How To Be a Substitute Teacher

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  • 12
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  • 850
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Course Description

Substitute teaching can be a rewarding profession for people looking to make a difference in children's lives and to leave a positive impact in their communities.  It is also a job that allows someone a flexible work schedule and the ability to work just about as much or as little as they want to.


However, there are many questions and concerns that someone may have when thinking about working as a substitute teacher.  What are the qualifications?  What education and training is necessary?  What is the best way to prepare for a day of teaching?  What is a typical day as a substitute teacher?  What are some effective techniques and strategies for keeping students on task and well behaved?


This course will walk any prospective substitute teacher through the beginning thoughts of the profession all the way to how to handle that first day with the students.  Potential substitute teachers will learn the benefits and challenges of substituting, the characteristics of effective substitute teachers, how to find out minimum requirements and qualifications, how to apply for jobs, important things to know, details of what to expect in a day of substituting, techniques for managing student behavior, and the future outlook of substitute teaching.

Why Substitute Teach?

Substitute teaching is a profession that attracts many kinds of people for many different reasons. It can be an extremely flexible part time job, or it can be a full time career. It is also a great job for a transitional time in someone's life, but it can also serve well as a long term occupation. Beyond the inherent flexibility of substitute teaching as an income source, there are many other reasons that people choose substitute teaching as their occupation.

Community Involvement

Some substitute teachers enjoy substituting because of the involvement opportunities it gives them in their communities. Not only does substitute teaching allow people to contribute to their communities in a beneficial way, but it also is an excellent opportunity to work with youth and help make a positive difference in their lives. 

In any community, its residents rely on their schools to teach their young to be prepared to face tomorrow as educated adults. Schools need to meet that challenge even when a regular classroom teacher is unavailable because of a conference, a coaching event, or illness. Substitute teachers make positive community contributions by helping to maintain consistency and provide professional services when schools need it most.

Parents of school age children sometimes choose to become substitute teachers so that they can become involved in their children's schools. Substituting is a great way to become involved in their children's education and have a positive impact on their children's schools. (Some substitutes, however, do decline assignments of classes that have their own children in them.)

Other substitute teachers find it very fulfilling to work with youth. These people have a gift and talent in working with students. As with any situation in which children and youth are involved, it can be challenging to work with this age group (just ask any parent!), and in a classroom setting, it is often one adult to thirty children. However, a desire to work with young people and to help contribute positively to their lives is a rewarding reason to become a substitute teacher.


Substitute teaching also offers excellent experience for individuals considering a career in teaching, looking to broaden their skills, or hoping to experience different kinds of employment. For people who are thinking about or working toward a career in education, substitute teaching can provide unparalleled hands-on experience in the classroom. Different classroom situations arise, and substitute teachers need to think and react quickly. For people planning to go into education full time, these are valuable opportunities to gain experience in finding a personal classroom management style, dealing with behavioral challenges, and organizing a day. That classroom experience looks good on a resume for people applying for teaching positions. Additionally, this experience can translate into speaking confidently in a job interview for a full time teaching position when the time comes.

Even for people who are between other jobs or careers can find substitute teaching useful and rewarding. The overall job market is more competitive in this economy, and substitute teaching can provide a flexible solution in the interim. Not only can a substitute teacher be able to decline a day's assignment to be available for a job interview elsewhere, but also the time spent substitute teaching fills what would otherwise be an employment gap in the resume. Experience in substitute teaching during an interim period shows a dedication to keep working and a confidence to work at something a little out of the ordinary (from the person's usual career path).


In general, the pay for substitute teaching is comparable to other part time jobs in the marketplace. When combined with the flexibility and professional schedule that substitute teachers have, this can be an appealing opportunity for people looking for part time work. However, some people may find that some of the educational and certification requirements that some states, municipalities, or school districts impose what may seem disproportionate to the pay that substitute teaching offers.

