Substitute Teaching Job Requirements

How do I figure out the requirements for substitute teaching in my state? Do I need a teaching license?

Get expert guidance in navigating the substitute teaching requirements in your state.

If you’re just beginning your journey toward work as a substitute teacher, congratulations! It’s a rewarding position where you can really make a difference, whether you’re planning to become a full-time teacher or just looking for a more flexible job. 

However, as you might expect, working in an instructional role with young students comes with responsibility and some state-mandated requirements that must be met.

Depending on your state, or the district where you want to work, there are steps for screening, background checks, credentials, licenses, and other requirements. It can be a lot to navigate on your own, but rest assured that Kelly Education has state-certified specialists who will guide you every step to ensure you fulfill the requirements in your area. 

Here’s a quick look at some of the steps you may encounter.

Education verification.

Right out of the gate, you must be at least 18 years of age or older to become a substitute teacher. However, some states require 21 years or older, depending on the district or position.

There are minimum education requirements that you must meet to become a substitute teacher, and every state varies. About 40% of U.S. states require substitute teachers to have a college degree or some amount of college credits. 

However, this doesn’t need to be a degree in Education, but rather in any discipline. Other states require a minimum of a high school diploma or GED, or they may have specific requirements for substitute teachers set by the school district, which can vary greatly.

Many states and districts allow both degreed and non-degreed candidates to become substitute teachers. If you don’t have a degree, you may be required to have some amount of completed coursework from an accredited institution, or a high school diploma or GED and substitute teaching certificate. Letters of recommendation may also be required.

An expert in this field—like the recruiters at Kelly Education —will be familiar with all the requirements in your area, from district to district and job to job. They’ll provide everything you need to know about the requirements in your state to save you all the time and research. 

Regardless, you’ll need to contact your most recent school to request a transcript showing your highest level of education, which can take 3 – 5 days. So do it as soon as you know what you need to save yourself time in the application process.

Licensing or certification.

About half of all states require some form of certification or licensure to start working as a substitute teacher. Obtaining a license typically consists of providing the Department of Education in your state with much of the information discussed in this article. 

The Department of Education then processes your information and authorizes your validation to work in K-12 classrooms for a designated period – which may be a 1-year, 3-year, or 5-year authorization based on your educational experience or background. Some of the licenses can include a fee, which varies by location and the type of permit or length of time each one covers.

In school districts experiencing a critical shortage of substitute teachers, certain states may allow emergency substitute teaching certification to speed the process and rapidly increase the number of viable candidates. However, a bachelor’s degree is sometimes needed to obtain an emergency certification.

If you’re not already licensed or certified, a recruiter might encourage you to complete this step first since it typically takes the most time. You can often start working right away in a job with fewer prerequisites, like a substitute paraeducator, while you work on some of the licensing needed for substitute teaching. 

A Kelly Education recruiter can work with you on creative ways to allow you to start earning a paycheck while you’re moving along toward your ultimate position.

Background checks and screens.

Whether or not a formal substitute teacher license is required, every state has background checks to protect students and ensure their safety. In addition, most substitute teaching roles require fingerprinting federal and state criminal background checks and child abuse or sex offender checks. 

Fingerprinting includes a quick 15-minute appointment and another 3 – 10 days to process. All screens take time and can be further delayed by court backups, so just be aware. If your state requires you to have a substitute teaching license, as described in the section above, most of this will likely be completed in that process and is not an additional step.

Some districts or states also require medical screening, such as TB or drug testing. For accuracy, a TB test involves two appointments scheduled over the course of three days, with one day between. Typically, a small cost is due for each test.

But you don’t have to sort these details out for yourself. At Kelly Education, an onboarding specialist will help you speed the process by identifying which requirements will take the longest in your area and creating a checklist to help you manage priorities. 

Our onboarding specialists are certified in all the criteria for your state—we understand it comprehensively, so you don’t need to be the expert.

The road to becoming a substitute teacher can be overwhelming if you try navigating it yourself. Kelly Education is here to help simplify the process and provide exactly what you need to know for your state and the school district you are interested in. 

Our priority is always making sure you feel informed, confident, and ready to move forward with every step.

If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a substitute teacher and what is required in your state, submit our Open Interest form, and a Kelly Education recruiter will reach out to you.

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