Teaching Substitutes Educational Requirements
Deciding to become a substitute teacher is a major decision. When people feel a calling to provide substitute teaching services, one of the first steps that they should take is to make sure that they have the proper educational requirements completed before applying for positions.
As is the case with permanent public education professionals, the requirements for substitute teachers are not the same across the board. The federal government does not set minimum criteria for substitute teachers. Many states will set their own criteria, and individual school districts can add their own requirements on top of the states. For the geographical area that you would like to serve as a substitute, you should begin by finding out from your state education agency what requirements that they have in place.
The U.S. Department of Education website maintains a list of contact information for the departments of education for each state, commonwealth, and territory of the United States.
Then, find out how to contact your individual state department of education. Most state websites will have the information you need to learn the education requirements that you must complete.
At the very minimum, each state requires that a substitute teacher have a high school diploma or have successfully passed the General Educational Development (GED) exam. Your first step, if you do not have further education, is to obtain official transcripts or records of your high school education. As is the case with most professions that require certain levels of education, you will need official documentation of your educational achievement. You can obtain these by contacting the school where you graduated or the state department of education for GED records. It is important that if you need to present these records to qualify for a substituting position, you give yourself good lead time and make your requests as soon as possible. You do not want to wait until the last minute and make your request the day before you need it.
Some states that require only a high school diploma or equivalent include Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York. Individual school districts within these states and others may have additional educational requirements over the state's minimum. In some states, like New York, this minimal level of education only allows someone to substitute for forty days in a school year. Additional education is required to go beyond that. In other states, such as Florida, the state requires additional training in school policies and general classroom management to be offered by individual school districts for people before they are eligible to substitute teach. Again, individual school districts can also require further schooling. It is also important to note that some school districts will pay substitute teachers at a higher rate if they have higher levels of training, education, or certification.
As is the case with requirements of further education, if your state requires some further training or college education, you probably will not need to furnish transcripts or records of your high school level education. It is usually assumed that the college or other post-secondary school has already verified your high school education or equivalent.
In addition to your level of education, some states or local school districts will require their substitutes to take and pass a basic skills test. These tests are usually to check for high school level reading, writing, and mathematics skills. One example used in California and Oregon is the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST). Again, it tests basic skills that high school graduates should know. If a skills test is required in your geographical area, the state department of education or local school district will inform you. They may also tell you how you can take the test, how to register, where to take it, and so on. If they offer no information, your best bet is to research the test on the Internet. You will probably find all the information you need and be able to register and pay any fees online.
At almost the complete opposite end of the spectrum from states that require high school graduation for their substitute teachers, other states require bachelor's degrees. These degrees may or may not be in education, that depends on the state. States that require a bachelor's degree include Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Ohio.
Other states also require that their substitute teachers not only have bachelor's degrees but also hold valid teaching certification or licensure as well. This means that substitute teachers in these states are just as qualified as are regular classroom teachers. States such as Delaware, Iowa, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin have these requirements.
If you have decided that substitute teaching is something that you want to try, and you have already researched and completed the educational requirements imposed by your state or local school district(s), then it is time to start looking for substitute teaching jobs.
As with most other job opportunities, requirements for qualifications vary among places of employment. Individual school districts will most likely have their own qualifications as well as procedures for employment. Again, the best prepared applicants for substitute teaching jobs do their homework ahead of time and know what to expect.
It is important to note that when researching the qualifications for employment as a substitute teacher (as well as looking for opportunities), the individual school districts hold the final say. While states set minimum qualifications and requirements for substitute teachers, school districts collect an applicant's records, can set additional requirements, hire, and place substitute teachers.
Finding Your School District
School districts, and not individual schools, are usually in charge of personnel assignments. This includes substitute teachers. You can find your local school districts online or in the phone book. You can also call a local school and ask the receptionist for the contact information of their school district.
School districts are often organized by local municipalities. In some areas, school districts follow county or parish lines; in others, they are grouped by cities, towns, or townships. Some school districts do not follow any particular municipality boundaries.
School districts usually have a variety of substitute teaching opportunities within their district. Most school districts have several schools, and may include some mix of primary, elementary, intermediate, middle, junior high, high school, and alternative schools.There are substitute teaching opportunities for any kind of preference.
Applying with Your School District
Once you have found your local school district, it is time to contact them and ask for application information and materials. Some districts post this information on their websites, and you can download all the forms that you need. You can also call and find out what you need, and the district can mail the materials to you, or you can pick up these materials from the school district office.
All districts will require an application, which may be a statewide or local application. They can provide this application to you. To make a good impression, it is important that the application is neatly printed or typed, and all spelling is correct. You can increase your good impression by writing a cover letter and resume as well. Any kind of professional experience highlighting initiative, working with others, and working independently, will help your qualifications.
When you apply, you want to make sure that you have records of any required education, training, or schooling that your state or school district require. This will involve getting the necessary transcripts, certificates, and other records ahead of time, so plan accordingly.
When you ask for or receive you packet of application materials from the school district, you should also be informed of the other requirements for working with that school district.
One common requirement is a negative tuberculosis (TB) test. Some states and districts require this test and may also require a basic medical examination. Be sure that you clearly understand what kind of documentation you must provide to show that these requirements have clearly been met.
Another common additional requirement is a background check. Depending on the state, local municipality, or school district, there may be requirements for criminal record checks, FBI background checks, child abuse checks, and other checks that may require fingerprinting. Again, be sure that you know exactly what is required and how to present that information to your local school district.
Some states that do not require substitute teachers to be fully licensed and credentialed teachers may have their own substitute teacher licensing system. If your state requires that, it is important that you research with your state department of education how to apply and what to present for your license. Most substitute teaching licenses cost $35 to $100. It is a wise idea to apply for your license as far in advance as possible and to have it ready when you apply with your local school district.
Individual school districts may also require other steps that many professional jobs impose. For example, some school districts require several letters of recommendation from other professionals who can speak to your work ethic, initiative, responsibility, and experience with children. Other districts may want you to provide references that they may contact for further information. There may even be an interview process in some circumstances.
If you research with your school district ahead of time what requirements that they have for their substitute teachers, you will be able to make a more professional, prepared, and polished impression.
In some instances, in your application process, you can state what preferences you have for substitute teaching assignments. In other cases, you make these preferences when you are notified that you are accepted as a substitute teacher and will be placed in the pool of available substitutes. You can specify age ranges, grades, and subjects that you prefer to teach.
Some school districts outsource their needs for substitute teachers to outside companies. These companies will service several school districts and take care of all the placements of substitute teachers. If your local school district uses such a service, you will be told when you contact the district for information about applying. In these cases, the substitute teaching company will take care of the application process, and you will be in contact with them to supply the necessary documentation.
There are also different kinds of substitute teaching opportunities available. While the most common perception of substitute teachers are those who get called the morning that they are needed to fill in for the day, there are opportunities for substitute teachers who are scheduled in advance for short or long term assignments. Additionally, some school districts hire substitute teachers as full time professionals who are in schools every day, filling in where necessary. So options exist for substitute teaching under different circumstances.