There are many types of teacher assistant jobs. And there are many titles for a teacher assistant including teacher aide, instructional aide, paraeducator or paraprofessional. About 4 in 10 teacher assistants work part-time. Teacher assistant job descriptions also vary widely. The primary responsibility of a teacher assistant is to free the teacher up so he or she can plan lessons and teach. A teacher assistant works under the guidance and direction of a classroom teacher and usually performs a combination of instructional and clerical duties. This may include any of the following:
- Provide instructional support for classroom teachers
- Provide clerical support for classroom teachers
- Support and assist children in groups or one-on-one
- Supervise students in the lunchroom, schoolyard, and hallways, or on field trips
- Grade tests, record grades, check homework
- Keep attendance records
- Set up and operate equipment, stock supplies and keep classrooms in order
- Prepare materials for instruction
- Coordinate special projects such as a science fair
- Help students in a computer lab
Many secondary level teacher assistants specialize in a certain subject – a foreign language, math or music for example. Some work with special education students, helping students with disabilities, including feeding, and teaching grooming habits. Some may assist students riding the school bus. They also may specialize in other special needs, such as those who speak English as a second language or those who need remedial reading.
Teacher assistants also work in preschools and other child care centers where they help with instructional activities and supervise children at play.
Just like classroom teachers, the qualifications for teacher assistant jobs vary state by state and by school district within a state. Requirements range from high school graduation to college coursework and prior experience working with children. Teacher assistants who work in Title 1 schools must have at least two-year college degrees. Some areas require certification.
Many online colleges offer degree and certificate programs for teacher assistants. This allows them to work while going to school. They can then continue their education while working in the classroom to become a degreed teacher. Some school districts help teacher assistants by giving them time off for classes or reimbursing them for tuition. In return, assistants are often required to teach for a certain length of time in the school district.
Skills and experience necessary to become a teacher assistant includes familiarity with classroom materials, instructional methods and audiovisual equipment, computer skills, written and verbal communication skills and previous experience working with children. Many schools require background checks and drug screening.
There are approximately 1.5 million teacher assistants in the U.S. Most work for public and private elementary and secondary schools. Others work in child care centers, preschools and religious organizations. There are always job openings for teacher assistants since these positions experience high turnover. Bilingual teacher assistants, especially those who speak Spanish, are in great demand right now, and that demand is expected to grow. Employment of teacher assistants is expected to grow by 10 percent through 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Greater emphasis on early childhood education, special education and teaching children who do not speak English at home will keep teaching assistant jobs plentiful.
The average salary for a full-tiime teacher assistant is $24,000. Hourly pay is on average $10.50 per hour. Full-time teacher assistants usually receive health coverage and other benefits.