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Paraprofessional vs. Substitute Teacher: What Are The Differences?

Paraprofessional vs. Substitute Teacher

Paraprofessional vs. Substitute Teacher – learn everything about the differences between these two jobs! 

If you are considering working in the field of education, you may be wondering what the difference is between a paraprofessional and a substitute teacher. While both roles involve working with students and helping to shape their educational experience, there are some key differences between the two positions. This article will explore the differences between paraprofessionals and substitute teachers, including the responsibilities, qualifications, and salary associated with each.

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What is a Paraprofessional?

A paraprofessional is a person who provides support to professional staff, often in a school setting. Paraprofessionals often assist students with special needs, such as those with physical, emotional, or learning disabilities, or provide general support in classrooms. They may also provide clerical and administrative assistance to teachers, principals, and school counselors 1.

What is a Substitute Teacher?

An educator who instructs a class in the absence of a regular teacher is commonly referred to as a substitute teacher or simply a “sub.” In the British context, they may be called a supply teacher.

So, a substitute teacher is an individual who is employed to temporarily take over the responsibilities of a regular teacher, usually in the event of the teacher’s absence due to illness, personal leave, or other reasons. The substitute teacher is typically responsible for teaching the same material as the regular teacher and maintaining classroom rules and procedures 2.

Paraprofessional vs. Substitute Teacher

A paraprofessional, often known as a teacher’s aide or instructional assistant, collaborates with certified teachers to provide support for students with diverse needs. In contrast, a substitute teacher temporarily assumes the primary teaching role, ensuring continuity in the classroom when the regular teacher is absent. 

Below, we discuss the main differences between the job duties, job requirements, and work environment of a Paraprofessional vs. Substitute Teacher position.

Paraprofessional vs. Substitute Teacher Job Duties

The roles of a paraprofessional and a substitute teacher can be similar in some ways, but the two have distinct differences. Both paraprofessionals and substitute teachers can often be found to support teachers in the classroom, but their roles and responsibilities can differ significantly.

Paraprofessionals, also known as teacher assistants, are typically employed by schools to support teachers in the classroom. They are responsible for helping teachers plan and implement instruction, supervising students in the classroom, and providing support to students with special needs. Paraprofessionals may also be asked to assist with administrative tasks, such as taking attendance, grading papers, and helping with record-keeping. Paraprofessionals are expected to have a good understanding of the curriculum and be able to assist students in understanding the material.

A substitute teacher is an educator who is called upon to fill in for a teacher who is absent from the classroom. Substitute teachers are expected to be able to teach the lesson plans that the regular teacher leaves behind and to maintain classroom order and student discipline. They may also be asked to provide additional instruction and help students with their work. Substitute teachers typically do not have the same level of responsibility as permanent teachers and may not have the same opportunities to observe and assess student progress.

The difference in job duties

The primary difference between the roles of a paraprofessional and a substitute teacher is the degree of responsibility. Paraprofessionals are expected to have an in-depth knowledge of the curriculum and be able to provide support to the teacher in the classroom. Substitute teachers are expected to be able to teach the lesson plans that the regular teacher leaves behind.

Still, they typically do not have the same opportunities to observe and assess student progress. Additionally, paraprofessionals typically have more opportunities to interact with students and build relationships with them.

Both paraprofessionals and substitute teachers play an important role in the classroom, and each position has its unique responsibilities and expectations. Paraprofessionals are expected to have a good understanding of the curriculum and be able to provide support to teachers in the classroom. In contrast, substitute teachers are expected to be able to teach the lesson plans that the regular teacher leaves behind.

RelatedParaprofessional vs. Teacher Aide – What’s The Difference?

Paraprofessional vs. Substitute Teacher Job Requirements

Paraprofessionals and substitute teachers, although both crucial components of the educational system, boast distinct job requirements and work environments.

A paraprofessional, often known as a teaching assistant, assists teachers, offering invaluable support in the classroom setting. Their responsibilities encompass aiding students in comprehending educational material, providing additional assistance during lessons, and contributing to overall classroom order. Typically employed by the school or district, paraprofessionals usually hold a high school diploma or equivalent, and some may necessitate a college degree or professional certification. Certain states mandate the completion of a state-approved training program.

In contrast, substitute teachers are enlisted on an as-needed basis to replace regular teachers temporarily during their absence. Expected to deliver the same curriculum and uphold classroom management standards seamlessly, substitute teachers are generally required to possess a bachelor’s degree and a valid teaching license.

