What Qualifications Does a Substitute Teacher Need?

Answering the question of the qualifications of a substitute teacher is a thorny one because there are no national standards for being a substitute teacher. Instead, there are 56 different standards for each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five inhabited United States territories: Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Marianas Islands, American Samoa, and the United States Virgin Islands. That’s a lot of quagmires! If you’re interested in becoming a substitute teacher, you will have to contact the applicable state, district, or territorial authority to find out that place’s specific requirements. There are, however, several qualities that are nearly universal.

A Bachelor’s Degree is Usually Required

The bachelor’s degree, in some cases, must be in education of some sort, but not always. Even in cases where the degree is required, it doesn’t necessarily have to be in the subjects you teach. By its very nature, substitute teaching is a flexible enterprise. For example, requiring a degree in physics to be a substitute teacher in a physics class would be counterproductive because the pool of possible subs would be infinitesimal. Also, that sub would pretty much be restricted to subbing in physics classes only unless he or she earned another bachelor’s degree in another subject.

Licensing Requirements

Some entities require subs to have teaching certificates, and some do not. Some of the ones that do not require full teaching certificates might require some sort of other license. In other cases, both a teaching certificate and continuing coursework are required to be a sub.

Other Requirements

If you plan to sub at a charter school or private school, particularly one of religious persuasion, there might be more requirements to be a sub than there would be at a public school. A Roman Catholic parochial school, for example, might require you to be a practicing Roman Catholic to teach there. A charter Montessori school might require you to have specialized training in Montessori’s theories and techniques. You would have to check with the schools themselves before beginning your job there. If the requirements seem unusual, or even daft, then you might also want to contact the state, district, or territorial authority to see if such regulations are legal.

Things You Can Do to Increase Your Substitute Teacher Qualifications

As a sub, it pays dividends to have eclectic interests. It would be a good idea to have a working knowledge of an array of subjects. Also, it would be a better idea to take course and train yourself in classroom management techniques. Many times, a sub is a babysitter, and the kids know it. They will treat a sub the same way they would treat their normal teachers on the first day of school. Knowing a thing or two about how to manage such situations will go a long way to making a name for yourself as a terrific sub, which might also lead to a permanent position as a full-time or part-time teacher, should that be one of your goals.


As long as you prepare properly, there’s no reason you can’t have a rewarding career as a substitute teacher. Substitute teacher qualifications are also a good set of building blocks toward becoming a permanent teacher. As always, check with your state, district, or territory to find out the specifics on how to get started.

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