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Teacher Assistant Job Description, Career as a Teacher Assistant, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Varies—see profile

Salary Median—$19,410 per year

Employment Outlook Fair

Definition and Nature of the Work

Teacher assistants provide clerical and instructional support in classrooms, allowing certified teachers to devote more time to lesson planning and teaching. They work under the guidance and supervision of teachers or school administrators.

Some assistants provide noninstructional support. Their tasks are largely housekeeping: putting the classroom in order; passing out paper, pencils, and textbooks; and preparing bulletin boards. They also take attendance, update health records, monitor study halls and playgrounds, and supervise children as they board and leave school buses.

Technical assistants are in charge of audiovisual equipment. They set up television sets, film projectors, tape recorders, and stereo systems and operate them during lessons.

Instructional assistants help teach classes. For example, assistants who play the piano may participate in music instruction. Those who can draw help in art classes. Assistants who have some college training may correct tests or help teach reading, math, spelling, and social studies.

Teacher assistants may be employed in preschool classrooms, in elementary schools, or in junior and senior high schools. Most work in the earlier grades.

Education and Training Requirements

Teacher assistants have a wide range of educational backgrounds. Requirements vary, depending on the duties to be performed, the grade level, and the type of school district. High school diplomas are required; many schools prefer candidates with some college background.

Some two-year colleges offer associate degree programs for teacher assistants. Courses cover educational psychology, the history of education, and teaching

A teacher assistant demonstrates to preschool children how to paint an art project. (© Jose Luis Pelaez, Inc./Corbis.)

methods for English, biology, math, art, and music. Some states have instituted certification procedures for teacher assistants.

Many schools that employ teacher assistants provide one- or two-week training courses, which detail the tasks to be performed, the schools' educational policies, and methods for helping children at different age levels and with different learning capabilities. Most schools provide additional training throughout the school year.

Getting the Job

Job seekers can apply directly to the administration offices of school districts. State employment services, newspaper classified ads, and job banks on the Internet are other sources of employment information. Applicants can expect to be interviewed by either classroom teachers or school administrators.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Higher earnings and more responsibility usually come with increased experience. Some teacher assistants advance by taking college courses that lead to bachelor's degrees. Once they have degrees, they can take examinations to be certified as teachers.

The employment of teacher assistants is expected to grow as fast as the average for all jobs through 2014. As elementary and secondary school enrollments increase, so should the demand for teacher assistants. Increasing numbers of students who speak English as a second language, as well as rising enrollments of students with disabilities, may also spur job growth. However, the job outlook is heavily dependent on the economy and the funds available for hiring. Some school districts receive government grants to finance the hiring of teacher assistants.

Working Conditions

About forty percent of teacher assistants work part time. Many of those who are employed full time work fewer than forty hours per week. Some assist teachers during the summer, but most have to find other jobs. Teacher assistants must enjoy working with children or young people. They should communicate effectively, be patient and fair, and work well with supervising teachers, school administrators, and parents. Some teacher assistants belong to unions.

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary, depending on location, qualifications, and experience. In 2004 the median salary for teacher assistants was $19,410 per year. The lowest ten percent earned less than $13,010 per year, while the top ten percent earned more than $29,220 per year.

Where to Go for More Information

American Federation of Teachers
555 New Jersey Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 879-4400

National Education Association
1201 Sixteenth St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 833-4000

Benefits, which generally go to full-time workers, include paid holidays and vacations, medical and hospital insurance, and retirement plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesEducation & Training