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How Being a Substitute Teacher Can Help Jump Start Your Career in Education

Perhaps you’ve just finished your degree, or maybe you’ve decided to pursue a change in careers. One thing is for certain though: you want to be a teacher. Are you prepared to start the process of getting all your certifications in order and then pursuing a position at the school that is the best match for you?

If you started out as a substitute teacher, we’re willing to bet you are!

This One’s for the Rookies

In our previous blog post, we talked about the three different types of substitute teachers: the Retired Teacher, the Rookie, and the Philanthropist. While this might not always be the case, Rookies tend to have different long-term career goals than Retired Teachers and Philanthropists. They’re usually looking to move into a full-time position. These Recent Graduates and Career Changers also are likely to have the least practical teaching experience and can be unfamiliar with how a district or school administration functions on a day-to-day basis.

However, by starting off as substitute teachers, we at Insight believe that these Rookies set themselves up for success in their future careers. If you are considering becoming a full-time teacher, here are the three ways being a substitute gives you a jump on the competition.

1. Gain Valuable Hands-On Experience

As a substitute teacher, you’ll have the opportunity to work with many different schools, students, and administrators. They say that real world experience can often be the best teacher, and the flexibility of a substitute’s schedule will allow you to get as much experience and practice as you would like. Being in different classroom environments every day, you can implement many of the teaching strategies and techniques that you may have learned while obtaining your degree.

The temporary nature of a substitute position often leaves you free to change up your teaching style and tactics until you find solutions that are most comfortable for you. One substitute even likened the experience to that of being a stand-up comedian! Practice makes perfect, and being a substitute will give you plenty of opportunities to perfect your routine over time with many different audiences. All this hands-on experience will not only impress future employers, it will also make you feel more confident once you step into your first full-time teaching role.

2. Find Your Niche

During your time as a substitute, you can find yourself rotating through school districts, grade levels, and subjects all within the same week. While this task may seem overwhelming to many at first, it also gives you a great opportunity to make a meaningful decision about your future.

I remember on the first day of college, one of the deans mentioned that many of the students who had entered with declared majors would most likely have a different major when they graduated. Similarly, during university you may have thought that you wanted to teach middle school English, but after some experience in the classroom, you realize that your teaching style is better suited for elementary school level children and that history is a subject you would enjoy more. Would you rather find that out while you are a substitute teacher or on your first official day as the new teacher on staff?

This is also a great lesson to learn while you are still pursuing your degree. To apply to teacher’s aide or other paraprofessional positions, you often only need a high school diploma or an associate’s degree (equivalent to 48 hours of coursework or two years of college). If you have 60 hours of coursework completed, you can also go for your substitute teaching certificate. These positions can prove to be excellent experiences for current college and graduate students who are looking to make crucial choices about their career and course of study.

Of course, sometimes people don’t need experience to show them what they want to do. But it does help you to make a better-informed decision, which can never hurt, and it can also introduce you to paths that you had not previously considered.

3. Build Meaningful Connections with Decision Makers

Possibly the most important action you can take as a substitute teacher to further your career in education is to network! Networking can seem like a four letter word to many people, but it is how the world keeps spinning. According to data from LinkedIn, 70 percent of professionals hired in 2016 knew someone at the company where they were hired. And doesn’t it make sense that most administrators would want to employ someone whose face and experience they are familiar with rather than a complete outsider?

While substitute teaching, you are practically guaranteed to meet someone new every day on the job, whether it be full-time instructors, fellow substitute teachers, parents, office administrators, or school board members. It is important to make a good impression on everyone you meet while subbing and to evoke a professional and reliable personality.

There are many ways you can do this, including learning the names of the office staff, leaving detailed notes for the teacher whose class you are covering, and spending some of your down time in the teacher’s lounge. Networking in this way can help get you more return requests, and many teachers or administrators could even provide valuable references when the time comes for you to become part of the permanent staff. You can be sure that the hiring manager will look more favorably on your application if it includes a recommendation letter from one of their current teachers!

Find Your Road to Success

As a Rookie, you’ve got the majority of your career ahead of you, and the possibilities are endless. By substitute teaching, you have already taken an important first step toward advancing your career. After a time subbing, you’ll be able to identify many of your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher, draw from experience during difficult situations, and better understand your style preferences and career goals.

The nature of a substitute’s line of work also places you at an advantage over other candidates who may not understand the internal workings of a school’s administration or who may not have glowing recommendations from instructors or students who attend that school. By making the most out of your time as a substitute teacher, you can make the transition to full-time teaching with confidence and ease.

At Insight, we would love to help you realize your career goals. Contact us today to take that first step. Or are you a substitute turned full timer who wants to share their success and advice with other Rookies? Let us hear your story! Please call (856) 406-6015 or email