas without certification? ›

Since 1995, Texas law has allowed school districts to issue a school district teaching permit (SDTP) to someone who does not hold a teaching certificate (Texas Education Code §21.055). A teacher employed on a school district teaching permit is not certified by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC).


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