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Become a substitute teacher in Washington, D.C.: the complete guide

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Whether you have recently earned your degree, are entering the workforce after time off, or want to continue teaching in retirement, substitute teaching may be a natural next step for you!

In this guide to becoming a substitute teacher in Washington D.C., you’ll find information on subbing requirements and how you can start applying for substitute teacher jobs today!

MORE GUIDES TO BECOMING A SUBSTITUTE TEACHER: New Jersey | Texas | California | New York | Arizona | Illinois

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Is substitute teaching right for you?

Educational requirements

Credentials and permits

Background check

Work history review

Is substitute teaching right for you?

Subbing can be a rewarding career choice whether you’re brand new to the workforce, looking to hone your skills, or if you need something flexible to help pay the bills (full-time substitute teachers in DC make an average of $42,500 per year!). With substitute teaching you can:

  • Make a difference: subs are called into classrooms for reasons ranging from instances of a teacher on leave, to schools searching for new permanent staff, to school districts facing teacher shortages. You can provide support to the students who need it most.
  • Choose your schedule: as a sub with an organization like Swing Education, you can work when you want and where you want. Subbing can fit easily around your schedule, whether you’ve got an additional job, family, or lifestyle commitments that you want to maintain.
  • Cultivate your skills: with all of this variety, you can improve your skills as an educator and get the experience you need to meet any teaching challenge. And even if teaching isn’t your main goal, subbing can help you gain in-demand transferable skills, like problem-solving, written and oral communication, and adaptability.

Educational requirements

The District does not have a minimum educational requirement for substitute teachers, but some D.C. schools, districts, and staffing agencies do.

For example, Swing Education currently requires its substitute teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree. DCPS (District of Columbia Public Schools), on the other hand, no longer requires an associate’s degree, but rather a minimum of 60 credit hours in lieu of a degree.

Credentials and permits

Unlike many municipalities, Washington D.C. does not offer a specific substitute teacher permit, and a teaching certificate is not required to become a substitute teacher. 

As a result, each school is free to set its own requirements for substitute teachers. For example, DCPS requires substitute teachers to receive a “Principal Recommendation” from a current DCPS principal sent via email to

Right now, Swing does not work with DCPS and does not currently require any additional credentials or principal recommendations to work through the Swing platform in DC.

Background check

A finger-print based background check is required everywhere in DC, and DCPS now requires pre-employment drug testing.

If subbing directly through Swing, you’ll need to successfully complete a work history review (see below) in addition to the fingerprint-based background check. You can do this by creating an appointment with our partner Applicant Services. Get complete, step-by-step instructions for completing your background check with Swing Education by visiting this page.

Work history review

Washington D.C. passed the School Safety Omnibus Amendment, which requires all substitute teachers to complete a work history review.

The work history review includes:

  • Completing a form listing all employers for the past 20 years where the scope of employment involved direct interaction with children
  • Affirmation that you have not been accused of sexual misconduct or similar claims. (Swing follows up with employers to confirm applicants’ responses)
  • Character reference check
  • Child abuse registries check
  • Credential revoke check

This review can take up to three weeks to be completed.

Once you’ve passed your education check, background check, and work history review, you’ll be able to start subbing in many Washington D.C. schools! 

Take the first step to becoming a sub with Swing Education by filling out this form.

Happy subbing!

Quick Guide: How to substitute teach in D.C.