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How to Become a Teacher Assistant

Educational requirements, which vary by school district and position, range from a high school diploma to an associate’s degree.


Some districts require applicants to have a high school diploma; others require at least 2 years of college or an associate’s degree. Teacher assistants in schools that have Title 1 programs (a federal program for schools with a large proportion of students from low-income households) must have at least a 2-year degree, or 2 years of college, or pass a state or local assessment.

Associate’s degree programs for teacher assistants prepare the participants to develop educational materials, observe students, and understand the role of teachers in the classroom.

Most states require passing a skills-based test for instructional aides who work with special needs students.


Schools may provide training for teacher assistants to acquaint them with the school district and school policies. Unions or professional associations may offer additional training. Teacher assistants must familiarize themselves with the material their students are covering in class. Doing so may require reviewing the topics with teachers to ensure that the assistants understand and can properly explain the information to students.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Teacher assistants need to discuss students’ progress with teachers, so they need to be able to communicate well.

Instructional skills. To reinforce lessons, teacher assistants must explain information to students in a way that meets each student's learning style.

Patience. Working with students of different abilities and backgrounds can be difficult. Teacher assistants must be patient with students who struggle with material.

People skills. Teacher assistants interact with a variety of people, including teachers, students, parents, and administrators. They need to develop good working relationships with the people they work with.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition