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How to Become a Certified Teacher's Assistant

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Certified teacher’s assistants, also known as paraprofessionals or paraeducators, provide support for teachers in a classroom setting. This may include individualized help with students, class work organization or any other instructional support under the supervision of a teacher. The process to become a certified teacher differs depending on where you live, or where you plan to teach. However, most states require a secondary education or an assessment test to qualify for certification.

Become familiar with federal guidelines concerning certification. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, teacher's assistants working in Title I schools (schools receiving government funding due to a large population of low-income students) must have a high school diploma or GED. Additionally, Tile I program teacher's assistants must have either an associate degree or complete two years of higher education at an accredited college, or pass an in-depth assessment test.

Find the certification guidelines in your state by contacting you Department of Education or State Board of Education. Some states have certification requirements in addition to the Federal guidelines, and may include as much as 60 hours (Missouri) of coursework and up to 750 hours (Maryland) of employment as a teacher's assistant.

Pass a teaching assessment test prior to certification where applicable, such as New York. The test takes a morning or afternoon to complete (depending on test dates and times), and your State Board of Education or equivalent provides testing and preparation materials. A community college may also be able to help you understand state guidelines, as well as offer coursework required to obtain certification.

Submit to a background check and fingerprinting. The background check is extensive and may include an FBI report, as well as state records. You will be fingerprinted by the Board of Education, or you may be required to obtain and pay for fingerprinting yourself. Most law enforcement offices will perform fingerprinting for a fee, and your fingerprints will then be entered into a national database.

Apply for teacher’s assistant certification at your State Board of Education. Bring or send certified copies of all required documents, which may include your high school diploma, associate degree, college transcripts, relevant work experience, valid driver’s license and teacher’s assistant state assessment test results. Include the appropriate payment with the application. The fee to become certified may be as low as $25 or as much as $90, as of 2010, depending on where you live.

Renew your certification as needed. According to a 2006 report by the American Federation of Teachers, you need to renew your certificate every one to five years, depending on your state’s requirements. A few states such as Alabama currently offer permanent certification. Local regulations regarding assistant teacher certification and renewal do change, so it’s important to check licensing changes with your Department of Education annually.


In most states, volunteer teacher’s assistants do not require certification.


Many schools now require teacher’s assistants to have a driver’s license prior to employment.

2016 Salary Information for Teacher Assistants

Teacher assistants earned a median annual salary of $25,410 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, teacher assistants earned a 25th percentile salary of $20,520, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $31,990, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 1,308,100 people were employed in the U.S. as teacher assistants.