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CHC30213 CERTIFICATE III IN EDUCATION SUPPORT: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Your questions about the 'Cert 3 in Education Support' answered

CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support


We answer your questions about the 'Cert 3 in Education Support'


Thinking about becoming a teacher aide? Asking yourself questions such as 'what is the Cert 3 in Education Support all about' or maybe 'what is the difference between the Cert 3 in Education Support and the cert 4 in education support?' Understandably, we get these questions all the time. As the go-to provider for high-quality, research-based, best practice teacher aide courses, we'll give you some straight answers - stay tuned!


female teacher aide helping female student on a computer

The CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support prepares you to work in mainstream classrooms.


Our student advisors receive emails and calls every day asking questions such as 'should I do the Certificate 3 in Education Support? and 'after I've done the Cert 3 in Education Support what type of teacher aide job will be able to do?' Because there is no simple answer to these and many other similar questions, we decided to put together a detailed article for anyone considering an enrolment in the Cert 3 in Education Support. Now you can read in depth answers and make the best decision about whether this or any other teacher aide course is right for you.


For the latest information about a particular course, click on the relevant link below:

One of the top questions that we get is along the lines of 'after I have completed the Cert 3 in Education Support what job will I get' and 'after I have finished the cert 3 in education support, what will my job involve?' For the long answer, you will need to read on - for the short answer:


Teacher aides work in schools to support students in their learning, behaviour and development (such as social and emotional development). They predominantly work with students with disabilities and disorders. Teach aides (also called teacher assistants) can be found assisting the teacher with administrative, logistical and operational tasks such as developing resources, communicating with parents and managing classroom resources and equipment.


We've collated the information that we think you should know before enrolling in the CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support. In this article you will learn the following:

  • The CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support is the entry level teacher aide course.
  • Studying online with a good provider means optional tutorials, webinars and workplace visits.
  • The Cert 3 in Education Support focuses on teacher aide work in mainstream classrooms.
  • Cheap courses may actually be much more expensive in the long run due to lost income.
  • The most difficult part of your teacher aide courses is sticking to your study routine.
  • The placement is about practicing what you have learn in the theory.
  • Learning best practice skills means you are more likely to be offered a position.
  • Typical students finish the course in about 600 hours.
  • If you have experience with children, you may finish in less time.
  • TAFE courses are an option for those who prefer to be in class 3-4 days per week.
  • The majority of adults enrol with private providers according to government stats.
  • A clustered course structure mean that the units are combined to save you time.

Teacher aides perform a wide variety of roles to support teaching and learning in schools. Source: QLD Department of Education


Learn more about what teacher aide do by reading our blog on the topic here.

1. Question from Philippa in Brisbane:

'What is the Cert 3 in Education Support?'


Female in black and white jumper standing in secret garden in school

The placement is an important part of your teacher aide course. FTTA student on placement pictured.

The CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support (aka the 'certificate 3 in education support' as everyone calls it) is the entry level teacher aide course that the majority of students in Australia complete when thinking about or contemplating becoming a teacher aide.


In fact, it is the teacher aide course that all schools require as a minimum whether you want to work in kindergarten, primary schools, high schools, senior colleges, special needs centres, or even alternative schools such as religious-based, Montessori or other independent schools.


The Cert 3 in Education Support covers all of the basics that teacher aides need to know in order to effectively work in the busy and dynamic school environment. This includes the most common activities and tasks that teacher aides undertake day to day such as assisting the teacher to manage student behaviour, supporting students to learn new skills in various subjects such as literacy and numeracy, and various administration and logistical tasks.


Only in FTTA's research-based Certificate 3 in Education Support, however, will you learn best practice teaching techniques, skills and strategies including:

  • questioning skills such as prompting, bouncing and wait-time,
  • formative evaluation and feedback techniques,
  • motivation strategies to boost confidence and 'have-a-go-ness' (aka engagement),
  • metacognitive, transferrable and coping skills,
  • reading and writing strategies based international research,
  • traditional strategies such as explicit instruction and worked examples,
  • modern strategies such as discovery learning and problem-based learning, and
  • advances strategies such as Cognitive Load theory.

The strategies and techniques in the list above are just one part of your Cert 3 in Education Support! We didn't even mention disabilities and disorders, behaviour management and the plethora of professional practice skills that you'll only learn at FTTA.


Most students (especially those with no previous experience with children or schools, and including high school leavers), typically start with the Cert 3 in Education Support. Once you've completed the CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support you will be able to apply for a teacher aide job almost anywhere in Australia - it is nationally recognised after all. Many graduates of the Cert 3 in Education Support find work in their local area and often in the same school where they completed their voluntary placement. This is one of the reasons for why it's important to enrol with a provider who has the expertise and experience to teach you the essential and vital skills required to be a high-performing teacher aide.


Once students have completed this course, they quite often enrol in the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support. This is a higher-level qualification that covers many of the same topics as the Cert 3 in Education Support with the addition of more specialist skills and knowledge in preparation for work with students with complex needs such as students with disabilities and disorders. This higher-level qualification is strongly recommended as it open more doors in terms of the positions and opportunities in a school.


