Teacher assistant jobs number over 1.2 million in the U.S. alone, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Working as an instructional assistant allows you to help students learn and develop while under the supervision of a certified teacher. If you're considering entering this supporting profession, you'll need to take at least some post-secondary classes that provide instruction on child development and teaching in either a preschool, grade, middle or high school classroom.
Taking It State By State
Depending on where you live, you'll need to take somewhat differing classes to become a certified instructional assistant. Additionally, the type of degree that you'll need -- such as a diploma or an associate -- varies per the individual state's rules and regulations. State departments of education typically regulate what qualifications a teacher's assistant needs to work in classrooms under the guidance of a licensed educator. For example, the New York Department of Education requires teacher's assistants to have anywhere from a high school diploma to 18 credits of post-secondary classes at a two- or four-year institution, depending on their level of certification.
Title 1 Considerations
Title 1 schools receiving federal government funds must follow strict guidelines when it comes to the quality of the curriculum and the educators themselves. According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, all paraprofessionals -- such as instructional assistants -- who work in Title 1 schools must have a high school diploma or GED along with an associate degree or two years of education-related courses completed at a four-year college. Alternatively, Oklahoma teacher's assistants -- like paraprofessionals in some states -- can take an assessment test as a substitute for a college degree.
Whether you only need to take a few classes to become a certified instructional assistant or need an actual degree, you'll get at least some of your education through lecture-based courses. These classes typically include content on child development, educational practices, human learning and professionalism in the educational setting. For example, Gateway Technical College in Wisconsin includes a four-semester curriculum for their associate degree, with classes such as Introduction to Educational Practices, Child and Adolescent Development, Guiding and Managing behavior and Supporting Students with Disabilities. Other courses focus on assisting with more specific educational content, such as science, language arts and mathematics.
If you're completing an associate degree program for instructional assistant, it's likely that you'll need to take a hands-on or practical course. these classes include field placements in a school -- under the supervision of a classroom teacher or your professor -- working with children. For example, the Northcentral Technical College in Wisconsin includes a practicum course that allows instructional assistant students to observe children in a classroom setting while receiving direction from a licensed teacher.