Teacher Assistants

Quick Facts: Teacher Assistants
2017 Median Pay $26,260 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, 2016 1,308,100
Job Outlook, 2016-26 8% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 109,500

Join Nextstep Career Mentorship Programs with our Teacher Assistant partners:

Teacher Assistants Career, Salary and Education Information

What Teacher Assistants Do

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


teacher assistants

Duties of teacher assistants

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 teach students proper behavior

  • Help teachers with recordkeeping, such as tracking attendance and calculating grades

  • Set up equipment or get material ready to help teachers prepare for lessons

  • Supervise students in class, between classes, during lunch and recess, and on field trips

Teacher assistants also are called teacher aidesinstructional aidesparaprofessionalseducation 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 teacher assistants to monitor students’ progress. Some teachers and teacher assistants meet regularly to discuss lesson plans and students’ development. Teacher assistants sometimes help teachers by grading tests and checking homework.

Some teacher assistants work only with special education students. In some cases, these special education 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 school locations. 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.

Although most teacher assistants work in schools, others work in 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, supervise the children at play, and help with feeding and other basic care.

Work Environment for Teacher Assistants

Teacher assistants held about 1.3 million jobs in 2016. The largest employers of teacher assistants were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; local: 69%

Child day care services: 10%

Elementary and secondary schools; private: 8%

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 for teacher assistants

About 1 in 3 teacher assistants worked part time in 2016. 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 Teachers Assistant

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


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 be able to discuss students’ progress with teachers and parents in an efficient manner.

Interpersonal skills. Teacher assistants interact with a variety of people, including teachers, students, parents, and administrators. They need to be able to develop good 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.

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


Teacher assistants may become a kindergarten and elementary school teachermiddle school teacher, high school teacher, or special education teacher upon obtaining additional education, training, and a license/certification.

Teacher Assistant Salaries

The median annual wage for teacher assistants was $26,260 in May 2017. 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 $18,460, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $39,780.

In May 2017, the median annual wages for teacher assistants in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; local: $27,020

Elementary and secondary schools; private: $25,970

Child day care services: $22,830

About 1 in 3 teacher assistants worked part time in 2016. 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 2016.

Job Outlook

Employment of teacher assistants is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Rising student enrollment along with state and federal funding for education programs should affect growth.

Teacher assistants are more of a supplementary position, as opposed to teachers, who hold a primary position. Therefore, teacher assistants’ employment opportunities may depend on school districts’ budgets. Schools are more likely to eliminate teacher assistant positions rather than teacher positions when there is a budget shortfall, and more likely to hire teacher assistants when there is a budget surplus.

Job Prospects for teacher assistants

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, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 1,308,100

Projected Employment, 2026: 1,417,600

Change, 2016-2026: +8%, +109,500

Careers Related to teacher assistants

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.

Childcare Workers

Childcare workers attend to the basic needs of children, such as dressing, bathing, feeding, and overseeing play. They may help younger children prepare for kindergarten or assist older children with homework.

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.

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers instruct young students in basic subjects, such as math and reading, in order to prepare them for future schooling.

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.

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades. They 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.

Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides

Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain 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.

Preschool Teachers

Preschool teachers educate and care for children younger than age 5 who have not yet entered kindergarten. They teach language, motor, and social skills to young children.

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.

Career and Technical Education TeachersBachelor's degree$55,240
Childcare WorkersHigh school diploma or equivalent$22,290
High School TeachersBachelor's degree$59,170
Kindergarten and Elementary School TeachersBachelor's degree$56,900
Library Technicians and Assistants$29,050
Middle School TeachersBachelor's degree$57,720
Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides$56,690
Preschool TeachersAssociate's degree$28,990
Special Education TeachersBachelor's degree$58,980


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Teacher Assistants,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/teacher-assistants.htm