Teacher’s assistants have become a valuable part of the education system, especially over the last ten years. They use their skills with children to help teachers prepare those children for the educational challenges that they face during the school year. They also assist teachers with much of the preparation for the school day, as well as some of their administrative duties as well.
The average income for a teacher’s assistant in 2008 was $22,200. The bottom ten percent of earners in the field made approximately $15,000, while those in the upper ten percent of earners were able to bring home over $33,000. Teacher’s assistants who work full-time hours can expect to get benefits packages including health insurance. Part time teacher’s assistants, who make up about 40 percent of the teacher assistant work force, do not normally receive benefits, although they do in some states.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
The teacher’s assistant is able to help the teachers that he or she is assigned to work with by offering assistance to the teachers as they conduct their lessons. In some cases, this is done in partnership with the teacher. The teacher’s assistant may help the teacher in explaining a concept or performing a task that is being worked on.
One important function of a teacher’s assistant is to provide individual, one-on-one attention to a student or students who may be falling behind their peers in a particular subject. Where the teacher might not have the time to focus on getting a student up to speed on a specific target due to their obligation to teach the rest of the class, a teacher’s aide is often able to help the student by answering questions, helping them work through a problem, and by just giving them the extra attention that that need in order to grasp a concept.
In addition, teacher’s assistants can help educators focus on teaching by taking over some of their administrative duties, such as grading papers or taking attendance. The teacher’s aide may also assist the teacher in straightening up a room at the beginning or the end of the school day, particularly if the day’s activities have left the classroom disorganized. Much of the clerical work that traditionally had been done by teachers, such as running off copies of worksheets, or preparing and collating materials to be sent home to parents, is now done by the teacher’s assistant.
Teacher’s assistants are especially helpful when dealing with students with special needs. Teacher’s aides who have received training in helping special needs students are a vital part of ensuring that the provisions of a child’s Individual Education Plan, or IEP, are implemented properly, especially since many of these plans include provisions for one-on-one educational assistance.
Unlike many occupations where the need for trained professionals is decreasing, the need for teacher’s assistants is always strong. The presence of children in our society is a constant, as is the need to educate them. As teacher’s assistants do not make as money as licensed teachers do, using an assistant to perform the administrative duties that teachers used to do means that fewer teachers are required, and that the teachers can focus on meeting educational goals. Because of this, there will always be a need for people in this line of work.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
The educational requirements for a teacher’s assistant are different in each state, and some localities may have tougher guidelines for their teacher’s assistants than the regulation in the state that locality is in. Some states only require a high school diploma or GED in order to work as an assistant, while others require the completion of a certification program or Associate’s Degree, typically in an educational field such as Childhood Development. A background check and drug test is typically required, as is a physical to ensure the candidate for employment is healthy and not carrying a contagious disease.
Typically, there is not a certification process for a teacher’s assistant as there is for licensed teachers. Once a potential employee has proven that they satisfy the basic educational requirements, they are able to be hired. Each school system may have its own on-the-job training program to prepare candidates for employment within that particular school system.
Many teacher’s assistants are members of educational unions, particularly in states where union membership is a mandatory requirement of employees in the school system. The largest of these teacher’s unions are the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. These unions protect the interests of teachers as well as their assistants, often negotiating pay scales and employee benefits packages. The unions also typically offer liability insurance and legal representation in the event the teacher or assistant is sued in court for a potential violation of a regulation or an IEP component.