What is a Paraprofessional?

What is a Paraprofessional?

Approximately 136,400 job openings for paraprofessionals are projected each year, with the career expected to grow nine percent from 2020 to 2030.

But what is a paraprofessional? Paraprofessionals usually serve as teacher assistants, offering support to students in and outside of the classroom.

Paraprofessionals play an essential role in schools and can significantly impact student learning.

Becoming a paraprofessional may require the successful completion of the ParaPro Assessment. Designed and administered by Education Testing Services (ETS), the general aptitude test is required in many states for paraprofessional certification.

Discover how you can become a paraprofessional here.

What Is a Paraprofessional?

If you want to work in the field of education or you enjoy working alongside children, a job as a paraprofessional might be for you.

A paraprofessional, also known as a teacher assistant or teacher aide, is a specially trained and credentialed educational worker who provides support to students in school under the guidance of a certified teacher.

Paraprofessionals work in various educational environments, including childcare facilities, private schools, and public school systems.

What Does a Paraprofessional Do?

Paraprofessionals generally work with students in groups and individually during lessons. However, it is not uncommon for paraprofessionals to offer support to students outside of the classroom, too.

Paraprofessionals predominantly work with students with special needs. This can include students with neurological and learning disorders, physical disabilities, and behavioral disorders.

In fact, many paraprofessionals work in special education schools. When this is the case, the paraprofessional’s role slightly differs from that of a traditional learning environment.

For example, they may assist the school nurse in providing students with medical support or help feed or take a student to the bathroom.

Other duties and responsibilities include:

  • Assisting with lesson plans and materials

  • Reinforcing lesson material

  • Enforcing class and school rules

  • Grading homework

  • Setting up equipment

  • Supervising students

  • Assisting teachers in tracking student progress

  • Empowering students

  • Minimizing distractions and disruptions

Successful paraprofessionals display several admirable qualities, including warmth, attentiveness, and excellent written and verbal communication skills.

Without paraprofessionals, students would miss out on one-on-one support that can contribute significantly to their learning and wellbeing.

What Is the ParaPro Assessment?

The ParaPro Assessment is a general aptitude test owned by ETS. It measures skills and knowledge in reading, mathematics, and writing. The test is designed to meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), recently replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The ParaPro Assessment is computer-administered with primarily multiple-choice questions. However, you may encounter other questions, including numeric answers, drag-and-drop responses, and those requiring selection from a drop-down menu.

There are three sections of the ParaPro Assessment:

  1. Reading

  2. Writing

  3. Mathematics

The exam consists of 90 questions divided into three content areas. You have two and a half hours to complete the test, and each section is weighted equally. A calculator is not permitted during the exam, including the mathematics section.

About one-third of the questions in each section will cover applying basic knowledge and skills in the classroom. The test may also contain pilot test questions that are unmarked. However, you may not know which questions they are, so try to answer each question as best you can.

While the ParaPro Assessment isn’t overly complicated, it does include some challenging questions. However, the questions are appropriately leveled for a student who has completed two years of post-secondary education.

Here is a brief breakdown of what knowledge is required in each section of the ParaPro Assessment.


The mathematics section requires you to have a basic understanding of three areas:

  1. Number Sense and Algebra

  2. Geometry and Measurement

  3. Data Analysis

Number Sense and Algebra questions will ask you to understand all four basic operations with whole numbers, fractions, and decimals.

Geometry and Measurement questions will test your ability to solve equations and real-world problems concerning shapes, time, and money. You will also be tested on graphing data.

Data Analysis will test your ability to work with and derive information from tables, charts, and graphs. You will also be asked to determine the mean, median, and mode of a set of numbers.


The reading section will include word recognition and analysis, comprehension strategies, and best reading practices.

This portion of the ParaPro Assessment is used to identify whether you have appropriate skills and knowledge in reading at a K–12 level and if you can apply your skills to help students with reading tasks.

You will also be required to figure out what specific words mean, decipher between fact and opinion, and derive information from tables and charts.


The writing section consists of two types of questions:

  1. Writing skills and knowledge

  2. Application of writing skills and knowledge to classroom instruction

In part one, you will be asked to spot sentence errors such as word usage, punctuation, and spelling. You may also be asked to identify the eight parts of speech, including nouns, verbs, pronouns, and adjectives.

Part two requires you to apply this knowledge to assist students with the actual process of writing, from prewriting activities to final editing. During the assessment, you may be asked to identify a form of writing and explain the difference between forms of writing.

Paraprofessional Salary

According to Indeed, the average hourly salary for a paraprofessional is $16.26. This equates to approximately $37,930 per year as a base salary.

Although the pay is low, many paraprofessionals do get employee benefits. Depending on your workplace, you may receive:

  • A pension

  • Health benefits

  • Leave

  • Access to retirement accounts like 403b and 457b

  • Education credits

These benefits can make a paraprofessional position a great entry-level or part-time job. Once you are a working paraprofessional, you may only need two more years of study to become a licensed teacher. Some colleges may even grant you course credit for relevant experience.

Of course, being a paraprofessional is a fulfilling career that allows you to help students succeed. Many paraprofessionals feel rewarded despite its many challenges.

