Certification to Become a Substitute Teacher

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Substitute teachers work on an as-needed basis to fill in for classroom teachers who are otherwise unavailable. In order to work as a substitute teacher, you must meet the teacher approval guidelines within the state. Certification guidelines vary from state to state. Since some school districts employ even stricter guidelines than the state mandates, contact the school department in each town you want to teach in.


Although educational requirements vary, every state requires substitute teachers to have at least a high school diploma or a general education diploma. In some states, such as Arizona, California and Ohio, substitute teachers must have at least a bachelor's degree. In states such as Alabama, Delaware, North Dakota and Washington, substitute teachers are held to the same standards as full-time classroom teachers and must hold certification in order to work within a school.

Although most states require a college degree to become a certified substitute teacher, there are no specific degree requirements. Those individuals who aspire to earn their full teaching credentials in the future, should take a teacher training program from an accredited college or university.

The Application Process

Contact the school department in the district in which you want to work for precise instructions on applying for substitute teacher certification. District officials will tell you the exact substitute teaching requirements in the district and whether certification is a requirement of all working substitutes. In addition to completing a certification application, most states also require an application fee and a background check. In some districts, a competency exam and a physical exam are required.


Although certification is not always required, it is generally beneficial for substitute teachers to pursue certification. In addition to making them more sought after by school districts, certification often results in a higher wage. In Alaska, for example, certified substitute teachers earn an extra $20 to $40 per day than substitute teachers without credentials. While most states have a sliding scale for substitute teacher wages, certified teachers generally can expect wages on the highest end of the scale.


Earning a substitute certification in one district does not give you the freedom to teach anywhere. Because requirements often vary from district to district, you may need to obtain multiple certifications in order to teach in different school districts. This rule applies to substitute teachers who want to work in neighboring states; just as full-time teachers must obtain certification in each state they work in, so do substitute teachers.