How to Become a Substitute Teacher in America

IHow to Become a Substitute Teacher in Americaf you currently don’t have a job or have a job you don’t like, you should consider becoming a substitute teacher! Substitute teaching is not just for education majors. In many states you can become a substitute teacher with no teaching experience.

In this post, I am going to be sharing a lot about my own substitute teaching experience and what substitute teaching would look like for you.


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What Does a Substitute Teacher Do?

Depending on the classroom, subject, your experience, and your relationship with the teacher, you can find yourself doing a variety of things.

In a good classroom, the teacher will have left thorough sub notes that explains exactly what you will be doing all day. This usually includes what things you will have the students do and what their behavior expectations are. It is always helpful when teachers leave notes that have allotted times so you know how much time to spend on each activity.

As a substitute teacher, you are responsible for your students. It is your job to make sure their learning environment is safe and a space where learning takes place.

One of the hardest parts about being a sub is classroom management. This is how you control and respond to behavior problems and how you promote a healthy learning environment.


Difference between elementary and secondary

In elementary schools, you will be expected to do more teaching than you would in middle and high schools.

Most elementary school material will be simple enough that you will understand it and be able to explain it to students. For middle and high school, the students will be more in charge of their learning. For example, if you were say subbing in an Algebra class, you probably will not be teaching the students new concepts. You will likely be reviewing things they have already learned.


How your experience and relationship affect subbing

If you have any kind of background in teaching or the subject you’re subbing for and the teacher knows that, you may be asked to do more teaching than someone who has no experience.

Also, if you know the teacher already or have subbed a lot for them before, they will likely trust you to do more in their classroom than someone they don’t know.

For example, I am a certified teacher, and when teachers find that out, they often ask me to do more teaching than before they knew.

Note: You can still be a good substitute teacher even if you have no background in education!!


Would You Make a Good Substitute Teacher?

Good substitute teachers are people who are:

  • Good with children and/or teens
  • Patient and willing to help students who don’t get the material
  • Caring and make an effort to build healthy relationships with students
  • Willing to be flexible and creative when it comes to lesson plans
  • Understanding of differences and are willing to try their best to accept and accommodate each student’s differences


Reasons to Become a Substitute Teacher

Being a substitute teacher has a lot of benefits.



One thing that is nice about subbing is its flexibility as a job. You can sub every week day or less days if you prefer. You can go on vacation and stay home if you’re sick without having to call in or take vacation days. Also, you get to choose when you want to sub or if you want a day off.

Also, you can sub and still look for another job at the same time. If you’re unhappy with your current job or don’t have a job, you can sub and still have days to go to interviews for other jobs.

You also get the summer off!!



In many schools, being a sub pays better than other jobs that are only minimum wage. You also get paid for being there during lunch and during a teacher’s planning period.

One of the public school districts in my city pays $22 an hour to be a substitute teacher. This district has more challenging classrooms, but that is pretty good pay since minimum wage is a little over $9.



This job can be very rewarding even on challenging days. I love when I can make a difference in a student’s life.

Sometimes when I sub, there seems to be a lot of time that I get to spend talking to students. This is one of my favorite parts of this job. You will likely have students in your classroom that have difficult home lives or things that have happened to them in the past. You can make a real difference in a child’s life when you listen to them and encourage them.

I love it when I see one of my students outside of school and they come running up to me to say hi. I’ve had students that I didn’t think liked me that much come up to me in public because they were so excited to see me. You just never know who you might impact.


Requirements for Becoming a Substitute Teacher

In order to become a sub, there are certain requirements. These depend completely on where you live.

In some states, all you need is a high school diploma, others you need an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. Some states require a certain amount of credits, and others actually require you to be a certified teacher.

Where I live, you have to have 60 college credits in order to be qualified to substitute teach.

If you are interested in becoming a substitute teacher, your first step is going to be looking at the requirements in your state. You should be able to search on Google to figure out what is required.

If you meet the requirements, you should definitely try it out to see if you like being a sub.


Process for Becoming a Substitute Teacher

Depending on your state and school districts, there will be different ways for you to become a substitute teacher.

Where I live, you can sub at most of the public schools by applying to be a sub through a specific staffing agency.

You fill out the application, do some online learning, spend a few hours in an in-person orientation, get fingerprinted, get a subbing permit, and get approved.

The application I had to fill out was really long, but it’s not really difficult. I then had to watch some videos online about things I might deal with in a classroom.

Once I was approved online, I chose an orientation date to attend. This orientation was a few hours, and I learned a lot about subbing. I also had to pay to get fingerprinted. Some schools will pay for you to get fingerprinted, so it just depends on where you’re planning to sub.

Most states require you to have some sort of subbing permit or license. You have to pay for it before you can become a sub. The first year I subbed I had to pay, but after that I didn’t because I am a certified teacher.

Once you get approved, you will be able to sub.

I don’t know how other districts and agencies schedule their subs, but for me, I get to look at an online calendar and accept jobs that way. I can also choose to decline jobs or block off days that I don’t want to be called on.

If you are interested in subbing at a private school, you might have to contact them separately.


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What would you like to know about subbing?

Comment down below your questions about subbing! Are there things that you want to know more about? Are there things that you’re still confused about? I would love to know!


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How to Become a Substitute Teacher in America
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How to Become a Substitute Teacher in America
How to Become a Substitute Teacher in America

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