What Are Teacher Assistant Duties? (Plus Salary and FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Teacher assistants provide support to a classroom's teacher and students. While teachers determine the lesson materials they want to cover, teacher assistants help them deliver these lesson materials and help them perform their other classroom duties with greater efficiency. Understanding the role of a teacher assistant can help you determine whether it's the right career choice for you. In this article, we explain the duties, skills and requirements of a teacher assistant, and answer frequently asked questions related to this career.

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What is a teacher assistant?

A teaching assistant is an education professional who helps teachers deliver their lesson plans during class. They work with teachers to assist with any duties they may need help with, such as working individually with students to improve their performance or answering questions about a particular assignment. Overall, a teacher assistant is a supportive role that helps teachers perform their duties more effectively and helps students receive a better education overall.

What are some teacher assistant duties?

Some teacher assistant duties involve helping pupils, a classroom or specialist teacher and the school they work for. Here are some of their common responsibilities:

Assisting the classroom teacher

Teacher assistants provide a wide variety of support to teachers to ensure a functioning classroom. Here are some of a teacher assistant's duties that involve helping a classroom teacher:

  • Work with the supervising teacher to evaluate student progress

  • Take attendance each day and report it to the teacher

  • Buy or gather necessary supplies as needed for each lesson

  • Supervise students at lunch or outside the classroom

  • Meet with the teacher to discuss upcoming assignments

  • Help with meal times in classrooms with small children or with students with disabilities

  • Help teachers manage student social interactions and behaviour

Supporting students

Apart from helping teachers, teacher assistants also provide students with motivation and support to ensure their academic success. Here are some of a teacher assistant's duties that involve helping classroom students:

  • Review class lessons to small groups of students

  • Clarify and explain instructions to students

  • Ensure students know how to use the necessary tools and equipment

  • Help students focus on their work

  • Motivate and encourage students

  • Help students with their various areas of academic weakness

  • Ensure the health and safety of students in a classroom and other school premises

Apart from these duties, teacher assistants may also work in a separate classroom to help students with disabilities, while the classroom teacher instructs the rest of the class in a different room.

Helping the school

While teacher assistants mostly help a classroom teacher and their students, they also support the school they work for. Here are some of those duties:

  • Lead or supervise extracurricular activities for students per school requirements

  • Attend school special events as required

  • Help with parent/teacher meetings

  • Follow school policies and procedures

  • Complete other tasks as required by the principal or head of school

  • Perform regular break and lunchtime duties as required

Related: What Are the Most Important Teacher Responsibilities?

Teacher assistant requirements

To become a teacher assistant, it's important to attain the right credentials and qualifications. Having the right resume for the job may give you a greater chance of finding employment. Here are the requirements for becoming a teacher assistant:

Education

The specific education requirements for this profession vary depending on the grade level you plan to help teach and the type of school you work for. While some schools only require the right set of skills, others may require as high as a master's degree. Even if a school doesn't require a degree, earning one may help you impress hiring managers. A degree may also help you perform your job with greater ease and help you advance more easily in the future. For example, if you plan to become a teacher later on in your career, consider earning a bachelor's degree in this field to better prepare you.

Licensing and certification

While it's possible to teach in some capacity without a technical qualification, pursuing a Teaching English as a Secondary Language (TESOL) or Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification courses can better prepare you for any type of teaching career. Earning the TESOL or TEFL certification means you know how to teach students who don't use English as their primary language. Both certification courses are smart investments since they're internationally recognised.

What skills do you need as a teaching assistant?

As a teacher's assistant, it's important to have many skills to complete your duties. Here are some common skills for this role:

  • Communication skills: A teaching assistant communicates a daily lesson for all students to understand. They also use this skill to talk to counsellors or parents about a student's progress.

  • Creativity and resourcefulness: Some students may not understand the original concept that a teaching assistant presents, so teachers find alternate ways to explain this information for them to better comprehend. Using their resourcefulness, they can explain lesson plans in a way that's customised to an individual student's abilities and learning style.

  • Patience: Teacher assistants require patience when working with students. They may have to repeat instructions multiple times or work with students on the same lesson repeatedly.

  • Empathy: If a student gets upset when they're unable to comprehend a lesson, a teacher assistant uses empathy to help them understand their frustrations and to let them know that they're there to help them.

  • Willingness to learn: Teacher assistants often learn new material each year as the classroom teacher updates their curriculum. It's important for teacher assistants to learn new information and retain it so they can help students with any questions they have.

  • Computer skills: Many teacher assistant jobs require the use of a computer, so it helps to know how to perform basic functions like using the internet and creating word documents. Some teacher assistants may send emails to other staff members or parents, research information for an assignment or make spreadsheets to compile student data.

  • Interpersonal skills: Strong interpersonal skills help teacher assistants maintain good working relationships with students, parents, teachers and administrators. Interpersonal skills also help teacher assistants maintain a good classroom dynamic.

Related: 10 Effective Communication Skills for Career Success

Average salary for a teacher assistant

Teaching assistant salaries earn an average salary of $66.82 per hour. However, your salary in this position may vary based on your place of employment, experience level and employer. It's also important to keep in mind that your salary as a teacher assistant may fluctuate depending on the number of hours you work.

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Frequently asked questions about teacher assistants

Here are some common questions about teacher assistants:

What is the work environment like for a teacher assistant?

Teacher assistants may work in a variety of settings, such as in colleges, universities, elementary, middle and high schools or early education centres. They spend most of their time inside the classroom, but may also assist with activities outside, such as supervising students getting on the bus or during recess.

Inside the classroom, they spend some time sitting while helping individual students in a study session. They may also walk around to see who needs help in the classroom. Depending on the setting they work in, a teacher assistant may spend time bending down or squatting to better assist students. More physical work may be necessary for teacher assistants who work with special education students who require additional assistance.

What type of schedule does a teacher assistant have?

Many teacher assistants work part-time hours, but some may work full-time. Their schedule is often Monday through Friday, but they may work on the weekends if necessary. Teacher assistants usually work during the day, but can assist in the evening with special events. Like teachers, teacher assistants have the summer off from work. However, some work in summer school or summer programmes.

What are some similar careers to that of a teacher assistant?

Here are some careers that are similar to teacher assistants:

  • Special education teacher: These teachers educate students with learning, educational, mental or physical disabilities.

  • Teacher: Teachers are educators who help students attain academic knowledge or competence.

  • Preschool teacher: This type of teacher helps young children prepare for the next step in their education through activities, games and playing.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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