Career Development

What Does a Teaching Assistant Do?

Find out what a teaching assistant does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a teaching assistant.

Teaching assistants (TAs) are the support staff of academia. They work directly with professors and students to help facilitate classroom instruction, provide additional assistance outside of class time, and generally make sure that everything runs smoothly in the course they’re assisting with.

Teaching assistants may be assigned to any number of different courses or subject areas, but their primary role is always the same: to help teachers deliver quality instruction to their students.

Teaching Assistant Job Duties

A teaching assistant typically has a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Helping students with their work by providing individualized support as needed
  • Conducting research on topics related to the subject being taught, such as history or science
  • Providing feedback on student progress during lessons or class meetings to help guide teaching methods
  • Assisting teachers with administrative tasks such as preparing materials for class or grading papers
  • Providing assistance to students with disabilities who may require special attention
  • Preparing for class by setting up materials and resources needed for instruction 
  • Assisting in discipline procedures when a student acts out in class
  • Promoting a positive learning environment by encouraging good behavior among students while discouraging disruptive behavior 
  • Providing academic support to students in need of assistance in order to help them succeed in their studies

Teaching Assistant Salary & Outlook

Teaching assistant salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of school they work in. They may also receive benefits, such as health insurance, paid vacation days, and retirement contributions.

  • Median Annual Salary: $31,500 ($15.14/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $49,500 ($23.8/hour)

The employment of teaching assistants is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

Schools will continue to hire teaching assistants to provide one-on-one instruction for students with special needs and to help teachers with classroom management. However, budget constraints may limit the number of teaching assistants schools can hire.

Related: In-Depth Teaching Assistant Salary Guide

Teaching Assistant Job Requirements

A teaching assistant typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Most teaching assistant positions require at least a bachelor’s degree. Some positions may require a master’s degree. A teaching assistant’s degree can be in any field, but most have a degree in education or a related field.

Training & Experience: Many teaching assistants will receive on-the-job training from their new employer. This training may include shadowing a current teaching assistant or teacher to learn the classroom procedures and lesson plans. Some teaching assistants may also receive training in a teacher’s classroom before the start of the school year.

Teaching assistants may also receive training in a teacher’s classroom before the start of the school year.

Certifications & Licenses: Teaching assistants must undergo background and fingerprinting checks to get licensed. Depending on the state, teaching assistants may need to pass tests in reading, writing and basic math to earn a license.

Many schools require teaching assistants to hold a license or certification in childcare, so check your local and state requirements.

Teaching Assistant Skills

Teaching assistants need the following skills in order to be successful:

Patience: Having patience as a teaching assistant is important because you may be working with students who have different learning styles, personalities and abilities. You can show patience by listening to students and allowing them to take their time when learning new skills.

Organization: Being able to maintain a clean and organized classroom is a valuable skill for a teaching assistant. Employers may also be impressed by your ability to organize your own workspace. Demonstrating your organizational skills can help you be an effective teaching assistant.

Communication: Communication is another skill that can be useful for a teaching assistant. You may be working with a teacher who has a hearing impairment or a teacher who has a different native language than you. It’s important to be able to communicate with them effectively.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. This is a valuable trait for a teaching assistant to have, as it allows you to connect with your students and understand their needs.

Dependability: Being dependable means that you can be trusted to do your job well and on time. As a teaching assistant, you should be able to fulfill all of your duties and responsibilities on time. This is important to show your employer that you are a valuable member of their team.

Teaching Assistant Work Environment

Teaching assistants typically work in public or private schools, colleges, and universities. They may also work in child care centers, Head Start programs, and other settings that provide educational and developmental services to children. Teaching assistants typically work under the supervision of a licensed teacher and may be responsible for leading small groups of students, preparing instructional materials, grading student work, and providing one-on-one assistance to students. They may also be responsible for supervising students in the classroom and on the playground, and for maintaining discipline. Teaching assistants typically work a standard 40-hour week, although they may work additional hours to prepare for classes or to attend professional development workshops and conferences.

Teaching Assistant Trends

Here are three trends influencing how teaching assistants work. Teaching assistants will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

More Focus on Technology in the Classroom

As technology becomes more prevalent in the classroom, teaching assistants will need to be familiar with its use.

Teaching assistants can play a key role in helping teachers integrate technology into their lessons by providing support and assistance with hardware and software. They can also help to create a culture of innovation in the classroom that encourages students to explore new ways of learning.

More Collaboration Between Teachers and Teaching Assistants

Teaching assistants are increasingly being asked to take on more responsibility in the classroom, which is leading to a greater need for collaboration between them and the teacher.

This trend is likely to continue as schools look for ways to improve student outcomes and reduce costs. By collaborating with the teacher, teaching assistants can help to ensure that all students are receiving the attention they need and that everyone is on the same page when it comes to expectations and goals.

Greater Emphasis on Assessment

The education system is shifting towards a greater emphasis on assessment. This means that teaching assistants will need to be prepared to work with students on assessing their own progress and understanding what they need to do to improve.

In order to be successful in this environment, teaching assistants will need to be able to provide feedback that is both constructive and supportive. They will also need to be able to help students develop skills such as self-evaluation and reflection, which will be essential for success in the future.

How to Become a Teaching Assistant

A career as a teaching assistant can be a great way to get started in the education field. As a teaching assistant, you will have the opportunity to work with students of all ages and help them learn. You may also have the chance to develop your own lesson plans and try new teaching methods.

To become a teaching assistant, you will need to have a degree in education or a related field. You may also want to take courses in special education and child development. Additionally, it is important to have strong communication skills and be able to work well with children.

Related: How to Write a Teaching Assistant Resume

Advancement Prospects

Many teaching assistants eventually become full-time teachers. Some teaching assistants with a bachelor’s degree may be able to teach after completing a teacher education program and obtaining certification. Others may be able to teach with only on-the-job training. In addition, some teaching assistants may become principals, school counselors, or other administrators with additional education.

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