Should You Become a Substitute Teacher?

Updated on June 5, 2018
JenniferWilber profile image

Jennifer Wilber works as an ESL instructor, substitute teacher, and freelance writer. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and English.

Substitute teaching can be a very rewarding career choice!
Substitute teaching can be a very rewarding career choice! | Source


Substitute teaching is a great job opportunity for many people. Whether you are just starting a career in teaching or just looking to make some extra money with a flexible part time job, getting into substitute teaching might be an excellent career move.

I started substitute teaching during the 2017-2018 school year, and fully intend to continue when school starts again in the fall. I enjoy the flexibility, which allows me to do other types of work as well (I also teach English as a Second Language remotely and do freelance writing), as well as the feeling of actually being able to a difference in my community in some small way.

While substitute teaching works for me, it may or may not be the best choice for your next career move. Do you have what it takes to become a substitute teacher?

Whether you are an aspiring teacher, or just a recent graduate looking for flexible work, substitute teaching might be a great opportunity to help you reach your career goals.
Whether you are an aspiring teacher, or just a recent graduate looking for flexible work, substitute teaching might be a great opportunity to help you reach your career goals. | Source

Who Should Consider Substitute Teaching?

Substitute teaching is an excellent career opportunity for many types of people, but it isn’t for everyone. If you are looking for a part time job with flexible hours, and no nights or weekends, substitute teaching might be right for you. Recent graduates, aspiring teachers, people who are between jobs, and even stay-at-home moms with school-aged children may want to consider becoming substitute teachers.

In most states, anyone with at least a Bachelor’s degree (in any field) can become a substitute teacher. Though experience in teaching, tutoring, or child care is preferred, it isn’t a requirement as long as you pass a background check. This makes substitute teaching an excellent job for recent graduates who haven’t had luck in finding a job in their career field. It is flexible enough that you can still keep searching for other jobs while working as a substitute teacher.

If you are a recent graduate with a degree in education, substitute teaching is an excellent way of getting teaching experience and making connections in the school districts that you are interested in working in while seeking full-time employment.

People who are between jobs or in transition between different career fields may also want to consider substitute teaching for the flexibility. Schools are always in need of qualified substitute teachers, so as long as you have a Bachelor’s degree, no criminal record, and are good with children, you will likely be hired.

Substitute teaching is also a great part-time job for stay-at-home moms (as long as you meet the education requirements) with school-aged children because your work schedule will closely match your children’s school schedule. You’ll get off work when you kids get off school and have the same holidays and vacations.

If you enjoy having different experiences each day at work, rather than doing the same thing day after day, substitute teaching might be right for you. Unless you take a long-term assignment, each day you will be teaching different subjects and grade levels. If you are hired by multiple districts, you may also be traveling to different locations each day.

If you enjoy working with children and are seeking a job with flexible hours, consider becoming a substitute teacher.
If you enjoy working with children and are seeking a job with flexible hours, consider becoming a substitute teacher. | Source

Who Should Not Become a Substitute Teacher?

Substitute teaching isn’t for everyone. If you don’t want to work with children, are the primary breadwinner for your family, don’t like the idea of travelling to different locations each day, or need stable full-time employment with benefits, you might not want to become a substitute teacher.

Unless you are employed by multiple substitute teacher staffing agencies, you won’t be able to work full time. You will likely be limited to up to 30 hours a week so that the school districts are not required to offer health benefits (in Ohio, at least, you do get retirement benefits as a part-time substitute teacher. Check with your state’s Board of Education to find out about retirement benefits in your state). If you don’t have another means of income, or a spouse who is the primary breadwinner in your household, you may want to consider other career paths.

If you are someone who prefers to have a predictable and steady routine every day, substitute teaching probably isn’t the right career move for you. Substitute teachers need to be ready to travel to different schools and work with different types of students in different types of classes each day.

Pros and Cons of Substitute Teaching

Gain teaching experience
Can only work part-time
Flexible hours
Hours not guaranteed each week
No nights or weekends
No health benefits
Meet new people
No paid vacation
Retirement benefits
Not good for people who like routine
Summer off
Easy to get hired
Before deciding if substitute teaching is the right career move for you, it is important to consider to pros and cons of this job.

How to become a Substitute Teacher

Depending on where you live, you will either have to apply with an organization that provides substitute teaching staffing services to school districts, or directly with the districts you are interested in working for. After you apply, expect to be contacted for an initial phone screen interview. Once you are accepted, you will need to have a background check, apply for your substitute teaching license, fill out some standard paperwork, attend an orientation session, and complete short training courses. For more information, please read my other article, How to Become a Substitute Teacher in Ohio: A Quick Guide.

Once you are approved, you will be able to accept daily job assignments via phone calls or an online scheduling system. You can preset days that you know you will not be available to work so you will not be offered jobs on those days.

Working as a substitute teacher can help you gain valuable teaching experience and open many new doors in your career.
Working as a substitute teacher can help you gain valuable teaching experience and open many new doors in your career. | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Jennifer Wilber


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      • B. Leekley profile image

        Brian Leekley 

        2 years ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

        I'm retired. My Social Security pension is small, and part-time work now and then helps me get by. Several years ago, while living in Moscow, Idaho, I signed up as an uncertified substitute. The school district would let me know when an assignment was available, and if I had time, I'd accept. I might have playground duty, or help dish out food in the cafeteria, or be an attendant to a disabled student, or help supervise a room full of children on a day the schools were closed for a teachers' meeting. Substitutes with a teaching certificate had dibs on classroom assignments. One time I got to teach a high school class when its teacher got stomach flu the night before and a more experienced substitute was not available on short notice.

      • JenniferWilber profile imageAUTHOR

        Jennifer Wilber 

        2 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio

        Thank you!

      • profile image

        Richard Drake 

        2 years ago

        Both of your articles are well organized and very informative. Thank you.

      • Rochelle Frank profile image

        Rochelle Frank 

        2 years ago from California Gold Country

        I really enjoyed my years as a sub teacher. Yes, there were some exhausting days, and a few frustrating experiences, but overall it was very fun and rewarding.

        The flexibility and variety was priceless, and it was pretty good pay for a part-time job. Working in a district with 24 elementary schools, I got to see the dynamic in the poorer areas and in the upscale neighborhoods. Kid are kids, wherever they live.

        I knew I was doing a pretty good job (at least, not doing harm) when I got repeat requests from certain teachers. The return visits were always easier, because the class "knew" me.


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