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What Is a Teacher Assistant and How to Become One

What Do Teacher Assistants Do?

In schools across the country, teacher assistants—also called paraprofessional educators—are an integral part of classroom culture. Teacher assistants provide help to both teachers and students in a variety of ways. For example, a teacher assistant performs simple administrative tasks, like filing paperwork or putting up bulletin board displays, so that the classroom teacher can focus on planning lessons and grading student work. During classroom instruction, a teacher assistant will circulate the classroom and provide help to students who are off-task or confused. At times, a teacher assistant may be asked to lead a small group of students in extra practice on a given topic.

What Are Teacher Assistant Jobs Like?

A career as a teacher assistant encompasses many of the joys of teaching without the drawbacks of a teaching career. Teacher assistants have set hours and are not required to take work home. Teaching assistants collaborate with classroom teachers to create an effective learning environment for students, and they work closely with students to help them overcome obstacles to learning.

What Are Teacher Assistant Duties?

In most schools, teacher assistants do not have before- or after-school duties and are not expected to attend staff meetings. Teacher assistants are there to help classes run smoothly. The duties of a teaching assistant typically include assisting special needs students during class activities, leading small group instruction, supervising recess, and other tasks to support classroom teachers.

What Does a Teaching Assistant Do in College?

Teaching assistants at universities are different from grade school teacher assistants. The primary difference is that university teaching assistants—also called TAs—are often graduate students who work as TAs to cover the costs of their graduate education. College TAs lead study groups and labs and teach lower-level classes. TAs may also assist professors with grading student work, research, and data entry.

What Degree Does a Teacher Assistant Hold?

A minimum of a high school diploma is required to become a teaching assistant, although the specific educational requirements beyond that vary from state to state. Private and religious schools may also have different requirements for teaching assistant positions than public or charter schools. Due to a federal mandate, teacher assistants working in Title I schools must have an Associate degree and a certification.