Teacher Assistants

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Teacher Assistants Do[About this section] [To Top]

Teacher assistants work under a teacher’s supervision to give students additional attention and instruction.

Duties of Teacher Assistants

Teacher assistants typically do the following:

  • Reinforce lessons presented by teachers by reviewing material with students one-on-one or in small groups
  • Enforce school and class rules to help teach students proper behavior
  • Help teachers with recordkeeping, such as tracking attendance and calculating grades
  • Help teachers prepare for lessons by getting materials ready or setting up equipment, such as computers
  • Supervise students in class, between classes, during lunch and recess, and on field trips

Teacher assistants also are called teacher aides, instructional aides, paraprofessionals, education assistants, and paraeducators.

Teacher assistants work with or under the guidance of a licensed teacher. Generally, teachers introduce new material to students while teacher assistants help reinforce the lessons by working with individual students or small groups of students. For example, after the teacher presents a lesson, a teacher assistant may help a small group of students as they try to master the material.

Teachers may seek feedback from assistants to monitor students’ progress. Some teachers and teacher assistants meet regularly to discuss lesson plans and student development. Teacher assistants sometimes help teachers by grading tests and checking homework.

Some teacher assistants work only with special education students. Some of these students attend regular classes, and teacher assistants help them understand the material and adapt the information to their learning style. Teacher assistants may work with students who have more severe disabilities in separate classrooms. They help these students with basic needs, such as eating or personal hygiene. With young adults, they may help students with disabilities learn skills necessary for them to find a job or live independently after graduation.

Some teacher assistants work in specific locations in the school. For example, some work in computer laboratories, teaching students how to use computers and helping them use software. Others work as recess or lunchroom attendants, supervising students during these times of the day.

Although most teacher assistants work in elementary, middle, and high schools, others work in preschools and childcare centers. Often, one or two assistants work with a lead teacher to provide the individual attention that young children need. They help with educational activities. They also supervise the children at play and help with feeding and other basic care.

Work Environment for Teacher Assistants[About this section] [To Top]

Teacher assistants hold about 1.2 million jobs. They work in both private and public elementary, middle, and high schools. They also work in preschools, at childcare centers, at community centers, and for religious organizations.

About 77 percent of teacher assistants are employed by elementary and secondary schools and 9 percent are employed by child day care services.

Teacher assistants may spend some time outside, when students are at recess or getting on and off the bus. Those who work with special education students may need to lift the students at certain times.

Teacher Assistant Work Schedules

About 2 in 5 teacher assistants work part time. Some ride the bus with students before and after school. Although many do not work during the summer, some work in year-round schools or help teachers in summer school.

How to Become a Teacher Assistant[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Teacher Assistants near you!

Teacher assistants typically need to have completed at least 2 years of college coursework.

Teacher Assistant Education

Most school districts require applicants to have completed at least 2 years of college coursework or have earned an associate’s degree. Teacher assistants in schools that have a Title 1 program (a federal program for schools with a large proportion of students from low-income households) must have at least a 2-year degree, 2 years of college, or pass a state or local assessment.

Associate’s degree programs for teacher assistants prepare the participants to develop educational materials, observe students, and understand the role of teachers and teaching assistants in the classroom.

Most states require instructional aides who work with special-needs students to pass a skills-based test.

Important Qualities for Teacher Assistants

Communication skills. Teacher assistants need to discuss students’ progress with teachers and parents, so they need to be able to communicate well.

Interpersonal skills. Teacher assistants interact with a variety of people, including teachers, students, parents, and administrators. They need to develop good working relationships with the people they work with.

Patience. Working with students of different abilities and backgrounds can be difficult. Teacher assistants must be patient with students who struggle with material.

Resourcefulness. To reinforce lessons, teacher assistants must explain information to students in a way that meets each student’s learning style.

Teacher Assistant Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for teacher assistants is $24,900. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,920, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $38,000.

About 2 in 5 teacher assistants work part time. Some monitor students on school buses before and after school. Although many do not work during the summer, some work in year-round schools or assist teachers in summer school.

Teacher Assistant Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, teacher assistants have a higher percentage of workers who belong to a union.

Job Outlook for Teacher Assistants[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of teacher assistants is projected to grow 6 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Student enrollment is expected to increase over the next ten years. The increase in the number of students will affect the average classroom size, possibly spurring demand for teacher assistants. In addition, there will be continued demand for special education services and, in turn, demand for teacher assistants who work with these students.

Teacher assistants’ positions are more of a supplementary position, as opposed to teachers, who hold a primary position. Therefore, teacher assistants’ employment opportunities may be limited because school districts are more likely to eliminate teacher assistant positions rather than teacher positions when there are budget cuts.

Teacher Assistants Job Prospects

In addition to job openings due to employment growth, numerous openings will arise as assistants leave the occupation and must be replaced. Because of the education requirements and low pay, many workers transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force to take care of family responsibilities, to return to school, or for other reasons.

Employment projections data for Teacher Assistants, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Teacher assistants 1,234,100 1,312,800 6 78,600


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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