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Certified Substitute Teacher Education Requirements and Career Info

Certified substitute teachers require some formal education. Learn about the education, career information, job duties and certification requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Substitute teaching is a great way to ease into a full-time teaching career and get the feel of what it's like to be a teacher. While a few substitute teachers are hired full-time by school districts, many work part time and enjoy flexible work schedules. In addition, substitute teachers don't have as many time consuming side tasks, such as lesson planning and grading.

Essential Information

Substitute teachers fill in for full-time teachers who are ill or on leave. They usually follow a lesson plan left by the regular classroom teacher, and they frequently work a day or two at a time on an as-needed basis. Education and certification requirements for substitute teachers vary by state and school district. A bachelor's degree, background check and an evaluation are often required for substitute teachers to be hired and certified.

Required Education A bachelor's or master's degree in teaching, education or any subject area
Certification Required in some states
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% for kindergarten, elementary and secondary teachers
Median Annual Salary (May 2015)* $54,890 for elementary school teachers; $57,200 for secondary school teachers

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements for Certified Substitute Teachers

Most states and school districts require college-level education and training to become a certified substitute teacher. Education requirements typically include a bachelor's degree and, in some states, the same training that is required of full-time teachers. Many certified substitute teachers hold a bachelor's or master's degree in teaching or education, though most school districts accept degrees in any subject area. Certified substitute teachers who have completed a teaching program are prepared to manage classrooms and understand childhood development. They have also spent time working in a classroom as a student teacher.

Certification Requirements

Depending on the state and school district in which a substitute teacher intends to work, certification may be necessary. Typical certification requirements for substitute teachers include a bachelor's degree, background check and an evaluation. For example, certified substitute teacher applicants in Hawaii must take a substitute teacher course and pass an evaluation. Substitute teachers in Illinois apply, pay a fee and demonstrate completion of a bachelor's degree program.

The Utah State University's Substitute Teaching Institute (STEDI) advises prospective substitute teachers to check with state departments of education and local school districts for specific certification information. STEDI offers training and online self-evaluation tools for substitute teachers seeking to improve their skills.

Career Information

The National Substitute Teacher Alliance (NSTA) reports that substitute teaching is very flexible; certified substitute teachers may choose to work on specific days, for specific schools or whenever they are called.

The NSTA indicates that some school districts offer bonuses and benefits to certified substitute teachers. Secondary school teachers in general earned median annual salaries of $57,200 in May of 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, while elementary school teachers in general earned a median of $54,890 at that same time.

The BLS projected that employment levels for school teachers would continue to expand at a rate of 6% between 2014-2024. Further, the BLS noted that many teachers hired into full-time positions would be substitute teachers, making substitute teaching a popular job for prospective teachers.

Substitute teaching requirements vary by state. In some, substitute teachers have equivalent certification to full-time teachers, while others have less stringent guidelines. According to the BLS, job growth for teachers in the U.S. will be close to the average of all occupations.


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