Duties and Responsibilities of a Substitute Teacher

Teenage students learning in a classroom

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There are two types of substitutes: short term and long term. Typically, each has a different set of duties and responsibilities. Short-term substitutes take over classes for short periods of time, generally just a day or a few days, during a teacher's absence from work. By contrast, long-term subs fill in when a teacher is going on an extended leave.

Substitute Teacher Duties

The duties of a substitute teacher vary greatly depending on whether he is working as a short- or long-term sub.

Short-Term Subs

  • Arrive in each class on time.
  • Take accurate attendance.
  • Facilitate the lesson plans left by the teacher.
  • Manage the classes effectively.
  • Collect papers and store them safely.
  • Leave information for the teacher about what occurred in class.
  • Ensure that students are let out of class on time.

Long-Term Subs

  • Take accurate attendance.
  • Create and implement lesson plans with or without teacher input depending on the school's expectations.
  • Manage the class effectively.
  • Assign, collect, and grade assignments.
  • Administer assessments.
  • If required, attend parent-teacher conferences.
  • Submit official grades at the end of the grading period as required by the school.

Education Required

Each state has different rules about substitute teaching. The following examples will show how varied these requirements are.


Each county decides its own requirements for substitute teachers.

  • In Pasco County, Florida, for example, substitute teachers—who are called "guest teachers"—must first complete an online course before applying for the job. They must also have a high school diploma, GED, or higher. Once hired, the guest teacher must complete an "onboarding session" before being offered work.
  • In Miami-Dade County, Florida, a substitute—called a "temporary instructor—does not need a college degree but must have a minimum of 60 college credits and an overall 2.50 GPA. In addition, unless she is already a classroom teacher or a substitute with at least one year of experience, the new substitute needs to attend a training program prior to taking any assignments.


  • Unlike in Florida, California counties do not have a different rule for their substitute teachers.
  • All substitute teachers in California, in order to receive an emergency 30-day substitute teaching permit, must have a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university.


Each school district has its own set of requirements.

Characteristics of Substitute Teachers:

Substitute teaching is a great way to get experience in the classroom and become known in a school. However, being a substitute is not always easy. Since it is an on-call position, substitutes are not sure if and when they will have work. Students may try to give substitutes a hard time. Further, the substitute will be teaching lessons that other teachers created so there is not a lot of room for creativity. Effective substitutes possess characteristics that help them deal with these and other unique situations, including:

  • A flexible attitude and sense of humor
  • The ability to make do in situations beyond their control
  • The ability to learn names quickly (not required but a serious help for classroom-management issues)
  • A detail-oriented manner
  • A commanding presence and "thick" skin
  • The ability to follow instructions set forth by the teacher
  • A love of students and learning

Sample Salary

Substitute teachers are typically paid a set sum of money for each day's work. Also, a difference in pay is made based on whether the substitute is working on a short- or long-term basis. Each school district sets its own pay scale, so it is best to use the prospective school district's website to learn more. Daily pay for substitute teachers varies depending on the length of the assignment as well as the substitute's level of education and experience. Examples, as of March 2020, include:

  • Oakland County School District, California—$180.52–$206.31
  • Pasco County School District: $65–$160
  • Austin Independent School District: $85–$165
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Kelly, Melissa. "Duties and Responsibilities of a Substitute Teacher." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-a-substitute-teacher-8301. Kelly, Melissa. (2020, August 27). Duties and Responsibilities of a Substitute Teacher. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-substitute-teacher-8301 Kelly, Melissa. "Duties and Responsibilities of a Substitute Teacher." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-substitute-teacher-8301 (accessed June 3, 2023).