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What Teacher Assistants Do About this section

Teacher assistants
Some teacher assistants work exclusively with special education students who attend traditional classes.

Teacher assistants work with a licensed teacher to give students additional attention and instruction.

Duties

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.

Work Environment About this section

Teacher assistants
Some teacher assistants work in specific locations within schools, such as libraries.

Teacher assistants held about 1.4 million jobs in 2019. The largest employers of teacher assistants were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; local 70%
Child day care services 11
Elementary and secondary schools; private 8

Teacher assistants may spend some time outside, when students are at recess or getting on and off the bus. They may need to lift the students at certain times.

Injuries and Illnesses

Teacher assistants sometimes get injured on the job. They actively work with students, including lifting and otherwise assisting special education students, which can place them at risk for injuries such as strains.

Work Schedules

Most teacher assistants work full time, although part-time work is common. Some monitor students on school buses before and after school. Many teacher assistants do not work during the summer; however, some work in year-round schools or assist teachers in summer school.

How to Become a Teacher Assistant About this section

Teacher assistants
Teacher assistants reinforce lessons presented in class by reviewing material with students one-on-one or in small groups.

Teacher assistants typically need to have completed at least 2 years of college coursework.

Education

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.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some jobs may require staff to have certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Teacher assistants need to be clear and concise in discussing student progress with teachers and parents.

Interpersonal skills. Teacher assistants must be able to develop relationships with a variety of people, including teachers, students, parents, and administrators.

Patience. Working with students of different abilities and backgrounds may be difficult. Teacher assistants must be understanding with students.

Resourcefulness. Teacher assistants must find ways to explain information to students who have different learning styles.

Advancement

Teacher assistants may become a kindergarten and elementary school teacher, middle school teacher, high school teacher, or special education teacher upon obtaining additional education, training, and a license or certification.

Pay About this section

Teacher Assistants

Median annual wages, May 2019

Total, all occupations

$39,810

Other educational instruction and library occupations

$29,910

Teacher assistants

$27,920

 

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.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for teacher assistants in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; local $28,520
Elementary and secondary schools; private 27,700
Child day care services 24,680

Most teacher assistants work full time, although part-time work is common. Some monitor students on school buses before and after school. Many teacher assistants do not work during the summer; however, some work in year-round schools or assist teachers in summer school.

Job Outlook About this section

Teacher Assistants

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Other educational instruction and library occupations

4%

Total, all occupations

4%

Teacher assistants

4%

 

Employment of teacher assistants is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, 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.

Job Prospects

About 140,400 openings for teacher assistants are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment projections data for teacher assistants, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Teaching assistants, except postsecondary

25-9045 1,395,900 1,446,400 4 50,500 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about teacher assistants, visit

National Education Association

American Federation of Teachers

National Resource Center for Paraeducators

O*NET

Teacher Assistants

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