Becoming a Substitute Teacher: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a substitute teacher's job description, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a substitute teaching career.
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Substitute Teacher Career: Pros and Cons

A substitute teacher is responsible for educating students and maintaining order in the classroom while the teacher is absent. To see if becoming a substitute teacher is right for you, check out the pros and cons below.

Pros of a Substitute Teacher Career
Flexibility in schedule because most substitute teachers work on an on-call basis*
May lead to a full-time position as you become familiar with each school**
Allows you to gain classroom management skills****
Opportunity to work with children of all ages***

Cons of a Substitute Teacher Career
Bachelor's degree may be required for a job that's typically not full-time****
Teaching certificate may be required*****
May not be eligible for benefits, including health insurance*
Because substitute teachers typically work without a contract, work is not guaranteed****

Sources: *National Substitute Teachers Alliance, **Boston Public Schools, ***CareerBuilder.com, ****U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, *****Monster.com.

Career Information

Job Duties

As a substitute teacher, you will be responsible for teaching students using the lessons left by the classroom teacher. If you are in a long-term substitute teaching position, you may even be required to create your own lesson plans. Because substitute teachers could be asked to stand in for a teacher at any grade level, substitute teachers should be confident in their ability to teach a variety of subjects. You must maintain an effective learning environment by practicing classroom management through enforcing rules and appropriately handling any situations that arise.

Salary and Job Growth

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job growth for kindergarten and elementary school teachers is expected to be average (12%) from 2012-2022. PayScale.com reported in December 2014 that the median salary for a K-12 substitute teacher is about $16,000-$39,000. The National Substitute Teachers Alliance (NSTA) states that pay varies depending on where you live, but the average is about $105 per day.

Career Skills and Requirements

Requirements to be a substitute teacher vary by state. Although a high school diploma could be sufficient, many positions require a bachelor's degree. For example, according to the National Education Association (NEA), in both Illinois and California, you must have a bachelor's degree to work in a public school. However, in Florida, Alaska and Alabama, a high school diploma is sufficient. In Alaska, though, if you plan on substituting for more than 19 days, you need a teaching certificate. Types of bachelor's degree programs within the education field include early childhood, elementary, middle and high school education.

Job Postings From Real Employers

Long-term or full-time substitute teaching positions usually require a bachelor's degree and may also require teaching experience. Substitute teachers should be comfortable implementing lesson plans and practicing classroom management. Because substitute teachers are needed at all levels, flexibility and a willingness to teach multiple grades is often required. Following are a few job postings advertising for a substitute teacher in April 2012:

  • A group of private and charter schools in New York City are looking for a substitute teacher for the early childhood, elementary, middle school and secondary levels. Applicants should have a bachelor's degree as well as teaching experience. Substitute teachers will be responsible for creating and implementing lessons as well as maintaining classroom management.
  • An independent school in Massachusetts is looking for a substitute teacher in an elementary setting. The posting lists the position as full-time and would like a candidate with a bachelor's degree as well as some experience.
  • A school in Massachusetts advertised for a long-term substitute teacher. Applicants must hold a teaching certificate. The posting also includes that they'd prefer someone with a special education certificate.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

The Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) offers an online training course where you could gain skills to assist you in becoming a more effective substitute teacher. For professional development opportunities, you might consider becoming a member of the NSTA. In addition, if you're currently employed in a public school district, you could join the NEA.

Other Careers to Consider

Teacher Assistant

If you'd still like to work with children in a school setting but being a substitute teacher isn't the right fit for you, you might consider becoming a teacher assistant. The BLS reported in 2014 that the median salary for such a career was about $24,430. The BLS projects that this career field will experience a 9% growth from 2012-2022. Although any particular degree isn't required, you may need a high school diploma or an associate degree. As a teacher assistant, you need to have patience as well as both instructional and communication skills. Teacher assistants need to be able to reinforce the information that classroom teachers have taught and also assist the teachers with classroom management, lesson planning and record keeping.

Daycare Center Teacher

Similar to a substitute teacher, a daycare center teacher is responsible for organizing daily activities; however, a daycare center teacher could have more of a reliable schedule. As a teacher in a daycare setting, you will also need to be responsible for caring for a child's basic needs and the job can be exhausting as you provide care for infants, toddlers and preschool aged children. You might also help to prepare children for kindergarten. The BLS reported in May 2014 that the median salary for childcare workers was $19,730. The BLS anticipates a 14% job growth from 2012-2012.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Ed.D. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Ed.D. - General Education
      • EdD - Learning Analytics in Higher Education
    Master's
      • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • MEd - General Education
      • MAT - Curriculum and Teaching
      • M.Ed. - Early Childhood Education
      • MAT - Athletic Coaching
      • MAT - Reading Education
    Certificate
      • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Education Specialist - Early Childhood Education
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning with an Emphasis in Adult Learning
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Behavioral Health
    Master's
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
      • M.A. in History with an Emphasis in Education
      • M.S. in Sociology with an Emphasis in Education
      • Master of Science in Biology with an Emphasis in Education
      • Master of Science in Chemistry with an Emphasis in Education
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
      • B.S. in Elementary Education with an Emphasis in Christian Education
      • Bachelor of Science in Math for Secondary Education
      • BS in Early Childhood
      • B.S. in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Concordia University Portland

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctorate of Education - Higher Education
      • EdD Professional Leadership, Inquiry, and Transformation
    Master's
      • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
      • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Reading
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Science
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Mathematics
      • M.S. - Career and Technical Education (CTE)
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Secondary Education with OATCERT Certificate
      • MS - Special Education with Wilson Reading Certificate
    Certificate
      • Certificate - Online Accelerated Teacher (OATCERT)
      • Certificate - Special Education
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in Literacy
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Special Education
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      • Ph.D in Literacy: Literacy
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices
  • Online Programs Available
    7. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
      • Master of Education - Elementary Education
      • Master of Education - Secondary Education
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
      • Master: Higher Education - Online College Teaching
      • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
      • Master: Higher Education - College Teaching/Learning
      • Master: Nursing/Nurse Educator
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Early Childhood Administration
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  • Online Programs Available
    10. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. Athletic Training
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. Early Childhood Education - Non-Licensure
    Associate's
      • A.S. Early Childhood Education

Featured Schools

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
  • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
  • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning with an Emphasis in Adult Learning
  • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education

What is your highest level of education?

Concordia University Portland

  • Doctorate of Education - Higher Education
  • EdD Professional Leadership, Inquiry, and Transformation
  • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
  • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS - Secondary Education with OATCERT Certificate
  • MS - Special Education with Wilson Reading Certificate
  • Certificate - Online Accelerated Teacher (OATCERT)
  • Certificate - Special Education

What is your highest level of education completed?

Saint John's University

  • Ph.D. in Literacy
  • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
  • Ph.D. in Literacy: Special Education

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices

Are you a US citizen?

American InterContinental University

  • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
  • Master of Education - Elementary Education
  • Master of Education - Secondary Education

Are you a US citizen?

Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

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