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How to Become a Paraeducator

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Paraeducators, also known as teacher assistants, help children and young adults improve their academic performance. Working under the supervision of certified or licensed teachers, they tutor students, maintain contact with parents, and provide library and translation services. This job is suitable for individuals with a high school diploma and an interest in becoming licensed classroom educators.

Acquire the Diploma

Employers typically hire high school graduates and take them through on-the-job training to be paraeducators. However, those with a post-secondary credential in a relevant field are more attractive to employers. Aspiring paraeducators can obtain an associate degree in child development or special education. These programs offer introductory topics in child psychology, which enables a paraeducator to effectively manage behavioral changes in learners and help to create appropriate classroom environments. Prospective paraeducators can also volunteer in children’s homes and youth centers to gain relevant experience.

Develop the Skills

The work of paraeducators involves collaborating with certified educators. They must possess excellent teamwork skills to be effective group members. Paraeducators use analytical and critical-thinking skills to evaluate students' abilities and develop sitting arrangements that promote social integration in the classroom. Interpersonal and communication skills are also essential to establish and maintain productive relationships with their students, and to use words young learners can understand easily. Organizing, planning and supervisory skills are important, too.

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Get Certified

Although many states don't require paraeducators to hold a professional certification before finding work, others -- such as Iowa and New Hampshire -- offer voluntary certifications. To qualify for certification, applicants must generally have at least a high school diploma, pass a criminal background check and complete an approved training program. Apart from improving paraeducators’ competence, certification lays a solid foundation for progression into the licensed classroom educator position.

Find Employment

Qualified paraeducators may be hired by public and private elementary, middle and high schools; childcare centers; religious organizations; preschools; and community centers. After working for a year or two, ambitious paraeducators can go to college and earn a bachelor’s degree in education, then obtain a state license as a classroom teacher. A graduate degree in educational leadership or administration is a steppingstone to becoming a school administrator. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of teacher assistants will grow 9 percent -- slower than the 11 percent average for all jobs -- from 2012 through 2022.

About the Author

Based in New York City, Alison Green has been writing professionally on career topics for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in “U.S. News Weekly” magazine, “The Career” magazine and “Human Resources Journal.” Green holds a master's degree in finance from New York University.

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