How to Become a Teaching Assistant

Children are one third of our population and all of our future. Select Panel for the Promotion of Child Health, 1981

Teacher's Aides are called many things depending on the school or district. They can be referred to as teaching assistants, TA, instructional aides, and paraprofessionals.

Teacher's Aides are typically found in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and special education centers. They have many roles in the classroom and often do tasks like attendance, assisting students, grading, leading small group instruction, supervising field trips, and preparing classroom materials.

Teacher's Aides typically have certain qualities that will make them effective in their jobs. These include flexibility while they assist the teacher in their duties. Dependability because the teachers will rely on them time and time again. Communication as they interact with the teacher and students throughout the day. Finally, a love for learning and children because they must value education, and enjoy helping and working with kids.

Teacher's Aide employment opportunities is expected to grow about 9% by 2022. This growth is expected due to increases in student enrollment in elementary and secondary grades, as well as in child care centers and preschools. The average salary for a teachers aide is $23, 640.

How Do I Become A Teachers Aide?

Teacher's Aides are not required to have a teaching certificate. However, depending on where they want to work, and in what state, they may be required to have additional training, some college courses, or a paraprofessional certificate. Title I schools require all teacher assistants to have proven academic skills and college training. Teacher's Aides in these schools must have an Associate's Degree or a Paraprofessional Certificate.

Paraprofessional certificates are earned by attending a college or university for 48 semester hours. They must be able to demonstrate knowledge and ability to assist in instruction, reading, writing, and math.

Teaching Assistant by Degree Level

The tables and charts below break down the education level obtained as averaged across the U.S.

Degree LevelPercent (%)
Less Than High School Diploma2.6%
High School Diploma29.4%
Some College30.1%
Associate Degree13.8%
Bachelors Degree19.4%
Masters Degree4.1%
Doctorate Degree0.6%

Data taken from BLS Educational attainment for workers 25 years and older by detailed occupation, 2010-11 (http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_111.htm)

What Does A Teaching Assistant Do?

Teacher's Aides have a key support role in the classroom. They work with the teacher to help students succeed in the classroom environment. Some of their responsibilities include helping with standard tasks such as grading, taking attendance, recording grades, making copies, and collecting homework. They may be responsible for enforcing classroom rules setting up materials and preparing lessons. The roles of a teacher's aide will vary depending on grade, needs, and teacher preference.

Teacher Assistant Jobs & Job Description

Under the direction of the classroom teacher, special education teacher, or school administrative team, teaching assistants support students with special needs both in and outside of the mainstream classroom environment. Teaching assistant roles vary somewhat between the elementary and the secondary level; outlined below are the tasks that each subset of assistant is likely to encounter.

Elementary School Teaching Assistant

More than a helper, an elementary teaching assistant is an accredited individual who has been briefed on a student's educational needs as they pertain to his or her diagnosis, behaviour, and academic goals and works to carry out programming goals with the student from day to day. Elementary teaching assistants:

  • Work with students who have Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), autism, or Asperger's syndrome
  • Work with students who are blind, low-vision, deaf, Deaf, or hard-of-hearing, or who have Central Auditory Processing Delays (CAP-D)
  • Work with students who have physical disabilities, cognitive impairments, or developmental delays
  • Work with students who have documented behavioral issues that affect learning in the mainstream classroom
  • Work with students who may have a combination of any of these additional learning needs
  • Carry out measures to address student need in the classroom on a focused basis
  • Participate or provide data and input on the Individual Education Plan each year in order to ensure best outcomes for teaching
  • Document observations about student behaviour or activity
  • Act as a point of contact for internal stakeholders, classroom teachers, and other students
  • Deploy accommodation and/or modification and/or alternate programming to classroom tasks to ensure that tasks are achievable by the student
  • Meet with parents/guardians and internal and external stakeholders for an annual review of IEP particulars and program goals, known as Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC) meetings
  • Manage integration in the classroom environment where teachers have deemed integration is a good fit
  • Become proficient in the use, support and troubleshooting of special materials and resources like braille readers and writers, sign language (ASL), scribing, configuring computer hardware and software, troubleshooting print enlargers, FM systems and other AV materials as appropriate and as situations arise
  • Suggest additional support for the student in order to foster safe attachment while protecting the vulnerability of a person with special needs
  • Advocate for people with disabilities and use every opportunity to ensure that classroom interactions function in a way that promotes the dignity of all persons
  • Understand theories of child and adolescent development and their concrete manifestations in the classroom
  • Support teachers' programming goals, and teaching strategies while reinforcing students' learning strategies in the classroom
  • Do not breach confidentiality about medical conditions, diagnoses, or other information
  • Assist classroom teachers in documenting appropriate assessment data that results in fair, though not equal, assessment
  • Engage in professional development on a continual basis
  • Understand the medical, physical, behavioural, emotional and social implications of a particular diagnosis on an as-needed basis
  • Advocate on behalf of the student's needs to classroom teachers and administration
  • Dialogue with and provide perspectives for mainstream to focus on inclusion in classroom
  • Network in a professional manner with other support staff as the need arises
  • Help ensure that instructional accommodations or modifications are present during assessment time as well
  • Stay apprised of the student's transition plan from year to year
  • Engage in active listening with students, parents and other stakeholders
  • Promote and advocate for the school and district mission and vision statements
  • Support academic and developmental goals that have been set for students - ensure that data collection is accurate and timely so that every success is measureable
  • Communicate proactively and professionally about students with teaching and non-teaching staff bearing in mind the impact of confidentiality regarding vulnerable persons
  • Support the school's culture and practices for inclusion
  • Conduct all work activities in a professional manner
  • Demonstrate commitment to working in a diverse school community and/or work environment

