How to Find a Substitute Teacher Job

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Authored by Yevheniia Khromova (Career Expert, GetCoverLetter)

According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, more than 500,000 substitute teachers worked in the USA in 2018. It is one of the best flexible jobs for parents, retirees, senior students, and former teachers who want to return to their careers. Today, you will get insights into the requirements for this position and tips on how to get substitute teaching jobs for experienced and entry-level candidates.

Will It Work For Me

Substitute teachers replace full-time teachers when they are sick, go on vacation, take maternity leave, or are absent for any reason. They can work part-time or get longer-term positions.

Before asking yourself the question: “How do I get a job as a substitute teacher?” we suggest you first answer the following ones:

  • Do I enjoy working with students?
  • Is it okay for me to work unpredictable and part-time schedules?
  • Do I like the idea of working with students from different grade levels?

If you gave three affirmative answers, it means that the substitute teaching position may suit you, and you can move to the next steps.

What to Consider First

How to find a substitute teaching job starts by knowing all the position details and requirements. They may vary by state and even by the school district. So we’ve collected the most common points for you to consider when choosing substitute teaching as your employment path.

Main Duties

Besides conducting lessons when the primary teacher is absent, substitute teachers perform other duties that you should be aware of when applying for a substitute teaching position. They include:

  • Lesson planning and development
  • Maintaining classroom safety and discipline
  • Student evaluation
  • Communication

Qualities Needed

Although good subs and good regular teachers have many common qualities, these two roles are also quite different. While regular teachers build relationships with students over time, substitutes don’t have that opportunity. Sometimes, their interactions are very brief. Thus, it can be stressful to walk into a room full of strangers and be sure they’ll respect you and listen to you.

To succeed as a substitute teacher, the educator needs different skills and qualities to stand out. Here are some of the main ones:

  • Passion
  • Creativity
  • Ability to handle stress
  • Sense of humor
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Adaptability
  • Accountability
  • Confidence

What to Do Next: How to Apply for a Substitute Teacher Job

You can go to the main office in your school district, check its website, or look at the Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) website for specific job prerequisites and learn the application process. However, we’ve prepared a step-by-step guide giving you a general idea of the substitute teacher or teacher’s aide hiring process.

1.    Application documents

Usually, this part includes a resume and cover letter. Make sure to highlight qualifications like instruction skills, the ability to follow guidelines, reliability, and communication. A bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, focusing on education, and previous teaching experiences will be your advantage, so it’s crucial to mention them. Additionally, a perfect substitute teacher cover letter can be your chance to attract the employer’s attention, especially if your background isn’t that extensive.

Sometimes, you are asked to fill out application forms and even write an essay about your teaching experience, if any, as well as relevant skills and qualities.

As for the best application period, we suggest you prepare your documents and apply during early summer so that you can be available from the start of the academic year if selected.

2.    Educational qualifications

State law requires school districts to hire only properly educated subs with credentials and certifications; still, education requirements vary widely. In some regions, the minimum academic basis includes at least a bachelor’s degree. Others may be satisfied with a high school diploma or GED. However, it can be challenging to get a job as a substitute teacher without a degree, especially if you have no experience or license on your resume. Thus, our advice is to earn a degree and check all the requirements of your school district.

3.    Licensure

Some states will issue substitute teaching licenses to candidates who meet all the required qualifications. Others certify subs only after checking the credentials. You may also be required to pass basic skills testing, such as the Educating All Students test, the Content Specialty Test, or the edTPA (performance-based assessment for teachers).

4.    Background and qualification checks

After sending application documents, the evaluation and work history checking process starts. Additionally, substitute teachers should undergo background checks, including fingerprinting, federal criminal background checks, state criminal background checks, child abuse/sex offender checks, and medical screening.

5.    Waiting list

If you have successfully passed the steps mentioned above, you will be added to the waiting list. Once there is a subbing position available, you will be informed via a phone call, text, or email. Usually, certified teachers get called first.

How to Succeed in Getting Hired: Final Tips

Like in any other job search, substitute teacher position hunting has its secrets, and we’ve gathered several that work.

Show your progress 

A substitute teacher with a state teaching certificate will be a more competitive choice for schools. Candidates who have completed internships or participated in workshops can show in their cover letters or interviews that they have stayed on top of teaching methods and technology. Subs who have made progress are more likely to be selected.

Apply to several districts

The need for subs changes every day, and being on multiple lists is one of the best ways to get a substitute teaching job. But when applying to different districts, remember to check the job conditions and description, because each of them can have a particular system and requirements. However, once you know the process and are certified in one district, it can be quicker and easier in the next.

Build your network

You can visit the school before and after applying for a position to introduce yourself to the principal, secretaries, and other teachers. Meeting them in-person can help because if a substitute teacher is needed, they can ask for a specific person. Moreover, you can join the National Substitute Teachers Alliance to extend your network and get useful information, resources, and support.

Don’t say ‘no’ too often

Some school districts have a list of substitute teachers. The advantage of this position is that you don’t have to take all the assignments. Subs may be called the night before or on the same day when the regular teacher needs a replacement. If you aren’t ready for such an unexpected call, that’s fine; everybody can have plans and other reasons. However, if you say ‘no’ too often, you may stop being called altogether.

Wrap Up

Although substitute teaching is a challenging job, it still can be a rewarding and meaningful one. Even if you don’t plan to make it a lifelong career, you can gain and develop transferable skills applicable in different spheres of professional and personal life. This job can help you become a more effective parent or caregiver. If working with students is your real mission, it can make your transition to full-time teaching easier.