Many areas require teachers' aides or teaching assistants to earn a paraprofessional certificate before being allowed to work in a school. The qualifications for a paraprofessional certificate vary by jurisdiction as well as the career aspiration of the person applying for the certificate. Earning the certificate is often a matter of completing educational requirements, gaining actual classroom experience, and passing a background check. To learn how you can earn a paraprofessional certificate in your area, contact the government agency or licensing board to find out about its specific requirements.
In the United States, both paraprofessional and teaching certificates are issued by state regulatory agencies, which in some cases are one and the same. The Federal No Child Left Behind Act requires states to set appropriate standards for the certification of paraprofessionals who work in schools that receive Title I money. Title I funds are intended to assist schools that have a large percentage of low-income students. As a result, many states have established paraprofessional certificate and licensure programs.
To receive your paraprofessional certificate in many states, you must meet educational requirements. These requirements can vary widely by state, and in some places there are several educational tracks that can lead you to the same certificate. For example, you may have the option of completing an associate's degree, a certificate program in education, or other types of education. You may also be required to complete an exam and may need to show that you have worked in a school under supervision for certain number of hours. Many places require paraprofessionals to complete additional training in identifying and reporting suspected child abuse and neglect. Paraprofessionals may also be required to take first aid or CPR courses.
In some places, there is a hierarchy of paraprofessional certificates. Paraprofessionals with more experience or education can qualify for the higher-ranking certificates. As a result, they may be eligible for higher-paying jobs or additional responsibilities.
When applying for a paraprofessional certificate, you will likely be expected to complete an application form and agree to a thorough background check. This may include being fingerprinted. Once you've passed the background check and have demonstrated your credentials in the form of school transcripts or exam results, your application can be processed and your certificate awarded. Be aware that in many places you may be required to complete continuing education courses on a regular basis in order to maintain your certification.