High School Teaching Assistant

High school teaching assistants work hard to ensure that students with special needs are able to achieve success in the classroom, with proper programming from teachers, and additional professional support. High school teaching assistants:

  • Work with students who have Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), autism, or Asperger's syndrome
  • Work with students who are blind, low-vision, deaf, Deaf, or hard-of-hearing, or who have Central Auditory Processing Delays (CAP-D)
  • Work with students who have physical disabilities, cognitive impairments, or developmental delays
  • Work with students who have documented behavioral issues that affect learning in the mainstream classroom
  • Work with students who may have a combination of any of these additional learning needs
  • Assess student learning needs in the classroom on a concrete basis deploying strategies as directed by the special education teacher and classroom teacher
  • Provide data for the creation of an accurate and effective Individual Education Plan
  • Act as a daily point of contact for internal stakeholders and possibly the student themselves as their individual need dictates
  • Act as a friendly face and advocate for the student
  • Assume an increasingly professionally distant demeanor in order to help students learn the valuable skill of self-advocacy as they approach the end of high school
  • Monitor and document school to work transitioning
  • Advocate for students to enter extensive co-operative education placements both in and outside of the school
  • Keep rigorous data on accommodation and/or modification and/or alternate programming to classroom tasks
  • Promote and problem solve integration into the mainstream classroom environment where possible, feasible and beneficial to the student
  • Support the use of special education technology in the classroom
  • Suggest and enact beneficial reductions in support, so that students can foster self-reliance and independence as appropriate
  • Assist classroom teachers in implementing and tracking alternate teaching and learning strategies
  • Model and role-play self-advocacy skills for students in the classroom and in life-skills situations
  • Engage in professional development on a continual basis
  • Understand the medical, physical, behavioural, emotional and social implications of a particular diagnosis, how this may impact learning and life situations; remain absolutely confidential in this regard
  • Advocate on behalf of the student's needs to classroom teachers
  • Provide mainstream students with strategies for patience and inclusion in classroom and extracurricular activities
  • Ensure that accommodations or modifications during instructional time are also in place during assessments
  • Work within the boundaries of the student's transition plan from year to year
  • Engage in active listening with students and teachers
  • Support students as they strive to meet academic and developmental - ensure that metrics are in place so that every small success is measureable
  • Communicate proactively and professionally about students with teaching and non-teaching staff, bearing in mind the impact of confidentiality regarding vulnerable persons
  • Support the school's culture and practices for inclusion
  • Conduct all work activities in a professional manner

Certified teaching assistants at the elementary and secondary levels have many employment avenues open to them. Read on to learn more.

Where Can Certified Teacher's Aides Work?

TA's can work in private and public preschools, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.

Public Schools

Public schools are not able to charge tuition because they receive funding by the state and federal government. In the United States, all students have the right to a free education, so public schools are not allowed to turn away students that live in their district. Because of this, the public schools tend to be highly populated and have large class sizes with students from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. If you would like to become a teacher's assistant in a public school, you should first inquire with the local district in order to find out the specific hiring requirements.

