How to become a teaching assistant

Do you aspire to work with children? Perhaps you want to help young people realise their potential? If so, a role as a teaching assistant could be the perfect career for you.

Becoming a teaching assistant is hugely rewarding. You’ll be working alongside students from all walks of life, using your skills, knowledge, and experience to make sure they get the support they need.

Sound good? Then keep reading, as we take an in-depth look at what it takes to become a teaching assistant. Our guide covers everything from the qualifications you’ll need to the career progression you can expect, so you can take your first step towards becoming a TA with confidence.

A teacher sitting with pupils while they work

What is a teaching assistant?

A teaching assistant (TA) is someone who supports learning in schools. Working with pupils and teachers, they provide help and support in the classroom and beyond – ensuring that every child, regardless of background, can fulfil their potential.

Becoming a teaching assistant promises a rewarding and varied career, in which you’ll always be taking on challenges and meeting new people. The great thing about being a TA is that the work you do will make a real and profound difference to young people, giving them the support and guidance they need to succeed.

Here are some of the duties you’ll be responsible for as a teaching assistant:

  • Making sure pupils are engaged and focused on their learning during classes
  • Supporting teachers in addressing challenging behaviour in and out of the classroom
  • Promoting positive behaviour with compassionate, measured guidance
  • Monitoring the progress of pupils who may be falling behind their peers
  • Helping with day-to-day activities in the classroom, e.g. listening to pupils read
  • Supporting safeguarding efforts with regular monitoring and reporting
  • Helping with administrative tasks, like arranging trips or clearing the classroom at the end of a lesson
  • Taking care of pupils who have had accidents or require additional mobility support
  • Lending an empathetic ear to pupils in distress.

And as your career progresses, you may take on advanced duties, such as:

  • Assisting pupils with special educational needs (SEN)
  • Leading activities or lessons independently
  • Supervising junior TAs
  • Coordinating the school’s TA strategy
  • Helping teachers plan lessons in line with the curriculum.

What qualifications and experience do you need to become a teaching assistant?

The qualifications you need to become a teaching assistant depend on the entry level. For example, junior TAs typically need GCSEs (National 4 and 5 in Scotland) or equivalent in maths and English, while for more senior positions, a degree may be required to demonstrate your skills.

Several route-of-entry TA qualifications can be completed before you start work in an education setting. These include most Level 1 courses, as well as some Level 2.

For more advanced teaching assistant qualifications, however, you’ll need to be working in a school or gaining experience as part of a practical work-based placement. Once you’re working in a school, to become fully qualified as a TA you’d need to complete a nationally recognised qualification such as the NCFE CACHE Level 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning. There are other qualifications you could also take to boost your skills, knowledge, and career potential, such as:

Expanding your skillset with relevant teaching assistant qualifications can help progress your career, giving you the skills and expertise to take on more responsibility in the classroom. View our full range of distance learning teaching assistant courses here.

Relevant experience working with children can also be a bonus when applying for TA positions. Whether it’s childcare, nursery assisting, or voluntary youth work; any experience you have of working with children and young people will be a major plus on your application.

teacher laughing with children

How much do teaching assistants earn?

Unlike teachers, there’s no national pay scale for teaching assistants. However, most schools and academies follow local government salary guidelines for TA practitioners.

Below, we’ve set out typical salaries for teaching assistant positions at different qualification levels.

  • Entry Level-Level 1: Permanent TAs can expect a salary of around £17,000
  • Level 2: At Level 2, additional responsibilities mean you could be paid between £18,000-£21,000.
  • Level 3 and over: Full-time Level 3 (and above) TAs could earn up to and above £25,000, depending on their skills, qualifications, and experience.

The above salaries are for reference only and will vary depending on the school and the local authority area. It’s also worth noting that many teaching assistants don’t work full-time hours; instead, they work part-time or on a term-time, pro-rata basis.

What type of person would suit being a teaching assistant?

Becoming an effective teaching assistant can be challenging, so you’ll need the right attributes to take on the demands of the position. Remember, you’ll be working alongside students with all sorts of behavioural, social, and physical care needs, meaning a lot of responsibility rests on your shoulders.

Here are a few of the skills, attributes, and characteristics required for the role.

  • Positive outlook towards children and young people
  • Patient, empathetic, and compassionate personality
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Proactive approach to learning new skills, policies, and practices
  • Innate respect for diversity and equality
  • Outstanding team-working skills
  • Creative aptitude
  • Principled approach to safeguarding, wellbeing, and safety
  • Professional attitude
  • Excellent organisational skills.

What are the benefits of becoming a teaching assistant?

Pursuing a role as a teaching assistant promises a challenging and fulfilling career, where you’ll be working to improve the learning and wellbeing of hundreds of young people over the years. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits you can enjoy as a qualified TA:

  • Job satisfaction – helping young people realise their potential is something you can’t put a price on, so job satisfaction is guaranteed.
  • Variety – ‘no two days are the same’ may sound like a tired expression, but it is true of a teaching assistant position. New challenges can arise at a minute’s notice, so you’re always kept on your toes.
  • Skill-building – teaching assistant roles are broad, with several avenues to pursue as you build your skills, knowledge, and expertise.
  • Duties and responsibilities – being a teaching assistant comes with a range of duties and responsibilities, further ensuring that no tw
  • o working weeks look the same.
  • Working with young people – if you love interacting with children and young people, a career as a TA is ideal for you. You’ll meet new faces every day, and have the opportunity to make a positive contribution to a young person’s future.
  • Flexible working hours – as touched on earlier, TA positions aren’t always permanent and full-time. Your hours of work may be flexible, giving you an excellent work-life balance.
  • People and community – if you’re a ‘people person’, a TA position means you’ll be part of a large community of teachers, parents, social workers, safeguarding officers, and fellow TAs, all working towards the same goals.
  • Limitless opportunities – did you know that many teaching assistants go on to become fully-qualified teachers? A TA position can be the jumping-off point for a long and varied career in education, with a whole range of courses and qualifications to help you achieve your goals.
teacher in a class full of children

What career progression can a teaching assistant expect?

As a teaching assistant, you can rise through the ranks by attaining additional qualifications to bolster your skillset. From entry level to HLTA (higher level teaching assistant), the range of different qualification options means a long and varied career lies ahead.

Many qualified teaching assistants branch out into other areas after getting their first job. The range of teaching assistant courses available means you’re in control of your career trajectory – whether you have aspirations to become a teacher or want to specialise in SEN or safeguarding.

We hope this guide on how to become a teaching assistant helps you realise your career aspirations. At Oxbridge, we offer a huge range of distance learning courses that can help you become a fully-qualified teaching assistant. For more information and to explore our full programme of courses, visit the homepage or call us today on 0121 630 3000.

How much does a teaching assistant earn?

£17,000
beginner/apprenctice
£18,000
established
£25,000
experienced

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