Pros and Cons of Becoming a Teacher's Aide
Teacher's aides assist teachers by working one-on-one with students in the classroom, supervising children outside of the classroom and performing clerical duties. While becoming a teacher's aide can be a solid career choice, you should know what to expect to see if it is the right option for you.
|Pros of Becoming a Teacher's Aide|
|High school diploma or GED certificate sufficient for some jobs*|
|Favorable job prospects (nine percent growth expected from 2012-2022)*|
|Jobs available in all geographic areas*|
|Cons of Becoming a Teacher's Aide|
|Relatively low pay (median annual wage $24,430)*|
|Can be emotionally and physically taxing*|
|May need 'highly qualified' status for some jobs**|
|Limited number of full-time positions*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **National Education Association.
If you enjoy working with children and teens, becoming a teacher's aide, or paraprofessional or teacher's assistant, might be a good career choice for you. Teacher's aides help teachers in a variety of ways: working one-on-one with students in the classroom; supervising on the playground, hallways or in the cafeteria; and performing clerical duties, such as making copies or recording grades. In a middle or high school, the teacher's aide might work with only one subject and help the teacher with special projects. Some teacher's aides work in school computer labs, assisting students in using technology.
Most teacher's aides are in elementary and secondary classrooms, but aides are also employed at pre-schools and day care centers. Some work with after-school programs. The job can be physically and emotionally tiring but also rewarding. Teacher's aides spend much of the day sitting, but you may be required to stand, kneel or walk in order to interact with the students.
Career Information and Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that jobs for teacher's aides should grow by 9% from 2012-2022, about as fast as average for all other occupations. Student population is expected to increase over the decade, which will result in more employment opportunities, and jobs will also become available as aides leave the profession. The BLS said areas where the population is growing fastest, such as many communities in southern and western states, will have the most opportunities for teacher's aides. Additionally, urban schools typically have high turnover rates for teacher's aides, so opportunities in these settings will increase.
The median salary for a teacher's assistant was $24,430 in 2014, the BLS reported. Most teacher assistants earned $17,510-$37,270. According to the BLS, about 40% of teacher's aides work part-time in 2012, and the majority work only the 9- or 10-month school year; these salary figures reflect that the 2-3 month gap in employment.
What Are the Requirements?
While a high school diploma may get you a job as a teacher's aide, an associate's degree or a certificate will provide you with many more opportunities. The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires that teacher's assistants in schools receiving Title I funds must prove they are 'highly qualified' by possessing an associate's degree, completing two years of college or demonstrate instructional abilities and proficiency in writing, reading and math. Many community colleges offer associate degrees and certificates specifically for teacher's aides.
In addition to the education requirements, teacher's aides must pass criminal and child abuse background checks. Many schools require that they hold valid driver's licenses. You must be prepared to work with children and teens of all abilities and backgrounds. Teacher's aides must possess good communication skills, both verbal and written, and be able to follow the teacher's instructions.
Job Postings from Real Employers
Education and experience were the two common qualities in job postings for teacher's aides on Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com. Most employers needed someone with at least a high school diploma or GED certificate, although jobs in public schools required aides who were highly qualified. Here's a look at some job postings from real employers in March 2012:
- A public school system in Illinois needed substitute paraprofessionals who held state certification under No Child Left Behind. The aides would help students with academic and personal needs on an individual basis.
- A charter school firm in Texas was seeking paraprofessionals who met the highly qualified standards. This person was expected to display professional conduct and dress standards and handle the classroom in the absence of the teacher. Applicants were required to have completed at least two years of college.
- In Iowa, a child development program needed assistant teachers to help excite children about learning. A high school diploma and experience working with children was required. The assistant must be able to obtain a chauffeur's license.
- In Arizona, a private school for special needs children was seeking assistant teachers who could support the teacher with instruction and assist students with hygiene and with eating. A high school diploma or GED certificate was required, and experience working with special needs children was preferred.
How to Stand Out
The BLS noted that advancement for teacher's aides comes mainly from education and/or experience. Earning a certificate or an associate's degree will ensure that you can start the job meeting No Child Left Behind's standards for highly qualified teacher's aides.
Teacher's aides trained in working with disabled students may be more in demand. As schools integrate students with physical and learning disabilities into regular classrooms, teacher's aides work with them on an individual basis. Aides who speak another language, especially Spanish, will also stand out because they can work with students whose native tongue is not English.
Other Career Options
With a few additional years of education, you could make substantially more money by becoming a teacher. Most schools require a teacher to hold at least a bachelor's degree and have completed a teacher education program. Teachers must be also be licensed to teach in their state. The BLS predicted that employment for teachers would grow by 17% from 2008-2018. Job opportunities are best for teachers of math and science and for bilingual teachers. In May 2010, the median salary for kindergarten teachers was $50,000; elementary teachers earned $53,000, while middle school teachers earned $53,000, and high school teachers earned $54,000.
If you like helping others learn, but you don't think the constant student contact is for you, you might want to consider a career as a library technician. A library technician helps libraries organize materials and helps patrons find what they need. Some libraries might hire you with a high school diploma or GED certificate, but most will want you to have a certificate or an associate's degree. You'll definitely need some computer skills. The median salary for a library technician was $30,000 in 2011. The BLS expected the number of jobs for library technicians to grow by about ten percent from 2010-2020.