How to Become A Teaching Assistant

Do you want to become a teaching assistant? We’ll help you learn about the skills and qualifications that will help you get a teaching assistant job. How to apply for teaching assistant jobs. And, find out how much you’ll earn working as a teaching assistant.

Step 1: Learn about what teaching assistants do

Before starting a career as a teaching assistant learn about what teaching assistants do. Working as a teaching assistant is a rewarding job but it’s challenging too. You need to make sure it’s a good fit for your skills and personality. Read our guide about what teaching assistants do and find out more about the day-to-day life of a teaching assistant. This will vary depending the type of school you plan to work at and the age of the children you’ll be working with.

Step 2: Improve your chances of getting a teaching assistant job

It is possible to get a teaching assistant job with no qualifications in teaching. Schools set their own entry requirements for teaching assistant jobs. You may only need GCSEs grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) in English and maths or equivalent to apply. Find out more about how to get a teaching assistant job with no experience.

However, teaching assistant jobs are in high demand and schools often receive a high volume of applications.

To improve your chances of getting invited for an interview, you’ll need to:

  • Demonstrate that you can work well with children, teachers and parent
  • Have a qualification(s) in teaching, nursery work, childcare, playwork or youth work

If you’re confident that you already have the qualifications and experience to get a teaching assistant job, move onto step 6.

If not, you’ll need to choose one of the following as your next step;

  • enrol on a teaching assistant course
  • enrol on a teaching assistant apprenticeship
  • volunteer to gain experience to help get a job as a teaching assistant

Step 3: Enrol on a Teaching Assistant Course or Apprenticeship

The entry requirements for teaching assistant courses and apprenticeships are usually:

  • 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths for a T level

If you didn’t get a 9 to 4 (A* to C) in GCSE English and GCSE Maths, Functional Skills Level 2 qualifications are equivalent. Find out more about Functional Skills Maths Level 2 and Functional Skills English Level 2.

There are pros and cons of starting a teaching assistant course or an apprenticeship, including;

Teaching Assistant CourseTeaching Assistant Apprenticeship
Start from minimum wage of £8.72 an hourStart from minimum apprenticeship wage of £4.15 an hour (for the first year)
8 to 12 week course18 month course
Level 1, 2 or 3 Course OptionsLevel 3 Course
No guarantee you'll get a teaching assistant jobYou'll start a teaching assistant job as part of your apprenticeship

Whichever route you choose, gaining teaching assistant qualifications will be valuable when it comes to applying for jobs, negotiating pay rises and advancing your career.

Step 4: Gain some experience that will help you get a teaching assistant job

Try to gain some experience working with children through either paid or voluntary work. Examples include working as a sports coach, volunteering for youth groups or working as a nursery assistants.

Employers will look for transferable skills that will help you transition into working within a classroom setting. Where possible, try to get experience working with children at a similar age as you would in the teaching assistant job you’d like. If you plan to work in a specialist area or children with special education needs. Look for volunteering and work opportunities that are relevant. 

To volunteer in a school, nursery, college or another educational setting, contact the school or organisation directly. Most education organisations volunteers but you will need to be prepared to have a DBS check and be supervised in the initial stages of your placement.  

Step 5: Get more qualifications that are valuable in a teaching assistant role

Qualifications in childcare, safeguarding, first aid, and, equality and diversity will help you standout when candidates are being shortlisted for interview.

Step 6: Update your CV

Update your CV and include details of your new qualifications and the experience you have that demonstrates you’re well suited to working as a teaching assistant.

Step 7: Search for teaching assistant jobs to apply for

The next step is to search for teaching assistant jobs to apply for. We’ve written a short guide explaining how to find teaching assistants jobs.

When you’ve found some teaching assistant jobs you want to apply for, the next step is to write cover letters / personal statements for them.

Step 8: Write a Personal Statement /  Cover Letter

When writing your cover letter / personal statement for a teaching assistant job, use the job description to prioritise the qualifications and experience you highlight. If the job description details specific qualifications and you have them, mention that early. And work through the job description as you write the cover letter matching up your skills and experience with the skills and experience they’re looking for.

The main body of the cover letter should include a short introduction about who you are, why you’re a good fit for the role and any specific details that make you stand out. For example, working as a volunteer in a classroom setting would be a key asset if you’re applying for a teaching assistant job for the first time.

Next up, you should highlight your key skills and qualifications that make you an ideal candidate. This is where you should follow how skills and experience are prioritised in the job description. Avoid relisting everything in your CV, just focus on demonstrating you’re a great fit for the job role being advertised.

End the cover letter by thanking the person managing recruitment for their time. Be polite and professional and include your contact details.

You may be able to use the first cover letter as a template for other teaching assistant job applications. But we recommend ensuring that the cover letter you send for each job application is closely aligned with the job description.

Step 9: Interview Preparation

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking. Being well prepared for the interview will help you be more calm and confident.

In addition to dressing and presenting yourself professionally, prepare yourself for popular interview questions for teaching assistants. There are some great online resources listing popular teaching assistant interview questions. Take the time to plan how to answer them in the interview. Do whatever works best for you but that might include writing bullet points for key points for each question, or writing an answer longhand.

Read on to find out more about teaching assistant jobs, courses and qualifications.