We’re in the thick of the school year, which means teachers are catching students’ germs and are, well, exhausted.
I regularly text my childhood best friend, Rebecca Stanley — a third-grade teacher in North Carolina.
“How’s it going?” I ask, anticipating the newest, craziest classroom story. She’s always wiped out.
On the rare occasion she gets sick (hand sanitizer, y’all), needs to go out of town or has a professional development day, she calls in her reinforcement: a substitute teacher.
Subs are integral to making the school year go ’round. It’s also ideal part-time work for retirees, stay-at-home parents or folks needing flexible work.
That’s exactly why 46-year-old Amy Segposyan chose to begin substitute teaching back in 1998 — and why she continues to do it today.
Oh, and don’t tell the other subs, but Segposyan is one of Stanley’s favorites to call in.
4 Benefits of Becoming a Substitute Teacher
Substitute teaching isn’t always like the movies, with kids running amuck, flipping desks and throwing paper planes.
Although Segposyan admits she sometimes gets those classes “no one else wants” — the ones not properly prepared by the teachers — she says there are many benefits to subbing.
1. The hours and days are flexible.
Segposyan has a background in advertising and public relations, but she’s always tutored or worked at after-school programs on the side.
Currently, she fuses the two professions together as an educational consultant with Usborne Books & More, selling books to schools and libraries.
Working with Usborne Books & More is already flexible (think: Mary Kay type of gig), so Segposyan fills in her extra hours with subbing.
She says the flexibility is the biggest benefit — and the one that got her hooked in the first place. She can commit day-by-day and week-by-week. If she feels overwhelmed with life, she can take a break.
2. It fits her kids’ schedules.
I don’t have any kids of my own, but I’ve heard from a few parents that kids can be a handful.
When Segposyan started subbing in North Carolina, her oldest was in fourth grade and her youngest was in kindergarten. At that time, her schedule meshed perfectly with her kids’ — plus she had constant access to their schools.
3. The gig’s rewarding.
As a drop-out education major, subbing sounds terrifying to me. But Segposyan gushes about the gig.
She loves that she gets to work with kids of all ages and really engage with her community. She sees kids grow, too, and builds relationships with them.
She says once a high school student approached her in a store. The student remembered when Segposyan substituted for her class back in third grade.
“I love watching all the kids grow up,” she says.
4. The pay isn’t half-bad either.
Segposyan notes her salary ranges from $86.50-$130 a day with her teacher certification. She uses the extra income for holiday spending, vacations and those special “extras” her family needs (or wants).
“Substitute teachers usually make a daily wage that, at full-time hours, amounts to about $25,000 to $40,000 on average per year,” Teacher.org reports. Do note, though, that this is full time, which you likely won’t be doing at first.
The site also says subs can earn health and retirement benefits if they work a certain number of hours.
How to Become a Substitute Teacher
A substitute simply needs a four-year degree to qualify for work as a substitute teacher, according to Teacher.org. However, other requirements vary between states and school districts.
“In most states, a substitute will have to pass a Basic Skills proficiency exam,” teacher.org outlines. “This exam assesses basic math, reading, and writing skills. Scores for proficiency exams vary by state so you must pass with a score in the state in which you will be subbing.”
Segposyan doesn’t have a degree in education, and neither do you if you want to get in on this side gig — though she says you’ll be paid more if you do.
To become a sub in North Carolina, Segposyan had to take a semester-long course, which lasted a few hours each week.
You can always find out more about the requirements in your area by contacting your county school district.
Getting Started as a Substitute Teacher — Plus Bonus Tips
After meeting all requirements, Segposyan filled out paperwork and was entered into an absence-management system. In there, Segposyan sets her availability. She’s also able to choose which schools she prefers to work in.
Then teachers can use the database to request a sub. Segposyan will get a call when a job is available.
Pro tip from Segposyan: “In the beginning, if you don’t know the teachers, you may need to take as many jobs as you can to get established. The longer you work, the more relationships you establish and teachers and schools will put you on a preferred sub list.”
That’s where you want to be — your name will pop up at the top of the list.
However, after a while, Segposyan establishes relationships with teachers — like my friend Rebecca. Segposyan is always sure to leave her phone number and notes about the day. She also makes an effort to get to know the schools’ principals.
“Most of the time teachers will call or text you directly before they put an absence in the system,” she says. That’s what Rebecca does now. She’s always sure to send her favorite sub a text asking about her needs.
“I can leave actual lesson plans for her to teach instead of just busy work all day,” Rebecca says. “My kids really like her, too. She gets to know them and tells them things about herself.”
Another big perk as a teacher? Segposyan leaves the room spotless.
“That’s a big thing for teachers,” Rebecca says. “We don’t want to come back to a disaster.”
Think you can handle being a sub? Contact your local school district for more information.
Your Turn: Would you be a substitute teacher?
Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. After recently completing graduate school, she focuses on saving money — and surviving the move back in with her parents.