Paraeducators, often called paras, work with students and sometimes families, under the supervision of licensed teachers or other education professionals. A degree is often preferred, but not required. However, patience, flexibility and a sincere desire to help students are essential.
Paraeducators assist teachers in many ways, including the planning and implementation of instruction. They may help grade papers and keep records. Paras may provide one-on-one tutoring, play a role in classroom management, serve as translators or provide emotional or behavioral support to students. Paras work in both regular and special education classrooms, and in school libraries, media centers and technology classrooms. More than mere teachers' helpers, paras are important members of the teaching team.
Paraeducator qualifications include, at minimum, a high school diploma. Depending on the position, hiring preference may be given to the candidate with a degree or at least some college credits. Requirements vary from state to state, so check with your local school district office or state board of education to find out what's expected. Some states require paraprofessional certification.
You'll need to pass a background check before you can be hired. Experience is usually preferred, but not necessary. Among important paraeducator qualifications are physical and mental stamina, the ability to take direction and the willingness to work with students and other members of the education team. In some locations, the ability to speak a second language can be a plus.
Paraeducators work in a variety of settings, including public and private schools and child care centers. Both part-time and full-time positions are filled. Most paraeducators work September through June, which is the typical school year, and are off during the summer months. Paraeducator jobs are often physically demanding, and paraeducators may spend part of their work day outdoors if their duties include monitoring recess and pickups and drop-offs by car and bus.
Salary and Job Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks data and makes projections for civilian occupations, classifies paraeducators as teachers' assistants. Job growth in the field is estimated to be 8 percent through 2026, about average when compared to other occupations. Existing teacher shortages, as well as increased needs for remedial education and English language learners, mean that there will likely be paraeducator jobs for those who want them.
The median paraeducator salary for 2018 was $26,970 per year. Median pay means that half in the profession earned more, while half earned less. Paraeducator salary varies according to level of education, experience and geographic location, among other factors.