What Is a Teaching Assistant?
A teaching assistant works in the classroom with students, offering guidance under the supervision of a licensed teacher. Also known as educational assistants, teacher aides and paraprofessionals, teaching assistants help teachers supervise students, manage classroom behavior, track attendance and prepare and reinforce lessons. Grading papers and helping create lesson plans are also common responsibilities.
In addition to a traditional classroom setting, teaching assistants can sometimes work in computer labs or assist at recess or in the lunchroom. Outside of the school environment, teaching assistants sometimes work in childcare facilities.
|Educational Requirements||2 years of college coursework or associate's degree|
|Job Skills||Strong communication and interpersonal skills, resourcefulness and patience with students|
|Median Salary (2017)*||$26,260|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)*||8%|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
In most circumstances, school districts require individuals applying to become teaching assistants to have earned an associate's degree or completed two or more years of coursework at the college level. Individuals who work in schools with the Title 1 program are required to complete two years of college, attain a two-year degree or pass an assessment at the local or state level. Teaching assistants who aim to work with students with special needs are required to pass a skills-based test in most states.
Some schools offer associate's degree programs specifically for teaching assistants. These programs help candidates grasp the responsibilities of teaching assistants and licensed teachers and ensure they are able to prepare materials for the classroom.
Teaching assistants should possess interpersonal and communication skills in order to explain to teachers and parents how students are progressing and confidently interact with individuals at various levels, from students to administrators. They should also be skilled at working with students from different backgrounds and be able to patiently and effectively explain information according to students' specific learning styles.
Communication skills, interpersonal skills and patience are also helpful for teaching assistants who work with students with disabilities as they help them perform basic tasks in preparation to work and live independently.
Career Outlook and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for teaching assistants are expected to increase by 8% between 2016 and 2026, which is about as fast as average when compared to all occupations. Growth over this period can be partially attributed to increases in student enrollment and educational program funding at the state and federal levels. Other factors include turnover due to assistants' decisions to move on to other positions or leave the workforce.
As of May 2017, the median annual wage for all teaching assistants was $26,260. In the same period, the top industries for teaching assistants were local elementary and secondary schools, private elementary and secondary schools and child day care services. Teaching assistants' median annual wages in these industries were $27,020, $25,970 and $22,830, respectively.
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