Pay rates for substitute teachers can vary greatly. The pay rate in a particular school can be based on several factors, including supply and demand, location of the school, available budget, type of assignment, and qualifications of the substitute teacher. In the United States, the lowest pay rates are $20 per day in some of the most rural areas, while in larger urban settings, like New York City or Los Angeles, substitutes could earn $150 per day or more. The average pay for a day's substituting in the United States is around $105, according to the National Substitute Teacher's Alliance. While most schools pay substitutes per day (or per half-day if needed), most substitute teachers work anywhere from six and one-half to seven and one-half hours per day.

Schedule and Flexibility

Substitute teaching offers excellent flexibility within a professional schedule that is unavailable in most other occupations. This reason alone has attracted many people to substituting over the years.

First, the general schedule of substitute teachers involves no evenings, weekends, or holidays. In fact, the end of the workday is the end of the school day, so parents with school age children can work outside the home and still be home in time for their children. Substitute teaching has long appealed to people with active family lifestyles. 

Another benefit in substitute teaching is the flexibility of assignments. If someone is only available to work Tuesdays and Thursdays, that is possible with substitute teaching. If someone is taking a winter skiing vacation, that is also possible to work with. Substitute teachers only accept the assignments that they want. If there is a schedule conflict on a given day, a substitute needs only to decline any requests that come in that day. Of course, the converse is true; there may not be assignments available on days that a substitute teacher is wishing to work.

Additionally, there is flexibility in the types of assignments to accept. Some substitutes prefer working with elementary age children while others enjoy older high school students. Perhaps some substitutes may wish to work in classrooms with a variety of subjects while others want math, science, and technology assignments. Again, the flexibility is there to accept or decline any assignment. 

There are many reasons that people are attracted to and thrive in substitute teaching.  From a flexible and a family appropriate schedule, to valuable experience in education, to giving back to the local schools and community, substitute teaching can be a rewarding and fulfilling occupation.
  • Completely Online
  • Self-Paced
  • Printable Lessons
  • Full HD Video  
  • 6 Months to Complete
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  • Start Anytime
  • PC & Mac Compatible
  • Android & iOS Friendly
  • Accredited CEUs
  • Universal Class is an IACET Accredited Provider

    Course Lessons

    Average Lesson Rating:
    4.6 / 5 Stars (Average Rating)
    "Extraordinarily Helpful"
    (1,268 votes)

    Lesson 1. Why Substitute Teach?

    Substitute teaching is a profession that attracts many kinds of people for many different reasons. It can be an extremely flexible part time job, or it can be a full time career. 10 Total Points
    • Lesson 1 Video
    • Review Article: The Advantages of Substitute Teaching
    • Take Poll: Substitute Teaching
    • Take Survey: Reasons for Taking this Course
    • Complete Exam: Lesson 1: Why Substitute Teach?

    Lesson 2. Characteristics of Effective Substitute Teachers

    Teaching youth in a school setting requires certain skills and traits to do the job effectively. Teaching youth as a substitute teacher requires some different skills and traits as well. 10 Total Points
    • Lesson 2 Video
    • Review 2 Articles: Effective Substitute Teaching; How to be a Successful Substitute Teacher
    • Complete Exam: Lesson 2: Characteristics of Effective Substitute Teachers

    Lesson 3. Educational Requirements for Substitutes

    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. 10 Total Points
    • Lesson 3 Video
    • Review 2 Articles: Certified Substitute Teachers; State Contacts
    • Complete Exam: Lesson 3: Educational Requirements for Substitutes

    Lesson 4. Finding Opportunities for Substitute Teaching

    While states set minimum qualifications and requirements for substitute teachers, school districts collect an applicants records, can set additional requirements, and hire and place substitute teachers. 10 Total Points
    • Lesson 4 Video
    • Review Article: Status of Substitute Teachers
    • Complete Exam: Lesson 4: Finding Opportunities for Substitute Teaching

    Lesson 5. A Typical Day of Substitute Teaching

    As with most jobs and professions, there is no 100 percent typical day that each and every person in the profession will experience. 10 Total Points
    • Lesson 5 Video
    • Review 2 Articles: An Insider's View; Substitute Teaching Experiences
    • Complete Exam: Lesson 5: A Typical Day of Substitute Teaching

