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Choosing to be a teacher’s assistant, is a great career choice if you enjoy working with kids. However, it takes more than just a love for children to be successful in this type of career. It also takes a lot of patience, tolerance, understanding, and — depending on the state — certain degrees, teaching experience, licenses, and certifications.


Teaching Assistant Career Guide

Colleges and universities provide a variety of programs to get an associate’s degree in early childhood development, assistant teaching, and other related educational areas that can qualify you for a rewarding career as a teacher’s assistant. These programs also include class-based internship programs for hands-on training and experience that allow you to get a feel for working with kids, as many states and schools require.

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How to Become a Teacher’s Assistant

The typical route to follow in becoming a teacher’s assistant is:

  • Get an associate’s degree in assistant teaching, education, or other related subjects such as elementary education

  • Complete a teacher’s assistant internship to gain some experience

  • Take and pass the required exams in your state to receive a teacher’s assistant certification/licensure

  • Apply for your license as a teacher’s assistant

  • Apply for open positions as a teacher’s assistant that interests you

If you are considering becoming a teacher’s assistant this article will help you to understand what to expect and what is required as far as education, certificates, licenses, salaries, job duties, and more.

What will you do as a Teacher’s Assistant?

A teacher assistant supports the classroom teacher in a variety of ways. It is the teacher assistant’s job to take the load off the head-teacher and make it easier for them to spend more time and focus on teaching. Having a teacher’s assistant in the classroom is especially essential for classrooms that may be overpopulated or for special education kids.

The teacher’s assistant may spend a lot of their time doing clerical work as well as some instructional tasks or whatever the lead teacher needs done. They are there to assist the teacher and will perform various tasks under the teacher’s direction and in some situations where the lead teacher can’t be there, the teacher’s assistant may fill in for them.

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Common Degree Requirements

Each state has their own requirements for becoming a teacher’s assistant. Charter and private schools may only require a teacher’s assistant to have a high school diploma where other schools may prefer you have at least an associate’s degree, which is always better to have since it can improve your chances of landing the job you want.

In addition, if you earned credits while working on getting your associate’s degree, many schools have programs that will allow those credits to be transferred towards earning a bachelor’s degree to further your education even more and increase your chances at a better job or even allow you to become a lead teacher.

A federal mandate requires that all teacher’s assistants who are employed by Title I schools must hold a certificate as a teacher’s assistant and have a minimum a two-year degree.

Although some states consider a teacher’s assistant to be the same as a teacher’s aide, in other states they are entirely different professions. They both work to assist the lead teacher in a classroom, however, a teacher’s assistant must be certified to be able to provide instructional support while a teacher’s aide typically only requires a high school diploma since their duties are non-professional and may consist of tending to children’s needs, test proctoring, classroom preparation, monitoring, and more.

Another major difference in these two professions is the salary; a teacher’s assistant earns an average annual salary of $25,000 where a teacher’s aide earns approximately $18,000.

Exams and Licenses

Each state has their own specific educational requirements for different positions, but in any state you will need to be certified in order to be a teacher’s assistant.

In New York — and most states — certified teacher’s assistants are known as Paraprofessionals. To qualify for certification, you must first take and pass the “New York State Assessment of Teaching Assistant Skills” test (NYSATAS) than complete the School Violence Prevention and Intervention, the Child Abuse Identification, and Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) workshops. After you have finished all that, you can then apply to the State Education Department for state certification as a Teaching Assistant. There are four levels of certification.

Other states may use the PRAXIS-para tests or other methods to certify teacher assistants, but you will need certification no matter which state you call home.

Teacher’s Assistant Salaries

Of course, a teacher’s assistant won’t make as much as a lead certified teacher, but they can look forward to a good job outlook.

According to 2016 data, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates the average teacher’s assistant’s annual salary nationally was $27,129 with 1,263,820 teacher’s assistants employed. Teacher’s assistants who worked in childcare type schools made the least wages by far with an annual average of $21,190 while the assistants who worked in public local elementary schools and high schools made an average annual salary of $26,140. Through 2024, these professionals can expect even more in job growth at a rising rate of 6%.

According to the Huffington Post, school administrators get paid more in Charter schools than the educators. Although they may be great to work at, private schools pay teacher’s assistant’s lower wages than the national average and public schools. This is due to funding. Public schools are funded with local, state, and federal tax dollars distributed through the government where private schools raise their own funds.

The average annual salary for teacher’s aides is $22,401, ranging from $21,540 to $26,070. There are many factors to consider when determining salary ranges such as degree/education, certifications, experience, school, location, and more.

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Teachers Aide Career & Salary Chart

Occupation Salary
Elementary Teachers Assistant $22,700
Kindergarten Teachers Assistant $22,700
Preschool Teachers Assistant $23,200
Special Education Teachers Assistant $24,800

Future Career Outlook

Ever since 2004, the overall job outlook for a career as a teacher’s assistant has been positive. Throughout that time, job openings for teacher’s assistants have increased by .53% throughout the nation, with an annual average growth of .09%.

From 2012 to 2020 the employment outlook growth projection is expected to increase by 8.6%. The demand for teacher’s assistants is expected to increase with an estimated 198,220 new jobs that are expected to be filled in the near future, which represents an increase of up to 1.98% annually over the coming years. The reason for this growth is the population increase. Thus, more students will be enrolling in schools everywhere.

Job Duties of a Teaching Assistant

Some of the main duties of a teacher’s assistant are as follows:

  • Take attendance

  • Oversee recess

  • Monitor the halls

  • Tend to the children’s needs

  • Oversee lunch

  • Grade papers

  • Keep records/take attendance

  • Create worksheets for the class

  • Print out documents

  • Relay messages to parents and/or other teachers

  • Help kids with special needs

  • Substitute when the lead teacher is not present

  • Set up equipment required for certain tasks

  • Work with a group in sessions

  • Prepare materials needed for the day

  • Order supplies

  • Assist with class projects

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Useful Skills and Certifications

Typically a teacher assistant will possess the same skills and qualities as a lead teacher.

The following are just some of the most important skills and attributes a teacher’s assistant should have:

  • Patience – Especially if you are working with young children. In fact, the younger the child, the lower their attention span, and the more patience you’ll need.
  • A passion to teach – If you don’t have this characteristic you really should consider another profession because this is the main goal of both teacher’s and their assistants.
  • Flexibility – To be a teacher’s assistant you will be performing numerous tasks that involve skills that are clerical, instructional, physical, mental, and more.
  • Clerical skills – You will need to know how to use a printer to print out worksheets and fliers, grade papers, record data like attendance records, and more.
  • Knowledge of state content standards – Because teacher’s assistants help with lesson planning, equipment setup, grading papers, and material requisitions you will need to know the level of learning the state standards set for the grade level you work with.
  • Experience working with kids – Most colleges have internship programs for teacher’s assistants to gain some experience working in a classroom with kids, and you’ll need the experience.

Depending on the state, school, and other factors, Teacher's Aides may be required to have additional training or a paraprofessional certificate. Title I schools require all teacher assistants to have proven academic skills and college training. Teacher's Aides in these schools must have an Associate's Degree or a Paraprofessional Certificate. Earning a paraprofessional certificate requires 48 college semester hours and the ability to assist in teaching reading, writing, math, and more.

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