Educators are often expected to teach 20 or more students in their classrooms at a time. With these higher student-to-teacher ratios, providing the individual attention students need to succeed can be difficult. This is where paraeducators, also known as teaching assistants or teacher’s aids, can play an important role. It’s these assistants that ensure children get the help and attention they deserve, while providing much needed assistance to the primary teacher in the classroom. A paraeducator works under a teacher’s supervision, working more specifically with students that need additional help to keep up with the skills learned during class. As such, they’re expected to have the skills and knowledge to effectively teach, and in some cases appropriately discipline students, in order for each child to be successful. If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a paraeducator, there’s several skills you’ll need to develop, as well as steps you’ll need to take in order to qualify for employment within the field.
- Online MSEd in Special Education (Ranked #11 Best Online Master’s in Special Education Program by U.S. News & World Report 2021)
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- M.Ed. in Elementary Education and Special Education (ITL); M.Ed. in Special Education: Moderate to Severe (ITL); M.Ed. in Special Education: Cross Categorical (Leads to initial teacher licensure)
Paraeducators can expect to make on average $23,640 per year, according to statistics from the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salary levels will vary widely based on school district, type of school, education, experience and location.
When first entering the field, a paraeducator can expect to make an estimated $17,180 per year. Once again, the starting salary will vary based on factors like past job experience in other fields, education and location and type of the school applying for.
The primary responsibility of a pareducator is to assist their assigned teacher in the classroom environment. This can be broken down into various tasks depending on the school and the grade level worked in. Potential responsibilities include working one-on-one with students to answer questions in order to reinforce concepts taught in the classroom. You may also be expected to take on administrative classroom tasks, such as taking attendance and grading assignments. Paraeducators also help teachers enforce classroom rules and follow through with disciplinary actions, allowing teachers to continue teaching the rest of the classroom with less interruption. You may also be responsible for helping develop classroom lessons, as well as assist in setting up the classroom for projects and presentations. Supervision sometimes goes outside of the classroom as well, such as supervising children during recess, or as a chaperone during school field trips.
To be a successful paraeducator, you’ll need a mixture of natural skills, as well as skills gained through classroom learning. First, you’ll be expected to have an in-depth knowledge of the subjects taught in each lesson. The level of skills needed will vary based on the grade level you work with, but will often require skills in math, science, English, social studies and other subjects as required. Successful candidates also work well with children, and have the ability to take information and relay it in a way a child can understand. Good communication skills with adults is also important, as paraeducators must be able to adequately communicate with the teacher worked for, as well as parents and school administrators. Candidates must also understand appropriate disciplinary methods for children in the classroom, as well as maintain great patience for even the most difficult students.
Degree and Education Requirements
While some paraeducator jobs only require a high school diploma, the majority require at least a two-year degree, preferably from a specialized program in paraeducation, or in a field closely associated with the field, such as child development or special education. If you plan to work in a title 1 school, you must have at least a two-year degree. Title 1 schools receive special federal funding due to a high percentage of students who come from low-income households. To maintain this funding, schools must follow additional rules in relation to who they hire for open positions. Paraeducators who have a four-year degree in subjects associated with education will have more opportunities for employment, as well as may qualify for a higher yearly salary.
Pros and Cons of This Position
A job as a paraeducator comes with various benefits as well as challenges. One of the primary benefits is knowing that you’re having a direct effect on the children you work with. As a teaching assistant you get to work one-on-one with students to help them succeed, which allows you to watch them grow and develop knowing you played a part in their success. The job also comes with certain challenges. Paraeducators can expect to regularly deal with difficult children who either have behavioral issues or learning disabilities. These children can be trying, but also more rewarding with each breakthrough.
If you’re interested in a career as a paraeducator or teacher’s assistant, it’s important to gain more direct experience with children. Some schools have volunteer opportunities, but you can also gain experience through other organizations, like independent tutoring agencies or even organizations like Big Brother Big Sisters. The more experience with children that you can get on your resume, the better you’ll look to a potential employer. You may also want to consider getting additional certifications, especially first aid and CPR training courses.
Paraeducation jobs are expected to rise by 9 percent by 2022, about as fast as all other occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jobs can be found in most any educational institution, including both private and public elementary, secondary and charter schools. Jobs may also be found in preparatory programs, including preschools and child care centers. Paraeducation may also provide a firm foundation to continue your career into a four-year programs for elementary or secondary education, resulting in eventually becoming a licensed teacher.
While working as a paraeducator can be difficult at times, the rewarding feeling that comes with helping children in need makes the difficult times worthwhile. With the field continuing to expand as school populations grow, those with skills in paraeducation can expect both job security and job satisfaction as you continually impact future generations through quality education.