After reading this article, we also recommend the following: Teacher aide courses: 18 things you need to know


2. Question from Rachel in SA:

'Is the Certificate 3 in Education Support an online course?'


We get this particular question every day - probably every hour in fact. The short answer to this question is yes - the Cert 3 in Education Support can be completed online. Without a doubt, online learning is the most popular method especially for busy adult learners who need the flexibility to study around many of life's challenges and commitments.


However, even with online or distance mode, it's important to note that there is also a work placement component (that obviously cannot be completed online). The work placement component is where students attend a workplace such as a primary school, high school, kindergarten, or other registered school for 100 hours or more. The purpose of the work placement is to support students to develop their skills and industry knowledge by gaining experience in a real-world environment. The placement is where students put their theory into practice and where they showcase their newfound professional practice in order to (fingers crossed) hopefully be offered paid work!


The work placement is an important part of your Cert 3 in Education Support and cannot be skipped because it is a legal requirement. Every student undertaking the Cert 3 in Education Support in Australia is required to complete the 100-hour placement in a local school. During your placement you will work under the direction, supervision and mentorship of the classroom teacher in a primary school, high school, kindergarten, special needs or other approved school for a period of 100 hours or more. In most cases students complete their 100 hours by working 2-3 days per week in a local school. However, some students choose to complete their placement 1 day per week or in a single block of 5 days per week (full-time). 100 hours generally equates to around 16 full days depending on the school's start and end times.


5 adult female students showing example of resources made for children

While not compulsory, even online students enjoy attending workshops. FTTA students pictured.

Many providers offer a range of support services to help students during their online teacher aide course. Studying online can mean a lot of different things, however. What it doesn't mean, is sitting in front of a computer for 30 or 40 hours per week with no contact with your trainer. It also doesn't mean that you never speak to your trainer (or never meet your trainer for that matter). Online students might even be in contact with their trainer more often than class-based students.


Studying online (at least with FTTA) means that you have access to an online portal where you can download resources, watch videos such as class lectures, and complete a range of learning activities. Students can also attend regular live webinars held by our expert trainers.


If you're thinking about enrolling in the Cert 3 in Education Support online, it's important to bear in mind that no 2 RTO's set up their online courses in the same way. In this day and age, providers take advantage of technological solutions as well as old-school traditional face-to-face support. Without doubt there is a wide spectrum of support services (and quality) so while many may advertise 'unlimited support' some provide more support than others. It may not seem important before enrolling in the Cert 3 in Education Support, but the availability, quality, timeliness and ease at which support can be accessed is a key determinant of the provider's completion rate (whether you finish or not) and the quality of their graduates (whether you are employable afterwards).


Important note: consider what happens if there is a technological issue or if you need something clarified. If this happens, it's essential that you can contact your trainer easily and that you feel comfortable interacting and working with them on a regular basis.


For this reason, before enrolling in an online Certificate 3 in Education Support (with any provider for that matter), think about the general impression and feeling you get about the company - do they feel professional? Some RTOs only allow students to email their trainers. Some don't offer one-to-one face-to-face (f2f) support. Some don't visit their students in the workplace (even if there are issues). All of these services are essential for ensuring that you complete your course in a reasonable amount of time (delays in completing your course will cost you lost income – much more than the saving of enrolling in a cheap course that leaves you frustrated and stressed).


Finally, you should bear in mind that ‘online’ is not the only term used to describe a program whereby the majority of study is completed external to the provider’s campus. Other similar terms include distance learning, external, correspondence and blended learning; these terms all mean very similar things. More recently, we have seen providers using fancy terms such as ‘digital mode.' In the past, students would study by ‘correspondence’ however this term is now considered old-fashioned and isn't used that much. All of these terms basically mean the same thing - learning from home.


Interested in studying the Cert 3 in Education Support online? Learn more by reading our detailed blog on the topic here.


3. Question from Jordyn in Perth WA:

'What job will I get once I complete the Cert 3 in Education Support?'


Once you have completed the 'Cert 3 in Education Support' you will be qualified to work as a teacher aide anywhere in Australia particularly in mainstream classrooms. This qualification is well known by schools as the main qualification for teacher aides who are required to undertake general and non-specialised tasks and roles.


Students who intend to work with special needs (disabilities, disorders, specialist programs) should consider the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support. The Cert 3 in Education Support however is the basic and introductory teacher aide course that will teach you everything you need to know about working in a school as a teacher aide. Best practice, research-based skills such as student-centred strategies, teacher-centred strategies and an array of techniques will get you started in your new and ever-evolving career in your local school.


Note that different states have different names for teacher aides. For example, in South Australia they're typically called SSO (School Support Officers). In Victoria they're quite often called Integration aides. In Western Australia they are called Education Assistants or EAs. You may have also heard the term 'teacher assistant' which is used around the country. In New South Wales they're quite often called learning support officers or LSOs. All of these terms refer to teacher aides although some emphasise the responsibility and focus of supporting a particular cohort.


