How to Become a Kindergarten Teacher Assistant: Career Guide

Research the requirements to become a kindergarten teacher assistant. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career as a kindergarten teacher assistant.

Do I Want to Be a Kindergarten Teacher Assistant?

Kindergarten teachers sometimes require the aid of teacher assistants, who may also be known as teacher aides, paraprofessionals, paraeducators or instructional aides. Teacher assistants may supervise students normally aged 5 and 6, working with them individually or in small groups to reinforce lessons. Assistants are often responsible for students on playgrounds and buses, in addition to in the lunch room and hallways. Children in this age group tend to be quite energetic and impulsive. That fact may cause the job to be tiring or stressful, which may be outweighed, to a certain extent, by the rewards of observing the students' accomplishments. Work schedules vary from 10-months a year to year-round.

Job Requirements

Requirements to be a teacher assistant vary by state, district and school. For example, there are special requirements to work in certain low-income schools that receive Title I funding. Additionally, a few states and districts require teacher assistants to become certified. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a high school diploma or equivalent may be sufficient for some teacher assistant positions, but in other cases, an associate's degree or some college coursework will be required. The following table contains the core requirements for kindergarten teacher assistants.

Common Requirements
Degree Level Varies from a high school diploma to an associate's degree*
Degree Field Any field is usually acceptable**
Licensure/Certification Certification is required to work in some schools/districts***
Experience None**
Key Skills People skills, patience, communication and instructional skills*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2010), **Indeed.com job postings (July 2012), ***NYC Department of Education.

Step 1: Meet State, District or School Requirements

Some teacher assistant jobs only require a high school diploma. However, many states, districts and schools have special requirements that teacher assistants must meet. Typically, aspiring teacher assistants must demonstrate that they hold an associate's degree, have completed a certain number of college credit hours or have passed a paraprofessional exam. For those who choose to qualify through education, any accredited degree program is usually acceptable. For those who'd prefer to qualify by taking the exam, details on this procedure are usually available through districts and state departments of education. Teacher assistant applicants may also be asked to undergo a background check before beginning work.

Success Tip:

  • Prepare for the test. For those planning to qualify by taking a paraprofessional exam, it's important to prepare properly. Test-takers should find out what the test will cover and be sure to follow all instructions given by the testing service.

Step 2: Complete Teacher Assistant Training

In some cases, teacher assistants may also need to complete a brief training program provided by the state, district or school. Typical topics covered in these programs include behavior improvement and teacher assistant responsibilities.

Step 3: Get Certified

This step won't be necessary for most kindergarten teacher assistant jobs, but it will be required in some instances. Typically, teacher assistant certification applicants need to show proof that they meet the educational and/or testing requirements, and they might also need to submit to a background check. After obtaining initial certification, teacher assistants may be required to take additional steps to maintain it over the years.

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