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How to Become an Educational Paraprofessional: Career Roadmap

Learn how to become an educational paraprofessional. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements and find out how to start a career in education. View article »

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  • 0:00 Becoming an…
  • 0:44 Career Requirements
  • 1:32 Step 1: Earn a High…
  • 2:20 Step 2: Receive a…
  • 3:18 Step 3: Gain Experience
  • 3:46 Step 4: Pursue…

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Video Transcript

Becoming an Educational Paraprofessional

Educational paraprofessionals, also known as program or teacher assistants, have a variety of duties, including supervising students in the classroom, assisting with grading, and helping teachers provide instruction. In some cases, they may provide dedicated assistance to special education students or to students in general in dedicated locations, like computer labs. They can work in a broad array of settings, from public and private schools to child care centers. Full- and part-time jobs are available, and some educational paraprofessionals participate in summer school sessions, too. These professionals monitor students in the classroom and outdoors.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Varies: high school diploma, two years of college, or associate's degree
Degree Field Varies; any related field such as paraprofessional education or educational personnel
Experience None
Licensure/Certification Certification required in some states
Key Skills Nurturing demeanor and patience; people and communication skills; use of spreadsheet, data entry, and educational software
Salary $24,900 (2015 median for teacher's assistants)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014), O*NET Online, Various State Education Departments.

Educational requirements for this position are based on a number of factors, including the school district, state, and position. These requirements range from a high school diploma to an associate's degree. Certification is required in some states.

Key skills needed to become an educational paraprofessional include nurturing demeanor, people skills, patience, communication skills, spreadsheet software, data entry software, and educational software.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wages as of 2015 for teacher's assistants were $24,900 a year.

Since there are several ways to get into this field, let's take a look at the steps that can start you on the path to becoming an educational paraprofessional.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

In some districts, educational paraprofessionals are required to have at least a high school diploma and job training. While in high school, prospective paraprofessionals may benefit from observing in classrooms that serve students with special needs or taking relevant courses, such as psychology. Verbal communication is an important aspect of the profession, and aspiring paraprofessionals should work to develop efficient speaking skills.

To succeed in this field, it is important that educational paraprofessionals:

  • Begin training. Tutor or work with children in small groups to become familiar with vital tasks of the job. Aspiring paraprofessionals may also consider looking for local volunteer opportunities, which may be found at church day care centers or libraries.

Step 2: Receive a College Education

In many school districts, educational paraprofessionals are required to have at least two years of college or an associate's degree. Associate's degree programs, such as the Associate of Applied Science in Paraprofessional Education, can prepare students to play a variety of supportive roles in the classroom. Paraprofessionals in schools with high proportions of low-income students, known as Title 1 schools, are required to have an associate's degree. Paraprofessionals who work with special needs students are required to pass a skills-based test in most states.

To improve your chances of success:

  • Research state requirements. Because the educational requirements for paraprofessionals often vary by state, it's important to know the type of program you should complete before entering the job market. During this time, you should familiarize yourself with the information needed to pass any assessment or skills-based tests you'll have to complete.

Step 3: Gain Experience

Educational paraprofessionals must be familiar with school district rules and procedures of operations. Schools, unions or other professional associations may provide training. Furthermore, teacher assistants must be knowledgeable of the academic material that will be covered in class. School districts generally require school employees to pass thorough background checks prior to working with children.

Step 4: Pursue Certification and Advance Your Career

Although paraprofessional certification is optional in some states, others list it as a requirement to work in this position. It is essential to obtain certification if you wish to further your career, as it is required to teach in public schools. The requirements for this certification generally include passing skills and assessment tests, taking courses, and completing workshops. States may also require prospective paraprofessionals to have an understanding of basic instruction techniques.

To review; to assist teachers and supervise students in a classroom for about $25,000 a year, an educational paraprofessional must have at least a high school diploma and some training, as well as a nurturing nature, communication skills, and knowledge of educational and data entry software.

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