Monday, March 9, 2009

So You Want to be a Substitute Teacher

Congratulations! You are on your way to a rewarding career as a substitute teacher.
The first step is to check with the human resource department at the school district office as to the requirements you need to meet. The basic state guidelines will be the same, but some aspects may differ from district to district. Sometimes, if the district is in a dire shortage for subs, the requirements may be loosened temporarily - specifically when it comes to your educational background. A few years ago, there was a major teacher's strike in California. Many districts allowed individuals without a degree to sub as long as they had a certain amount of units. Also, some private and charter schools have less restrictive requirements.
Regarding your college degree - you do not have a Bachelor's Degree in Education to be a substitute teacher. For example, my degree is in journalism. I strongly believe that our varied backgrounds allow us to bring some special knowledge and skills into the classroom - but more on that in future blogs.

Here are some basics to get your process started. In my geographic area, you need the following items to become a substitute teacher:

  • Bachelor's Degree from an accredited college or university.
  • Transcripts verifying you earned the degree.
  • Pass the CBEST ( California Basic Education Skills Test -your state will have a similar program).
  • Fingerprinting
  • Apply for an emergency teaching credential at your county's office of education or at (in California).
  • Pay an application fee.
  • Once all the paperwork is processed and fees paid, you are ready to start!

Additionally, the school district will likely want proof that you have taken and passed a TB test. Check with your county Health Department for lowcost or sometimes free TB test clinics - usually cheaper than going to your doctor's office.

It will take you about one to three days of paid sub work to recoup your initial expenses associated with getting started - then the rest is "gravy"!

Keep in mind that the 30 Day Emergency Teaching Credential does have to be renewed annually for a fee. It is your responsibility to keep track of the expiration date as your paycheck could be held up until that fee is paid and the district may not call you since your credential is expired. I like to renew mine about a month before the expiration date. I keep that date marked both in my planner and cell phone calendar. Renewal is painless and can be done over the internet in California.

If you accept a long term sub assignment exceeding 30 consecutive days for the same teacher, you may have to apply for a supplemental permit.

This is the only blog entry that I will be talking about California's guidelines specifically - as that is my state. However, all states have similar requirements - so please refer to your state's teacher credentialing website.
Stay tuned for my next installment in this "getting started in substituting" series: The Gatekeeper.


  1. Hi there! You sure have some good teaching here.

  2. oops heres my email.

  3. Great blog. I have a good good friend who is a substitute teacher more like full time teacher. She works with the disabled children in school. I am looking forward to reading more of your posts.

  4. Nice tips. I used to be a teacher (private school and public school) back in the days where "certification" and all the bureaucratic rigamaroll wasn't so onerous. Your tips will be useful if I decide to go back into teaching or being a sub.

    Nice blog! I've "subscribed", so I'll be able to see your posts as you make 'em.



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