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Teacher Assistant Career Guide

Fo you want to make a huge difference? But, you don’t want a huge educational commitment? Well then… you’re looking at the right career.

Teacher assistants are not qualified teachers, yet they still play a crucial role in the education system. They help and support teachers by providing crucial support to both students and teachers and work to ensure all educational needs are met. To become a teacher assistant, you must have a least a 2-year degree, an associates degree, 2 years of college or pass a state or local assessment.

I have found working closely with challenging pupils mostly positive and gratifying. Every step they take in their education – even something as small as asking a question in class – is an event to be celebrated. However, being a TA certainly comes with its challenges. Dealing with students’ more extreme behaviour can be testing. You have to hold your patience and keep your nerve. But with most young people you soon start to build positive relationships that allow for a mutual respect.

Joe MacDonald

Teacher Assistant Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Teacher Assistant Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Teacher Assistant field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33906 Teachers Asst. Female 27 $35,000 new york, NY 01/01/2010
33899 Teacher's Aide Female 25 $30,000 bronx, NY 01/01/2010
33854 Instructional Assistant-Sdc Female 55 $22,000 loomis, CA 01/01/2010
33682 Instructional Assistant Ii Female 28 $22,000 Elverta, CA 01/01/2010
33635 Paraeducator Female 38 $27,000 Baltimore, MD 01/01/2010

Overview

What does a teaching assistant actually do?

A teaching assistant is someone who helps and supports a teacher, normally in the classroom, but is not a qualified teacher. They provide crucial support to both students and teachers and work to ensure all educational needs are met. Teaching assistants are typically found in elementary school, middle school, high school and in special education centres. The typical duties and responsibilities of a teaching assistant include:

  • Carrying out attendance checks
  • Grading homework and exams and helping teachers to calculate grades
  • Reinforcing lessons by reviewing material with students one-on-one or in small groups
  • Supervising school children on field trips
  • Preparing classroom materials and setting up the class room 
  • Supervising students outside of the classroom (e.g., during lunchtime)

Why they are needed

Although often overlooked, there are many reasons why teaching assistants are important and play a crucial role in the education system.

  1. They often work with the students who need some extra support with reading and math. This provides some much-needed support, as teachers are often stretched to the maximum.
  2. They are an extra pair of eyes and help the teacher to keep an eye on the students and ensure that they are not being disruptive
  3. They make learning more accessible because they are trained to work with children who need specialist support and who, without teaching assistants, wouldn’t be able to thrive
  4. Teaching assistants help teachers to plan and prepare learning resources. This takes some of the pressure of the teachers, and makes education more carefully planned and thought through
  5. They are approachable, which means children will share their issues with them

The pros and cons of a career as a teaching assistant

Pros:

  • Teaching assistants will have excellent schedule, as they normally have summer and winter breaks
  • Teaching assistants get to interact and help others on a daily basis, often forming strong relationships with their pupils and their families
  • If working with children who need extra assistance, teaching assistants often see a lot of development and progression, which is very rewarding.
  • Teaching assistants will work in a very supportive and cohesive team
  • No two days are the same and there is rarely a boring day as a teaching assistant
  • Teaching assistants can create lifelong trusting bonds with their students

Cons:

  • It can be very challenging and draining, especially as teaching assistants may have to work with children who have behavioural difficulties
  • There assistants are partly responsible for grading work, which means that they will need to dedicate time to this
  • It can be frustrating when a student isn’t progressing in a way that was hoped
  • Some teaching assistants may feel a lack of respect in comparison to teachers

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of teacher assistants is projected to grow 4% from 2019 to 2029, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. This employment growth is expected because the growing population will create a rise in student enrolment, and therefore an increased demand for teacher assistants to support teachers.

However, the job opportunities available vary dramatically between states. Teacher assistants are more of a supplementary role – employed only to ‘compliment’ the work of teachers. Therefore, the employment of teacher assistants depends on school districts’ budgets – when there is a smaller budget, teacher assistant positions are likely to be the first to be eliminated. But, when there is a budget surplus, more teacher assistants are likely to be hired.

Career paths

If you want to make a huge difference, but don’t want a huge educational commitment, then you’re looking at the right career.

Teacher assistants in public schools need at least 2 years of college coursework or an associate’s degree. Associate’s degree programs teach teaching assistants how to develop educational materials, observe students and understand their role in detail. Specifically, if you want to be a teachers assistant in a school with a Title 1 program (where a large proportion of the students come from low-income households), you must have a least a 2-year degree, 2 years of college or pass a state or local assessment.

Example Job Titles for Teacher Assistant

Below is a list of common job titles in the Teacher Assistant field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for teacher assistants in the United States was $27,920. The lowest 10% earned less than $18,940 and the highest 10% earned more than $43,040 per year. High school teachers at local schools received a high median salary ($28,520 per year) than those at private schools ($27,700 per year).

Autonomy and flexibility

It will probably be of no surprise to you to hear that teacher assistants have little autonomy and flexibility. They very much have to follow the plans set out by the teacher, who makes these in accordance to state guidelines. Teacher assistants will have little flexibility over who they work with or how they plan their day. Overall, if you’re looking to be 100% in charge of your own decisions and how you plan your day, it might not be the career for you.

