If a career in education is something you've been dreaming of and you're inspired to help the next generation fulfil their potential, a teaching assistant (or TA) could be perfect for you.

Being a TA is often the natural first step towards becoming a teacher. But that isn't the only path you can take. Read on to learn more about why you should consider a career as a TA.

a teacher smiles attentively at a pupil

What does a TA do?

TAs support teachers both during lessons and in preparing teaching materials. During the lesson itself, TAs also act as an important extra pair of hands and eyes, helping to maintain student behaviour, focus, and work with students who may need closer one-to-one support. Their observations can be integral in enabling teachers and other school staff involved in student progression to identify challenges and put together plans to help pupils keep on track.

It is not uncommon for TAs to form strong connections with individual students. This means that a TA often becomes an initial point of contact for students in distress or struggling with issues outside of the classroom. Naturally, this means that TAs play an important role in supporting safeguarding measures.

Am I suited to be a TA?

A patient nature and an ability to communicate clearly are two essential characteristics of a TA, as is being a team player. If you're the type of person others turn to for advice or information, then you likely already have these aspects as natural components of your personality.

Having an awareness of and being a champion for equality is also vital as a TA. Recognising that every pupil is unique early is key for a successful career in education, not only as a TA but as you progress into senior positions or if you're considering going into a pastoral care role later on.

Is being a TA hard?

While being a TA is a rewarding career path with multiple branches, it is not without its challenges. You will encounter pupils with a variety of needs and will need to have these at the forefront of your mind at all times. In addition, you will need to be aware of how to react during conflicts or in a high-emotion situation, in other words, keeping calm under pressure.

You will often need to be a source of reassurance when students come to you with problems from outside the classroom. These range from conflicts with peers to problems at home and, in today's world of social media, online arguments. Wherever these issues arise, you will likely have a part to play in resolving them, so it is important that you listen without judgment and seek further guidance from colleagues where needed.

What do I need to study to become a TA?

While individual TA positions can have slightly different entry requirements, you will generally be required to have at least a GCSE in maths and English, as well as an industry-specific qualification, such as an NCFE CACHE award. Many schools will also require you to have completed a placement as part of your training.

Specific qualifications will be needed if you aspire to work with children with learning difficulties or with SEN requirements. Gaining these awards will be beneficial not only in your role as a TA, but also for future career development.

a teaching assistant reads to a class of young children

What other career prospects can I get?

Though the 'traditional' next step after being a TA is to become a full teacher, there are other career paths you can look into. For example, many of the skills you will learn from being in the classroom can also be applied to working in the field of young people's mental health or progressing into pastoral roles.

Gaining first-hand experience as a TA can also be ideal for working as a private tutor, ideal for getting a perfect work-life balance and continuing to support future generations with their development.

Ready to begin your career?

Being a teaching assistant opens a variety of pathways and can be one of the most fulfilling careers you can have. At Oxbridge, our online teaching assistant courses give you the flexibility to fit studying for this rewarding career journey around your current occupation or commitments, while still providing one-to-one support from an expert tutor.

To learn more about gaining a teaching assistant qualification with Oxbridge, speak to one of our learning advisers.