Substitute Teacher Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: August 22, 2022

A Substitute Teacher, or Sub, teachers and supervises students in the event that their regular teacher is unable to lead class. Their duties include managing classroom behavior, quickly interpreting lesson plans and creating reports to inform the students’ permanent teacher of their success.

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Substitute Teacher duties and responsibilities

In order to create an encouraging learning environment for students while their regular Teacher is absent, the Substitute Teacher will need to effectively manage and instruct the class from roll call through to tidying up the classroom after the students have left. Some of the Substitute Teacher’s duties and responsibilities include:

  • Follow lesson plans provided by the regular Teacher to create a cohesive and consistent learning experience for students
  • Manage the classroom effectively to encourage student participation, minimize distractions and maintain a positive learning environment
  • Adapt teaching methods to fit the needs of each individual student
  • Supervise students in and out of the classroom, including in the halls, on the playground and in the cafeteria
  • Provide in-class and at-home assignments based on the available lesson plan
  • For long-term substitutes: develop lesson plans and assignments consistent with the regular teacher’s past lesson plans
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What does a Substitute Teacher do?

Substitute Teachers work for public school districts or private schools to offer emergency support for classrooms, fill long-term absences or help cover a class during a transition period. They accept assignments on a flexible schedule and may be called to fill-in the morning of the school day. Substitute Teachers track attendance, administer quizzes and tests, explain assignments, collect homework and provide general supervision during class periods. Substitute Teachers work with students individually or as a group to keep up with the regulalr curriculum. They read lesson plans and teach them to the students, providing guided instruction on their subject.

Substitute Teacher skills and qualifications

A strong candidate for the Substitute Teacher position will possess the following skills and qualifications:

  • A valid and current Substitute Teacher license (if required in your state)
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher, preferably in education
  • Strong English verbal and written communication skills
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Ability to lead and instruct students of all ages
  • General knowledge of several subjects 
  • Ability to adapt plans to specific classrooms
  • Flexibility and critical-thinking skills
  • Patience

Substitute Teacher salary expectations

A Substitute Teacher makes an average of $9.18 per hour. Pay rate may depend on level of experience, education and the geographical location.

Substitute Teacher education and training requirements

Substitute Teachers need at least some undergraduate education, though most districts prefer candidates with bachelor’s degrees in education or a similar subject. Some districts require Substitute Teachers to be certified while others don’t. Any training programs or Teacher preparation courses would also be an asset that demonstrates the candidate’s familiarity with effective instruction methods and classroom management.

Substitute Teacher experience requirements

The experience requirements for Substitute Teachers typically aren’t as high as they are for full-time, regular Teachers. However, it is advantageous to have a candidate who already has experience working with children and instruction, whether that’s in the form of past substitute teaching assignments or in related roles such as Daycare Assistant, Tutor or Camp Counselor.

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Frequently asked questions about Substitute Teachers


What is the difference between a Substitute Teacher and an Assistant Teacher?

Substitute Teachers are educators who act as a temporary replacement for a class, while the Assistant Teacher is a permanent role that provides ongoing support for a Lead Teacher. Substitute Teachers serve the same basic role as the educator they are filling in for. Assistant Teachers have a junior position that involves preparing materials for classroom assignments and assisting students one-on-one while the Lead Teacher instructs the class. Substitute Teachers usually have a teaching certification while Assistant Teachers are often in the process of getting their certification, using the position to observe a real classroom and gain hands-on experience.


What are the daily duties of a Substitute Teacher?

Substitute Teachers check their email to review basic details about their assignment for that day or week. They check the Teacher’s desk area to look for any information on that day’s lesson or the unit that the class is currently learning. Depending on the available information, they might assign in-class reading, pass out worksheets, administer tests or put on an educational video. Substitute Teachers mark attendance and sign hall passes during class when appropriate. They grade assignments and provide feedback based on the Teacher’s provided answer key and may prepare a memo for the teacher with relevant information.


What are the characteristics of a good Substitute Teacher?

Good Substitute Teachers have a positive attitude that they use to build relationships with students quickly, allowing them to establish respect in the classroom. This makes it easier for them to manage classroom behavior and enforce compliance with classroom policies. Successful Substitute Teachers are adaptable and flexible enough to teach subjects and grade levels that they aren’t experienced with. They are resourceful and know how to access relevant materials and learn from the students about where they are in the curriculum. They are also strong public speakers who can lead a lesson and improvise instruction plans.


What should you look for on a Substitute Teacher's resume?

When hiring a substitute teacher, pay attention to the breadth of their past teaching experience. The best candidates will have volunteered for all kinds of teaching opportunities, giving them the skills and experience to adapt to almost any classroom environment. Strong applications include information about their current certifications and recent professional development to show their dedication to being an educator and staying up-to-date on education trends.

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