Teacher Assistant Career Description


Teacher assistants work with a licensed teacher to give students additional attention and instruction.


What they do

Teacher assistants typically do the following:

  • Reinforce lessons by reviewing material with students one-on-one or in small groups
  • Follow school and class rules to teach students proper behavior
  • Help teachers with recordkeeping, such as taking attendance and calculating grades
  • Get equipment or materials ready to help teachers prepare for lessons
  • Supervise students outside of the classroom, such as between classes, during lunch and recess, and on field trips

Teacher assistants also are called teacher aides, instructional aides, paraprofessionals, education assistants, and paraeducators.

Teacher assistants work with or under the guidance of a licensed teacher. Reviewing with students individually or in small groups, teacher assistants help reinforce the lessons that teachers introduce.

Teacher assistants may provide feedback to teachers for monitoring student progress. Some teacher assistants meet regularly with teachers to discuss lesson plans and students’ development.

Some teacher assistants work only with special education students.  When special education students attend regular classes, these teacher assistants help them understand the material and adapt the information to their learning style. Teacher assistants may also work with students who have severe disabilities in separate classrooms. They help these students with basic needs, such as eating or personal hygiene. Teacher assistants may help young adults with disabilities to learn skills necessary for finding a job or living independently after graduation.

Some teacher assistants help in specific areas. For example, they may work in a computer laboratory, helping students use programs or software. Others may work as cafeteria attendants, supervising students during lunchtime.

Teacher assistants in childcare centers work with a lead teacher to provide individualized attention that young children need. They help with educational activities, supervise the children at play, and help with feeding and other basic care.


Work Environment

Teacher assistants may spend some time outside, when students are at recess or getting on and off the bus. They may need to lift the students at certain times.


How to become a Teacher Assistant

Teacher assistants typically need to have completed at least 2 years of college coursework.

Teacher assistants in public schools need at least 2 years of college coursework or an associate degree. Those who work in schools with a Title 1 program (a federal program for schools that have a large proportion of students from low-income households) must have at least a 2-year degree, 2 years of college, or pass a state or local assessment.

Associate degree programs for teacher assistants prepare participants to develop educational materials, observe students, and understand the role of teaching assistants in working with classroom teachers.

Most states require teacher assistants who work with special-needs students to pass a skills test.  Some jobs may require staff to have certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid.



The median annual wage for teacher assistants was $27,920 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,940, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $43,040.


Job Outlook

Employment of teacher assistants is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Rising student enrollment along with state and federal funding for education programs should affect growth.


Similar Job Titles

Educational Assistant, Instructional Assistant, Paraeducator, Paraprofessional, Special Education Aide, Special Education Paraprofessional, Special Education Teacher Assistant, Teacher Aide, Teacher Assistant, Teaching Assistant


Related Occupations

Preschool Teacher, Kindergarten Teacher, Tour Guides and Escorts, Childcare Workers, Nannies


More Information

The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field.  Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas.  As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.

  • American Business Women's Association - The mission of the American Business Women’s Association is to bring together business women of diverse occupations and to provide opportunities for them to help themselves and others grow personally and professionally through leadership, education, networking support and national recognition.
  • American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO - The American Federation of Teachers is a union of professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their families and our communities. They are committed to advancing these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through the work members do.
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children - NAEYC promotes high-quality early learning for all children, birth through age 8, by connecting practice, policy, and research. This organization advances a diverse, dynamic early childhood profession and support all who care for, educate, and work on behalf of young children.
  • National Education Association - NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States. They seek to bring the expertise, drive, and dedication of 3 million educators and allies to advancing justice and excellence in public education.
  • National Parent Teacher Association - PTA's mission is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children.


Magazines and Publications



Video Transcript

Teacher assistants work under a licensed teacher’s supervision to give students of all ages additional attention and instruction, either one-on-one or in small groups. Teacher assistants— also called teacher aides and paraprofessionals— monitor students’ progress, and help them to learn the material that teachers present. Assistants may grade tests and check homework, or for young children at childcare centers, they may supervise playtime, and help with feeding and basic care. Some teacher assistants work only with special education students. Assistants may adapt material to the student’s learning style and help with understanding, while for students with more severe disabilities, teacher assistants help with basic needs, such as eating and personal hygiene. With young adult students who have disabilities, assistants may teach skills necessary for finding a job or living independently after graduation. Some teacher assistants supervise students in a specific location, such as computer labs, recess, or in the lunchroom. Part-time schedules are common for teacher assistants, sometimes including riding the bus with students before and after school. Many work the nine-month school year, though some also work summers. Teacher assistants have a high rate of illnesses and injuries. Teacher assistants typically need to have completed at least two years of college coursework, or an associate degree.



Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org