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School aides wear many hats on campus. School aide jobs vary in pay, but most such positions are viable ways for parents to earn money yet still be available for their children after school. They may also be a way to get a foot in the door of a school or district and lead the way to a future full-time teaching job.
According to Salary.com, the average teacher aide salary in the United States is $19,377. Those in the lowest 25th percentile earned $18,362 while those in the highest 25th percentile earned $22,550. These earnings vary by state, by city, by duties and by type of school.
Some school aides have limited duties. For example, they oversee lunch-periods. Therefore, their pay is minimal (for example, $5 per 1 ½-hour shift).
In general, public school positions pay better than private school positions. In addition, many schools have full- or part-time aide positions. Depending on the individual position, school aides may be required to arrive before the start of classes and leave after classes are over in order to prepare the classroom (sanitize desks and doors, prepare classroom assignments or post new artwork, for example.)
Most school aides are off during school vacation periods, but many find additional work as tutors or summer reading program staff members during these times.
School aides can perform a variety of duties. They may supervise the classroom while the teacher is out on break or attending to phone calls. They may grade and record tests, homework and classroom assignments; distribute materials; operate audio/visual equipment; prepare supply requests, disciplinary notes and other paperwork; prepare students for performances and outings; and escort students to activities. They may meet with parents and administrators (usually accompanying the teacher).
While school aides are not certified to provide instruction, they may reinforce concepts the teacher presented earlier.
Requirements vary by state and by facility. Many states require school aides to have some college education--often 60 to 90 credit hours. Most require a criminal background check.
Some school aides may work with developmentally disabled students. These aides may or may not require special training to work with these students, depending on the school and the students' needs.
Successful school aides should enjoy working with children or teens, depending on the school. They should be patient and understand that each student has particular abilities, interests and cultural backgrounds. They should be able to work independently but respond well to the teacher’s and administration’s instructions. They should be clean, responsible and dependable. They should also be flexible as assignments and duties frequently change.
With additional coursework (usually a bachelor's degree in education), school aides may become teachers. Courses include general courses, such as English and math, and classes in teaching. Completion of at least one student-teaching assignment also is required.
If they meet posted qualifications, school aides can become substitute teachers at multiple schools, which many result in steady income.
Working as a school aide may be a way to learn about other openings in the school or school district. Many schools promote from within. Thus, a school aide already on the payroll would be preferred over another candidate outside the school competing for the same position.
Contact the school directly for information on openings and the hiring process. Most schools conduct this process during the summer months or just before classes resume in the fall.
Laura Brestovansky is a Michigan-based writer with more than 25 years experience. Her work has appeared on countless websites as well as in local newspapers such as the Oakland Press, the LA View and The Michigan Catholic. She has an honors degree in journalism from Eastern Michigan University.