Private Schools

Becoming a T.A. in a private school may require less education requirements. Private schools typically charge tuition and are independent of government control. Private schools have the ability to set their own standards for faculty and students. Private schools usually have higher educational standards than public schools and class sizes are usually smaller as is the overall school population. If you would like to become a T.A. in a private school, you should contact the school directly.

Charter Schools

Charter schools are a mixture of private and public schools. Although they are public and do not charge tuition, they are usually independently run. This means they have more flexibility and are often times held at a higher accountability for their performance. Charter schools are generally smaller, and may have additional requirements for their faculty and students. If you would like to become a T.A. in a charter school, you will need to contact the school or district directly, depending on the type of charter school (affiliated or independent) you want to work in.

What is a Teaching Assistant's Salary?

A teaching assistant's salary will vary depending on the school he or she works in. However, on average TA's across the nation earn from $19,033 (Payscale.com) to $23,640 (BLS.gov) a year. Teacher's aides in private schools can earn considerably less than the national averages, though working conditions in the classroom may be more pleasant. Unlike teaching salaries which see a significant annual raise until a maximum is reached, teacher's aides do not. With additional education, many teaching assistants are able to transition to a full-time teaching career, which has a significant impact on their salary.

You can learn more about a Teaching Assistant's salary by visiting our Teacher Salary-What to Expect? page.

Salary (2013) and Job Outlook (2012 to 2020) by State

According to the published BLS data from 2013, the national average salary for Teacher Assistants is $25,570, with an estimated 1,190,720 being employed nationwide. Also, the job outlook growth projection from 2012 to 2020 is expected to increase by 8.6%.

StateProjected Growth (%)Avg Salary
Alabama8.0%$19,380
Alaska10.4%$36,630
Arizona16.5%$23,320
Arkansas12.3%$19,150
California8.2%$29,820
Colorado15.7%$27,220
Connecticut9.3%$29,230
Delaware4.9%$29,710
Florida17.6%$23,240
Georgia24.8%$19,910
Hawaii6.4%$27,970
Idaho7.4%$21,720
Illinois1.9%$24,880
Indiana11.2%$22,110
Iowa7.2%$22,390
Kansas9.9%$22,720
Kentucky8.7%$25,790
Louisiana7.4%$19,710
Maine-$30,550
Maryland5.5%$28,410
Massachusetts7.1%$29,010
Michigan-$27,070
Minnesota3.8%$28,530
Mississippi10.2%$18,520
Missouri4.4%$23,270
Montana3.5%$24,630
Nebraska10.5%$21,920
Nevada6.1%$31,360
New Hampshire4.6%$27,770
New Jersey2.0%$26,530
New Mexico20.2%$21,500
New York4.9%$27,080
North Carolina11.5%$22,640
North Dakota9.9%$29,880
Ohio9.5%$25,500
Oklahoma6.5%$19,940
Oregon13.2%$29,830
Pennsylvania3.1%$24,720
Rhode Island3.5%$31,460
South Carolina9.0%$22,130
South Dakota3.1%$22,110
Tennessee14.1%$20,720
Texas20.4%$20,780
Utah21.3%$23,800
Vermont-$27,740
Virginia13.3%$24,960
Washington18.6%$30,630
Washington, DC-$27,580
West Virginia-$23,180
Wisconsin2.0%$27,420
Wyoming9.2%$27,660

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/) for Teacher Assistants (SOC Code: 25-9041)

Salary (2013) By Largest Metropolitan Areas

AreaEmployedAvg Salary
New York, White Plains, Wayne62,910$28,830
Los Angeles, Long Beach, Glendale33,060$29,410
Chicago, Joliet, Naperville28,090$25,490
Nassau, Suffolk21,060$28,340
Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington19,090$29,880
Washington, Arlington, Alexandria16,020$29,090
Houston, Sugar Land, Baytown15,830$20,590
Atlanta, Sandy Springs, Marietta15,330$21,510
Riverside, San Bernardino, Ontario14,800$29,070
Philadelphia14,660$26,860
Boston, Cambridge, Quincy14,510$30,090
Phoenix, Mesa, Glendale13,650$23,370
Santa Ana, Anaheim, Irvine13,080$31,720
Newark, Union12,970$26,300
Seattle, Bellevue, Everett11,910$32,910
Edison, New Brunswick11,850$26,870
Baltimore, Towson11,100$29,650
Dallas, Plano, Irving10,930$22,220
Denver, Aurora, Broomfield9,760$27,620
Portland, Vancouver, Hillsboro8,710$30,570

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/) for Teacher Assistants (SOC Code: 25-9041)