Teacher Assistant Job Description, Salary, and Skills

Assistant teacher helping students paint
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Teacher assistants work under the supervision of a lead teacher, providing additional assistance and instruction to students. Read below for a description of the responsibilities of teacher assistants, as well as more information about the job outlook, wages, and skills involved with a career as a teacher assistant.

Teacher Assistant Job Description

Teacher assistants typically work one-on-one with students to help them understand and apply principles taught by the classroom teacher. They often circulate around the classroom while students are completing assignments and assist students who are struggling with their work.

Teacher assistants help to organize classroom materials and set up equipment that teachers will use to carry out lessons. They help to correct homework, tests, and papers. Teacher assistants supervise students on field trips, during lunch breaks, and prior to the start of school.

Many teacher assistants work closely with special education teachers to assist students with physical, emotional, mental, and learning disabilities. These teaching assistants may be assigned to one or two highly challenged learners and follow them through their day of classes.

Work Environment

Teacher assistants work in a variety of environments. They work in public and private schools, as well as childcare centers and even religious organizations that have educational programs. However, the majority of teacher assistants work for elementary and secondary schools.

Work Schedule

Some teacher assistants work part-time, but most work the full school day. Many teacher assistants have summers off, although some work as teacher assistants in summer school.

Education Requirements

Educational requirements for teaching assistants vary from district to district and state to state. Some districts only require a high school diploma. However, most school districts require that teaching assistants complete at least two years of college, or have an associate’s degree.

There are associate’s degree programs and certificate programs designed specifically for teaching assistants. These programs give students classroom experience.

In some districts, teacher assistants also have to pass a state or local assessment. Teacher assistants working with special-needs students often have to pass a skills-based test as well.

Training Requirements

Because most teacher assistants are not required to have a four-year degree, they receive much of their training on the job. This training typically includes learning the procedures of the school, including everything from equipment to record keeping to classroom preparation. Much of this training is often conducted by the lead classroom teacher.

Some teacher assistants can receive additional training through unions or professional organizations.

Teacher Assistant Skills

There are many skills specific to teaching assistants, including being able to take direction, and being able to work with students both individually and in groups.

When applying for a job as a teacher assistant, be sure to read the job description for a list of the specific skills required for that job. The following teaching skills are often sought in teaching assistants:

Teaching Skills List

  • Artistic
  • Being Musically Inclined
  • Childcare
  • Classroom Organization
  • Classroom Management
  • Coaching
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Community Building
  • Computer
  • Confidence Building
  • Creating a Comfortable Learning Environment
  • Create a Positive Learning Environment
  • Critical Thinking
  • Curriculum Knowledge
  • Delivery of Material
  • Directing
  • Disciplinary Action
  • Enthusiastic
  • Explaining Content
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Flexibility
  • Grading Exams
  • Improve Study Habits
  • Instruction
  • Interpersonal
  • Listener
  • Love of Learning
  • Maintain Records
  • Manage Student Behavior
  • Management
  • Organization
  • Patience
  • Passion
  • Positive Attitude
  • Positive Role Model
  • Prepared
  • Record Keeping
  • Relationship Building
  • Respectful
  • Results Oriented
  • Setting Expectations
  • Scheduling
  • Supervision
  • Supportive
  • Teaching
  • Team Player
  • Technology
  • Time Management
  • Training
  • Understanding
  • Verbal Communication

Salary Information

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median pay for a teacher assistant in 2016 was $25,410. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,120, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $38,820.  Teacher assistants working at local public elementary and high schools earned an average of $26,140 while assistants working in child care settings earned by far the lowest wages, an average of $21,190 per year.

Job Outlook

Employment of teacher assistants is expected to grow at a rate of about 8% from 2016 to 2026, about average for all occupations. The use of teacher assistants varies greatly by school district with more affluent districts more likely to employ assistants.

Teacher assistant positions are often among the first jobs to be cut during budget crises. Many teacher assistants leave the profession each year due to low wages and need to be replaced. The increased demand for services addressing the needs of special education students also serves to increase the demand for teacher assistants.