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Paraeducator vs. Paraprofessional: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Paraeducators and paraprofessionals are both positions that work with students in a school setting, but there are some key differences between the two. If you’re interested in working with children and helping them succeed academically, then either of these positions may be a good fit for you. In this article, we compare and contrast paraeducators and paraprofessionals, and we provide information on what you can expect from each role.

What is a Paraeducator?

Paraeducators work alongside teachers in the classroom to provide one-on-one or small group instruction to students with special needs. They may also help to manage the classroom, prepare materials and support the teacher with administrative tasks. Paraeducators typically have a high school diploma or equivalent, although some school districts may require additional training or certification. They must be able to follow the teacher’s lead and adapt their instruction to meet the needs of the students. Paraeducators must also be patient, compassionate and have the ability to build positive relationships with students, families and staff.

What is a Paraprofessional?

Paraprofessionals are also known as Teacher’s Aides or Educational Assistants. They work under the supervision of licensed teachers to provide one-on-one or small group instruction to students with special needs. Paraprofessionals often work with students who have disabilities, such as autism, Down syndrome or cerebral palsy. They may also work with students who are struggling academically or those who are English Language Learners. Paraprofessionals typically have an Associate’s Degree or have completed a Paraprofessional Certification program. They must pass a state-specific paraprofessional exam and complete a criminal background check.

Paraeducator vs. Paraprofessional

Here are the main differences between a paraeducator and a paraprofessional.

Job Duties

Paraeducators perform many of the same duties as full-time teachers, such as instructing students and helping them develop their educational skills. They may also assist with extracurricular activities and provide emotional support to students. Paraeducators often work with students who have learning disabilities or are in special education programs.

Paraprofessionals typically provide supportive services that help enable students to succeed in school. This can include assisting students with completing assignments or providing transportation to and from school. Paraprofessionals may also provide personal care services, such as helping students get dressed in the morning or brush their teeth at night.

Job Requirements

Paraeducators and paraprofessionals typically need at least a high school diploma to enter the field. Some states also require para educators to complete a training program or earn an associate’s degree in education or a related field. Paraprofessionals who work with students who have special needs might need to complete additional coursework or earn certification in their area of specialty.

Work Environment

Paraeducators and paraprofessionals work in similar environments, but the type of environment they’re exposed to depends on their specific job duties. For example, a school-based paraeducator may spend most of their time in classrooms with students, while an adult education paraeducator may spend more time in community centers or other locations where adults are learning new skills. Paraeducators who work in hospitals typically work in medical facilities, such as operating rooms or patient care areas.


Both paraeducators and paraprofessionals work with students in educational settings, but their job responsibilities can differ. Paraeducators typically provide support to teachers in the classroom by working with small groups of students or one-on-one. They might help with lesson planning, preparing materials, grading assignments and providing feedback to students. Paraprofessionals, on the other hand, often work directly with students who have special needs. They might help with developing Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), modifying curriculum, providing emotional support and monitoring progress.

Both paraeducators and paraprofessionals need to have excellent communication skills to effectively interact with students, parents/guardians, teachers and other school staff. They also need to be patient, organized and able to multitask. Paraeducators might benefit from having previous experience working with children, while paraprofessionals might need more specialized training in areas like behavior management or working with students with disabilities.


Paraeducators and paraprofessionals are similar in that they both work with students in a classroom setting. However, paraeducators are not required to have a college degree, while paraprofessionals are required to have an associate’s degree or higher. Paraeducators earn an average salary of $34,301 per year, while paraprofessionals earn an average salary of $34,281 per year.


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