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Teaching Assistant Career

Career Description

A Teacher Assistant provides instructional and clerical support for classroom teachers, allowing teachers more time for lesson planning and teaching. They support and assist children in learning class material using the teacher’s lesson plans, providing students with individualized attention.  Teacher assistants also supervise students in the cafeteria, schoolyard, and hallways, or on field trips; they record grades, set up equipment, and help prepare materials for instruction.

Common Work Tasks

  • Monitor nonacademic settings, such as the playground and lunchroom
  • Provide instructional reinforcement to children,  under the direction and guidance of teachers
  • Work with students individually or in small groups-listening while students read, reviewing or reinforcing class lessons,  or helping them find information for reports
  • Take charge of special projects and prepare equipment or exhibits, such as for a science demonstration
  • Work in computer laboratories, helping students to use computers and educational software programs
  • Grade tests and papers, check homework, keep health and attendance records, do typing and filing, and duplicate materials
  • Use computers to record grades and perform other administrative and clerical duties
  • Attend to the physical needs of students with disabilities, including feeding, teaching good grooming habits, or assisting students riding the schoolbus
  • Provide personal attention to students with other special needs, such as those who speak English as a second language or those who need remedial education
  • Supervise the children at play and assist in feeding and other basic care activities

Other Job Titles

Teacher Assistants are also known by other titles,  including:

  • Teacher Aides
  • Paraeducators
  • Instructional Aides
  • Paraprofessionals

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training
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. In fact, teacher assistants who work in Title 1 schools—those with a large proportion of students from low-income households—must have college training or proven academic skills. They face new Federal requirements as of 2006: assistants must hold a 2-year or higher degree, have a minimum of 2 years of college, or pass a rigorous State or local assessment.

  Many schools require previous experience in working with children and a valid driver’s license. Some schools may require the applicant to pass a background check.  Teacher assistants should enjoy working with children from a wide range of cultural backgrounds and be able to handle classroom situations with fairness and patience. Teacher assistants also must demonstrate initiative and a willingness to follow a teacher’s directions. They 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 for communicating with growing numbers of students and parents whose primary language is not English.


The median annual salary for a Teacher Assistant is $22,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $33,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $15,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of teacher assistants are:

  • Elementary and Secondary Schools - $22,850
  • Child Day Care Services - $19,670
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools - $28,720
  • Junior Colleges - $27,410
  • Individual and Family Services - $21,540

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  10%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 137,000
  • Employment 2006 : 1,312,000
  • Employment 2016:  1,449,000
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