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
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      • Doctor of Education in Learning Analytics in K-12 Education
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      • Education Specialist in Learning Analytics in Higher Education
    Master's
      • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • M.Ed. - General Education
      • M.Ed. - 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
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      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
      • M.A. in History with an Emphasis in Education
      • Master of Science in Chemistry with an Emphasis in Education
      • M.Ed. in Secondary Education with an Emphasis in Humanities (ITL)
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      • M.Ed. in Secondary Education with an Emphasis in STEM (ITL)
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
      • B.S. in Elementary Education with an Emphasis in Christian Education
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      • Bachelor of Science in Math for Secondary Education
      • BS in Early Childhood
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

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

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • DME: Doctor of Music Education
      • EDD: Curriculum and Instruction
      • EDD: Curriculum and Instruction/Elementary Education
      • EDD: Curriculum and Instruction/Middle Grades Education
      • EDD: Curriculum and Instruction/Secondary Education
      • EDS: Curriculum and Instruction
    Master's
      • MA: Music Education: Music Studies
      • MAT: Master of Arts in Teaching (45 Hours): Middle Grades Education
      • MED: Curriculum and Instruction: Early Childhood Education
      • MED: Curriculum and Instruction: Educational Law (Non-Licensure)
      • MED: Curriculum and Instruction: Educational Technology (Non-Licensure)
      • MED: Curriculum and Instruction: Elementary Education (Non-Licensure)
    Bachelor's
      • BS: Education Non-Licensure: Elementary Education in Interdisciplinary Studies
      • BED: Education Licensure: Elementary Education
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      • AA: Education (Non-Licensure)
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    5. Walden University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Education - Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment (Grades K-12)
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      • MS in Education - Elementary Reading & Literacy (Grades PreK-6)
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    Bachelor's
      • BS Elementary Education
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    6. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Curriculum and Instruction, M.A. - Emphasis in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse
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      • B.A. Elementary Education (Non-Licensure)
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
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      • B.S. in Early Childhood Education
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    9. Bryant & Stratton College

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    Associate's
      • AAS Early Childhood Education
    Certificate
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  • Philadelphia, PA

    University of Pennsylvania

Featured Schools

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
  • Ed.D. - Curriculum and Teaching
  • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
  • M.Ed. - General Education

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?

Purdue University Global

  • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
  • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
  • BS in Early Childhood Administration

Which subject are you interested in?

Liberty University

  • DME: Doctor of Music Education
  • MA: Music Education: Music Studies
  • BS: Education Non-Licensure: Elementary Education in Interdisciplinary Studies
  • AA: Education (Non-Licensure)

What is your highest level of education?

Walden University

  • MS in Education - Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment (Grades K-12)
  • MS in Education - Elementary Reading & Mathematics (Grades K-6)
  • BS Elementary Education

What is your highest level of education completed?

Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

What is your age?

Colorado Christian University

  • Curriculum and Instruction, M.A. - Emphasis in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse
  • Master of Education in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education
  • B.A. Elementary Education (Non-Licensure)

What is your highest level of education completed?

Regent University

  • M.Ed. in Leadership in Mathematics Education
  • M.Ed. - Individualized Degree Program
  • B.S. in Early Childhood Education

What is your highest level of education completed?