7 mind-blowing facts about substitute teachers you never knew

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Substitute teachers are paid a median wage of $13.79 an hour.

  • Many students may not have the opportunity to get to know their substitute teachers since they typically only come in for a day or two at a time.
  • Substitute teachers tend to get calls the morning of the day they work and have only a few hours to prepare lesson plans.
  • Some areas of the country are experiencing sub shortages, while others are overly reliant on long-term substitutes.
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As back-to-school season gets into full swing, substitute teachers will be gearing up for that early morning call into work.

While many students recall having subs cover for absent teachers, they don't usually have a chance to get to know their temporary instructor in the few days spent together.
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Read more: 31 teachers across the US reveal their exact salary, and how much of it goes to paying for school supplies like chalk and pencils

Some may not know, for instance, that many states don't require substitute teachers to have schooling past a high school diploma in order to get certified. Or that some areas of the country are experiencing sub shortages, while others are overly reliant on long-term substitutes.

Here are seven facts you may not have known about what it's like to be a substitute teacher.
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Are you a substitute teacher with a story to share? Email aakhtar@businessinsider.com.

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Substitute teachers are paid $13.79 an hour.

Substitute teachers are paid $13.79 an hour.

As of May 2018, over 500,000 substitute teachers worked in the US, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Subs earn a median hourly wage of $13.79, and an average hourly wage of $15.56. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

According to BLS data, the vast majority of subs work in elementary and secondary schools, but those working in post-graduate vocational or trade schools earn the most overall. California, Texas, and New York employ the greatest number of subs.

Substitutes in Maryland earn the most out of any state overall, while those in Alabama earn the least.

Substitutes in Maryland earn the most out of any state overall, while those in Alabama earn the least.

Maryland subs make an average hourly wage of $28.29. Hawaii, Oregon, and Vermont are the next highest-paying states at $22.61, $21.89, and $20.39, respectively.

Alabama is the state where subs earn the least, at just $9.19 an hour on average. Tennessee, Mississippi, and Idaho follow behind at $9.74, $9.77, and $10.55, respectively.

Montgomery, Alabama, pays subs $8.33 an hour, the lowest of all US cities. Springfield, Massachusetts, pays the most at $26.84.

Source: The Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Schools call subs early in the morning to ask them to step in for a teacher.

Schools call subs early in the morning to ask them to step in for a teacher.

Subs are called into work at around 5 a.m., reports education site ThoughtCo. —meaning the job works best for early birds.

After getting the gig and accepting it, subs may report to a different school from where'd they been the last time they subbed. They'll read the lesson plan left behind by the regular teacher just before class starts, according to the Huffington Post.

Source: ThoughtCo., Huffington Post

Substitute teachers are more likely to find work immediately following Spring Break and during the years when there is a shortage of flu vaccines.

Substitute teachers are more likely to find work immediately following Spring Break and during the years when there is a shortage of flu vaccines.

Source: National Substitute Teachers Alliance

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Substitute teachers are not all required to have a bachelor's degree — despite the fact that full-time teachers need to have one.

Substitute teachers are not all required to have a bachelor's degree — despite the fact that full-time teachers need to have one.

Requirements for substitute teacher certification vary by state.

Subs are certified by the state within which they teach. While all full-time teachers must have a bachelor's degree to become certified, some states do not require subs have the same level of education before certification.

Vermont, for instance, just requires that subs be over 18 years old and hold a high school diploma. Arizona does not even have clear guidelines governing substitute teacher credentials, according to the National Education Association.

You can find a breakdown of all state requirements for substitute teachers here.

Source: National Education Association

The country is currently experiencing an overall shortage of substitute teachers.

The country is currently experiencing an overall shortage of substitute teachers.

US schools were 64,000 teachers short in the 2015-2016 school year, according to the education non-profit Hechinger Report. Subjects with the most shortages included special education, math, science, and bilingual studies.

High-poverty schools and schools with predominantly students of color suffered most from sub shortages, Hechinger reported. In Southern Illinois, for instance, school districts could not find a substitute teacher for 26% of teacher absences each week.

"[The substitute teacher shortage] has really risen to a level of concern in the last year and a half. I've never seen it this dire," Mark Laurrie, superintendent of Niagara Falls City School District, told Hechinger's Tara García Mathewson.

Source: Hechinger Report

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On the flip side, some states are relying on long-term substitute teachers to replace full-time ones.

On the flip side, some states are relying on long-term substitute teachers to replace full-time ones.

The use of long-term substitutes has increased ten-fold in five years in the state of Michigan, according to an investigation by the nonprofit Bridge.

In the 2018-2019 class year, 2,500 long-term substitute teachers led classrooms in the state — up from the 200 a year in 2013 to 2015. Substitute teachers can get qualified with just 90 semester hours of college credit with a 2.0 GPA at a four-year college.

Las Vegas — which already ranks among the bottom-performing school districts in the country — has also relied on long-term substitutes and teachers with lesser qualifications, according to a 2016 report in The Atlantic. One of the subs reportedly played marathons of the movie "Grease" instead of teaching.

Source: Bridge, The Atlantic