How to Become a Substitute Teacher? Steps and Guidance

How To Become A Substitute Teacher? Steps And Guidance

Substitute Teaching is a flexible career with less working stress than full-time teaching. Substitute teacher teaches a class in the unavailability of the regular teacher.

Last week, my friend said that she is interested in substitute teaching and needs to get more information and guidance on how to become a substitute teacher.

Young adults who have immediately completed their higher studies, retired teachers, retired government officers, and parents with small kids are more interested in substitute teaching.

Even though most people are interested in substitute teaching, no one has a proper understanding of the role and the process of becoming a substitute teacher.

Therefore, I’m going to provide steps and guidance to becoming a substitute teacher through this article. It will further describe the role of a substitute teacher, required educational qualifications, skills, and experiences. In addition, the pros and cons of being a substitute teacher will be identified together with their payments.

So, future substitute teachers, let’s get started on your journey with proper understanding first.

I have listed the topics below that I discuss in this post. Feel free to jump straight to the one you are interested in. Let’s get started! 

What does a substitute teacher do?

Substitute teachers take over the class when the regular teacher is absent. There are few things to consider about the need for substitute teachers.

When do schools need substitute teachers? 

Substitute teachers are assigned to teach in the absence of the regular teacher. They are responsible for managing the class’s behavior and need to adapt quickly to the subjects and lessons.

In addition, substitute teachers need to conduct the class and provide a report to the permanent teacher. 


The teachers looking for how to become a substitute teacher might be interested in the work duration of a substitute teacher. Substitute teachers can be short-term or long-term substitutes.

Short-term substitutes are assigned on an illness, sudden leave, or day-off of the permanent teacher. Long-term substitution covers an extended period of a long vacation, maternity leave, or a vacant position of a permanent teacher. 

Lesson Plan 

Substitute teacher delivers lessons to the class which will accompany the lessons of the permanent teacher so far. Then to make the regular teacher aware of the lesson conducted in his/her absence, the substitute teacher prepares notes and a summary of the lesson.

Most of the time, substitute teachers have already prepared lesson plans for major subjects since the position is an on-call teacher substitution.

What are the educational qualifications needed to become a substitute teacher?

Suppose you are eager about how to become a substitute teacher. In that case, this section will help you to get a good understanding of the qualifications of a substitute teacher.

Education qualifications needed to become a substitute teacher are different from state to state, district to district, and school to school—some countries issue vacancies and call applications for substitute teachers, but some countries do not.

Most of the time, substitute teachers are appointed by the school.  Then the required qualifications depend on the school. 


However, when concerning the common standard qualifications of a substitute teacher, a bachelor’s degree is required most of the time.

A degree related to education or teaching is highly recommended. If not, college completion, high school diploma, or GED is needed as academic requirements. 


Some states issue substitute teaching licenses and require that license in recruiting positions.  To earn the license, you need to fulfill your educational requirements as mentioned above. Then must pass a criminal background check, skill test and pay a fee to obtain the license. 

When states offer emergency substitute teaching certificates in the situations of vacancies in schools for teachers in several subjects, they require some proficiency levels in each subject. 


Some schools ask for teaching internship experiences and certificates as qualifications. Sometimes, candidates have to face a test and pass it. It will measure their knowledge and skills. On the other hand, some schools do not require much qualification from substitute teachers. 

The first thing you must do here is, decide where you prefer to work as a substitute teacher and search for the educational qualifications required to apply there.

What are the skills and experience that need to be a substitute teacher?

This is an essential topic for teachers looking for information regarding how to become a substitute teacher. Substitute teacher needs several skills since it is a somewhat tricky job in the education field.

Here, some basic skills were listed which required to be a substitute teacher.


Substitute teachers must be more accountable than even the regular teacher. It is a job that should be ready to work on-call whenever a vacancy arises.

Therefore, substitute teachers must be accountable and be ready to fulfill the duty in an organized manner


Flexibility is a mandatory skill for substitute teachers. Most of the time, they are called for a class a day before or the morning of that day which they need.

Also, their tasks can be changed under the situation. So, substitute teachers must be flexible every time.


Adaptability is also crucial since substitute teachers have to attend several classes several times. It can be a primary class or a high school class. And the lessons should be conducted according to the previous lessons and procedure of the regular teacher.

Further, there are different students in the class. Substitute teachers must have the skill of adaptability to work in these situations. 


Substitute teachers should be punctual since they are appointed to fill the unavailability of the regular teacher. So, they need to attend the class on time to keep the students within the classroom. If not, it will disturb the school schedule. 

