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The Duties & Responsibilities of an Assistant Teacher

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An assistant teacher, also called a paraprofessional or paraeducator, works with students under the supervision of a licensed teacher. Teacher assistant duties can vary from classroom to classroom depending on the student population and the subjects taught. If you're thinking about becoming a teacher, or if you're looking for a career that allows you to work on a school schedule, becoming an assistant teacher might be right for you.

Teaching Assistant Job Description

The main responsibility of an assistant teacher is to provide support for the licensed teacher in charge. That may mean working with students one-on-one or in small groups, assisting with classroom management, serving as a translator, or giving other kinds of instructional aid to students at the teacher's direction. A teacher's assistant may grade papers or assist with other kinds of record keeping and administrative work.

A teacher's assistant is not the same as a substitute teacher. A substitute teacher is called in when a licensed teacher needs to be absent. Substitute teacher duties consist of following the lesson plans left by the regular teacher, to be used in the teacher's absence. Requirements for becoming a substitute teacher may be different from those of a teacher's assistant, so it's best to your local school district to find out what you need to become a teacher's assistant or a substitute teacher.

Education Requirements

Just as the role of an assistant teacher in school can vary, so do education requirements. Most states specify a minimum of a high school diploma. Depending on the school district, hiring preference may be given to candidates with an associate's degree or at least some college credits. Being bilingual or multilingual can also be an asset if the population includes students whose first language is not English.

Assistant teachers need to have good communication skills along with the patience and stamina necessary to work with children. In most communities, a background check is required for everyone who works in the school, no matter what the role.

Work Environment

Assistant teachers work in public and private schools, charter schools, childcare centers and for religious organizations. Most assistant teachers work the same hours that students are in school, giving them time off for holidays and winter, spring and summer breaks. Assistant teachers work where they are assigned, which can be in a regular classroom, special education classroom, technology center or library. Some assistant teachers supervise lunch rooms and study halls. They may work outside, if they supervise recess and pickups/dropoffs by bus and car. The work environment can be as varied as teacher assistant duties.

Salary and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth of 8 percent for assistant teachers through 2026, a rate that is about average when compared to all other civilian occupations. There are several factors likely to contribute to an increased demand for assistant teachers. In some areas of the country, there are teacher shortages; hiring assistant teachers helps fill the gap. The number of English language learners in growing, as is the need for remedial education in response to government mandates.

The median salary for an assistant teacher is $26,260 a year. Median salary means that half in the profession earn more, while half earn less. Geographic location is the biggest factor affecting salary. The top five states for earnings, as of 2018, were New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, California and West Virginia. The bottom five were Maine, Arkansas, Kansas, Florida and North Carolina.


Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.

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