Teacher Assistants

Summary

teacher assistants image
Teacher assistants work under the supervision of a teacher and provide additional attention and instruction to students.
Quick Facts: Teacher Assistants
2012 Median Pay $23,640 per year
Entry-Level Education Some college, no degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 1,223,400
Job Outlook, 2012-22 9% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 105,000

What Teacher Assistants Do

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

Work Environment

Teacher assistants work in public and private schools, childcare centers, and for religious organizations. About 4 in 10 worked part time in 2012. Most do not work during the summer.

How to Become a Teacher Assistant

Educational requirements, which vary by school district and position, range from a high school diploma to an associate’s degree.

Pay

The median annual wage for teacher assistants was $23,640 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of teacher assistants is projected to grow 9 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth is expected due to increases in student enrollment in elementary and secondary schools as well as in childcare and preschool.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of teacher assistants with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about teacher assistants by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Teacher Assistants Do

Teacher assistants
Some teacher assistants work exclusively with special education students who attend traditional classes.

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

Duties

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
  • Help 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.

Generally, teachers introduce new material to students, and 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. These students often attend regular classes, and teacher assistants help them understand the material and adapt the information to their learning style.

With students who have more severe disabilities, assistants may work with them in separate classes. Teacher assistants 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

Teacher assistants
Some teacher assistants work in specific locations within schools, such as libraries.

Teacher assistants held about 1.2 million jobs in 2012. They work in both private and public elementary, middle, and high schools. They also work in preschools, childcare centers, community centers, and for religious organizations.

In 2012, about 76 percent of teacher assistants were employed by elementary and secondary schools and 9 percent were 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.

Work Schedules

About 4 in 10 teacher assistants worked part time in 2012. 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

Teacher assistants
Teacher assistants reinforce lessons presented in class by reviewing material with students one-on-one or in small groups.

Educational requirements, which vary by school district and position, range from a high school diploma to an associate’s degree.

Education

Although some districts require applicants to have a high school diploma, most require at least 2 years of college or an associate’s degree. Teacher assistants in schools that have Title 1 programs (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

Communication skills. Teacher assistants need to discuss students’ progress with teachers, 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. 

Pay

Teacher Assistants

Median annual wages, May 2012

Education, training, and library occupations

$46,020

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Teacher assistants

$23,640

 

The median annual wage for teacher assistants was $23,640 in May 2012. 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 $17,180, and the top 10 percent earned more than $36,680. 

About 4 in 10 teacher assistants worked part time in 2012. 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 assist teachers in summer school.                                   

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, teacher assistants had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2012.

Job Outlook

Teacher Assistants

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Education, training, and library occupations

11%

Total, all occupations

11%

Teacher assistants

9%

 

Employment of teacher assistants is projected to grow 9 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth is expected to result from increases in student enrollment, continued demand for special education services, and increases in childcare and preschool enrollment.

Student enrollment in public and private elementary and secondary schools is expected to increase from 2012 to 2022. Because teacher assistants work directly with students, the increase in the number of students will spur 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.

Furthermore, enrollment is expected to increase in childcare services and preschool programs, both of which employ teacher assistants. Increases in enrollment will increase demand for teacher assistants in these settings.

Job Prospects

In addition to job openings from employment growth, numerous openings will arise as assistants leave the job and must be replaced. Because this occupation requires limited formal education and has 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.

Job opportunities for teacher assistants vary significantly by geography. Opportunities are likely to be better in the South and West, which are expected to have rapid increases in enrollment, and in urban schools, which often have difficulty recruiting and keeping teacher assistants.

Employment projections data for Teacher Assistants, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Teacher assistants

25-9041 1,223,400 1,328,500 9 105,000 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of teacher assistants.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Career and technical education teachers

Career and Technical Education Teachers

Career and technical education teachers instruct students in various technical and vocational subjects, such as auto repair, healthcare, and culinary arts. They teach academic and technical content to provide students with the skills and knowledge necessary to enter an occupation.

Bachelor’s degree $51,910
Child care workers

Childcare Workers

Childcare workers care for children when parents and other family members are unavailable. They care for children’s basic needs, such as bathing and feeding. In addition, some help children prepare for kindergarten or help older children with homework.

High school diploma or equivalent $19,510
High school teachers

High School Teachers

High school teachers help prepare students for life after graduation. They teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.

Bachelor’s degree $55,050
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers prepare younger students for future schooling by teaching them basic subjects such as math and reading.

Bachelor’s degree $53,090
Library technicians and assistants

Library Technicians and Assistants

Library technicians and assistants help librarians with all aspects of running a library. They assist patrons, organize library materials and information, and perform clerical and administrative tasks.

See How to Become One $26,800
Middle school teachers

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades. Middle school teachers help students build on the fundamentals they learned in elementary school and prepare them for the more difficult curriculum they will face in high school.

Bachelor’s degree $53,430
Occupational therapy assistants and aides

Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides

Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working. Occupational therapy assistants are directly involved in providing therapy to patients, while occupational therapy aides typically perform support activities. Both assistants and aides work under the direction of occupational therapists.

See How to Become One $48,940
Preschool teachers

Preschool Teachers

Preschool teachers educate and care for children, usually ages 3 to 5, who have not yet entered kindergarten. They teach reading, writing, science, and other subjects in a way that young children can understand.

Associate’s degree $27,130
Special education teachers

Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to students with mild and moderate disabilities. They also teach basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques, to students with severe disabilities.

Bachelor’s degree $55,060
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Teacher Assistants,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/teacher-assistants.htm (visited July 25, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014