Teacher assistants work with a licensed teacher to give students additional attention and instruction.
Teacher assistants typically do the following:
- Reinforce lessons by reviewing material with students one-on-one or in small groups
- Follow school and class rules to teach students proper behavior
- Help teachers with recordkeeping, such as taking attendance and calculating grades
- Get equipment or materials ready to help teachers prepare for lessons
- Supervise students outside of the classroom, such as between classes, during lunch and recess, and on field trips
Teacher assistants also are called teacher aides, instructional aides, paraprofessionals, education assistants, and paraeducators.
Teacher assistants work with or under the guidance of a licensed teacher. Reviewing with students individually or in small groups, teacher assistants help reinforce the lessons that teachers introduce.
Teacher assistants may provide feedback to teachers for monitoring student progress. Some teacher assistants meet regularly with teachers to discuss lesson plans and students’ development.
Some teacher assistants work only with special education students. When special education students attend regular classes, these teacher assistants help them understand the material and adapt the information to their learning style. Teacher assistants may also work with students who have severe disabilities in separate classrooms. They help these students with basic needs, such as eating or personal hygiene. Teacher assistants may help young adults with disabilities to learn skills necessary for finding a job or living independently after graduation.
Some teacher assistants help in specific areas. For example, they may work in a computer laboratory, helping students use programs or software. Others may work as cafeteria attendants, supervising students during lunchtime.
Teacher assistants in childcare centers work with a lead teacher to provide individualized attention that young children need. They help with educational activities, supervise the children at play, and help with feeding and other basic care.
How to Become One
Teacher assistants typically need to have completed at least 2 years of college coursework.
Teacher assistants in public schools need at least 2 years of college coursework or an associate’s degree. Those who work in schools with a Title 1 program (a federal program for schools that have a large proportion of students from low-income households) must have at least a 2-year degree, 2 years of college, or pass a state or local assessment.
Associate’s degree programs for teacher assistants prepare participants to develop educational materials, observe students, and understand the role of teaching assistants in working with classroom teachers.
Most states require teacher assistants who work with special-needs students to pass a skills test.
The median annual wage for teacher assistants was $27,920 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,940, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $43,040.
Some teacher assistants work part time. Some monitor students on school buses before and after school. Although many do not work during the summer, some work in year-round schools or assist teachers in summer school.
Employment of teacher assistants is projected to grow 4 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Rising student enrollment along with state and federal funding for education programs should affect growth.
Teacher assistants are more of a supplementary position, as opposed to teachers, who hold a primary position. Therefore, teacher assistants’ employment opportunities may depend on school districts’ budgets. Schools are more likely to eliminate teacher assistant positions rather than teacher positions when there is a budget shortfall and more likely to hire teacher assistants when there is a budget surplus.1
- U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook
- U.S. Department of Labor, Career One Stop