How to Become a Substitute Teacher without a Degree
Teaching is a rewarding career, one that allows you to have a positive impact on hundreds or even thousands of children each year. Being a substitute rather than a permanent teacher also comes with added benefits: flexibility, competitive wages and the opportunity to work with a wide variety of children and schools.
What’s more, you may even be able to work as a substitute teacher without a degree, or while you’re studying for your degree.
Keep reading as we explore what you need to become a substitute teacher, with or without a degree.
In the US, it is possible to become a substitute teacher without a degree. However, the requirements vary according to the location.
Certain states require a degree in education. Others require a bachelor’s degree with a major in the subject you’re teaching. Some states, meanwhile, accept degrees in unrelated subjects, associate degrees or even just a GED.
What’s more, 19 states officially require a bachelor’s degree to become a substitute teacher, but also offer a waiver. This means that although you would normally be required to have a bachelor’s degree, you can take alternative steps to be considered for jobs as a substitute teacher.
Substitute teaching roles can be as short as a half-day and as long as a semester. Some states have stricter requirements for long-term substitutes. This means that you may find it easier to get short-term positions as a substitute teacher without a degree.
You may also find that your state offers alternative teacher certification. This is normally designed for people who have a bachelor’s degree but do not have a degree in education. It’s much shorter and quicker than studying for a degree in education. Normally, you can do it in just six to nine months.
Since the exact requirements for substitute teachers vary according to the state, it’s important to check what they are. You should also bear this in mind if you hope to one day move. The National Education Association (NEA) has an overview of the requirements.
Plus, don’t forget that private schools have different requirements for teachers. Even if your state requires you to have a degree in education to become a substitute teacher, you may be able to find work in private schools.
Now that we’ve determined that you can become a substitute teacher without a degree, let’s break down how to do that.
The first thing you need to do is find out what the local requirements are. While this will depend on the state, at a minimum, you will need to:
- Be 18 or older (some states prefer that you’re 21 or over)
- Have the right to work in the US
- Have a high school diploma or GED
You will probably also be asked to pass a background and fingerprint check, and some states require medical screening tests for drugs or tuberculosis. Formal first aid and CPR training are also common requirements, especially for P.E. and Driver’s Ed. teachers.
You should also check if you need a degree or a waiver to work as a substitute teacher in your state. According to the NEA, six states allow you to work as a substitute teacher with a GED. An additional 19 would typically require a bachelor’s degree but, if you don’t have one, offer workaround options.
If you don’t meet all of the requirements, your first step should be resolving that. Remember to check how long your training and background checks are valid for, too.
Over half of all US states require some kind of substitute teaching license or permit. The State Board of Education will provide more information on what is required, so make sure to check the requirements with them. This will normally be a two-part process: first, you will apply, and then you will sit for an exam.
The final step is to apply for substitute teaching roles. There are several ways you can do this:
- Contact the school district and ask to be added to their substitute teacher pool
- Apply to substitute teacher agencies
- Contact schools directly; this is particularly likely to work if you are targeting private schools
Each of these methods has its pros and cons. With an agency, if you prove easy to work with and receive good feedback, you are more likely to be their first choice. In contrast, if you’re added to the district’s substitute teacher pool, you may find yourself competing against teachers with degrees — but more schools will probably use the district’s pool than an agency. As such, it’s worth reaching out to both agencies and the school district.
Not all states allow you to work as a substitute teacher without a degree in education or alternative certification. What’s more, some states will pay higher rates to certified substitute teachers. As such, you may decide that certification is the best option for you.
Remember, alternative certification normally (although not always) requires you to already have a bachelor’s degree. It replaces a degree in education, however, and it does so in just six to nine months if you’re studying full-time.
You can study your alternative teaching certification online or in-person in your state. As always, the requirements vary according to local laws, so make sure to do your research before signing up for a program.
If you’re already working as a substitute teacher, you can study for your alternative certification part-time. Alternatively, you can achieve your certification prior to applying for your substitute teaching license.
A well-crafted substitute teacher resume is key to getting job opportunities, whether you’re applying directly to the school district or via agencies.
It’s not always easy to create a well-structured resume as a substitute teacher, because you’ll likely have diverse experiences at lots of schools in a short period of time. However, it’s important that your resume is well-presented, highlights both your experience and skillsets, and is machine-readable.
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