A paraprofessional serves as the right hand of the lead teacher in a K-12 classroom. Often working one on one or with small groups of students, a paraprofessional provides specialized support and tutoring. You can become a para by earning an associate degree and passing a certification exam. Two-year programs are available that will prepare you for this career.
Earn an Associate Degree
If becoming a paraprofessional is your career goal, begin by earning an associate degree. You can choose any content area, but education will give you the best foundation for this job.
You’ll take basic education classes along with courses like curriculum development, child development, guidance and discipline and early childhood literacy. Since most states require teacher assistant certification, you may be able to incorporate this certificate into your electives.
Earn a Para Certification
Expect to take 16 credits to complete your para certification. Programs are available at community colleges or online. You’ll take classes like:
- Mathematics for Educators
- Literacy Education Strategies
- Orientation to Education
- Creating Culturally Responsive Classrooms
- Introduction to Special Education
- College Success Strategies
Following the coursework, you’ll need to take a para certification test.
Look at Required Parapro Test Scores
Most states require a specific score on the para certification test. The para certification test is two-and-a-half hours in length and covers subjects like writing, math and reading. The 90-question test will ensure that you’re proficient in the fundamentals necessary to qualify for a teacher assistant certification.
You’ll get your test results within three weeks of taking the exam. Some score requirements by state include:
- Louisiana – 450
- Oregon – 455
- New Jersey – 456
- New Mexico – 457
- Vermont – 458
- Arizona – 459
- Utah – 460
- Washington – 461
- Wyoming – 462
U.S. Virgin Islands –
Use the Parapro Practice Test to Prepare
Before sitting for the para certification test, take the necessary steps to become prepared for the exam. A parapro practice test is available to help you gain a better understanding of the types of questions that you’ll encounter.
This simulated exam provides sample questions in an interactive environment that will help you determine your readiness for the test. Use this tool as a way to reveal subjects that need special attention.
Special Advice for Test Day
It’s important to be as relaxed as possible on test day. Even though you may be nervous, take the time to fully read each question. If you’re unsure of an answer, come back to the question after you’ve finished the test. If you still don’t know the answer, fill in your best guess.
Review all of your answers if you have extra time remaining. Don’t cram the night before the exam and be sure to eat breakfast.
Consider the Job Duties
A paraprofessional is an essential member of the educational team in a K-12 system. Flexibility, strong communication skills and a love for education are essential for this job.
As a para, you’ll reinforce classroom content and serve as a tutor for students who may have special needs. You’ll oversee the students at recess, in the lunch room or during other school activities. You’ll also assist the teacher by making copies, setting up equipment, collecting supplies and performing other duties as assigned by the lead teacher.
Examine the Pay and Job Outlook
In 2018, the median annual pay for a paraprofessional was $26,970. The highest reported salary was $41,010, and the lowest was $18,670. You may earn more if you’re working with special populations.
Between now and 2026, you can expect a growth of 8 percent in jobs. A projected increase in student enrollment coupled with accelerated funding for education contributes to an increase in available positions.