If you live in New York City and you want to work in a school system, there are many other professions to consider besides just being a teacher. You can be a coach, a janitor, a secretary or even a paraprofessional. Becoming a paraprofessional is a great option if you're not quite qualified to be a teacher, but you want to work with kids or gain relevant experience so that you can become a teacher one day. While in many states the requirements for becoming a paraprofessional are quite lenient, New York City and New York State, in general, have some stricter requirements. If you're wondering "What's a paraprofessional?" then it might just be the job you've been searching for.
What's a Paraprofessional?
A paraprofessional, also commonly referred to as a "para" or even a "parapro," is essentially a student aide. Even though a paraprofessional doesn't hold the same qualifications as a teacher, they're often required to put in a similar level of work, and the role they play in the school environment is extremely important. Many students who are in special education will require the support of a one-on-one paraprofessional as part of their Individualized Education Program, or IEP. There are no additional special education paraprofessional requirements to do this, as most paraprofessionals already work in special education, anyway.
A paraprofessional can be instrumental in the life of a student with special needs. Paraprofessionals have helped many students overcome obstacles, succeed in the classroom and even just help them feel safe and supported while in school. Although many paraprofessionals are assigned to one student, they may also choose to help the teacher out with other students who are struggling in the classroom.
Obtaining a Paraprofessional Certification
In many states, if a person wants to work as a parapro they must have completed at least two years of college and have obtained an associates degree, or have taken enough credits in education to be qualified. But, if you want to be a paraprofessional in New York City, you must also obtain a Level I, Level II or Level III Teaching Certificate.
In order to obtain a Level I paraprofessional certification, you must submit a copy of your high school diploma, GED or HSE, or an official high school or college transcript that demonstrates you've received a degree conferral. You must pass the New York State Teacher Certification Exam: Teaching Assistant Skills Test (ATAS), get fingerprint clearance and take three required workshops.
In order to obtain the Level II paraprofessional certificate, you must have the same requirements as Level I, as well as one year of experience as a paraprofessional and at least nine semester hours of college coursework completed. Some people are able to skip over the Level II certificate to obtain the Level III paraprofessional certification directly, which requires the same criteria as Level I, in addition to 18 semester hours of college coursework completed, one year of experience as a paraprofessional and permanent residence or citizenship status in the United States.
Other Things to Consider
A parapro can be a very rewarding job and it can help you build up your experience to eventually become a teacher if that's what you desire. But, even if you never decide to become a teacher, you'll surely enjoy the experience of being an aide or teacher's assistant. It's important to keep in mind that the average salary for a full-time paraprofessional in NYC is just under $30,000, which may be considered low when you take into account the cost of living in NYC. If you decide that being a paraprofessional isn't for you, at least you can answer others who are wondering what's a paraprofessional, and what are the requirements to become one.