You want to be the teacher’s aide that all the teachers fight to have assigned to their class.
This article will summarise the learning opportunities available to teacher’s aides in Australia and includes qualifications, certificates, short courses and self-directed learning. If you are actively looking for work or are already employed, you should be completing regular courses, certificates and possibly qualifications, in order to improve your skills and knowledge and the services that you provide to schools and students. You will read about what is available, what it costs and why you should invest your time and money in your own education.
To become a teacher’s aide in Australia, you will need to complete a qualification and obtain a certificate. You also need to have certain skills to become a good teacher’s aide – some of these are taught in your course and some require experience to master.
We did the research and have come up with six certificates, qualifications and skills that you need to boost your resume, land the perfect job and become an essential part of the education team.
Note that there is currently no legal requirement in any state to hold a teacher’s aide qualification or certificate (at least yet – but there has been talk). However, very few schools will hire someone without an education support qualification or certificate.
In this article you will learn:
If you’re just starting out in the industry, you may have heard that you don’t need a teacher’s aide qualification or certificate to get hired. In fact, you may have already done some paid work. This is not uncommon, but unless you are friends with a principal, you really need a qualification to get in the door.
There is much more to working as a teacher’s aide than you may think – helping children one-on-one for example is more complicated when you begin thinking about ‘conceptual understanding’ as opposed to simple ‘task completion’.
Even if you are already working in a school, a qualification is still essential. There are several reasons:
I recommend reading my article A Guide to Government Funded Teacher’s Aide Courses and specifically the section “Is free really free? Why cheap courses can be really expensive.”
Also, you should bear in mind that if you don’t have a qualification and have been hired because of your contacts, what happens if that contact leaves the school? The job will be advertised at the end of the year and someone WITH a qualification will be hired.
There are two main qualifications that the majority of teacher’s aides in Australia hold or are working towards:
So, what is the difference? The CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support is the entry-level course that covers all of the basics whereas the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support covers all of the basics as well as introduces you to working with special needs students. Speak to your RTO about the entry requirements for each course and what suits your needs.
Note that to work in special needs schools, which often attracts slightly higher pay, you typically need the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support which is known as the special need’s qualification. Having this certificate on your resume will significantly increase your chances of landing a job in your local area as a teacher’s aide (especially a special needs teacher’s aide).
There are a range of free certificates that you could easily complete and add to your resume. Normally they are quite short such as 30 minutes to 1 or 2 hours. You can sign up online and work though them at a pace that suits you, however, they can generally be completed in one sitting. These are great for boosting your resume if you are looking for work or trying to ensure you win a contract extension. They are also a good way to learn more and at no cost!
How do you find these courses? First choose a topic such as ‘vulnerable children’ or ‘autism’ or ‘safety’ and type that into Google with ‘free short course’. It may take some time, but you will easily find hundreds of courses. Also, ask your friends and family or your trainer (we get students to do 4 or 5 short courses as part of their nationally recognised qualifications, so students have several certificates on their resume).
Example: This is a very popular and relatively simple free course developed by the government (note that I first came across this in a high school teaching career studies – all year 11 and 12 students at the school had to complete it).
How do these free courses work? Generally, you will be required to log in, read some information, watch a video or two, answer some questions and then you will receive a certificate in pdf form to your email (or when you press submit on the final question it will display).
Note: Free certificates generally don’t come with support (because it is free after all).
And what are you to do with all of these certificates? Keep them stored in a folder on your computer called something like “Certificates” and use a clear title structure for each certificate (this is called nomenclature) such as “Jan-2020 Autism certificate” and follow the same structure for naming every certificate.
Important tip: Once you are employed (depending on where you live) you will be provided with a login to the department’s website (for emails and notices, payroll records etc.). In this same portal (or a different portal but using the same login credentials), you will find a series of PDs, webinars or short courses that you can work through in your own time.
Some departments have compulsory courses that you must attend such as mandatory reporting, and restraining children. If it is mandatory, it will be free.
