With class sizes on the rise and school resources declining, teachers and administrators are relying more heavily on teaching assistants to help out in the classroom. Teaching assistants may lend a hand in preschools, public K-12 schools or private schools, helping teachers and offering crucial support to students.
What Does a Teaching Assistant Do?
Teaching assistants support teachers in and outside the classroom, providing lesson planning and other teaching support. Key responsibilities range from supervised teaching to administrative tasks and may include:
Student instruction support:
- Supervising students in the cafeteria, schoolyard or on field trips
- Assist students using computer technology or educational software
- Present the teacher's lesson plan, under supervision
- Help students access library and Internet research resources
- Tutor students outside of class
- Perform classroom demonstrations
- Oversee groups completing in-class projects
- Record grades and prepare instructional materials
- Grade tests and papers
- Set up audio-visual equipment
- Keep health and attendance records
- Stock supplies and maintain classroom equipment
Teaching assistants may specialize in a particular age group, in ESL support or in special education. Special education teaching assistants attend to the physical needs of students with disabilities and offer personal attention to students with learning disabilities. They help students with developmental delays or conditions through one-on-one exercises and training games.
Teaching Assistant Skills
Teaching assistants bring a variety of skills to the classroom. In addition to a patient and supportive demeanor, assistants have:
- A basic familiarity with child development and learning
- An understanding of school regulations for interacting with children
- Bilingual speaking ability, for working with non-native speakers of English
- Communication skills, both written and verbal
- Basic administrative skills
Together, these competencies allow teaching assistants to provide comprehensive support in the classroom. You can learn how to become a teaching assistant through a teaching assistant training program.
What are the Steps to Becoming a Teaching Assistant?
Teaching assistants need some specialized training to qualify for a job at a school or childcare facility. Follow these steps to become a teaching assistant:
- Complete your high school education. A high school diploma or GED not only provides an important foundation for an education career, but also serves as the minimum qualification for some teaching assistant jobs and all post-secondary teacher training programs.
- Volunteer. Prepare for your career in education by taking part-time or volunteer jobs in childcare, after-school activities and tutoring.
- Train for a teaching assistant job. Training requirements vary by state and school district. On-the-job training is sufficient for some jobs. But most jobs require at least a college-level certificate or associate degree. Common degree fields for teaching assistants include child development, early childhood education, education or applied teacher training.
- On-the-job training. Whether or not you arrive in your first job with a degree, most schools require teaching assistants to complete some on-the-job training. These on-site training programs allow assistants to learn school rules and operation.
To increase your job prospects, build skills in high-demand areas such as ESL, special education, writing and basic computer and library research. You can build your expertise in these areas by taking a class from a local community college or online school.
How to Become a Great Teaching Assistant
A career as a teaching assistant offers limitless opportunity for advancement. Experience and continuing education are the best means of career advancement for teaching assistants. Some school districts support motivated teaching assistants by providing tuition reimbursement and time off for assistants extending their education.
The following resources help you become a great teaching assistant--or, with hard work and the right credentials, a licensed teacher.
Bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree in education, child development or a related field can set you up for increased responsibility and pay as a teaching assistant, or advancement into a licensed teaching position. To become a teacher, you also need to complete a teacher training program and take a state licensing exam.
Specialization. Expand your value as a teaching assistant by training in a specialty area. Currently, special education and ESL are some of the fields experiencing the highest demand, with more and more schools integrating students with physical, social and learning disabilities.
Teaching assistants can expect favorable job prospects, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment should grow at the national average rate of ten percent between 2008 and 2018. Demand for ESL and special education assistants should also be significantly higher. Teaching assistants earned a mean salary of $24,280 in 2009.
Teaching assistants play an influential role in the development and achievement of the students they support. The job is rewarding and challenging. Prepare for a career in education by training for a teaching assistant position.
Resources for Teaching Assistants