Time Management

Substitute teachers were assigned to complete several tasks in a small period. They need to manage time to adapt to the subject, fulfill the lessons, understand students’ behavior, take their attention and active participation and prepare reports for the regular teacher. The skill of time management is necessary for them.

Read – Time Management For Teachers – Helpful Guide


Empathy is needed since the school is a place where different students with different mentalities are studying together. Substitute teachers do not know students personally.

Therefore, they must be kind and empathetic to understand students and their behaviors. They need to be concerned about students’ needs and should be sensitive to their ages and differences.

Creative Thinking

Since substitute teachers are unfamiliar to students, they need to be creative to engage students in the lesson. They can think creatively and use funny activities, games, and visual materials to conduct the lesson more effectively.

In addition to skills, some experiences are needed to become a substitute teacher. Knowledge and experiences on multiple subjects is an additional qualification for a substitute teacher.

Moreover, they need to have experience in teamwork, coordination, leadership, and engagement with students. Teaching internships and practical teaching experiences too can be considered as a competitive ability.

However, some schools do not consider prior working experiences. So, don’t worry if you don’t have teaching experience yet.

Pros and Cons of being a substitute teacher

If you are thinking of how to become a substitute teacher, you must definitely pay attention to this topic. Before being a substitute teacher, you need to identify the pros and cons of choosing that career.


  • Job Flexibility

Job is flexible as you can choose your work schedule, and it is your choice to accept the tasks. Substitute teaching is a flexible job that one can do while engaging in another occupation, studying, or family work.

  • Hourly Pay

Substitutes are paid for their working hours, and you can earn more according to the hours you put in. It is advantageous as you can substitute in multiple schools and can earn more. 

  • Good working experience

Fresh graduates with no working experience can obtain good working experiences through substitute teaching. It provides working experiences in a wide variety of settings with different students in different grades. It will lead your future pathways to become teachers. 

  • Less working stress

Permanent teachers have to accomplish several tasks in addition to teaching. However, substitute teachers do not have that stress to stay at school for whole school hours, and they can leave when their assigned task is completed.

Therefore, substitutes have less working stress than permanent teachers.

  • Can expand knowledge and skills

Substitute teaching will improve your knowledge in multiple subjects and encourage you to explore new knowledge. It will improve your transferable skills in adaptability, time management, punctuality, coordination, creative thinking, etc.


  • No Guarantee of having work

Since substitutes are called in the unavailability of the regular teacher, there is no guarantee of regular work. There may be days with no work.

  • Difficulty in engaging with students.

Most of the time, students do not respect substitute teachers. They try to compare substitutes with the regular teacher. Then, discipline issues can be occurring in the classroom and can have difficulties in controlling and engaging students in the lesson.

  • Unappreciated

In most of the schools, substitute teachers aren’t treated well and unappreciated. The school office staff, teachers, and students do not respect substitute teachers as they are ‘just subs.’ 

  • No job benefits 

Substitute teachers do not get any job benefits as permanent teachers such as loan facilities, health insurance, festival allowances, and privileges.

  • Unstable income

Since substitutes do not have work regularly their income is not stable as other jobs. They will obtain a chance to earn only in the absence of a regular teacher.

How much do Substitute teachers get paid?

The salary is another basic fact that should be included in how to become a substitute teacher.  The salary of a substitute teacher depends on the state, district, and school.

In most cases, substitute teachers are paid a daily rate. According to the National Substitute Teachers Alliance (NSTA), the current pay rate per day is $20 to $190. The national average per full day is about $105. According to the information stated by ZipRecruiter, a job vacancy provider, the average hourly pay is $13.62 for a substitute teacher in the United States as of June 2021.

Moreover, based on the data statistics of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an annual average salary of $32,360 is obtained by a substitute teacher in the United States.

In some cases, full-time substitute teachers earn a salary similar to full-time teachers. However, it depends on the school district.


Now, I think you have got a better idea about substitute teaching and how to become a substitute teacher. I have simply listed the steps you need to follow before applying for a substitution for further clarification.

  • Step 1 – Identify the role of a substitute teacher
  • Step 2 – Select where you prefer to substitute (district/ school)
  • Step 3 – Find out the educational qualifications you required to apply 
  • Step 4 – Identify skills and experiences needed to become a substitute teacher
  • Step 5 – Fulfill those educational qualifications and skills
  • Step 6 – Make sure the salary and payments of that position satisfied you
  • Step 7 – Aware of both pros and cons of substitute teaching
  • Step 8 – If you think substitute teaching fits you, then apply

So, good luck, future substitute teachers. If you find this article useful, stay tuned with Edu Nursery for more valuable content.

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