How Do I Become a Teaching Assistant?

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Updated August 4, 2020

For individuals interested in working with children in elementary and secondary classrooms without becoming a teacher, how to become a teaching assistant is another option to explore. A teaching assistant works closely with a lead classroom teacher and the students in a classroom to create a positive learning environment for everyone.

Education Programs for Teaching Assistants

Although not always required, completing a degree or training program is often the first step for finding a position as a teaching assistant. Future assistant educators accumulate knowledge and skill in areas that include techniques for teaching specific content subject areas, resources to utilize in the classroom, and additional courses in teaching methods and psychology.

Teaching methods and psychology courses help teaching assistants in the management of a classroom and for working with students. Examples of common courses include behavior management, child and adolescent development, special education overview, supporting students with disabilities, family theory, and classroom management techniques. Students in a teaching assistant program might also complete courses such as techniques for math and literacy support. Courses such as computers for professionals, media resources, and interpersonal communication are also beneficial for supporting learning in a classroom.

Teaching Assistant Certification and Licensing

The certification requirements for teaching assistants varies by state. Most states do require teaching assistants to be certified in order to work in a classroom. Additionally, though a state agency may not require specific criteria to be fulfilled before entering a classroom, individual districts might have policies on hiring. There are several possible requirements a candidate may have to meet in order to obtain the certification or a position.

First, the majority of teaching assistants will have to complete some education. The common standard is a minimum of an associate's degree in instructional assistantship or a similar program. In some states, a high school diploma with up to 18 credits of college courses will also satisfy the education requirement.

In addition, in most states, teaching assistants must successfully complete a state certification examination in order to begin working in a classroom with a lead, certified teacher. More information on example tests can be found at the Educational Testing Service website.

For all teaching assistants, a criminal background check is also mandatory in order to begin working in a school district. Some states or districts may also require additional qualifications, such as fieldwork in a classroom or observation study from a college practicum. Additional requirements might also apply for teaching assistants looking to work in special education classrooms.

Related Resource: Master's in Education

Classroom Responsibilities for Teaching Assistants

The education and certification requirements help prepare future teaching assistants to perform a number of tasks in the classroom. Teaching assistants are often found working with small groups, giving additional support in learning, tutoring in specific subject areas, supervising classroom activities, implementing school policy and rules, and providing additional support in grading and lesson delivery activities.

Teaching assistants are an integral part of many school districts around the country, enabling a school to offer the support that all students need to be successful. After finding out how to become a teaching assistant, many individuals will find a career that offers opportunities to work with children and in education.

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