Teaching assistants are a valuable asset to teachers and their students. Without their help, teachers could not deliver quality instruction or have time to offer struggling students the attention they need. Teaching assistants support and reinforce instruction, help to maintain discipline and order, and are responsible for the safety of students while they are at school. There are no national standards that teaching assistants have to meet, but there are some general guidelines common among most states.
A teaching assistant is usually required to have an associate's (AA) degree in a program of study related to early childhood education or development. Some school districts hire teacher assistants and allow them to work while they are completing their college education. Some schools require that teaching assistants periodically take additional coursework to stay apprised of effective classroom strategies.
Some states do have teaching assistant certification programs with educational requirements that are similar to those required of classroom teachers. In addition, school districts may have teacher assistant training programs that employees must complete before they can begin work.
Most states have an assessment requirement for teaching assistants. They are required to achieve a passing score on general knowledge tests to indicate basic proficiency in math, reading and writing. A few states accept proficient test scores in lieu of educational requirements.
Teacher assistants usually must have additional training appropriate for their employment situation. For example, teaching assistants working with very young or special needs students may have to complete first aid/CPR training. Teaching assistants in special education classrooms may need training in specific areas of disability so they can best serve their students.
Teaching assistants are not required to have experience, but employment in day care centres or nurseries will be beneficial in the classroom. Years of experience can also be a determining factor in a school district's salary scale and in opportunities for advancement.