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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Substitute Teaching in the U.S.

Recently, I have been receiving inquiries from others to "guest post" here. I haven't previously entertained any interest in accepting these proposals until now. Since the year is starting off kinda slow and I personally don't have anything worthwhile to say yet this new year, let me introduce you to Sarah Casey who researched and wrote the following first ever "guest post" for JAST:

Use the comments section or the "Reactions" check boxes at the bottom to record your feedback. If this goes well, I may entertain the idea of other "guest bloggers" in the future.


The State of Substitute Teaching In The United States

If you can read this, thank a substitute teacher, if you can find one. Substitute teaching is one of those thankless jobs that require a huge amount of patience be on call and ready to go when needed. It is also a job that can be very rewarding and allows people who love to teach an opportunity to do so, once you can figure out the requirements your state and school district are looking for in a substitute.

The requirements to be a substitute teacher vary greatly from state to state, and school district to school district. The one requirement that the majority of states do agree on is that substitutes must have a high school diploma or a GED.

Substitute Teacher Shortages

According to a study by the Substitute Teaching Institute at Utah State University, substitute teachers are in over 270,000 classrooms in this country every day. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for regular teachers will increase about 12% by 2016, as the need for regular teachers increase, so will the need for substitutes. As most states are struggling with full time teacher shortages, the substitute shortage is even worse. Some of the ways different states and/or school districts are trying to deal with these shortages is by offering higher wages and even offering substitutes the same benefits as regular teachers, once they work so many hours for the same school district. Some are even creating permanent substitute positions, allowing their substitutes to work in other administrative areas when they are not needed in the classroom. With the budget shortages that many states are facing today, however, these options are limited.

The main reason for the shortages of substitute teachers, surprisingly, does not include wages, although in some districts this can be a factor. According to the website,, substitute teachers make an hourly rate of 9.84 to 15.16 an hour, depending on their level of education, experience, skills and the amount of hours worked. Poor training and very little respect by school personnel and students are two major reasons substitutes cite for deciding not to go back to teach in certain districts.

Almost all school districts do provide training to substitutes, but not enough, which is one area many experts agree needs to be improved on if they want to find and keep quality substitutes. Training not only builds confidence, it gives the substitute a blueprint of what the school district expects from them as teachers. It helps them in classroom management techniques and empowers them to step into the classroom armed with what is required of them, as well as what is required of the students. Finally, many substitutes have complained about the quality, or lack thereof, of the lesson plans left for them by the absent teachers. Too many times the substitute ends up being just a babysitter because sufficient information is not given to teach the students effectively, and that is not what they signed up for when accepting the job.

Because there are so many shortages in every state for substitute teachers, many school districts have been forced to loosen up their policies and requirements for substitutes. Some districts have even resorted to pulling their special education teachers into the regular classes to sub. This means that the special education classes for that day may have to be cancelled, and the parents of these special needs children become extremely upset, and rightly so, that their children are put on the back burner during these times. Many times students are herded into the cafeteria or auditorium and given an impromptu study hall or movie viewing because no substitute could be found.

Requirements for Substitute Teaching

As far as what type of education and/or training a person is expected to have in order to even qualify to become a substitute teacher, one would expect that they at least have a two-year college education. However, not all states make that a requirement.

States that do require two to four years of college, some of which also require at least some of the credit hours be in education, are Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa (a regular teaching certificate is required), Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska (must be a BA in Education), Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington State, West Virginia, Wisconsin (a regular teaching certificate is required) and Wyoming,

Some of these states, however, will waive the college requirements if the person has appropriate work experience, or, in emergencies, for short-term assignments. Many states are governed by districts, some of which require college, others, different types of certifications, while still others, background checks and fingerprints.

Even with the issues surrounding what it takes to be a substitute, it can be a very rewarding, part-time career, and can help those who want to teach full time get a step closer. There are many good online schools for teaching that a substitute teacher, who may want to teach full time one day, can check out. States are constantly looking for better ways to fill their substitute coffers with quality people, and the demand is high, so the outlook is good for anyone seeking this career.
Bio: Sarah Casey is a lover of education and is always educating herself! In her free time she is a freelance writer for


J E Fritz said...

Very interesting an informative. I was wondering what one does to become a sub. Great post!

Kat said...

I would be very interested in seeing some credible citations and/or statistics links regarding substitute shortages. Education is a good chunk of the state budgets in the US and along with everything else, are subject to dire cuts in these poor economic times. I would expect there would be more substitutes out there as riffed teachers, teaching graduates, and early retirement teachers move into the sub pool when they can't get hired.

In the Puget Sound region of Washington State (it includes Seattle, Bellevue, and the bigger cities in western washington), we are seeing record number of applicants for sub jobs AND teaching jobs. Many school district are not even hiring subs because they already have enough. I sense this is the case from the teacher blogs I'm reading as well in other states.

I recognize this is only my personal experience in one geographic area so there could very well be a shortage of subs in other states. I'm very curious to find out where.

Boffa said...

I'm curious to where all of these stats came also. The only links I see go to

I'm on several different lists. One district has over 150 subs on their list.

I get consistent work, but that's only because I hover over the automated system like a vulcher.

15 bucks an hour to sub? Sign me up for that.

KauaiMark said...


The rate here in NorCal is $20/hr but you probably won't like the tax rates or gas prices.


Anonymous said...

I'm a certified math teacher in Oregon and I've been unable to get on any sub lists here. I can say with some assurance that we are not having either a sub shortage or a teacher shortage locally.

It is possible that some rural areas have a sub shortage because they do not have enough work for anyone to make a reasonable living at it, but have days when they need 4 or 5 subs all at once and thus exhaust the pool of local teacher retirees. However, unless you were planning to retire to one of those areas anyway and happen to want about 10 days of work a year it wouldn't make sense to move there for such a "job".

This is pretty clearly an ad for the website your "guest blogger" writes for rather than anything useful to your regular readers. Please consider a "guest bloggers may not work for/link to commercial websites" policy for future offers.

Anonymous said...

I, too, wonder where you got your statistics. I'm not personally aware of many parts of the country that have teacher shortages, unless perhaps in upper level math and science. School districts are cutting back and increasing class size, and many RIFed people are entering the sub market. If you want to write a scientific sounding article, you should back up your statements. I'd give this post a failing grade.

Boffa said...

I'd say the whole country complains about tax rates, and gas prices. I guess it all evens out somehow.

At least I don't have to pump gas here in New Jersey.

Anonymous said...

No longer a sub shortage in California because of all the laid-off teachers. The Fresno Unified School District will now only sign up subs who have a teaching credential. And the credential must be in the area the teacher is subbing. Things are changing. As for rates, FUSD pays $115 a day.

EschoolSolutions said...

With the increase in the need of teachers most definitely comes the need for more substitute teachers. With rising trends in education and experience requirements in our economy, it'll be interesting to see what kind of background a sub will need compared to a full-time teacher.
Great post!