Locations and commute

Due to state budgets, job opportunities can vary significantly between states. According to Zippia, the best states to be a teacher assistant, based on average annual salary and number of job available, are:

  1. Nevada, where the average annual salary is $37,891
  2. Alaska, where the average annual salary is $38,382
  3. California, where the average annual salary is $41,834
  4. Arizona, where the average annual salary is $36,663
  5. New Hampshire, where the average annual salary is $32,123

The worst states to be a teachers assistant, according to Zippia, are Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

Work environment

70% of teacher assistants in the United States were employed by local elementary and secondary schools, 11% were employed by child day care services and only 8% were employed by private elementary and secondary schools. Teacher assistants tend to work in a rewarding and cohesive team. They may spent quite a lot of time outside, where they will have to get students on and off the bus or during recess.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Teacher Assistant careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Teacher Assistant career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Teacher Assistant.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

  • None

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DiSC

  • None

Enneagram

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

  • None

Personality types

Like many childcare/teaching positions, successful teacher assistants are likely to be ENFJ personality types. ENFJ’s, or sometimes called ‘the mentor’, are forward-thinkers. They enjoy serving the community and can always see the potential in other people. They want to focus on the possibilities of growth for others, which is absolutely essential qualities for anyone who work in education, including teacher assistants.

Accomplishment and mastery

As teacher assistants have low autonomy, they may not always feel a huge sense of accomplishment and mastery. However, when one of the students that have been working with responds well or progresses, a teacher assistant is likely to feel accomplished and like they have mastered the necessary skills that allow someone to thrive.

Meaning and contribution

As previously highlighted, teacher assistants play a crucial role in the education system. Without them, teachers would not get the support they need and many children would not get the chance they deserve. The work of a teacher assistant plays a huge role in education and inspiring every generation.

Life fit

Some teacher assistants can work part time, other may work full time. Most teacher assistants will work during the school day, but they may have to hang around before or after to monitor students on school buses. Generally, most teacher assistants get a 2 month break in the summer, and a winter break. This offers an excellent life fit, especially for those who have children of their own. If you were wanting the extra money, however, some teacher assistants work in summer schools over the holiday period.

Who will thrive?

Teaching requires a lot of patience. To thrive as a teacher assistant, you will also need to have qualities such as:

  • The ability to build strong relationships with students and be non-judgemental, so that they feel you are reliable and dependable
  • To thrive, you will need to know how children develop and learn (and you will need a passion to always progress and develop this knowledge)
  • You will need the ability to work in a team
  • You must have the passion and energy to inspire and motivate students and make them feel at ease
  • You must be able to listen and communicate with students well

Who will struggle?

Rather obviously, you will struggle as a teacher assistant if you don’t like children, especially ones who are difficult and challenging. A lack empathy and patience will also mean you will struggle in this career, as you must be able to relate to and understand the students.  Finally, those who seek independent work and do not want to always have to answer to someone else may struggle as a teachers assistant, who often must follow the guidelines and plans set out by the teacher they are assisting.

Requirements

Skills and talents

As well as a genuine passion for helping children, teacher assistants need skills and talents such as:

  • Communication skills as teacher assistants need to be clear and concise when working with students, and with teachers and parents
  • Patience, as teacher assistants will work with students of different abilities and backgrounds and must be understanding
  • Empathy, as teacher assistants must be able to understand and relate to the needs of each individual student
  • Interpersonal skills, as teacher assistants must build and maintain professional relationships with a variety of people
  • Resourcefulness, as teacher assistants need to engage students and know how to present information to a variety of different learning styles

Education

Teacher assistants in public schools need at least 2 years of college coursework or an associate’s degree. Specifically, if you want to be a teachers assistant in a school with a Title 1 program (where a large proportion of the students come from low-income households), you must have a least a 2-year degree, 2 years of college or pass a state or local assessment.

Certificates

There are no official certificates required to be a teacher assistant. Some jobs, however, may require teacher assistants to have a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPS) and/or first aid certificate.

How to Become

Summary

Teacher assistants are not qualified teachers, yet they still play a crucial role in the education system. They can work in elementary school, middle school, high school and in special education centres. They help and support teachers by providing crucial support to both students and teachers and work to ensure all educational needs are met.

Immediate action

Sounds like something you’re interested in doing? Great!

Well, like many careers, it is always advisable to get your foot in the door. To do this, we recommend seeking relevant work experience. Work experience includes things such as nannying children or working in a pre school.

Education and learning

Teacher assistants need at least 2 years of college coursework or an associate’s degree. Specifically, if you want to be a teachers assistant in a school with a Title 1 program (where a large proportion of the students come from low-income households), you must have a least a 2-year degree, 2 years of college or pass a state or local assessment.

Skill development

Teachers learn their skills through academic study and whilst on the job. Teacher assistants will always be learning and adapting their skills with the more experience and knowledge they gain.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Teacher Assistant careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33906 Teachers Asst. Female 27 $35,000 new york, NY 01/01/2010
33899 Teacher's Aide Female 25 $30,000 bronx, NY 01/01/2010
33854 Instructional Assistant-Sdc Female 55 $22,000 loomis, CA 01/01/2010
33682 Instructional Assistant Ii Female 28 $22,000 Elverta, CA 01/01/2010
33635 Paraeducator Female 38 $27,000 Baltimore, MD 01/01/2010

Resources