3. Teacher's Aide
The nitty-gritty: Kid-central. This post can take some nerves of steel and patience, but the rewards are plentiful. It can be frustrating for some aides to have to defer to the guidance of the teacher in charge, so you need to have a good rapport and working relationship. The teacher needs to respect and value what you bring to the classroom. If not, it's a bust. Be prepared for some grunt work — clerical duties such as grading papers, recording grades, setting up equipment, entering computer data. One of the best aspects is one-on-one tutoring for a student who needs special help, or has a disability that requires individual attention. These are bonding moments of giving back that are worth more than a paycheck. While some of the school day is spent standing, walking or kneeling, most of it is sitting while working with students. Teacher assistants also supervise students in the cafeteria, school yard and hallways, or on field trips.
The hours: Three to five days a week, six to seven hours per day during the traditional school year (eight to nine months). Summer school hours may be available in some districts.
Median full-time pay range: Annual wage: $15,870 to $35,350.
Qualifications: On-the-job training combined with a high school diploma. Some states or school districts may require additional education beyond high school. A college degree, related coursework in child development and previous experience helping special education students can open up job opportunities. Self-starters who can multitask and work independently are highly valued. Fluency in a second language, especially Spanish, is in demand. Many schools require previous experience in working with children and a valid driver's license. Most require you to pass a background check. For more information, go to American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, and National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals.
The promise: Gold Stars.