- Paraprofessionals assist teachers in and outside of classrooms.
- They must possess the skills of empathy, communication, authority, and self-motivation.
- The ParaPro assessment can help you become a paraprofessional in schools.
- It is an entry-level field to start a career in the education field.
“If the Gods grant me a thousand lives and a thousand wishes, in each life, I would wish to be a Child.”
If you ask me, what is the most beautiful feeling in this world? It is to just see a child giggling, growing, and being.
The paraprofessionals ensure that it happens in a safe environment. But exactly what is a paraprofessional job? What do they do?
True, they help children achieve their educational goals for school. But in essence, they do a lot more than that.
In this blog, I will help you understand the definition of paraprofessionals, their salary, ways to become one, and the pros and cons of this field.
What is a Paraprofessional?: Definition of Paraprofessionals
While thinking about entering this field, you might wonder, exactly what is a paraprofessional in schools?
- The term “paraprofessionals” also goes by the names – paraeducators, paras, instructional aides, teacher assistants, classroom assistants, or parapros.
- They assist classroom teachers in their work.
- Paras are not certified teachers but are an essential part of the school’s support staff.
Once you have understood the definition of paraprofessionals, you might wonder what they do.
What Does a Paraprofessional Do?
A para in a school needs to perform a diverse amount of student-related work. For example:
- Instructional support: The para in schools provides extra support to students to reinforce learning.
- Language support: It helps English language learners understand classroom instructions and lessons and even improve reading comprehension.
- Behavioral support: Build relationships with students to assist in classroom behavior, behavioral interventions, and behavioral crises.
- Physical and Medical support: Work alongside children with physical disabilities and need for medical attention.
Therefore, as to the question, what does a paraprofessional do – they do almost everything that assists schools in working with children, as well as aid in the professional development for teachers.
Paraprofessional Job Description
A paraprofessional job description includes a variety of duties and responsibilities. Some examples of these duties are below.
- The paras help teachers prepare and grade assignments.
- They set up materials and equipment for class conduction.
- The para professional in schools also supervises students during field trips, lunch, and other activities.
- They engage with students to understand lessons and ideal classroom behavior.
- These professionals also collaborate with parents to help them understand reading levels by grade.
- They also help to minimize classroom disruptions and distractions.
A para professional school must also possess certain key skills:
- Empathy and love with students.
- Communication skills with teachers and students.
- Authority to ensure discipline.
- Self-motivation to help.
- Basic understanding of all subjects.
- Skills to simplify knowledge.
- Skills to understand and interact with parents.
Those looking for the job description also might wonder about the paraprofessional jobs available. Scroll below to find out!
In a school, paraprofessional jobs are required in the following fields.
- General Education
- Special Education
- Library Aide
- Playground Supervisor
- Students Interpreter
- Lab Assistant
- Medical Assistant
To work in a paraprofessional job you might find work on popular job sites, school websites, newspaper ads, and even freelancing websites.
Paraprofessional Salary: How Much Do Paraprofessionals Make?
The school paraprofessional salary varies by state and district. Their annual wage might differ between 20,000 and 30,000 USD. On a contract basis, they fetch around 14 USD per hour.
However, the salary varies significantly with the district, type of school, special expertise, and experience. A paraprofessional with more than 4 years of experience, and specialized knowledge, in a high-standard private institution, can earn a lot more than others with less experience, generalized knowledge, and less posh locality.
Therefore, it is always better to keep upskilling one’s expertise and knowledge in the field.
How to Become a Paraprofessional Educator?
In order to become a paraprofessional educator, one will need to fulfill some or all of the following conditions as mandated by the ESSA and school district.
- Completed high school education.
- Finished 2 years of college study.
- Holds an associate degree.
- Passed a state or local assessment.
- Relevant Certifications.
The ParaPro assessment is a test for paraprofessionals, which they must pass to be eligible in this field. It has been developed by the Educational Testing Service to hire the para in schools.
Following are the details of a ParaPro assessment test.
- It measures knowledge in areas of reading, math, and writing.
- Judges the practical application of knowledge – like their skills to apply instructional strategies in guided reading in a classroom.
- The time duration of this test for paraprofessionals is 2 hours and 30 minutes.
- The test consists of 90 multiple-choice questions to be answered online.
- An aspiring paraprofessional may register for the test online through the ETS website, or offline through a nearby test center.
- The registration fee for the test is 85 USD.
There are also certain paraprofessional certificates that can help one to enter this field.
- Level 1 Certificate: Entry-level certificate for paraprofessionals in schools. It’s valid for 3 years and may be renewed for an additional three years.
- Level 2 Certificate: This certificate is valid for 3 years and is non-renewable. It requires at least 1-year full-time experience in a school and a Level 1 certificate.
- Level 3 Certificate: This third-level certificate is perpetually valid. It requires the paras to – have at least 1-year full-time experience as a paraprofessional, a valid Level 1 or 2 certificate, or 1-year full-time experience as a classroom teacher.
- Pre-Professional Teaching Assistant Certificate: The fourth-level paraprofessional certificate, valid for 5 years. It requires at least 1-year experience in a school and a level 1/2/3 certificate. It can be renewed by completing 30 hours of college study and a teacher preparation program.
- Teaching Assistant Certificate: It’s issued to permit continued employment of a para professional school. This fifth-level certificate is perpetually valid, though it demands at least six semester hours of study in education and 1-year experience.
Hence, a paraprofessional certificate can help you gain and continue employment in this field in both private and public schools.
Pros and Cons of Becoming a Paraprofessional
There are several pros and cons of becoming a para in schools.
The following are the major pros of this field:
- A para teacher has the opportunity to connect with children and make a positive impact on their lives.
- A field to advance one’s career in the education industry
- It also provides the opportunity to learn from experienced and licensed teachers in the schools.
- This job is good for those willing to start at entry-level positions.
Some of the major cons of this field are:
- A para teacher might complain about the low pay in this field.
- There is a high level of stress in a paraprofessional job.
- The opportunities are limited to actually applying co-teaching models in teaching or preparing learning materials.
- Some in this field also complain about the lack of career growth and routine work after some time.
To Sum it Up
Paraprofessionals play a significant role in aiding in the child’s development and hands-on learning in schools.
It is also the job of a para in schools to ensure that the teachers can easily perform all of their students’ related functions.
Some might complain the job has high stress and low pay, but it is a wonderful opportunity to connect with children and start one’s career in the education industry.
Ans: In Greek, ‘para’ means ‘alongside’. Thus, the ‘paraprofessional’ word was introduced to describe the assistants who work to help teachers.
Ans: The job of a paraprofessional is dignified and requires a good amount of skills in dealing with students, teachers, and parents.
Ans: In the US, paraprofessionals make the most money in the states of Brooklyn, Aurora, and Denver.
Ans: You can gain some experience in the field, and then apply for degrees and certificates that can help you to become a certified teacher.
Ans: It depends on the general code of conduct at the school. But you must wear clean, less exposing clothing.
Ans: To efficiently use or deal with a para in the classroom, develop a relationship with him/her, plan lessons together, and discuss what you expect.