The general public use the term teacher aide however in almost all cases. Most of the academic research around the world (including Australia) also uses the term teacher aide. If you're looking for a job as a teacher aide online, you may need to use some of these different terms (for example on SEEK) or when sifting through the job's board of your state or territory government. Some of the places where you can start looking for work as a teacher aide (after completing your Cert 3 in Education Support) with a reputable provider include:

You may also consider other sites such as SEEK.


Our recommendation is to not bother applying for positions online (unless you have lots of free time and nothing better to do) - you are much better off and will have more success completing your Certificate 3 in Education Support and then working relief or casual at a bunch of schools. This is how you will get your foot in the door and how many of our students begin their career as a teacher aide. Schools prefer this method; the advertised jobs are often awarded to people who have already demonstrated their skills due to having done relief work previously. In other words, schools have to go through the formal process for legal reasons, but they hire who they know once the paperwork is all in order.


female teacher aide speaking towards classroom

Could you do this? TAs who have completed the Cert 3 in Education Support take on a range of tasks such as one-on-one support and small group work by employing industry best practice skills.


There are no requirements to hold a certificate in order to work as a teacher aide in Australia. By requirements we mean legal requirements. Schools, teachers and school managers however, almost always require that applicants hold minimum qualifications such as the CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support. You will find it very difficult to obtain work without this particular qualification (or a higher qualification). Effectively, although not legally, it is mandatory to hold this certificate, an older version, or a higher version. Even students who have university qualifications (excluding a teaching degree from an Australian university), are still required to hold this qualification in order to even get an interview at a school.


It is important to note that while there is some special needs and additional needs training delivered throughout the Certificate 3 in Education Support, it is not a main focus. If you plan on working with special needs, or believe you may end up working with special needs at some point in your career (and all teacher aides do as that is their bread and butter), then the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support may be more suitable. This higher-level course is the 'special needs' course meaning it focuses on work with special needs students. Having this qualification on your resume is a bit more impressive than the Cert 3 in Education Support!


So, while the Cert 3 in Education Support doesn't exactly qualify you to work with special needs, it also doesn’t disqualify you from these positions. Sometimes schools will be happy to hire you especially if you are a good fit, have the right demeanour, dress professionally, have a certificate signed by a reputable provider, or simply give the impression of someone who is likely to do a really good job. However, we find that this is happening less and less. To maximise your chances of success in the job market (such as landing your dream job), we recommend the higher level CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education support to ensure that you've covered all the necessary topics and skills. It will also arm you with more confidence in your own abilities - improved self-esteem, self-confidence and self-belief.


Once you have completed your Cert 3 in Education Support (or any other course such as the combo) with a reputable provider, you could end up working in any number of Australia's 9503 schools such as:

Not only are there various year groups and school types to choose from, schools can be categories into government (public including independent public schools or IPS), and non-government schools which includes religious, alternative and other private schools. Where do you think your skills would be best utilised?


Including independent Catholic schools, 1,140 of the 9,477 schools in Australia are in the Independent sector. In 2018, they enrolled over 617,000 students, 16 per cent of the Australian student population. Source: Independent Schools Council of Australia


4. Question from Triana from Victoria:

'What is the difference between the Certificate 3 in Education Support and the Cert 4 in Education Support?'


Youg teacher aide with students who are singing

Teacher aides work in a range of contexts depending on the needs of the school.


Triana's question about the difference between 'Certificate 3 in Education Support and the Cert IV in Education Support' is a common one - in fact, our FAQ lists it as the third most common question that we receive. The CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support is basic and introductory education support course. It gives you a foundational understanding of everything that you need to know in order to work in a mainstream classroom environment.


While all teacher aides work and support students with disabilities, difficulties or disorders at some point, the Cert 3 in Education Support only scratches the surface in terms of working with special needs. The CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support on the other hand, is the specialist qualification for those wishing to work with students with more complex and challenging disabilities, difficulties, disorders, and additional needs. Teacher aides refer to the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support as the 'special needs' course.


Many students begin their career by enrolling in the higher-level qualification without completing the CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support first. Whether you can do this or not depends on your provider, the courses available in your area, and which mode you choose. At FTTA, the majority of students skip the Cert 3 in Education Support and go straight into the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support.


You could also consider enrolling in the Teacher Aide Combo. Unique to FTTA, the Teacher Aide Combo is a dual qualification program that allows students to complete both the Cert 3 and Cert 4 at the same time in one streamlined program. It may cost slightly more but we have priced it with a $1500 saving compared to completing two individual courses.


Due to the way we have designed our teacher aide combo, it takes no longer to finish than any individual course. The Teacher Aide Combo will also supercharge your resume giving you double the firepower for interviews and job applications. These are the key reasons why we recommend (and so many students enrol in) the teacher aide combo as opposed to the Cert 3 in Education Support.


So, what else is different between the two courses? Is one harder than the other? The CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support does require a higher level of skills and knowledge simply because it’s a higher-level course under the Australian Qualifications Framework. But is there a big difference in terms of difficulty? Probably not. If you were to compare an assessment from one to an assessment from the other, students probably couldn’t tell the difference. In fact, the average trainer probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference.


