What Is a Paraprofessional?

By Brenda Decker

Female paraprofessional laughing and working with young student in classroom

A paraprofessional is a school employee who works in a classroom under an assigned certified or licensed teacher. Their primary role is to provide instructional support and non-instructional services to students who may require individualized support to reach their full potential.

Paraprofessional job duties may require you to assist students with special needs, keep administrative records of the students you help and uphold classroom management systems. If a supportive role within education interests you, read on to learn how to become a paraprofessional.

What Is a Paraprofessional Job Description?     

The ability to work with children in crowded classrooms and provide individual student attention is part of the paraprofessional’s job description. Your tasks within a paraprofessional job may vary depending on the school, the grade level and the needs of the students.

An instructional assistant or paraprofessional may perform the following tasks:

  • Work one-on-one with students to reinforce the lessons and answer their questions (i.e., instructional assistance)
  • Provide administrative support (e.g., attendance, grading, making copies)
  • Enforce classroom rules and positive behavior disciplines (i.e., classroom management)
  • Supervise kids during recess or on school trips
  • Assist students with special education needs and exceptionalities
  • Support students with personal care tasks (e.g., diapering, toileting, shoe-tying and handwashing)

Working to Supervise Students

There’s no question that teachers and schools are feeling the pressures of today’s teacher shortage. Teachers are being tasked with more responsibilities than ever before. This is where a paraprofessional’s job duties and vital role in the classroom come in to help. Paraprofessional skills and duties provide direct support to our certified educators, allowing teachers to focus fully on helping students learn.

The role of a paraprofessional is highly diversified and can be considered the backbone to supporting certified teachers and school staff. They work in both public and private K–12 schools, including some childcare centers.1

Six Types of Paraprofessional Jobs

According to the U.S. Department of Labor and numerous state education boards, the terms “paraeducators,” “paraprofessionals,” “instructional aides” and “teaching assistants” are synonymous.1 There are no real meaningful differences between the positions and each individual school district may use one term over the other to describe the position.

With similar qualifications and certifications, the paraprofessional job provides different types of classroom support for lead teachers, such as:

  • Special education support
  • Instructional support
  • Computer lab monitor
  • Library aide
  • Interpreter
  • Teacher’s aid
  • Playground monitor

Paraprofessional skills and responsibilities may vary between classrooms and depending on where you work within the school. Regardless of the setting where you perform your paraprofessional job duties, helping students with academic accommodations and modifications, facilitating social interactions, providing instructional support to the teacher and helping students become independent learners is always the main focus and goal.

Top Skills To Work With Students

Patience is a must in a paraprofessional job. You'll be working with kids of widely different abilities and backgrounds and will often be giving extra attention to students with exceptionalities. This takes an incredible amount of patience, compassion and understanding. Other important skills paraprofessional job applicants need are:

  • Appropriate communication when talking with students, teachers and staff
  • Interpersonal skills to positively connect with others
  • Self-motivated and eager to help
  • Basic knowledge of math, English and social studies to help teach those topics to struggling children
  • Ability to relay and simplify information to learners who may have difficulty understanding and processing information or directions
  • Apply appropriate discipline and language within the classroom and on campus

Three ways to master paraprofessional skills are to get to know the classroom you will be working in, learn each student’s accommodations and modifications, and follow the certified teacher’s lead within the classroom.

How To Become a Paraprofessional

Depending on the school or department, paraprofessionals (also known as teacher assistants) typically need at least one of the following to work as a paraprofessional:2

  • At least two years of completed college coursework
  • An associate degree
  • Pass a state or local assessment

If you are eager to know more about how to become a paraprofessional or how to gain paraprofessional skills, the BS in Educational Studies degree from GCU will put you on the necessary path to pursue a non-licensed teaching job, such as a paraprofessional.

Whether you’re interested in becoming a school administrator, working your way up to becoming a reading specialist, a K–8 teacher or a special education teacher, starting your career as a teaching assistant (or paraprofessional) is highly advantageous and the position is in great demand.


Retrieved from:

1 Chron, What Is Required to Be a Paraeducator? In August 2022

2 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, How to Become a Teacher Assistant in August 2022 


Approved by the Program Director of College of Education on November 11, 2022

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.