Working as an educator can take many different forms, including helping students one-on-one, building curriculum, and supporting students in their academic development. A great way to get into the world of education to see if it’s right for you is to work as a teacher’s assistant. Use this guide to learn more about how to become a teacher’s assistant and discover more about the skills and education required.
What Is a Teacher’s Assistant?
A teacher’s assistant is a person who helps a teacher with instructional responsibilities of all kinds, says Career Explorer. Teacher assistants often work one-on-one or with small groups of students, helping them to complete assignments or providing extra support in a specific area. Some teacher assistants also provide administrative support to teachers, such as handling class schedules or keeping attendance records. Teacher assistants are also called teacher aides, instructional aides/assistants, paraprofessionals, education assistants, or paraeducators.
What Does a Teacher Assistant Do?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), teacher assistants typically work in preschools, daycare centers, and elementary schools. They help lead classrooms of children, working alongside the credentialed teacher.
Assistant teachers help create a safe and nurturing environment in which children can learn and grow. They assist with lesson planning, prepping, and implementation. Assistant teachers often oversee activities during recess and lunchtime, and they may oversee morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up. Ultimately, assistant teachers play an important role in the education and development of students.
What Are the Requirements to Become a Teacher’s Assistant?
Teacher assistant requirements include a high school diploma and some college, according to the BLS, although some positions may require additional postsecondary education and on-the-job training. Most states regulate the use of teacher assistants in public schools, and some states require certification for these professionals, per the BLS. Instructional assistants typically work during school hours, although some positions may require additional hours on occasion. They typically work in elementary, middle, and high schools in both general education and in special education.
What Skills Do You Need to Have as a Teacher’s Assistant?
If you want to get ahead of the game, Busy Teacher suggests you brush up on the following skills before heading into interviews:
1. Relationship building
As a teacher assistant, you will need to develop positive relationships with students. This means being patient, caring, and understanding. Building relationships with students will help them feel more comfortable working with you.
2. The ability to understand and follow directions
You should be able to regularly understand instructions given by the teacher and be able to follow these instructions correctly to help the students learn effectively. As teachers rely on running a classroom and closely following a curriculum, instructional assistants need to understand how the classroom works and practice the rules teachers put in place.
3. Managing time effectively
You need to be able to plan and organize your work to get it done in a timely manner, as well as help students manage their time.
Dealing with difficult situations and managing your own emotions will help students work through trying situations. When you practice patience, students will mimic your behavior and remain calm in the face of a challenge.
As a teacher assistant, you will need to be flexible to adapt to the needs of the students and the classroom. Some days you might need to change your plans at the last minute or be willing to try new things when your current strategy is not working.
6. Working independently
While you will be working under the supervision of a teacher, there will be times when you will need to work independently. Taking initiative and problem-solving on your own are inherent to successfully working independently.
Working well with others is integral to the work of a teacher’s assistant. You will work closely with not only students but also administrators, parents, and of course, teachers and other staff. Strong teamwork includes communicating and collaborating effectively on the common goal of student development.
8. Using technology
In today’s classroom, you must be comfortable using technology and supporting students with their technology needs. Computers, tablets/iPads, printers, and other digital tools — including project management software and other programs for communicating with parents — are just a few examples of technology you’ll encounter as a teacher’s assistant.
9. Managing behaviors
Unexpected behaviors from students will occasionally be part of your daily routine in the general education classroom. They can be a daily part of your routine in the special education classroom. Learning how to effectively manage unexpected behaviors while still following the curriculum and guidelines set forth by the teacher is critical.
10. Maintaining confidentiality
As an instructional aide, you will have access to confidential information about students and their families. Following state guidelines is essential to any educator’s role, according to Student Privacy Compass.
How Much Does a Teacher Assistant Make?
As with most positions in education, teacher assistant salaries vary depending on the state, level of education, and specialty. According to the BLS, teacher assistants earned a median annual salary of $29,360 in 2021. Salaries ranged from less than $21,890 per year for the lowest 10% to more than $46,530 per year for the highest 10%.
The number of U.S. teacher assistants in 2021 was 1,235,100, and the position is expected to grow 5% through 2031.
What Are Potential Careers After Working as a Teacher’s Assistant?
After gaining some experience as a teacher’s assistant, you might find that you love the field of education and helping to shape young lives. There are many career paths for you to explore. Depending on what role you choose, additional training may be required. The BLS suggests the following roles:
- Preschool, elementary, middle, or high school general education or special education teachers*
- Occupational or speech therapy assistants and aides
- Library technicians and assistants
- Childcare workers
- Career and technical education teachers
Tips for Becoming a Teacher’s Assistant
Not surprisingly, these tips align with many of the skills it takes to be successful in the role. First and foremost, you should have a passion for working with children. It can be a very rewarding career, but it can also have demanding and challenging moments. Teacher assistants play important roles in the classroom, providing support to teachers and helping students learn. Here are five tips to help you become a teacher assistant:
1. Gain experience working with children
Some ways to get valuable experience outside of the classroom include volunteering at schools, providing childcare services, or working at a daycare center. The experience will allow you to work with different age groups.
Take a course in education or child development, which can give you a better understanding of how children learn and what methods work best for them.
2. Be patient and flexible
Children and parents can be frustrating at times, and the job can be demanding. It takes patience to understand each child is different. You will perform various duties as an instructional aide, so flexibility is key.
3. Stay organized
To succeed, you must keep track of assignments, materials, and deadlines. This will help you stay on top of your work and prevent you from getting overwhelmed.
Develop a good relationship with your coworkers. Maintain a positive working relationship with the other staff members at your school. This makes it easier to collaborate on projects and share resources.
4. Be adaptable
The needs of students can change quickly, so you need to be able to adjust your plans on-the-fly. This can be challenging, but it can also be one of the most rewarding aspects of the job.
5. Take advantage of professional development opportunities
There are always new strategies and approaches being developed in the field of education, so attend workshops and conferences whenever possible.
Lastly, approach your job with a positive attitude and be a positive role model for students.
If you have a passion for making a difference in the lives of students and want to do so through education, a role as a teacher’s assistant may be right for you. With a balanced workload, diverse set of responsibilities, and positive job outlook, being a teacher assistant is not only a great career, but it’s also a chance to do something you’re passionate about.
* An online degree from the University of Arizona Global Campus does not lead to immediate teacher licensure in any state. If you want to become a classroom teacher, contact your state’s education authorities prior to enrolling at the University of Arizona Global Campus to determine what state-specific requirements you must complete before obtaining your teacher’s license.