The real difference is that the Cert IV takes everything in the Cert 3 in Education Support and applies it to work with students with complex needs. In other words, there is an extra layer of complexity to consider when making pedagogical (teaching), behavioural, operational and resource development type decisions.


The real difference is that the Certificate 4 in Education Support takes everything in the Certificate 3 in Education Support and applies it to work with students with complex needs. In other words, there is an extra layer of complexity to consider when making pedagogical (teaching), behavioural, operational and resource development type decisions.


The CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support might be a little bit more difficult for students who struggle with English and who are ESL (English as a Second Language). If you have concerns, we recommend speaking with your provider for the best advice based on your situation and goals. Many ESL students have no issues with this course, but it may mean you need a provider that offers more support and who has experience and expertise in this area. If you are 'new' to learning English, you may be advised to consider an English course or a Certificate II level qualification before enrolling in the Cert 3 in Education Support, the Cert 4 in Education Support or the popular Teacher Aide Combo.


Want to know more? We have published a detailed article about the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support here.


5. Question from Swee Pin in the ACT:

'How much does the Cert 3 in Education Support cost?'


For the latest information, please refer to the fee's tab for the Cert 3 in Education Support. Fees, payment plans, government funding rules and other details change from time to time.


In addition to comparing the fees of various providers, we recommend considering the true or overall cost of studying a Cert 3 in Education Support; the course fee only a small part of what it costs to study a nationally recognised course. For example, you may be tempted to enrol in a course that seems on face value to be very cheap. However, this can be misleading for several reasons.


Firstly, 'cheaper' courses naturally mean you won't get the same level or quality of support (even if it is advertised). This means it takes longer to complete your program, lesser quality resources and unfortunately, a lower level of pedagogical expertise. Studying for longer means less time earning money in the workforce. Lower level of skills and knowledge means reduced employability. In other words, a few hundred dollars invested in your course, is likely to yield a return many times over.


Smiling teacher assistant standing in front of class art board.

Pictured: FTTA student completes her placement by demonstrating her ability to implement a wide range of research-based techniques and strategies that you will only find at FTTA.


If it takes you an extra 6 months to complete your Certificate 3 in Education Support due to lack of support for example, that's 6 months where you could have been working as a teacher aide (and earning about $25,000 during that time if you were full-time). You may have saved a few hundred, but it cost you tens of thousands not to mention the stress, frustration and lack of skills compared to your colleagues.


6. Question from Ekaterina in NSW:

'Is the Cert 3 in Education Support free?'


Unfortunately for the majority of Australians looking to enrol in the Cert 3 in Education Support, the course is not government funded. Even government funded courses come with a fee except for a few rare exceptions such as for high school graduates under certain programs. There are some instances where government funding is available however such as in Queensland (provided by the Queensland government) which is made available to students by a a small number of selected providers such as FTTA. However, for the majority of students there is unfortunately no 'free' teacher aide courses.


We do however try to keep our fees and payment plans as affordable as possible so everyone, regardless of your financial situation, has the opportunity to improve their lives, career and self-confidence. The Teacher Aide Combo for example saves students over $1500 compared with the cost of completing the Cert 3 in Education Support and the Cert 4 in Education Support separately. Bargain!

7. Question from Carla in Tasmania:

'Is the Cert 3 in Education Support government funded?'


Similar to the answer above, this course is government funded in some areas - check with your preferred provider (FTTA of course!). Funding is available in Queensland under programs such as the 'Certificate 3 Guarantee' thanks to the Queensland government. We also recommend students consider the overall cost of their course. Government funded courses are not always cheaper than fee for service (where the student pays the full fee). Students should consider for example, the potential loss of income as discussed earlier in Question 5 and 6. Some government funded courses require you to be in class several days per week for a long period of time – giving up work, additional child care etc. means that this mode/course is actually very expensive even if the initial course fee is small.


If you're an adult learner with experience caring for children, enrolling with a provider like FTTA could save you a huge amount of time, money, and stress. This is because you'll be able to continue with family commitments such as looking after children all while continuing to work and study. However, if you're a younger student, attending class may be the best option; you probably don't have many bills or time commitments so its easier (for some at least) to attend classes 3 or 4 days per week. If this is you, a TAFE provider may be your best option.


Want to learn more about how much teacher aides get paid in your state or territory? Read our article about teacher aide pay, salary and allowances here. You can also read more about funded or subsidised teacher aide courses including the Cert 3 in Education Support (Queensland) here.


8. Question from Ellen from the Gold Coast, Brisbane:

'Should I study the Cert 3 in Education Support at TAFE or with FTTA?'


Traditionally and historically, TAFE has been known as the provider for younger students (under 18). TAFE courses are often structured in a way that is not dissimilar to a high school. This is great for some but not so good for others, so it depends on your needs. If you feel that you 'need' the structure and rigour of classes 3-5 days per week to keep you on track, then maybe TAFE is for you? If you need flexibility and an adult-orientated environment, then maybe FTTA is for you!


