Do I Need a Bachelor’s Degree To Be a Teacher’s Assistant?

Teacher's AssistantAs education in the United States struggles to keep up with the rest of the world’s test scores and proficiencies, many people have wondered if they need a bachelor’s degree for a teaching assistant position near them. That’s not surprising as educational assistants have been one of the most robust areas for new occupational growth in the education world for the past decade. Though the position is easily one of the most important when it comes to fostering student learning and helping those who might struggle with classroom content, current state requirements across the country enforce no undergraduate education requirement for the typical paraprofessional position. With that said, other requirements do come into place in some states where the profession is being more tightly regulated.

Not Required, But Preferred: A Look at Educational Attainment

Generally, states do not require paraprofessionals or teacher’s assistants to have obtained a bachelor’s degree in order to land the job. This is because most assistants are responsible only for tutoring students or assisting them with basic exam-related questions. They’re not responsible for creating a curriculum, developing lesson plans, enforcing classroom management, or conducting any other tasks that are typically learned during undergraduate teaching programs.

With that said, states today do tend to prefer those applicants who have at least some collegiate coursework completed at some point in the past. This coursework doesn’t have to be related to the education world, but it should be enough to show that the applicant values education and has some added experience that might be handy when helping students.

Certification is a Sufficiently Replacement for a Bachelor’s Degree

The reason most states don’t require their paraprofessionals hires to have obtained a bachelor’s degree is because they require them to pass a state certification examination. The state certification examination tests them on basic math, reading, writing, and other skills that they’ll need on the job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Some states require this exam to be passed before the teacher’s assistant can start their position, while others have a “soft requirement” and prefer that the exam is passed within several months or years of employment.

Most states pair their certification exam for teacher’s assistants with professional education before the test and ongoing professional development afterward. In this way, the profession is actually pretty similar to a standard teaching position where professional development time is enforced occasionally throughout the year. Long-time paraprofessionals in today’s schools often end up having a significant understanding of the learning process, on par with many educators, by the end of their career for this reason.

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Further Education May be Subsidized by the School District

Though paraprofessionals are not certified teachers and are not subject to the same requirements, many of them enjoy the same educational benefits offered to teachers by the school district. That means many of today’s teacher’s assistants might be able to pay for all or part of their education through school subsidies and tuition reimbursement programs, and it means that they may later become a leading candidate for a licensed teacher position in the school district.

In fact, tuition reimbursement and eventual graduation from an education program is the “in” that many adult, aspiring teachers pursue before fully committing to the profession. Either way, the lack of an initially required bachelor’s degree for a teacher’s assistant makes this career more accessible than many, and it’s a great way to put a passion for education to work for today’s students.