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Paraeducators

Paraprofessionals, teacher's aides, educational assistants, instructional assistants, paraeducators - these different job titles (and there are more) reflect the variety of roles and responsibilities of this key member of the special education team. Today's paraeducator may be found in a pre-kindergarten class for children with special needs, out in the community, serving as a job coach for a student with developmental disabilities, in a resource room for adolescents with learning disabilities, or in a 4th-grade classroom that contains some students with and without special needs. In short, paraeducators are present in most educational settings under the supervision of the teacher, and they have skills and contributions that make them highly valued and sought after in education.

Nature of Work:

  • Paraprofessionals, teacher's aides, educational assistants, instructional assistants, paraeducators - these different job titles (and there are more) reflect the variety of roles and responsibilities of this key member of the special education team
  • Paraeducators are present in most educational settings under the supervision of the teacher, and they have skills and contributions that make them highly valued and sought after in education.
  • From grading papers to delivering lessons to one-on-one help for a student, the paraeducator assists the classroom teacher in small group and instructional lessons. Paraeducators are often called upon to deliver the lessons, grade homework and standardized tests, participate in classroom activities, and in general "be there" for the students and the teacher.

Education Required:

  • Some states have certification procedures for paraeducators, but most do not. Roughly 70% to 90% of paraeducators are hired without prior training. Much of the training that paraeducators receive is done on the job, by the teachers and other paraeducators
  • Some districts do provide a career ladder or tier program where paraeducators are encouraged to move along the ladder or up to the next tier with adequate training and compensation.
  • The Council for Exceptional Children has developed a set of Knowledge and Skills for Paraeducators that are being used by paraeducator training programs.

Personal Qualities:

  • enjoyment of children
  • willingness to assist and support the teacher
  • dedicated to helping students
  • flexible and resourceful
  • collaborate well with teachers and other paraeducators.

Job Outlook and Advancement:

  • Employment of teacher aides is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2006. Student enrollments at the elementary and secondary level are expected to rise, spurring strong demand for teacher aides to assist and monitor students and provide teachers with clerical assistance. Teacher aides will also be required to help teachers meet the educational needs of a growing special education population, particularly as these students are increasingly assimilated into general education classrooms. (BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook 1998-99)

How to Prepare for a Career:

  • The best way to find out what it is like to be a paraeducator is to try it out! Teachers are almost always willing to have a volunteer help them. This is an excellent way to observe what goes on in a classroom and get familiar with the work of a paraeducator. You can also help someone teach a class at his or her church, lead a scout troop, or work with other youth groups. Any opportunity to help work with children, and especially children with disabilities, can provide excellent experience

Related Careers:

Physical Therapy Assistants
Speech-Language Pathology Assistants

Resource Information:

Paraeducator Information


National Clearinghouse for Paraeducator Resources © Paraeducator Pathways into Teaching
University of Southern California
Rossier School of Education
Waite Phillips Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0031
Phone: 213-740-2360

National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals
Utah State University
6526 Old Main Hill
Logan, UT 84322-6526
Phone:  435-797-7272 or 801-272-1091 ext221



Check out some other great careers!


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The National Center to Improve the Recruitment and Retention of Qualified Personnel for Children with Disabilities (Personnel Improvement Center). A Cooperative Agreement, H325C080001, between the US Department of Education and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. Project Officer: Maryann McDermott
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Phone 703.519.3800 | Fax 703.519.3808
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