Difference Between Teacher & Teaching Assistant

Although teachers and teacher assistants share similar working environments and both play a key role in educating students, there are also a lot of differences in their duties and training. Compare these two careers here.

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Comparing Teachers to Teacher Assistants

Teachers and teacher assistants are educational professionals who work together to help students understand concepts and master age-appropriate skills. One of the key differences between these professionals is that teacher assistants work under the supervision and direction of teachers. While teachers determine what materials will be covered in classes, teacher assistants will help prepare those materials and perform other duties the teacher needs them to do.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary* (2016) Job Outlook* (2014-2024)
Teacher Bachelor's degree and teaching license $55,490 for kindergarten and elementary school teachers 6% for kindergarten and elementary school teachers
Teacher Assistant Around 2 years of postsecondary studies $25,410 6%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Teachers vs Teacher Assistants

Teachers and teacher assistants both work with students. They focus on helping children understand specific age-appropriate concepts and information. Teachers are responsible for making sure that the curriculum guidelines are followed, preparing plans for all of their classes and leading lessons. Teacher assistants follow the direction of the teachers they work with, and they may assist a student or group of students who need extra help with the material covered in the teacher's lesson.

Teacher

In order to be a public school teacher, it's necessary to have a bachelor's degree and teaching license. Teachers who work in private schools are also required to have a degree, although a teaching license isn't required. Evening and weekend work may be necessary at times, since teachers meet with parents to discuss their child's progress and may need to work on lesson plans or grade schoolwork outside of classroom hours. Teachers need to have good communication skills, since it's important that they find ways to effectively explain concepts to their students. They also need to be able to communicate effectively with other school staff and with parents.

Job responsibilities of a teacher include:

  • Review curriculum guidelines for their grade or subject
  • Complete any necessary training related to curriculum or school policy changes
  • Supervise students
  • Instruct students
  • Demonstrate skills to students
  • Assess students' progress

Teacher Assistant

Teacher assistants typically work in public and private schools, but they may also find employment in childcare programs or preschools. They normally work weekdays, and those who work for schools may not have to work during school holidays. Employers usually expect teacher assistants to have completed two years of postsecondary studies, and some employers may require teacher assistants to have an associate's degree. Interpersonal skills, communication skills and patience are all necessary for teacher assistants.

Job responsibilities of a teacher assistant include:

  • Take attendance
  • Monitor students
  • Address behavioral issues with students
  • Make sure students follow classroom and school rules
  • Help teachers check homework as needed

Related Careers

Those who are interested in teaching may also find the idea of working as an instructional coordinator appealing, since instructional coordinators determine what materials will be taught in classes and set guidelines for all teachers to follow. Those who are thinking about a career as a teacher assistant may also be interested in working as a preschool teacher and instructing young children in the concepts they need to master to be ready to start kindergarten.

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