How to Become a Substitute Teacher in Iowa

Jan 02, 2019

Substitute teaching allows for workplace variety and flexibility for aspiring substitutes wishing to be a part of the education of our younger generations. This article outlines the paths available to becoming a substitute teacher in the state of Iowa.

Those who are interested in working with and educating children on a more part-time basis may find substitute teaching to be an interesting and rewarding job. Substitute teaching can be more flexible and adaptable than other teaching assignments, which is an attractive quality to aspiring teachers looking for variety as well as those who would like to get a feel for a particular school or district before signing on for a longer, more permanent teaching contract. Substitute teachers in Iowa will need to earn a bachelor's degree, pass the necessary exams, and either become licensed or earn a substitute authorization to be eligible for substitute teaching assignments.

Iowa Substitute Teaching Requirements

Average Salary for Substitue Teachers in Iowa (2016)* $28,960
Required Degree Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Elementary education and optional endorsement subject (elementary)
Specific endorsement subject (middle/secondary)
Testing Requirements Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) Pedagogy or Praxis Performance Assessment for Teachers (PPAT) and Praxis Content Knowledge OR
edTPA Assessment

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Complete a Teacher Preparation Program

The most common way to become eligible for substitute teaching assignments in Iowa is to become a licensed substitute teacher. To be considered for licensure, aspiring substitutes will need to pass all courses required for a bachelor's degree at a regionally-accredited college or university. To obtain their initial teaching license, candidates must also complete a state-approved teacher preparation program. These programs typically include in-classroom time teaching and co-teaching, a mentorship with an established teacher, coursework in education theory, and a classroom skills seminar. The program should also include a human relations component and instruction on working with gifted learners.

Step 2: Pass the Required Examinations for Licensure

To receive an initial substitute teaching license in Iowa, candidates will need to pass two assessments, one from each of the categories below.

Content Knowledge

  • Elementary Education: Content Knowledge (Grades K-6), qualifying score of 152
  • Early Adolescence (Grades K-8); content area of concentration
  • Secondary Education (Grades 5-12); content area of concentration


  • Principles of Learning and Teaching -- Early Childhood, qualifying score of 158
  • Principles of Learning and Teaching -- Grades K-6, qualifying score of 167
  • Principles of Learning and Teaching -- Grades 5-9, qualifying score of 165
  • Principles of Learning and Teaching -- Grades 7-12, qualifying score of 166
  • Praxis Performance Assessment for Teachers (PPAT), qualifying score of 32

In lieu of the Praxis exams, some programs require the edTPA assessment, which is now an acceptable alternative in the state of Iowa.

Step 3: Apply for an Iowa Teaching License

Students who completed their education and teacher preparation program in Iowa apply for licensure by mailing their application, along with the necessary fees and supporting documents, to the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners. If an applicant attended a college or university in a state other than Iowa, they may submit an out-of-state application for consideration by the board. Once granted, this initial license will be valid for two years. With a valid Iowa teaching license, substitute teachers are allowed to accept assignments that last for a maximum of 90 days each.

To renew an expiring license, teachers must attend mandatory reporter training as well as complete six continuing education renewal credits. License renewals can be made by mail or completed online through the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners Licensure website.

Step 4: Optional; Complete a Substitute Authorization Program

The second option is to complete a Substitute Authorization program offered by one of several educational agencies that have been approved by the Iowa Board of Education. Candidates wishing to enroll in one of these programs must be at least 21 years of age, have completed a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, have passed an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation background check, and have passed a National Criminal History background check. Substitute Authorization programs consist of coursework covering classroom management, strategies for learning, diversity, and ethics. Once the course is completed and all requirements are fulfilled, the teacher is then granted permission from the state of Iowa to substitute teach for up to five consecutive days and ten days in a calendar month for each assignment.

Iowa Teacher Licensing Resources

Preparation is key when beginning the journey to becoming an Iowa substitute teacher. Please follow the links below for study guides and more in-depth testing information to help prepare for the necessary Praxis exams.

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