Paraprofessionals for Special Education

A special education paraprofessional is a person who provides individualized and group support to students with special needs. Today, paraprofessionals play an increasingly prominent role in the instruction of students with disabilities.

In some special education schools, a paraprofessional may be assigned to one student for the entire school year, depending on a student’s ability level. However, this is not always the case.

When a student has significant disabilities, a paraprofessional will need to demonstrate considerable skills to work with the child effectively. Most importantly, a paraprofessional will need excellent communication skills, patience, and compassion.

A one-on-one paraprofessional will assist a child with basic needs, including:

  • Feeding

  • Personal hygiene

  • Transportation

  • Physical assistance

  • Boarding and disembarking the bus

They may also need to encourage socialization and relationship building. As you can see, the paraprofessional’s role in special education can be complex and challenging.

It takes an extraordinary human being to take on the role. If you think you have what it takes, being a paraprofessional will be a gratifying role for you.

How to Become ParaPro Certified

While paraprofessional certification is optional in some states, others may require it before allowing you to become certified. To become ParaPro certified, you must have one of the following three qualifications:

  • An associate of arts degree

  • Two years of college

  • A passing score on the district’s choice of assessment

School districts often used ParaPro Assessment scores to assess your foundation of knowledge and skills.

You can take the ParaPro Assessment at an authorized testing center or remotely via a computer from your own home. A human proctor line monitors the test through ProProtor®. Before scheduling an at-home testing appointment, ensure you meet the equipment and environment requirements.

If you fail the ParaPro Assessment, don’t worry. The good news is you can retake the test at home or at a test center. However, you must wait 28 days after your first test date before retaking the test.

The ParaPro Assessment costs $55 to take. If you already work in a school, they may cover all or part of this cost.

How to Prepare for the ParaPro Exam

The ParaPro Assessment isn’t designed to be impossible to pass. The questions are straightforward and require you to make your best judgment.

To give yourself the best chance of success, it’s important to study the content. And don’t leave it to the last minute.

Ideally, you should study three to four weeks ahead of time. Of course, the more time you carve out for study, the better chance you get great results.

Union Test Prep is dedicated to helping you prepare for the ParaPro Assessment. Expert writers prepare our free learning materials and are explicitly designed for your exam.

Study Guides

The first step in studying for the ParaPro Assessment is knowing what’s on it. Our free study guides for the ParaPro Assessment will provide you with the content you need to know.

The primary advantage of a study guide is that it reduces the information to be learned. You can think of a study guide as a mini-outline.

With a study guide, you can spend less time learning redundant information and more time learning the relevant concepts.

Practice Tests

One of the most tried-and-true ways to prepare for exams is taking practice tests. Practice exams can help familiarize you with the questions you will encounter during the actual test. They also simulate an authentic testing environment.

More benefits include:

  • Build stamina

  • Learn the quirks of the test

  • Identify knowledge gaps

  • Alleviate anxiety

  • Perfect your timing

  • Track your progress

  • Cement your knowledge

  • Retain information

Union Test Prep’s free ParaPro practice tests will help you identify areas of strength and any knowledge gaps that need more work.


Whether you’re studying alone or with a group, flashcards are an excellent way to improve your memorizing skills. There are many benefits to using flashcards for exam prep, including:

  • Allows you to study anytime and anywhere

  • Provides an active method for learning concepts

  • Allows you to reflect on what you are learning

  • Breaks studying down into small chunks

  • Provides repetition

  • Allows for distributed learning

  • Provides immediate feedback on progress

  • Uses visual and auditory senses

Flashcards are an excellent study aid that can provide a massive boost to your ParaPro Assessment preparation.

Our free flashcards for the ParaPro Assessment are designed to supplement your study and help you understand terms that stand in the way of understanding the questions of a test.

Tips and Tricks

It might have been a while since you last completed an exam, and the thought of it is conjuring up feelings of anxiety and stress.

Here are our top ten tips and tricks to help you prepare and not let the stress get to you:

  1. Organize your study space

  2. Set study goals

  3. Create a study group

  4. Do a practice test

  5. Take regular study breaks

  6. Eat nutritious snacks

  7. Get a good night’s rest

  8. Drink plenty of water

  9. Pace yourself

  10. Learn by teaching others

And don’t forget to reward yourself! Good study habits are hard work! Treat yourself to breaks outside, healthy snacks, or even watch an episode of your favorite TV show.

Finding the study tips that work best for you will save you time and earn you the best results.

Ready to Take the ParaPro Exam?

As far as school jobs go, becoming a paraprofessional is one of the most rewarding. Paraprofessional educators contribute significantly to the learning and development of school children in American schools.

Instead of asking, “what is a paraprofessional?” it’s time to become one! The ParaPro Assessment measures the basic skills deemed necessary to perform the tasks of a paraprofessional responsibly.

Many states require paraprofessionals to complete the ParaPro Assessment to become certified. One of the best ways to study for the ParaPro is using Union Test Prep’s free study materials.

With enough preparation, you can approach your test day with confidence.

Get started with Union Test Prep today!

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