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.

Should I Become a Kindergarten Teacher Assistant?

Kindergarten teacher assistants, also known as teacher aides, paraprofessionals, paraeducators or instructional aides, work side by side with the kindergarten teachers to make the class run more efficiently. Teacher assistants may supervise students, working with them individually or in small groups, to reinforce lessons. Assistants are often responsible for students on playgrounds and buses, in addition to the lunch room and hallways. Children in this age group tend to be quite energetic and impulsive so the job may be stressful. However, the stress may be outweighed by the rewards of observing the students' accomplishments at the end of the school year. Work schedules vary from 10-months a year to year-round.

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.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Varies from a high school diploma to an associate's degree
Degree Field Varies, nearly any field is acceptable in most cases
Licensure/Certification Certification is required to work in some schools/districts
Key Skills People skills, patience, communication, organizational and instructional skills
Salary (2014) $26,000 (Annual mean salary for all teaching assistants)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014), job postings (July 2012), NYC Department of Education.

Step 1: Meet State, District or School Requirements

Although some teacher assistant jobs only require a high school diploma, many other states, districts and schools have special requirements that must be met by prospective teacher assistants. Typically, aspiring teacher assistants must earn 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, prospective teachers should find out what the test will cover and sufficiently prepare in advance. 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. Common topics covered in these programs include behavior improvement, classroom management, instructional and organizational methods and teacher assistant responsibilities.

Step 3: Obtain Certification and Keep it up to Further your Career

You can work in any school, public or private, with a bachelor's degree and teacher certification. 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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