So, to answer Ellen's question: 'should I study the Cert 3 in Education Support at TAFE or with FTTA,' we are going to sit on the fence with this one - sorry! Only you can decide what is best for you, your needs, situation, goals, commitments, personality, study skills and circumstances. If you think you need to be in class several days per week and have no previous experience with children, childcare, aged care, or any of the caring or 'people' industries, then you may consider a TAFE enrolment as this would probably fit your needs. If on the other hand, you're a mature adult learner with some relevant experience and you think studying from home (with regular contact from your trainer) is achievable, then we recommend a reputable provider such as FTTA.


We highly recommend our article: 'Teacher Aide Certificates and Qualifications' which can be accessed here.


9. Question from Catherine in Mandurah WA:

'Is the Cert 3 in Education Support the best way to become a teacher aide?'


Teacher aide working in a school classroom.

Pictured: FTTA student completes the Cert 3 in Education Support. Armed with a tool chest of best practice strategies we think she will have no problems finding work.


Catherine asks a common question: 'Is the Cert 3 in Education Support the best way to become a teacher aide?' The answer is simple: Yes, it's one of several ways in fact! The Cert 3 in Education Support is certainly the most common way of becoming a teacher aide in Australia. We however take a different approach and tend to recommend the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support or the Teacher Aide Combo. The reason for this is that students are just as successful at the higher level course, it isn't that much more expensive or difficult, and it gives you a pretty big leg up when applying for work particularly if you might apply for competitive positions in the future.


Catherine's question: 'is the Certificate 3 in Education Support' the best way...' could also be asking about what mode of study we recommend. Again, your circumstances will determine the answer. If you live near one of our venues and can attend classes 1 day per week - we highly recommend you do so. If, like most people, you are busy with life's challenges and need maximum flexibility to study when and where you want, then distance (also known as online) study is probably for you. Note that even with distance and online mode, students can still come in for tutorials (highly recommended), attend live webinars and speak with their trainer as needed (in fact our trainers call students quite regularly to make sure they are on track).


Effectively (not legally), the Cert 3 in Education Support is the minimum qualification to become a teacher aide in Australian schools (in all states and territories). It is a nationally recognised qualification meaning that it's recognised by all schools in Australia. Schools will expect that you hold this qualification (and one from a reputable provider which indicates you have learnt best practice techniques and skills) if applying for work as a teacher aide. As mentioned previously, you will probably not be asked to attend an interview unless you have completed this minimum qualification.


There are other avenues to become a teacher aide. This may include for example, having a relevant degree from a foreign institution. However, even students in this scenario quite often find it easier to complete either the Certificate III or IV before or while applying for work in a school. This makes it easier because many schools still require a nationally recognised teacher aide qualification just to be safe. Having a qualification from a reputable provider such as the Cert 3 in Education Support satisfies hiring managers that the person they are intending to hire has sufficient skills in key areas such as in safety, duty of care, behaviour management, support strategies and so forth - the skills you will only find in high quality teacher aide courses.


To learn more about the best way to become a teacher aide read our blog on this exact topic here.


10. Question from Niranjala in Newcastle NSW:

'Is the Cert 3 in Education Support difficult?'


Class of adult students learning to be a teacher aide

Classes are always popular; for many students it is a fun, social and effective study mode that maximises your learning.


Generally speaking, the Certificate 3 in Education Support is not a difficult qualification although it depends on what you are comparing it to. It's not as difficult for example, when compared to an IT course, a programming course, an electrical course, or an accounting course that requires a large amount of background knowledge and technical expertise - learning a programming language or how to read detailed financial reports is not easy.


For those with experience with children however, the Cert 3 in education support will mostly feel like a 'no-brainer.' This is because you already have tens of thousands of hours' experience with children and the Cert 3 in Education Support is all about supporting children, albeit in a different context; much of the course is learning to apply your (extensive) existing skills and knowledge into a more professional school-based context. For example, in a professional context you are 'serving clients' even if those clients are children. This approach, however, impacts the decisions you make day to day.


There are of course some things that you do have to learn from scratch such as policies, procedures, and definitions and interpretations of concepts such as duty of care. However, broadly speaking, these requirements are not overly complex, and students pick them up pretty easily. In other words, the Cert 3 in Education Support is a relatively easy course for most people.


I should add in a disclaimer here and emphasise the term ‘most people’ in the paragraph above. This is at least our experience at FTTA (and we've had 6000+ graduates). However, we typically don't enrol students who are school leavers - although we do enrol a few. Because of this, we find the majority of our students don't really struggle with the course content. That doesn't mean that students can relax and expect to cruise through without any effort - we can't do the work for you! As adult learners, a certain level of commitment and dedication is required. The Cert 3 in Education Support is a nationally recognised qualification after all.


If I asked our trainers and students (and we actually do this from time to time), they would say that the most difficult part of the course is consistency (routine), dedication, and finding time. This means consistently studying on a regular basis, putting in the hard-yards and doing your best with every assessment.


