Teacher’s Assistant Career Guide
A teacher’s assistant provides support to the lead classroom teacher, allowing the teacher to spend more time focusing on classroom instruction. The duties of the teaching assistant are both clerical and instructional. This guide provides further information on what teacher’s assistants do, how to become a teacher’s assistant, and teacher’s assistant salary and outlook.
Teacher’s Assistant Job Description
A teacher’s assistant reports to a lead teacher and is responsible for helping the lead teacher run classes smoothly by taking on common classroom tasks at the lead teacher’s direction. The everyday duties of an assistant teacher include performing clerical duties like taking attendance, grading tests and homework, and other record-keeping and instruction tasks. An assistant helps monitor students’ behavior in the classroom, hallways, cafeteria, playground, and on school trips. Assistants commonly provide additional instructional assistance to students with special needs and students who need extra help in completing class work.
Teacher’s Assistant Requirements and Common Tasks
A teacher’s assistant provides instructional support to students by reinforcing the teacher’s lesson plans. If requested, the assistant teacher helps students learn through group sessions or on an individual basis in supplemental lessons, such as assisting with math problems. The setup of equipment and preparation of materials needed for the day’s lesson are also commonly done by the assistant teacher.
Assistant teachers work with children from diverse backgrounds, and thus being comfortable and understanding in a blended classroom is important. Patience, a joy for working with children, willingness to follow instructions, and excellent communication skills – both oral and written – are essential to the effective performance of this job. Being bilingual, although not required, is beneficial. Assistant teachers must have the physical ability to assist with small children and classroom equipment, which may require bending and lifting. Many schools require that teacher’s assistants be certified in First Aid.
How to Become a Teacher’s Assistant
The requirements for becoming a teacher’s assistant are different from state to state. In private or charter schools, assistants may only be required to have a high school degree. However, having at least an associate’s degree can improve an applicant’s prospects. Due to federal mandate, teacher’s assistants who work in Title I schools must have at least a two-year degree and hold certification as a teacher’s aide or assistant. Some states may require that the program completed be approved by the state board of education in order to qualify graduates for licensure or certification. The typical route to a teacher’s assistant career is as follows:
- Earn an associate’s degree in education, assistant teaching, or a related subject like elementary education.
- Complete an internship as a teacher’s assistant.
- Take any tests required in your state for teacher’s assistant licensure.
- Apply for your teacher’s assistant license.
- Begin applying to open teacher’s assistant positions.
Many colleges and universities offer associate’s degree programs in assistant teaching, early childhood development, and related areas that can qualify prospective assistant teachers for this career. These programs typically include classroom-based internships. As many states and schools require teaching assistants to have experience with children, this is additional helpful preparation for the requirements of this career. Many schools also offer programs that allow you to transfer credits earned during your associate’s program towards a bachelor’s degree in education, which can be helpful if you later decide to pursue a career as a lead teacher.
Teacher’s Assistant Salary and Job Outlook
Although a teacher’s assistant can typically expect a lower salary than a certified lead teacher, the job outlook is good for these professionals. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, teacher assistants make an average annual salary of $24,900 per year and can expect a job growth rate of 6% through 2024.1 Private and public schools, day care centers, and religious institutions hire teacher assistants. The majority of teacher assistants work on a full-time basis, although about 40% of teaching assistants work part-time.1 Career advancement to other teaching positions is possible for assistant teachers. Some school districts offer programs that will reimburse paraprofessional educators for the cost of tuition for a teaching degree in exchange for working for the school district for several years.
Helpful Skills and Experience
Successful teaching assistants have many of the same skills and qualifications as lead teachers. Patience, genuine caring for students and their success, and flexibility are all necessary attributes for assistant teachers. As teacher’s assistants help with lesson planning, materials requisitions, and equipment set-up, they must have familiarity with state content standards for all areas of education at their grade level(s). As many assistant teaching positions require six months to a year of previous experience working with school-aged children and/or special populations, taking advantage of internship programs in high school or college is recommended.
Possible Job Titles for This Career
- Assistant Teacher
- Instructional Assistant/Aide
- Paraprofessional Educator/Teacher
- Teacher’s aide
- National Education Association (NEA) – The NEA offers professional development information and support for paraeducators.
- Association of American Educators (AAE) – The AAE welcomes teacher assistants as members and provides benefits like liability insurance and access to scholarships and grants.
Education and Teaching Degrees and Programs
Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Teacher’s Assistant
Question: Do I need certification to become a teacher’s assistant?
Answer: While many opportunities require assistant teachers to hold certification, in some cases the base qualification is a high school diploma or associate’s degree. Paraprofessional certifications are offered for teaching assistants who have the required education in many states. Your state Board of Education or local teacher preparation program can provide specific information on the requirements for teacher’s assistants in your area.
Question: What career opportunities are available for teacher’s assistants?
Answer: Most teacher’s assistant positions are in in middle and secondary schools. About 9% of teacher assistants work in child day care organizations.1 In some areas, especially urban locations, teacher’s assistants are needed to help adult special education classes. Many school districts offer benefits like tuition reimbursement for teacher’s assistants who are interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree and full teacher certification.
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Teacher Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/teacher-assistants.htm