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Nov 29, 2022

The complete guide to becoming a substitute teacher in California

If you’re reading this guide, you likely have an inkling of how rewarding substitute teaching can be. You get to help out schools when they need a hand, keep students on track with their academic goals, all the while broadening and deepening your teaching skills.

However, without the right resources, it can be confusing to figure out how to make becoming a sub a reality. Luckily, we’ve got you covered!

Here is our comprehensive guide to becoming a substitute teacher in California.

MORE GUIDES TO BECOMING A SUBSTITUTE TEACHER: New Jersey | Texas | New York | Arizona | Washington D.C.

Why become a sub

Before we dig into the process of becoming a substitute teacher, let’s focus on why subbing is such a rewarding path. As a substitute teacher, you get to:

  • Make a difference: Unexpected absences occur all the time, but lucky for everyone, substitute teachers will be there to fill in the gaps. Subs are called into classrooms that have a teacher on an unexpected leave, to schools in the process of searching for new permanent staff, and to school districts facing teacher shortages. 

  • Choose your schedule: As a sub, you can work when you want, where you want, and for as long as you want. If you have other commitments, work another job, or need to take care of your family, subbing can fit easily around your schedule.

  • Boost your teaching skills: With all of this variety, you can hone your skills as an educator, gain more confidence in front of the classroom, and get the experience you need to meet any teaching challenge.

  • Pick your classroom: As a sub, you’re never confined to a certain subject or school. You can visit the classrooms that are most appealing to you and experience teaching students of all different ages and skill levels until you find one that you enjoy the most.

  • Prepare for a permanent position: Subbing is a great stepping stone to becoming a permanent teacher. In addition to gaining skills for the classroom, you’ll also be building crucial relationships with schools, administrators, and local communities.

Why Californians should start subbing

In addition to being able to give back to your community (and the career growth perks!), here are a few reasons why you’ll want to start substitute teaching:

  • High salary: Subs in California are well compensated, earning an average of $20-$31/hour! In some schools, you can earn up to $316/per day.

  • High variety: As the largest state in the country, California has nearly 5 million students enrolled in public schools in over 1,000 school districts. No matter what your teaching preferences, you’ll be able to find a classroom that suits you.

  • High demand: California schools are struggling with teacher shortages — 80% of school districts report that they are understaffed, with many predicting the problem to continue to worsen. So qualified, dedicated subs are gold in the Golden State. The students and schools need you, which makes your choice to become a sub that much more meaningful.

How to start substitute teaching in California

Standard qualifications

  1. Bachelor’s (or higher) degree from an accredited institution
  2. A fingerprint-based FBI/DOJ background check
  3. A substitute or full-time teaching credential (optional, but highly beneficial)

How to get a background check

To keep students safe, the state of California checks thoroughly into all prospective teachers’ histories. Unless you’re applying for a career substitute permit, you’ll need to go through the criminal background check process as part of your permit application.

Steps to completing the background check

  1. Fill out the application.
  2. If you have any incidents to report on your application, fill out the Professional Fitness Explanation Form for each incident.
  3. Get fingerprinted.

How to get a TB test

The state also requires that all staff working with students provide evidence of a negative tuberculosis scan. 

If substitute teaching with Swing in California, most substitutes just need to complete our easy Risk Assessment questionnaire – you’ll see it when you start onboarding! It takes just a few minutes. 

If you happen not to pass the Risk Assessment or are subbing directly through the state, then a TB test is an easy two-step process, which can be done at:

  • Any WellnessMart location
  • If you can’t make it to a WellnessMart, you can go to your doctor or any other clinic.

Additional Swing-specific requirements

If you choose to sub with Swing, there are a few additional requirements you must complete before you are ready to take your first substitute assignment.

COVID-19 vaccination

To onboard with Swing, substitutes are required to either

  • Provide proof of at least two COVID shots, or
  • Provide reasoning (religious / medical) to exempt them from the vaccination requirement

Set up employee status

After a Swing sub has completed the background check, vaccination, and TB requirements, they can move on to final steps:

  • Fill out an I-9 form
  • Attend our virtual orientation
  • Set up an employee account: direct deposit, employment forms, tax forms

We protect all information submitted to us by substitutes; Swing gives personal privacy the utmost attention.

How to get a substitute teaching permit

Getting a California sub permit will allow you to access the most teaching opportunities, including those in public school districts. While not all substitute teaching roles require a permit, those with credentials have access to over two times as many positions (and higher pay!).

There are three different kinds of permits to consider:

  1. Emergency 30-Day Substitute Teaching Permit — the best choice for most prospective subs
  2. Emergency Substitute Teaching Permit for Prospective Teachers — for subs currently studying to become credentialed teachers
  3. Emergency Career Substitute Permit — for experienced California subs

Meet the general qualifications

No matter which permit makes the most sense for you, you’ll need to complete the following tasks:

  1. Pass a basic skills test (i.e. college grades, CBEST, SAT, ACT, AP exams, etc)
  2. Pay the $100 processing fee.
  3. Obtain an additional live scan (using this form)

Emergency 30-Day Substitute Teaching Permit

Get this permit if you’re just starting out and aren’t currently in school to become a certified teacher. With this permit you can:

  • Teach as a day-to-day substitute in any classroom.
  • Move from classroom to classroom throughout the entire school year, and you can sub for any individual teacher for up to 30 days (or up to 20 days for an individual teacher in special education classrooms) before moving on to another teacher’s classroom

The permit is valid for one year, and may be renewed repeatedly.

Emergency Substitute Teaching Permit for Prospective Teachers

Get this permit if you’re currently enrolled in an accredited institution to become a certified teacher in California. With this permit you can:

  • Teach as a day-to-day substitute in any classroom.
  • Sub for any individual teacher for up to 30 days (or up to 20 days for an individual teacher in special education classrooms) before moving on to another teacher’s classroom.

The permit is valid for one year, and may be renewed only once.

In addition to the standard substitute teaching qualifications, you must also:

  1. Provide transcripts for a minimum of 90 semester units of coursework at an accredited institution.
  2. Verify that you’re enrolled at an accredited 4-year institution in California with either official transcripts or a letter from the registrar.

Emergency Career Substitute Permit

Get this permit if you’re an experienced sub who has subbed for at least 90 days each year for three recent consecutive years in a single California county. This permit will allow you to sub in the same classroom longer than the 30-day permit. With this permit you can:

  • Teach as a day-to-day substitute in any classroom.
  • Work as a substitute teacher for up to 60 days for any one teacher during the school year (or up to 20 days for an individual teacher in special education classrooms).

The permit is valid for one year, and may be renewed repeatedly.

In addition to the standard substitute teaching qualifications, you must also:

  1. Provide transcripts for your bachelor’s or higher degree from an accredited institution.
  2. Verify recent experience totaling at least 90 days of subbing per year for three recent consecutive years in a single California county.
  3. Provide a letter of endorsement from the district superintendent or the county office of education.

For more information, visit the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Excited? Register with Swing and get started today!

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