While every provider is different, our theory assessments consist mainly of short answer questions, case studies, scenarios and mini projects. You should ask your RTO about what to expect in terms of your assessments because this can have a huge impact on how long the course takes to complete and even whether you end up finishing. Ensure that you do not enrol in a course that has essays or long reports as this is considered (very) poor practice in the VET world.


The final part of your assessments is the work placement which is potentially one of the most important parts of your Cert 3 in Education Support. There are several things that are expected to do during your work placement such as compile a portfolio of evidence. Your trainer will come and visit you in your school to help you perfect your professional practice. They will ask you to complete a range of activities such as supporting literacy learning with small groups of students and implementing a range of best practice support strategies. Your trainer will also ask a range of questions such as ‘what-if’ hypotheticals and case studies.


An important part of the placement is practicing what you have learnt in the theory part of your course. This is where you may end up working so it is important to demonstrate that you can implement the best practice teaching and learning skills that you developed during your course thus far. For example, research has shown that untrained teacher aides, will give students the answers to their questions approximately 68% of the time. However, a teacher will only give students the answer approximately 11% of the time.


Teacher assistant working with students.

Your assessments are designed to develop your pedagogical expertise such as managing and facilitating small group work.


Why is this so important? Because if you're giving students the answer most of the time, then students aren't actually learning much at all. Yes, they will complete the task and they might even get a tick or word of praise from the teacher, but they haven't actually learnt anything. They certainly haven't developed what is known as 'conceptual understanding' - the real goal of the lesson! Without any conceptual understanding, the student can never progress to more complex activities and challenges. In other words, they only have 'surface level' abilities (not a good thing) and never develop a 'deep understanding' (a very good thing - also known as 'deep learning').


For example, if a student is having issues with a maths problem, 68% of the time untrained (or poorly trained) teacher aides simply give the answer to the student such as by 'showing them how to do it' (according to this research anyway). However, properly trained teacher aides know that this is poor practice and will implement a range of techniques such as scaffolding, worked examples and metacognitive skills (such as process learning). The goal is for the student to learn the concepts behind the maths problem so they can solve a range of similar problems as well as more advanced ones. This may mean that the student doesn't even finish the worksheet or activity. However, that is not a problem because task completion (especially when the teacher aide does the work) is not a worthwhile goal if the student doesn't develop any useful skills along the way.


This is a quick demonstration of the difference between a well-trained and a poorly trained teacher aide, and why schools prefer to hire staff who have been trained by reputable providers.


11. Question from Pippa from the Gold Coast:

'Is the Cert 3 in Education Support a short course?'


Typically, the duration of any course is displayed on the website of the provider. Currently on FTTA's website, the Cert 3 in Education Support requires approximately 26 weeks or 600 hours. However, many students finish in a shorter period of time, such as 18 weeks, 16 weeks, etc. Some students manage to finish even quicker than that such as those who opt for an Accelerated Program due to industry experience. Anyone who enrols in the Cert 3 in Education Support and who has experience with children is likely, in our experience, to move through the course much faster and easier as many of the concepts are 'no brainers' for those individuals (such as behaviour management techniques).


On the other hand, some students can take a year or so and even then, they may request an extension. This is generally not because the course is difficult but due to gaps in their studies for reasons such as travel and illness.


600 hours is a reasonable estimate of how long it will take someone with no experience with children to complete the Cert 3 in Education Support. However, many students manage to complete the qualification in a shorter timeframe due to previous study experience, experience with children and general life skills that they bring with them (such as knowledge of WHS from other industries). Some students, such as those who are ESL (English is a Second Language), may take a little bit longer.


12. Question from Natalie in Joondalup Perth WA:

'Do I need to do the Cert 3 in Education Support to become an SSO or LSO?'


Effectively both of these terms are the same thing. Each state of Australia uses a different (formal) title when referring to support staff who work in schools as teacher aides.


SSOs or school support officers, are typically teacher aides who work in South Australia. Learning Support Officers are teacher aide from New South Wales. Integration aides are from Victoria. Education assistants are teacher assistants based in Western Australia. Teacher aide and teacher assistants are general terms that you may come across more often.


We use the word teacher aide throughout these articles simply because it is the term that is overwhelmingly used by the general public who are looking to enrol in either the CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support or CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support.


To answer Natalie's question: 'does she need to do the Certificate 3 in Education Support' to be an SSO or LSO - yes, the Cert 3 in Education Support is the nationally recognised qualification to become an SSO, LSO, teacher aide, teacher assistant, education assistant, integration aide, paraeducator etc. You may also consider other nationally recognised courses such as the Teacher Aide Combo or the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support.

13. Question from Karen in Wollongong NSW:

'I want to become a special needs teacher aide. Is the Cert 3 in Education Support the right course?'


As we've discussed earlier, most students who want to work as a special needs teacher aide hold or are working towards completing the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support. This is because the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support is known in the industry (by industry we mean schools) as the qualification for special needs teacher aides. That is not to say that you won't get a job in special needs if you hold the Cert 3 in Education Support. However, most students who intend on working in special needs should consider enrolling in the higher-level qualification (or completing the Teacher Aide Combo).


