What is the role of the paraprofessional?

The Greek prefix "para-" denotes parallel or side by side, therefore a paraprofessional is someone who works alongside a professional.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) uses the term paraprofessional, but they are also called teaching assistants, ed techs, classroom assistants, instructional aides, paraeducators, and paras.

Let us discuss the role of paraprofessionals in the education field to get an in-depth understanding of the stated profile

You don’t have to be a certified teacher to pursue this career. Your role will be as a school’s support staff.

What does a paraprofessional do? They render instructional, behavioral, and other support to students, both inside and outside the classroom.

Your paraprofessional job description will often mention that you have to work one-on-one with students who receive special education or those who have a 504 plan.

Here are some FAQs which we believe will help you understand paraprofessional duties better:

We have also compiled some training programs for paraprofessionals at the end of these FAQs.

Let’s get started.

Paraprofessional Duties and Responsibilities

Paraprofessional duties will include providing instructions, aiding with academics, monitoring behavior, facilitating socialization, and delivering physical support (if needed). The end goal of a paraprofessional is to work on making the student independent.


Instructional Support

A paraprofessional is supposed to reinforce learning when a particular student or a small group of students need extra support after a teacher’s lesson.

For example, a paraprofessional needs to prepare a teaching module for students who need extra help to understand a math unit, so the teacher can work with students who are ready to learn the next unit.

Communication Support

If you have command over more than one language, you can be helpful to students who are just beginning to learn English.

Paraprofessionals can translate the academic content of lessons by speaking with students in their native language.

This, in turn, can help them keep up with the rest of the students and take their own time to practice speaking English.

This will also make the students feel confident in communicating and not worried about not knowing the commonly spoken language.

Behavioral Support

Your paraprofessional job description might ask you to provide behavioral support to students. Now here, you will have to build strategies, such as appreciating students for appropriate behavior.

Many paraprofessionals also build a strong bond with their students. They spend more one-on-one time with students. It helps them glean insights that can help teachers understand what a particular student’s behavior is communicating.

This knowledge can help teachers respond to challenging behaviors with empathy.

Medical and Physical Support

Paraprofessionals can be appointed specifically for helping out children with physical disabilities. They can help the children build adaptive skills such as communicating and taking care of themselves.

They can collaborate with the school’s infirmary staff to help out students who need medical support. For example, there can be children who are at risk of seizures or who are prone to chronic allergies.

Paraprofessional Skills

Paraprofessionals require a variety of skills. You need to showcase combination skills on your resume that list both your relevant hard and soft skills. Make sure to include the specific keywords you find in your paraprofessional job description.

Some commonly required skills in a paraprofessional are:

Hard Skills Soft Skills
Child Supervision Interpersonal Skills
Academic Support Oral and Written Communication Skills
Behavior Management Intellectual Curiosity
Lesson Plans Teamwork
Emotional and Social Support Active Listening Skills

Also read: Common skills to put on your resume

What are the Different Types of Paraprofessionals?

Most of the schools enroll paraprofessionals to aid student learning. There are mainly two types of paraprofessionals in the schools:

  • Instructional paraprofessionals: They provide planned and evaluated instructions under the guidance of a licensed teacher, for the lessons and the child’s day-to-day activities in a school

  • Non-instructional paraprofessionals: They provide translation support, family engagement, student personal care, behavior management, technological support, food service, clerical support, and other duties that typically do not involve direct instruction to children

Different Types of Learning Environments that Require Paraprofessionals

As a teaching assistant, the duties of a paraprofessional differ from school to school. Often they aid children to complete their classwork and help get them onto buses. All in all, they do everything to help the teacher complete their goal for the day.

Here's a list of places where paraprofessionals are commonly required:

  • Elementary Schools
  • Special Education Classrooms
  • Early-Childhood Education Facilities
  • Daycare Centers and Preschools
  • Vocational Education Centers
  • Community Colleges
  • Adult Education Centers

Also read: How to create a paraprofessional resume?

What Do You Need to Be a Paraprofessional?

Let us hop on to the criteria required to be fulfilled to gain eligibility for this job.

Paraprofessionals usually require two years’ worth of undergraduate coursework or an associate degree. There is no specific subject specialization required in this field.

If you pursue paraprofessional education, it will help you prepare for a career in the classroom, with command over instruction techniques and ways to support teachers.

Certain associate programs involve practical training in which you get one-on-one time with students to experience real-life challenges.

Paraprofessionals working with special needs students need to qualify for an additional exam for first aid/CPR certification.

Training Programs for Paraprofessionals

4 training programs for paraprofessionals to further their education and career are:

You can look up some online Psychology degrees as well to help you better with understanding children’s behavior.

Different Types of Paraprofessional Jobs

Paraprofessionals is a widely used term particularly for para-educators, but there are a couple more fields where this term is equally valid.

The different types of paraprofessional jobs include fields of law, healthcare or engineering. Two well-known examples are:

  • Paramedics: They are the first responders in a variety of emergency situations, and also see the same types of patients as general practitioners. They are experts at providing in-home care for patients and are linked to various community teams.

  • Paralegals: They draft legal reports and supporting documents to assist attorneys. Paralegals also draft complaints, legal briefs, interrogatories, and pleadings.

Key Takeaways

Here are some key points that you can take away to find answers to your queries:

  • A paraprofessional works alongside a licensed teacher to assist with the day-to-day activities of students
  • As a paraprofessional, you need to provide instructional, communication, behavioral, and physical support to students as per their needs
  • There are mainly two types of paraprofessionals: instructional and non-instructional
  • A degree in paraprofessional education can help you in dealing with real-life challenges at school

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