Teachers' aides or assistants perform clerical and support tasks in a classroom so that teachers can devote more time to teaching and planning lessons. Aides can supervise students in hallways and schoolyards, set up equipment and help prepare instructional materials. Requirements for their profession are not quite as stringent as those of teachers.
Before they begin training for their profession, teachers’ aides must possess certain skills and abilities. They must be able to communicate orally in English in order to relay instructions to students, and must be able to listen actively to requests by teachers. They have to use both deductive and inductive reasoning to find solutions to problems, have the judgment and decision-making skills to choose courses of action, and be able to coordinate and monitor their tasks to ensure success.
Requirements for teachers’ aides vary by school district and state, with many requiring only a high school diploma since training is provided on the job. In Title 1 schools, which have a disproportionate number of low-income students, aides need at least some college training -- up to at least a two-year degree or two years of college -- or passing state exams. All aides receive some on-the-job training, since they must become familiar with the school system and its procedures. They must also learn to operate local equipment such as computers, audiovisual devices and business machines.
For some schools, teachers' aides must have previous experience working with children as well as a valid driver’s license. Background checks and drug testing may also be mandatory. Good writing skills are needed to communicate effectively with teachers, administrative staff and students. Finally, those with bilingual skills, particularly in Spanish, are in demand, especially in school districts in the Southwest where the primary language of many students is Spanish.
Jobs for teachers’ aides will grow by an average rate of 10 percent until 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The fastest growth will be for those with expertise in special education and English as a Second Language. Advancement in the field usually means greater responsibility or tuition reimbursement. Many aides use this educational opportunity to earn bachelor’s degrees so that they can become licensed teachers.