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7 skills you learn from substitute teaching

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

About the Author: Janine Chen, VP of Talent, leads a dedicated team that helps our substitute teachers succeed. Janine has spent her entire career in education, including positions with schools and non-profits. She is an alumna of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Even if a career in education is not your end goal, substitute teaching can give you rich experience and marketable soft skills that will transfer well into other fields. And, while soft skills are often difficult to quantify, 94 percent of recruiters believe that they are even more important than years of experience when it comes time for hiring and upward movement.

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Problem solving

According to a study by HR software provider iCIMS, the No. 1 soft skill that employers are looking for is the ability to problem solve; in fact, 62 percent of job recruiters mentioned it as a highly valued trait.

Since finding creative solutions in unexpected situations is a daily occurrence for substitute teachers, this soft skill is one you should highlight, both on your resume and in an interview situation. Have one or two examples of when your problem-solving skills came in handy — when there were no sub plans, for instance, or if you had to deal with a tricky student. These anecdotes go a long way in proving your ability to think on your feet.

Communication skills

According to research by ZipRecruiter, the most sought after skill is communication. The ability to communicate, whether verbal or written, sets candidates apart from the pack. As a substitute, you are strengthening your written and oral communication skills every day.

The key to making this skill stand out on your resume is by breaking down all the ways in which you’re actively developing it. Think about the ways in which you’re communicating in writing: Are you sending feedback to teachers and students? What about orally? Are you speaking to large groups daily? Giving presentations? One-on-one meetings? List the ways in which subbing has improved your communication skills by being specific.


Many people who have never been in front of a classroom don’t realize the leadership skills it takes. Think about all that you need to do to keep a class of, say, 30 students on task and engaged.  You’re leading teams of students every day. Subbing requires the sort of flexible leadership that can work with varied groups, in different contexts, and with different expectations. This is no small feat!


If you’ve ever had to come up with a different classroom plan (on the spot!) because sub plans weren’t clear (or weren’t left at all), consider yourself adaptable. Adaptability is a valuable trait because it shows employers you’re able to handle whatever comes at you, you’ll work more easily on a team, and you’ll bounce back from adversity.

Time Management

Not only does an effective time manager save a company money by working efficiently, but good time management reduces your own stress, too. You’ve learned this on the job by managing 50-minute periods, attending to an ever-changing schedule, and adapting to different expectations at different schools.


The best subs are organized. This is the kind of skill that is at the root of many other desirable soft skills, and it helps you juggle a multitude of responsibilities. It is also a skill that employers look for in many different fields


Listening has often been called the most undervalued leadership skill, but that’s starting to change as employers notice how important it is for candidates to listen well. And though it sounds simple, much thought and work has been put into what makes a good listener and how that skill might be important in a work setting. Dr. Graham D. Bodie synthesizes it this way: “Listening is more than following directions or obedience; listening is an attitude to be open to others and to remain open as those others express their thoughts and feelings.”

As a substitute teacher, your job includes a lot of listening, and doing it well can mean improved relationships with teachers, administrators, and students. Consider how listening has been a part of your substitute teaching experience, and be sure to mention it as one of the interpersonal skills that will set you apart when you’re applying for positions in other fields, too.

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