In Demand: Teacher Assistants

Teachers are busy people. They do recess and lunchroom duty, make photocopies, create lesson plans, tutor kids falling behind in their studies and do clerical work. To help ease the extra pressures of the workday, schools are increasingly hiring teacher assistants to help with the outside work so teachers can - well - teach.

If you love working with children but don't have the education or credentials to be a licensed teacher, check out these facts about teacher assistants from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).


Teacher assistants help teachers with instructional work using the teachers' lesson plans and provide clerical support to allow teachers more time for lesson planning and teaching. They tutor, supervise children in the lunchroom, playground or on field trips, and record grades.

Although some assistants perform exclusively non-instructional tasks (i.e. playground and lunchroom attendants), most perform some combination of instructional and clerical work.

Training and Education

Although specific educational requirements vary by state, usually teacher assistants who perform instructional duties receive the most training. Teachers in Title 1 schools - those with a large proportion of students from low-income households - must meet one of three requirements: have a minimum of two years of college, hold a two-year or higher degree, or pass a rigorous state and local assessment.

Most teacher assistants get their training on the job. Those interested in entering the profession should enjoy working with children from diverse cultural backgrounds and be able to patiently and fairly handle classroom situations.


About 40 percent of teacher assistants work part-time, and most who provide educational instruction work the standard nine- to 10-month school year.

Nearly three-in-four assistants work for state and local government education institutions, mostly at the preschool and early elementary school levels. Others work in private schools, daycare centers and religious organizations.

Pros and Cons

Watching children grow and develop a passion for learning can be very rewarding for teacher assistants. In addition, the job can be a stepping-stone for people interested in becoming a teacher; many school districts provide time away from the job or tuition reimbursement so teacher assistants can earn bachelor's degrees and pursue licensed teaching positions.

But working with students all day can be physically and emotionally draining. Teacher assistants who work with special education students may have to perform strenuous tasks like lifting, and most assistants spend much of their days standing, walking and kneeling.

In addition, those who perform clerical work may become bored with their administrative duties like photocopying and typing.


Median annual earnings of teacher assistants in 2002 were $18,660, according to the BLS. In 2002, about 30 percent of assistants belonged to unions that bargained with school systems over wages, hours and the terms and conditions of employment.

Job Outlook

Employment of teacher assistants is expected to grow somewhat faster than the average for all occupations through 2012, due in part to a greater focus on educational quality as required by the No Child Left Behind Act.

The student populations for which teacher assistants are most utilized - special education students and ESL students - are expected to grow more quickly than the general school-aged population, further spurring job growth.

Opportunities are expected to best for persons with at least two years of formal education past high school.

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Source: BLS October 2004

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