    Lesson 6. Assembling Your Resources

    To help you succeed at substitute teaching, it is best that you prepare these resources ahead of time so that you can be confident that you can handle what comes your way. 10 Total Points
    • Lesson 6 Video
    • Review Article: Curriculum Based Activities
    • Take Poll: Resources
    • Complete Exam: Lesson 6: Assembling Your Resources

    Lesson 7. School Policies, Procedures, and Culture

    Substitute teachers who plan to work in a variety of schools and districts need to be prepared to face small and large differences in each environment. 10 Total Points
    • Lesson 7 Video
    • Review Article: Substitute Teacher Ethics
    • Complete Exam: Lesson 7: School Policies, Procedures, and Culture

    Lesson 8. Preparing for the Day

    The first step in a day of substitute teaching is getting the actual teaching assignment for the day. 10 Total Points
    • Lesson 8 Video
    • Complete Exam: Lesson 8: Preparing for the Day

    Lesson 9. Classroom Management. Part 1.

    New substitute teachers may worry about a host of problems. Combine that with knowing that school administration is hoping that their substitute teachers can keep everyday classroom situations under control, it can make for a very stressful situation. 10 Total Points
    • Lesson 9 Video
    • Review Article: Classroom Management
    • Complete Exam: Lesson 9: Classroom ManagementPart 1

    Lesson 10. Classroom Management. Part 2.

    In the last chapter on classroom management, you looked at the things that can help you set up a successful plan for facing a day of substitute teaching. 10 Total Points
    • Lesson 10 Video
    • Review Article: Substitute Tips and Tricks
    • Complete Exam: Lesson 10: Classroom ManagementPart 2

    Lesson 11. Wrapping up the Day

    Before you can go home, however, there are few things you need to do as part of your job, as a common courtesy, but also to impress the regular teacher and the school with your abilities 10 Total Points
    • Lesson 11 Video
    • Review 2 Articles: Substitute Teacher's Report; Substitute Teaching Ideas
    • Complete Exam: Lesson 11: Wrapping up the Day

    Lesson 12. The Future of Substitute Teaching

    In some school districts, substitute teachers are in great demand. In other places, the supply exceeds the demand. 10 Total Points
    • Lesson 12 Video
    • Take Poll: Reasons to Substitute
    • Take Survey: Program Evaluation Follow-up Survey (End of Course)
    • Complete Exam: Lesson 12: The Future of Substitute Teaching
    Total Course Points

    Learning Outcomes

    By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
    • Describe why substitute teaching may be a good choice for you.
    • Describe characteristics of effective substitute teachers.
    • Identify educational requirements for substitutes.
    • Describe a typical day of substitute teaching.
    • Describe school policies, procedures, and culture.
    • Describe the basic principles of classroom management.
    • Summarize the future of substitute teaching, and
    • Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.

    Additional Course Information

    Online CEU Certificate
    • Document Your Lifelong Learning Achievements
    • Earn an Official Certificate Documenting Course Hours and CEUs
    • Verify Your Certificate with a Unique Serial Number Online
    • View and Share Your Certificate Online or Download/Print as PDF
    • Display Your Certificate on Your Resume and Promote Your Achievements Using Social Media
    Document Your CEUs on Your Resume
    Course Title: How To Be a Substitute Teacher
    Course Number: 8900082
    Course Requirements: View Course Requirements
    Lessons Rating: 4.6 / 5 Stars (1,268 votes)
    Languages: English - United States, Canada and other English speaking countries
    Course Type: General Education (Self-Paced, Online Class)
    CEU Value: 0.4 IACET CEUs (Continuing Education Units)
    CE Accreditation: Universal Class, Inc. has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
    Grading Policy: Earn a final grade of 70% or higher to receive an online/downloadable CEU Certification documenting CEUs earned.
    Assessment Method: Lesson assignments and review exams
    Syllabus: View Syllabus
    Duration: Continuous: Enroll anytime!
    Course Fee: $55.00 (no CEU Certification) || with Online CEU Certification: $80.00

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    Student Testimonials

    • "All of it was helpful!" -- Cynthia S.
    • "I just got my substitute teacher certificate and was looking for information to help me get started. This class covers everything that a new substitute teacher needs to know to get started. Now I can enter the classroom with confidence. It was all helpful!" -- Rena C.