Becoming a Paraprofessional
Educational paraprofessionals, also known as program or teacher assistants, have a variety of duties, including supervising students in the classroom, assisting with grading, and helping teachers provide instruction. In some cases, they may provide dedicated assistance to special education students or to students in general in dedicated locations, like computer labs. They can work in a broad array of settings, from public and private schools to child care centers. Paraprofessionals play a vital role in the success of special education programs.
Educational requirements for this position are based on a number of factors, including the school district, state, and position. These requirements range from a high school diploma to an associate’s degree.
In some districts, educational paraprofessionals are required to have at least a high school diploma and job training. While in high school, prospective paraprofessionals may benefit from observing in classrooms that serve students with special needs or taking relevant courses, such as psychology. Verbal communication is an important aspect of the profession, and aspiring paraprofessionals should work to develop efficient speaking skills.
Step 2: Receive a College Education
In many school districts, educational paraprofessionals are required to have at least two years of college or an associate’s degree. Associate’s degree programs, such as the Associate of Applied Science in Paraprofessional Education, can prepare students to play a variety of supportive roles in the classroom. Paraprofessionals in schools with high proportions of low-income students, known as Title 1 schools, are required to have an associate’s degree. Paraprofessionals who work with special needs students are required to pass a skills-based test in most states.
Step 3: Gain Experience
Educational paraprofessionals must be familiar with school district rules and procedures of operation. Schools, unions or other professional associations may provide training. Furthermore, teacher assistants must be knowledgeable of the academic material that will be covered in class. School districts generally require school employees to pass thorough background checks prior to working with children.
Step 4: Pursue Certification
Although paraprofessional certification is optional in some states, others list it as a requirement to work in this position. The requirements for this certification generally include passing skills and assessment tests, taking courses, and completing workshops. States may also require prospective paraprofessionals to have an understanding of basic instruction techniques.