How to Find a Substitute Teacher Job

Senior sub and preschool students drawing with stylus and digital tablet in classroom
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Substitute teaching can be a terrific part-time, flexible job for parents, retirees, and others looking for employment during daytime school hours. It’s also a great way to return to a teaching career after a break to raise children, care for family members, or pursue other career interests.

Working as a sub is a good option for many people because you don't need to accept any assignment that doesn't fit in with your schedule. If you have a child home sick, you don't need to take a call. If you have a vacation planned or have another part-time job, the hours can be tailored to fit your needs.

Many districts don’t require a teaching certificate for substitute teachers or teachers’ aides. Typically, districts will ask for a four-year degree, although some may accept an associate degree or even a high school diploma for substitute teacher’s aide positions.

Protocols vary by state and county, and even by the district in some areas. Find out your district’s requirements before you get started.

How to Find a Substitute Teacher Jobs

You can check with the main office in your school district, check the website, or look on your county's Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) website for prerequisites for the position and how to apply.

Usually, you will find an application to fill out online and some other paperwork that you may need to submit. There may be an essay question on the application where you will have the opportunity to outline the qualities and experiences you possess that qualify you as a sub.

What You’ll Need to Apply

  • Professional references are important for every job – but they’re especially important when you’re applying for a substitute teaching job because you can be sure that the employer will call them. Obviously, your character, reliability, and skills are crucial for a job that involves working with children and young adults, so school districts are very likely to follow up. When choosing references, be sure to select people who can attest to the quality of your work, including your ability to manage a classroom and your relevant teaching skills. Your references should also be able to emphasize your professionalism, reliability, and flexibility.
  • A current resume, focusing on your applicable strengths. If you have experience teaching a certain subject, highlight that. In general, a good teacher resume should emphasize your education, credentials, teaching experience, and accomplishments. Be sure to tailor your resume to this specific job (in other words, don’t send a resume that’s geared toward a full-time job, when you’re applying to be a sub). Create a customized resume for each job and have a trusted friend proofread your application materials before you submit.
  • Testing and certification. Again, each state has its own requirements and some districts impose further conditions. For example, New York State requires substitute teachers to be certified or working toward certification – or limits them to working 40 days per school district per year. To become certified, prospective teachers much take New York State Teacher Certification Examinations (NYSTCE) – the Educating All Students test, the Content Specialty Test (for example, Gifted Education), and the edTPA (formerly the Teacher Performance Assessment). 
  • Training requirements. Many school districts also have online or in-person training requirements, dealing with child abuse, bullying, hazardous materials, etc., to make sure that you are equipped to keep students safe. Some of these seminars may also have a fee associated with them.
  • Background checks. Most districts will require fingerprinting and a background check which will cost a nominal fee. A background check may contain information on your work history, credit, criminal record, and so on.

Getting on the Call List

Once they have received all your materials, you will likely be contacted about any further seminars you are required to attend, and any additional requirements needed to complete your application.

Once you have completed all the required training, and have been thoroughly investigated, your name will go on a call list. Even though it's called a call list, you may be notified by text or email instead of by a phone call when there are subbing opportunities.

Often, certified teachers will be called first, unless someone has a specific request. Make sure that all the teachers you know are aware once your name is added to the list because many districts allow them to request specific substitutes.