Profiling a Career as a Teaching Assistant (French version available)
If you enjoy learning, sharing knowledge, and working with children, you’ve probably considered a career in education. But you may not be aware of the wide range of opportunities available in that field. Many administrators, librarians, advisors, and assistants support teachers in their daily duties. Perhaps the specific role of a classroom teacher isn’t appealing to you. That’s okay! And it certainly doesn’t mean a career in education is unattainable. Use this profile to gain insight into another great option: a career as a teaching assistant.
Roles and Responsibilities
Teaching assistants support teachers with a variety of classroom duties (e.g., creating lesson plans, facilitating learning activities, evaluating students, etc.). They can work in public and private school boards, special education centres, and other educational settings.
As a teaching assistant, you may be responsible for any of the following tasks:
- Preparing the classroom (e.g., setting up equipment, operating assistive technology, etc.)
- Grading assignments, tests, and/or presentations and recording student progress
- Supervising students during lunch, recess, and other breaks
Required Training and Education
To be a teaching assistant, you must complete a secondary school diploma and a college program ranging from 10 months to 2 years in length (depending on your province and local institutions). Some schools may also request First Aid and CPR certification or Nonviolent Crisis Intervention training.
If you want to work specifically with students with disabilities, additional training may be required. For example, it could be beneficial to pursue courses in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) or Developmental Support Services. You may also require additional training depending on the level of education you want to work at (i.e., in primary or secondary school).
Benefits of A Career as a Teaching Assistant
If you’re easily bored by a repetitive routine, this career is perfect for you. For a teaching assistant, every day is a little different. You might support students with academic subjects like maths and science one day and work on art projects the next. Sometimes you might help in the school library, while other times you could be asked to supervise field trips. Each day will bring a change of focus and pace.
Another significant benefit is the emotional satisfaction that can come from this job. If you like working with children, this career could be ideal. You will have the opportunity to participate in learning and recreational activities without the pressure of being a classroom teacher. Rather than taking the lead during lessons and projects, you can take a step back and spend your time providing extra support to the students who need it. It can be very rewarding to bond with them and know that you’re making a difference in their school experience.
Earnings and Career Prospects
The starting salary for teaching assistants ranges from $26,000 to $42,000 per year. With more experience and education, your salary can increase. The average teaching assistant in Canada earns approximately $49,000 annually, while the most experienced workers make more than $85,000.
The demand for teaching assistants is expected to stay consistent over the next few years. By 2028, there will be almost an even number of job seekers compared to job opportunities, which means that the field may be slightly competitive. As the world of education continues to grow and evolve, teaching assistants will remain a valuable resource to the school system.
Drawbacks and Challenges
There are drawbacks to this career choice. As a teaching assistant, you will likely be responsible for supporting students with emotional and behavioural challenges. It can be a strain when children act out or refuse to follow instructions. It can also be emotionally draining to support students with troubled families, mental health problems, or other sources of stress in their lives. While it may be rewarding to help students, teaching assistants can burn out if they push themselves too hard.
This career can be particularly difficult for someone who likes a consistent schedule. Teaching assistants often fill multiple roles at once – teaching, supervising, navigating classroom technology, distributing learning materials, etc. The environment is fast-paced and requires a strong ability to multi-task and adapt. If you want a calm, predictable career, this one may not be for you.
What Are My Other Options?
While training to be a teaching assistant, you will likely develop competencies in teaching and facilitating, multi-tasking, time management, and organization. You may also gain functional knowledge related to disabilities, developmental psychology, assistive technology, and school subjects like math and science. You could apply these skills and areas of knowledge to the following career paths:
- Developmental services worker
- Child and youth worker
- Administrative assistant
- Classroom teacher
- Librarian or library clerk
Additional training and credentials may be required.
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