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Paraprofessional vs. Teacher Aide: What Are the Differences?

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

Paraprofessionals and teacher aides are both important members of a school staff. They work with students and teachers to provide support in and out of the classroom. While these roles have similarities, there are also several key differences between them. In this article, we discuss the duties of a paraprofessional and a teacher aide, and we explain the differences between the two positions.

What is a Paraprofessional?

Paraprofessionals work closely with teachers and students in educational settings to provide one-on-one or small group instruction and support. They may work with students who have special needs, such as those with physical or developmental disabilities, or those who are struggling academically. Paraprofessionals often serve as a link between teachers and students, providing instruction and support to students as needed and communicating student progress back to teachers. They may also help to develop and implement Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for students with special needs.

What is a Teacher Aide?

Teacher Aides are responsible for providing support to teachers in the classroom so that they can more effectively instruct students. They may be responsible for leading small groups of students in activities, preparing materials for lessons, grading assignments or providing one-on-one assistance to students. Teacher Aides also often supervise students in the classroom or during lunch and recess periods. They may be asked to provide input to teachers on student behavior or progress. Teacher Aides typically work in elementary, middle or high schools. Some Teacher Aides may also work in childcare centers or early childhood education programs.

Paraprofessional vs. Teacher Aide

Here are the main differences between a paraprofessional and a teacher aide.

Job Duties

Paraprofessionals and teacher aides share some of their job duties, such as helping students with basic academic tasks like completing homework or taking class notes. Paraprofessionals may also assist teachers by providing one-on-one tutoring or conducting classroom activities like quizzes or recaps. Other job duties that a paraprofessional might have include administering standardized tests and reporting the results to the main teacher, organizing school events like dances or field trips and supervising students during lunch or recess.

Teacher aides who work in classrooms without a dedicated teacher assistant often take on more responsibilities than those working alongside a full-time paraprofessional. This is because they have to cover all of the duties of the absent teacher, which can include leading entire lessons or lectures themselves.

Job Requirements

Paraprofessionals and teacher aides typically need at least a high school diploma to enter the field. Some paraprofessionals may pursue an associate degree or certification in a related field, such as early childhood education, but it is not required for most entry-level positions. Many paraprofessionals gain experience through on-the-job training. Teacher aides may also be able to find work in other settings, such as daycare centers or after-school programs.

Work Environment

Both teacher aides and paraprofessionals work in school environments, but the specific environment can vary depending on their job title. For example, a teacher aide may work with students in classrooms or other learning spaces, while a paraprofessional may work with students in areas like the cafeteria or gymnasium.

Paraprofessionals also often work in settings outside of schools, such as community centers or after-school programs. They may travel to different locations to provide support for children who need extra help with academics or social skills.


Both paraprofessionals and teacher aides typically need to have strong communication skills. Paraprofessionals often work with students one-on-one or in small groups, so they need to be able to explain concepts clearly. Teacher aides may also need to be able to effectively communicate with students, depending on their job duties. In addition, both paraprofessionals and teacher aides need to be able to work well with others. They may need to collaborate with teachers, administrators and other school staff members on a regular basis.

Paraprofessionals may need to have more specialized skills than teacher aides, depending on their job duties. For example, paraprofessionals who work with students who have autism may need to have training in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Paraprofessionals who work as instructional assistants may need to be proficient in the use of technology, such as computers and software programs that are commonly used in classrooms. Teacher aides typically do not need to have as many specialized skills as paraprofessionals.


The average salary for a paraprofessional is $34,281 per year, while the average salary for a teacher aide is $29,751 per year. The average salary for both positions may vary depending on the state in which you work, the school district you work for and the level of education you have.


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