What do we recommend? You should speak with your preferred provider about the options available to you. Generally speaking and depending on your circumstances, we would most likely recommend the Teacher Aide Combo in the first instance and the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support secondly. Of course, this decision depends on your situation, circumstances, experience, needs, goals etc.


14. Question from Theodora in Brisbane:

'Can I complete the Certificate 3 in Education Support by RPL?'


Yes - this qualification is available by recognition of prior learning. RPL simply means that you already have the skills, knowledge, and experience required to demonstrate that you are capable of performing at the same level as someone who has completed the Cert 3 in Education Support. It means that you have (formally or informally) acquired all of the skills and knowledge that is required to graduate from the CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support even though you haven't done so using the traditional approach. Informal learning can include PDs, meetings, general experience, books, research, conversations, seminars, partly completed courses etc.


To put RPL into perspective, if you were to enrol in the Cert 3 in Education Support in the 'normal' sense, you would be required to complete a 100-hour voluntary placement. If you have 10 years’ experience in a school, you already have about 12,000 hours experience! That is the same as 120 placements. Surely during that 12,000+ hours you learnt a thing or two related to the Cert 3 in Education Support.


RPL can sometimes be a little bit cheaper as well. Bear in mind however that RPL is not a training option; you do not 'learn' anything when enrolled in recognition of prior learning - it is an assessment only process (sort of like sitting an exam without having done any study). For this reason, some students instead choose to enrol in the Accelerated Program which is best explained as being somewhere between the full course and RPL but with added support and resources if needed. Many use the Accelerated Program as a kind of refresher course that you can move through at a pace that suits you and your existing knowledge and skills.


Technically with RPL you already 'know everything' and it's just a case of collecting the evidence (by quickly doing the theory and practical assessment) in order to prove that you already have the necessary skills and knowledge - pretty easy if you already work in a school and have 5+ years' experience!


15. Question from Tara in Geelong Victoria:

'What are the units like in the Cert 3 in Education Support?'


Teacher aide following industry best practice.

Could this be you in a few months? The student pictured learnt industry best practice skills such as explicit instruction, worked examples and feedback skills.


There are 17 units that make up the Cert 3 in Education Support. You can find a list of units on the main webpage for each course. It's important to bear in mind that RTO's (providers) often deliver these qualifications in clusters. Clustering means that the units are combined to prevent unnecessary repetition. To use an analogy, think of clustering as like wrapping up a bunch of flowers together (instead of wrapping each one individually). One bunch is much easier to wrap, sell, carry, deliver etc. than a whole heap of individual flowers.


Every unit contains a set of criteria that needs to be met for the assessor to deem the student competent. Within those requirements however, there is a significant amount of overlap. Providers often combine units saving the student a huge amount of time, money, stress, and from the annoying repetition that comes with studying on a unit by unit basis. Some units are almost identical, except in the title and reworded content. For this reason, we only develop courses that are clustered and recommend that you do not consider a course that is delivered on a unit by unit basis.


16. Question from Lynsey from Rockingham WA:

'What are the clusters in the Cert 3 in Education Support?'


FTTA cluster all of the required units into groups of similar units. As we have discussed previously, this reduces repetition and save students from having to complete the same assessment items over and over. Some units are practically identical even though they are technically different units with different titles.


To give you an example, the Cert 3 in Education Support has several units that focus on supporting literacy. Each of these units have very similar and overlapping requirements. One unit for example requires you to work with small groups. This can be combined with supporting reading development, which is a requirement of another unit. Even though they are different units and different requirements, they can be assessed together quite easily.


Below we have listed the current clusters in this qualification and provided a sample question from our assessments. Note that these may be outdated as we regularly update and change our courses.


These case studies are expected to take 1 to 3 hours to complete and are preceded by learning activities such as attending webinars and reading the relevant learner guide.


How do you think you would go if you had to answer these case studies, and what type of answer do you think you would provide?


Cluster 1: Health & Safety

Case study 1. Hygiene


You are working in a classroom with Ms. Brown who is the teacher of a class of 22 Yr. 4 children. It is the middle of the flu season and some children are quite clearly ill with runny noses and coughing. Today, there are two lessons remaining:

  • Art - students will be using their hands to make play-dough shapes of different countries
  • English - students will be in groups of 3 and acting out a scene from a short story

Based on this situation, explain the different strategies that you will use to ensure that the activities are undertaken in a hygienic manner. Ensure that you discuss the use of relevant PPE.


Cluster 2: Literacy

Case study 1. Prepare resources and equipment


You are working in a classroom with Mr. Black who is the teacher of a class of 20 Year 6 children. The class has a mixture of students in terms of abilities and personalities. Each term the class has a different focus to make learning more fun and interesting. This term the topic is ‘farms and towns’. This topic is used by the teacher to plan all activities. For example, for English the students have learnt many new words relating to towns and farms. For history, students have learnt about life in ancient towns and farms. Students have even been on an excursion to a local farm.


Tomorrow the main topic is “Make your own town”.


