So You Want to be a Substitute Teacher?

Here's how to start the process.

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Substitute teachers work part-time, make their own schedules, and have daily opportunities to encourage children to learn. They get a chance to connect with today’s classroom, gaining perspective on academic demands and expectations. It’s a job description that can be an attractive option for parents who want to work but also be at home after school.

Public school systems hire substitute teachers, long-term certified substitute teachers, and Special Education assistant substitutes as well as Early Childhood assistant substitutes. We checked with both Shelby County Schools and Collierville’s new municipal school district to learn about job qualifications and the application process.

Applying to Work in Shelby County Schools

According to Shelby County Schools (SCS), 300 to 400 substitute teachers are at work daily in classrooms across the county. Minimum qualifications are a bachelor’s degree (with a minimum 2.5 GPA) and experience working with children. Are you worried students might declare goof-off hour and throw paper airplanes when they learn they’ve got a sub? Supports are in place to make entering the classroom a bit easier for substitutes.

You’ll find a lesson plan prepared by the regular teacher and you’ll receive orientation training. The orientation covers using the online substitute management system; the rules, guidelines, and expectations of SCS; how to work with special needs students; and how to handle and report accidents on the job. Pay is $98.06 per day.

Long-term substitute teachers (certified substitute teachers) are required to have a valid Tennessee Teaching License in a subject area. For example, if a long-term substitute is called for a high school chemistry class, the sub is required to have an apprentice or professional teaching license with an endorsement in chemistry. Certified substitute teachers earn $98.06 per day for 20 consecutive days and start earning $163 a day on the 21st day. Special Education assistant subs and early childhood assistant subs are required to have passed the ParaPro Assessment Test or have an associate’s degree or 48 college credit hours.

Subbing in the Suburban Municipal School Districts

In the suburbs, six towns in Shelby County will launch their own municipal school districts this fall. The Collierville Municipal Schools District has contracted with Kelly Educational Services to recruit, screen, and hire substitute teachers. The district includes five elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school. In the 2012-13 academic year, approximately 295 teacher absences were filled monthly by substitute teachers in Collierville schools.

Applicants for substitute teaching jobs are required to have a bachelor’s degree. The Collierville Municipal School District pays substitute teachers $90 per day. Pay is higher for certified long-term subs.

Becoming a certified long-term sub requires certification by the state of Tennessee and meeting all school district requirements.

Russell Dyer, the school district’s chief of staff, says substitute teachers should be enthusiastic in their approach. “Good subs don’t just sit behind the desk. They do their best to teach the assigned work and to be interactive with students. Even if you’re not an expert, you can engage students in discussion.”


Substitute For Collierville Schools

What Collierville wants: Teachers willing to engage students.

To apply: Go online to and click on Careers. Or visit and call (662) 895-0560. Applicants will be contacted by Kelly for a pre-screening phone interview, followed by a personal interview in the office. New substitute teachers receive training and orientation.

Screening: Background checks are made once the hiring process is completed.

Notifications per openings: Subs may check available classroom openings online via an automated scheduling system.

Substitute for Shelby County Schools

What SCS Wants: Teachers with the desire to make a difference in educating youth.

To Apply: Go to and select the “Careers” tab on the homepage. Your resume and application will be reviewed, and if minimum qualifications are met, you’ll be notified via email of the next step in the process.

Screenings: Background check and Department of Children’s Services check.

Notifications per openings: An automated system, SmartFind Express, contacts substitutes with information about available positions starting at 5 a.m. on school days. Substitute teachers also secure assignments via the online system with SmartFind Express. Subs may specify the schools, locations, grades, and regions they prefer to work with.

To learn about substitute requirements in your city, go to the city’s website and click on schools. Most have an online application process.


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