PDs (short for professional development) may not be free – some charge a fee such as $70, $170 or even up to $1200 for a 2-day conference. These can sometimes be called workshops, seminars etc. Sometimes you can find them on Google but generally speaking, you will only find out about them through your school. Ask your school (teacher, principal, deputy, head of learning area, other teacher’s aides etc.) to forward you any flyers or emails regarding PDs. You can also ask them if there are any PDs that they would recommend.
Most teachers and teacher’s aides attend 1-4 PDs per year (this is an average – some attend more – some none). Typically, they are run over a full day (sometimes in the afternoon such as after school for an hour) and people from schools in the area attend.
Schools will generally pay for you to attend a PD, provided it is relevant to what you are doing in the school (and of course are a paid employee). You can always ask – if you don’t ask, you don’t get – as the saying goes.
In the link below you can see that the Autism Society runs PDs for free on a regular basis. Some schools generally allow you to attend a PD as a paid day’s work (especially if the PD is free).
An important, free and often overlooked way to continually improve, is to develop your skills and knowledge through practice in the real world. You will do this anyway over time, but when actively and consciously putting effort into improving your skills, the quality of service that you provide to your clients (students, teachers, parents, community) will grow much faster. There are a whole bunch of easy and simple ways that you can improve each day while at work. We have listed the two main ways:
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.” — Henry Ford
Some people complete their course and then think that they don’t need to learn anything else or that the learning is now done and dusted. Nothing can be further from the truth – finishing your course is just the beginning of your journey. Completing a course only means that you know the bare minimum – you are now called a new-entrant (aka a rookie).
How can you continue learning after you have finished your course?
As you can see from the very ‘scientific’ graph above, learning becomes easier and you build on existing knowledge. As you get better at something, mastering new but related skills becomes easier - adding new knowledge to your existing pool of knowledge becomes easier and quicker.
Author’s note: This is one of my favourite study strategies and we drill it into each of our students. Doing anything is hard – especially learning a whole new body of knowledge and skills that were previously foreign to you. Learning computer programming is really hard for example, especially if you try to learn everything at the same time.
However, you can break a (seemingly impossible) task like learning computer programming, into lots of smaller achievable parts/goals; this is called chunking and is a key classroom strategy. Once you learn one part, you can learn the second part, and then the third and so on. Eventually you know enough to start learning and solving more complex problems. This is called scaffolding and is another educational strategy that you will learn in your teacher’s aide qualification.
Incremental learning is all about getting slightly better at something one tiny bit at a time. That can mean learning something little every day – not just little, but tiny. Imagine for example, that you read this article, and you have learnt one or two things that you then implement in your classroom tomorrow (such as chunking, or scaffolding). Now imagine if you learnt that much, every week, for the next 5 years! That’s about 260 new things!
Now also image that every time you learnt something new, you added it to your pool of existing knowledge – every time something new was added it became easier and quicker to master. That is the power of incremental learning – it doesn’t take much – but it adds up big time for those willing to consistently learn a little each day/week/month.
If you are looking to work as a teacher aide in the future, the first step is to ensure that you enrol with a reputable provider. However, you should also take the time to learn and improve your skills and knowledge by attending PDs, reading widely and watching videos online. It is imperative to take advantage of the power of incremental learning and to make yourself into an indispensable part of the work team. This will enable you to provide the best possible services to your students, your teacher and the parents who entrust their children to your care.
Adam Green is a former teacher and is a post-graduate researcher at Murdoch university specialising in professional development, adult education and teacher’s aides. He has authored several textbooks for teacher’s aides and the early childhood industry. Adam is also the Managing Director of Fast Track Training Australia.
Author’s disclaimer: The information provided in this article is general in nature, may not be relevant to your situation, is not legal advice and no guarantee of accuracy is provided.
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With more than 4000 graduates, FTTA is the go-to provider for teacher's aide courses. 1 in 2 students choose to study the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support with FTTA.