The idea of this activity is for students to practice writing (specifically spelling), oral language skills and design skills (measuring, scale etc.). They will also learn some new words to add to their vocabulary. Students will draw a plan for their town on large paper, write in the names of everything (buildings, streets, businesses, public amenities etc. for the town). This is expected to take 1 hour. The plan is on A3 and will be to scale.


You have been asked by the teacher to prepare the resources and equipment. Explain the steps you will take in order to complete this task.


Cluster 3: Numeracy

Case study 1. Prepare resources and equipment


You are working in a classroom with Mrs. Black who is the teacher of a class of 20 Year 6 children. The class has a mixture of students in terms of abilities and personalities. Each term the class has a different focus to make learning more fun and interesting. This term the topic is ‘farms and towns’. This topic is used by the teacher to plan all activities. For example, for English the students have learnt many new words relating to towns and farms. For history, students have learnt about life in ancient towns and farms. Students have even been on an excursion to a local farm.


Tomorrow the main topic is “Make your own town” and students have already made a map of their town.


The idea of this activity is for students to practice their mathematical skills by:

  • Working out distances between places using their map
  • Estimating and confirming the size of an area (square meters) such as a park or building
  • Learn new mathematical/measurement terms such as acre, hectare, inch and feet (assume students are already familiar with the metric system)

This is expected to take 1 hour.

They will also learn some new words to add to their vocabulary. Students have already drawn a plan for their town on large paper and written in the names of everything (buildings, streets, businesses, public amenities etc. for the town).

You have been asked by the teacher to prepare the resources and equipment. Explain the steps you will undertake to complete this task.


Cluster 4: Behaviour

Case study 1. Strategies

Sarah, Elise and Kyra sit together in their Year 9 class. During their normal lessons with the classroom teacher the three girls are very well behaved. However, twice a week, the class has music lessons with Mr Frank. During music the three girls are always getting into trouble for ‘mucking-around’ and ‘talking too much’. You have a good rapport with all three girls and have worked with them for most of the year in their normal class. Because of this you have been asked to go to the music lessons for a few weeks to come up with some strategies to address the issues raised by Mr Frank and to prevent further escalation. What strategies do you think might work here?


Cluster 5: Diversity

The scenario

You are working in a school with a range of student from Year 1 to Year 12. The school is an old rural school with about 200 children in total, about 20 staff and a small group of enthusiastic parents and community volunteers. The community volunteers include war veterans, business leaders and managers from the local mine site. These people come into the school once a month to work with a group of 6-7 aboriginal students. They do a range of activities including excursions, life skills, career advice and tutoring. You are meeting with the volunteers to come up with a draft program for the year.

Case study 1. Identify cultural safety issues

One of the volunteers asks you about cultural safety as they have just heard this term for the first time. Using an example, explain the term cultural safety.


17. Question from Stephanie in Perth:

'How long does each cluster in the Cert 3 in Education Support take to finish?'


Each cluster will take approximately 2 to 6 weeks to finish depending on various factors. Some students will finish in a shorter period of time. On the other hand, some students will take longer. It really depends on your abilities, whether you've studies in the past, if you have worked in a school before, or how much experience you have with children. Think for example about the case studies shown above. Some students will answer these without any issues and won’t find them very challenging at all. Some students however will need quite a bit of support and guidance.


In other words, how long is a piece of string? How long does it take to bake a cake? Generally, most students aim to complete their Cert 3 in Education Support within 6-months. Students who really buckle down can get it done in a shorter period of time while others may spread their studies out over a longer period due to other commitments.


As we've explained throughout this article, your success largely hinges on the quality and quantity of support from your trainer - choose your provider wisely.


Summary

If you've read this far then you're probably serious about enrolling in the Cert 3 in Education Support. This is the introductory nationally recognised teacher aide course that covers everything you need to know in order to work as a teacher aide in an Australian school. Don't ignore the possibility of enrolling in the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support however. This higher-level course is for those who wish to work with special needs students and it opens more doors. You can go straight into the Cert IV or the Teacher Aide Combo which is our recommendation as it saves time, money and boosts your resume.


Another aspect of the Cert 3 in Education Support worth considering is which mode suits your needs and circumstances the best. TAFE providers offer class-based courses several days per week which tends to suit school leavers. Most mature learners (over 18) tend to enrol with non-government providers such as FTTA. Adult learners need flexibility combined with technological solutions that enables them to study when and where they want by accessing high quality resources in a structured, self-paced program.


With so many options for you to choose from, we recommend taking the time to think carefully about what will give you the best chance of meeting your goals. Finally, a word of advice - don’t skimp on investing in your own education! An investment in yourself is always a good investment.


About the author

Adam Green is an advisor to government, a former teacher, an instructional designer and an author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of Fast Track Training Australia, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher’s aides every year.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to check his article for accuracy, information may be outdated, inaccurate or not relevant to you and your location/employer/contract. It is not intended as legal or professional advice. Users should seek expert advice such as by contacting the relevant education department, should make their own enquiries, and should not rely on any of the information provided.

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