Substitute Teacher Degrees

Explore what it takes to become a substitute teacher. Learn about the education, qualifications, and certification you'll need to get started in this career.

How to Become a Substitute Teacher

A substitute teacher is an educational professional who fills in for full-time teachers who are absent for any length of time. To become a substitute teacher, you may need a diploma or degree, classroom experience, certification, or a license. This varies widely, from no requirements beyond being at least age 18, to a bachelor's degree and full teacher's license.

Most states require a criminal background check, including fingerprints, for substitute teachers. Since this can take several weeks to complete, you will want to request it sooner rather than later. Many districts will also require updated immunization records. In many cases you will need to complete an application, submit transcripts, and pay a fee to become eligible to substitute teach.

As you begin exploring the field of substitute teaching, it is important to learn more about the specific rules of your desired school district, so you can successfully prepare before you start applying for jobs.

Substitute Teacher Qualifications

In the United States, there are no set qualification requirements at the federal level for substitute teachers, instead, the qualifications can vary depending on the individual school district.

Typically, you need to have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED; however, many districts do require a bachelor's degree. Unlike licensed teachers, you do not need to have a degree in education, nor do you need to complete a teacher training program. However, you may need to have some teaching experience, which you can fulfill as a volunteer or as a teacher's aide.

The specific qualifications you need are often determined by the school district and will also depend on whether you will be substituting short-term or long-term.

In addition to these educational requirements, substitute teachers need to demonstrate key skills and character traits, such as:

  • The ability to communicate well
  • Patience
  • Flexibility
  • Basic office skills

Substitute Teacher Certification

For those interested in becoming a substitute teacher, it is important to review the education and certification requirements beforehand, so you understand what is expected of you in this field.

In some states, you may be required to have a substitute teacher certification before you are considered qualified. This can include successfully completing training courses and passing a written exam. You will often need to have a bachelor's degree to become certified, and in some cases, may need to complete a teacher training program. For example, both Iowa and Washington require their substitute teachers to be certified, which is accomplished by having a bachelor's degree and completing a training program.

In areas that don't require certification, obtaining one can potentially provide you with more opportunities and higher pay. As you embark on your career, be sure to stay updated on the latest requirements for your district.

Substitute Teacher Requirements by State

The requirements for substitute teachers can vary drastically from state to state since educational requirements are wide-ranging. Although you will have a better chance of gaining employment if you have at least a high school diploma or GED, states including New Mexico and South Dakota have no actual educational requirements for substitute teachers.

On the other hand, several states, such as Massachusetts, Idaho, North Carolina, and Vermont, require that substitute teachers be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED. Some states, including Missouri, New Jersey, and Michigan, even require a certain number of college credits, while states like California and Minnesota require a full bachelor's degree.

Most states do not require substitute teachers to complete a teacher training program, although some may require previous experience in a classroom. Some notable exceptions include Hawaii and Tennessee, which require completion of a course, and Oregon which requires completion of a training program, similar to full-time teachers.

When it comes to licensure, the requirements also vary. Some states, such as New Jersey, require a substitute teaching license before you can apply for a job. Other states, such as Iowa and Minnesota, require the regular teaching license required by full-time teachers. In several states, such as Virginia and Florida, it is dependent on the individual district.

Additionally, many states have different requirements based on the number of consecutive days the substitute is teaching. For example, Michigan has less strict requirements for those who teach for 15 consecutive days or less. In Alaska, the maximum is set at 19 days and in Kansas, the maximum is set at 89 days. One of the strictest maximums is in West Virginia, which is set at 10 days.

You'll find, though, that these requirements can be waived or reduced in states that have a shortage of teachers. For example, rural districts in Nevada can hire substitute teachers on a long-term basis in place of certified teachers.

Can You Be a Substitute Teacher Without a Degree?

If you are flexible about the state and school district in which you teach, you can become a substitute teacher without a bachelor's degree, as many places do not require that level of education. If you prefer to teach in a specific state that requires a degree, although you may not be qualified to be a substitute, you do have other teaching possibilities.

For example, you can become a teacher's aide if you have a high school diploma or GED. Teacher's aides are educational professionals who provide classroom assistance to teachers. This can range from helping individual students to preparing supplies and activities. In some cases, you can create additional enrichment activities for the classroom. Opportunities for teacher's aides are found in school districts and day cares.