This career is expected to grow 10 percent, about as fast as average, from 2008 through 2018, creating about 135,000 new jobs. Fast growth in enrollment is expected among special education students and students for whom English is a second language.
Assistants may be needed to help teachers prepare students for standardized testing and to help students who perform poorly. However, if schools hire more full-fledged teachers for such tasks, they will hire fewer assistants.
Salary & Wages
In 2008, teacher assistants earned an average salary of $22,200. The middle 50 percent earned $17,610 to $28,180. The highest 10 percent earned $33,980. Full-time workers usually receive health coverage and other benefits. Teacher assistants who work part time ordinarily do not receive benefits.
What is a Teacher Assistant?
Teacher assistants support classroom teachers, allowing teachers more time for lesson planning and teaching.
They help students learn class material using the teacher’s lesson plans. Many teacher assistants work with students individually or in small groups. Teacher assistants often take charge of special projects or work with students in lab or computer workshops; supervise students in the cafeteria, schoolyard, and hallways, or on field trips; they record grades, set up equipment, and help prepare materials for instruction.
Some teacher assistants work with special education students. They attend to the physical needs of students with disabilities, including feeding, teaching good grooming habits, or assisting students riding the school bus. They also provide personal attention to students with other special needs, such as those who speak English as a second language.
Teacher assistants also are called teacher aides, instructional aides, para-educators or paraprofessionals.
Education & Degree Path
Many teacher assistants need only a high school diploma and on-the-job training. A college degree or related coursework in child development improves job opportunities, however.
For example, teacher assistants who work in Title I schools—those with a large proportion of students from low-income households—must have some college training or proven academic skills. As of 2006, assistants at these schools have been required to hold an associate (two-year) or higher degree, have a minimum of two years of college, or pass a rigorous state or local assessment.
Entering the Field: There are often few or no specific education hurdles to entering this field, but many schools require previous experience in working with children and a valid driver’s license. Many schools will require the applicant to pass a criminal background check. Teacher assistants must have good writing skills and be able to communicate effectively with students and teachers.
Teacher assistants who speak a second language, especially Spanish, are in great demand. Earning a certificate in child development or youth and family services also can help you find entry-level work. An associate degree in human services or psychology can lay a solid foundation and improve pay and employment.
Career Changers: With almost no education hurdles and nearly every position offering on-the-job training, this is a good career to leap to. Those who hold degrees in psychology or who work in other people-oriented service areas such as sales, training, human resources, nursing and patient care often enjoy teaching.
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American Federation of Teachers: Paraprofessional Division
National Education Association: Educational Support Personnel Division
National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals
Source for salary and growth data is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more information on careers as a teacher’s assistant, salaries, and job prospects visit: U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Teacher Assistants.