Teacher Assistants

Summary

teacher assistants image
Teacher assistants work under the supervision of a teacher and provide additional attention and instruction to students.
Quick Facts: Teacher Assistants
2015 Median Pay $24,900 per year
Typical Entry-Level Education Some college, no degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 1,234,100
Job Outlook, 2014-24 6% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 78,600

What Teacher Assistants Do

Teacher assistants work under a teacher’s supervision to give students additional attention and instruction.

Work Environment

Teacher assistants work in public and private schools, at childcare centers, and for religious organizations. About 2 in 5 worked part time in 2014. Most do not work during the summer.

How to Become a Teacher Assistant

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

Pay

The median annual wage for teacher assistants was $24,900 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of teacher assistants is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth is expected to result from increases in student enrollment and classroom size and continued demand for special education services.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for teacher assistants.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of teacher assistants with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about teacher assistants by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Teacher Assistants Do About this section

Teacher assistants
Some teacher assistants work exclusively with special education students who attend traditional classes.

Teacher assistants work under a teacher’s supervision to give students additional attention and instruction.

Duties

Teacher assistants typically do the following:

  • Reinforce lessons presented by teachers by reviewing material with students one-on-one or in small groups
  • Enforce school and class rules to help teach students proper behavior
  • Help teachers with recordkeeping, such as tracking attendance and calculating grades
  • Help teachers prepare for lessons by getting materials ready or setting up equipment, such as computers
  • Supervise students in class, 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. Generally, teachers introduce new material to students while teacher assistants help reinforce the lessons by working with individual students or small groups of students. For example, after the teacher presents a lesson, a teacher assistant may help a small group of students as they try to master the material.

Teachers may seek feedback from assistants to monitor students’ progress. Some teachers and teacher assistants meet regularly to discuss lesson plans and student development. Teacher assistants sometimes help teachers by grading tests and checking homework.

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

Some teacher assistants work in specific locations in the school. For example, some work in computer laboratories, teaching students how to use computers and helping them use software. Others work as recess or lunchroom attendants, supervising students during these times of the day.

Although most teacher assistants work in elementary, middle, and high schools, others work in preschools and childcare centers. Often, one or two assistants work with a lead teacher to provide the individual attention that young children need. They help with educational activities. They also supervise the children at play and help with feeding and other basic care.

Work Environment About this section

Teacher assistants
Some teacher assistants work in specific locations within schools, such as libraries.

Teacher assistants held about 1.2 million jobs in 2014. They work in both private and public elementary, middle, and high schools. They also work in preschools, at childcare centers, at community centers, and for religious organizations.

In 2014, about 77 percent of teacher assistants were employed by elementary and secondary schools and 9 percent were employed by child day care services.

Teacher assistants may spend some time outside, when students are at recess or getting on and off the bus. Those who work with special education students may need to lift the students at certain times.

Work Schedules

About 2 in 5 teacher assistants worked part time in 2014. Some ride the bus with students before and after school. Although many do not work during the summer, some work in year-round schools or help teachers in summer school.

How to Become a Teacher Assistant About this section

Teacher assistants
Teacher assistants reinforce lessons presented in class by reviewing material with students one-on-one or in small groups.

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

Education

Most school districts require applicants to have completed at least 2 years of college coursework or have earned an associate’s degree. Teacher assistants in schools that have a Title 1 program (a federal program for schools with 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’s degree programs for teacher assistants prepare the participants to develop educational materials, observe students, and understand the role of teachers and teaching assistants in the classroom.

Most states require instructional aides who work with special-needs students to pass a skills-based test.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Teacher assistants need to discuss students’ progress with teachers and parents, so they need to be able to communicate well.

Interpersonal skills. Teacher assistants interact with a variety of people, including teachers, students, parents, and administrators. They need to develop good working relationships with the people they work with.

Patience. Working with students of different abilities and backgrounds can be difficult. Teacher assistants must be patient with students who struggle with material.

Resourcefulness. To reinforce lessons, teacher assistants must explain information to students in a way that meets each student’s learning style. 

Pay About this section

Teacher Assistants

Median annual wages, May 2015

Education, training, and library occupations

$47,220

Total, all occupations

$36,200

Teacher assistants

$24,900

 

The median annual wage for teacher assistants was $24,900 in May 2015. 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 $17,920, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $38,000.

About 2 in 5 teacher assistants worked part time in 2014. Some monitor students on school buses before and after school. Although many do not work during the summer, some work in year-round schools or assist teachers in summer school.   

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, teacher assistants had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2014.

Job Outlook About this section

Teacher Assistants

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Education, training, and library occupations

8%

Total, all occupations

7%

Teacher assistants

6%

 

Employment of teacher assistants is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Student enrollment is expected to increase from 2014 to 2024. The increase in the number of students will affect the average classroom size, possibly spurring demand for teacher assistants. In addition, there will be continued demand for special education services and, in turn, demand for teacher assistants who work with these students.

Teacher assistants’ positions are more of a supplementary position, as opposed to teachers, who hold a primary position. Therefore, teacher assistants’ employment opportunities may be limited because school districts are more likely to eliminate teacher assistant positions rather than teacher positions when there are budget cuts.

Job Prospects

In addition to job openings due to employment growth, numerous openings will arise as assistants leave the occupation and must be replaced. Because of the education requirements and low pay, many workers transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force to take care of family responsibilities, to return to school, or for other reasons.

Employment projections data for teacher assistants, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Teacher assistants

25-9041 1,234,100 1,312,800 6 78,600 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of teacher assistants.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Career and technical education teachers

Career and Technical Education Teachers

Career and technical education teachers instruct students in various technical and vocational subjects, such as auto repair, healthcare, and culinary arts. They teach academic and technical content to provide students with the skills and knowledge necessary to enter an occupation.

Bachelor's degree $52,800
Child care workers

Childcare Workers

Childcare workers provide care for children when parents and other family members are unavailable. They attend to children’s basic needs, such as bathing and feeding. In addition, some help children prepare for kindergarten or help older children with homework.

High school diploma or equivalent $20,320
High school teachers

High School Teachers

High school teachers help prepare students for life after graduation. They teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.

Bachelor's degree $57,200
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers prepare younger students for future schooling by teaching them basic subjects such as math and reading.

Bachelor's degree $54,550
Library technicians and assistants

Library Technicians and Assistants

Library technicians and assistants help librarians with all aspects of running a library. They assist patrons, organize library materials and information, and perform clerical and administrative tasks.

See How to Become One $27,930
Middle school teachers

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades. Middle school teachers help students build on the fundamentals they learned in elementary school and prepare them for the more difficult curriculum they will face in high school.

Bachelor's degree $55,860
Occupational therapy assistants and aides

Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides

Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working. Occupational therapy assistants are directly involved in providing therapy to patients; occupational therapy aides typically perform support activities. Both assistants and aides work under the direction of occupational therapists.

See How to Become One $54,520
Preschool teachers

Preschool Teachers

Preschool teachers educate and care for children younger than age 5 who have not yet entered kindergarten. They teach reading, writing, science, and other subjects in a way that young children can understand.

Associate's degree $28,570
Special education teachers

Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to students with mild and moderate disabilities. They also teach basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques, to students with severe disabilities.

Bachelor's degree $56,800
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Teacher Assistants,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/teacher-assistants.htm (visited August 27, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. This tab may also provide information on earnings in the major industries employing the occupation.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.