Similar to paraprofessionals, some states also mandate the completion of a state-approved training program for substitute teachers. While their job requirements differ significantly, both roles are indispensable to the achievement of educational excellence.

Paraprofessional vs. Substitute Teacher Work Environment

Now, let’s delve into the unique work environments of paraprofessionals and substitute teachers. Paraprofessionals, also referred to as educational assistants, are integral members of the school staff, collaborating closely with teachers to provide academic and behavioral support. They engage with students individually or in small groups, assisting with assignments, reinforcing comprehension, and managing classroom dynamics. The work environment for paraprofessionals involves being an active part of the school staff and potentially having a dedicated workspace within the school premises.

On the other hand, substitute teachers operate on a short-term, on-call basis, filling in for absent teachers. Tasked with delivering the established curriculum and maintaining classroom discipline, substitute teachers may need to adapt to different school settings based on demand or work remotely.

Concerning job security and benefits, paraprofessionals often enjoy more stability as the school district typically employs them for an extended duration. In contrast, substitute teachers may experience more flexibility in their schedules and the types of assignments they undertake.

In conclusion, both paraprofessionals and substitute teachers play pivotal roles in the educational landscape, each offering unique contributions. Prospective candidates seeking a career in education should carefully weigh the distinctions between these roles to align their skills and preferences with the demands of either position.

Paraprofessional vs. Substitute Teacher Skills

Although the roles of paraprofessionals and substitute teachers are similar in that they provide instructional support to students, there are some key differences in the skills and duties required for each position. Paraprofessionals must have a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter they are teaching and must be able to provide individualized instruction to students. They must also have excellent communication and interpersonal skills to build strong relationships with teachers, students, and administrators.

On the other hand, substitute teachers must be able to quickly understand the material they are teaching and effectively communicate and manage classroom behaviors. They must also be able to create lesson plans and provide guidance to students without their regular teacher.

In conclusion, both paraprofessionals and substitute teachers are essential for providing students with the best learning experience possible. Although the roles of each position are similar in that they provide instructional support to students. there are some key differences in the skills and duties required for each position.

Related: Paraeducator vs. Paraprofessional: What are the differences?

Paraprofessional vs. Substitute Teacher Salary

If you’re a teacher looking to supplement your income or just break into the education field, you may consider working as a substitute teacher or a paraprofessional. Both positions offer the opportunity to work in a school setting, but the roles, requirements, and salaries vary greatly.

Paraprofessionals are often referred to as teacher’s assistants or instructional aides. They support teachers and students in the classroom, helping with instruction, providing additional help to students, and preparing materials. Paraprofessionals are usually expected to have some post-secondary education, such as an associate’s degree or equivalent experience. The average salary for a paraprofessional is around $45,000 per year 3.

Substitute teachers fill in for absent teachers temporarily. They are expected to follow the lesson plans of the absent teachers, manage the classroom, and help students with their assignments. Substitute teachers must have a valid teaching certificate, bachelor’s degree, or equivalent experience. The average salary for a substitute teacher is around $48,000 per year 4.

Overall, both positions provide an opportunity to work in a school setting and can be a great way to supplement a teacher’s regular income. Paraprofessionals are more likely to get hired quickly, requiring less experience and education. However, substitute teachers tend to make more money and can have the opportunity to work in a variety of schools and districts.

RelatedAssociate Teacher vs. Teacher – What’s The Difference?

Key Takeaways

  • Role and Responsibilities: Paraprofessionals, often known as teacher’s aides or instructional assistants, support certified teachers by providing additional help to students, especially those with special needs. They assist in classroom activities, administrative tasks, and sometimes with specific instructional support. Substitute teachers, on the other hand, temporarily take on the full responsibilities of the absent teacher, teaching the provided lesson plans and managing the classroom.
  • Qualifications and Requirements: Paraprofessionals typically require a high school diploma or equivalent, and in some cases, a college degree or specific certification, depending on the district’s requirements. They may also need to complete a state-approved training program. Substitute teachers usually need a bachelor’s degree and a valid teaching license, with some states also requiring completion of a specific training program.
  • Work Environment: Paraprofessionals are generally a stable part of the school staff, working consistently in one school and often having a specific classroom or office space. Substitute teachers’ work can vary greatly day-to-day, with assignments in different schools and classrooms based on where they are needed.
  • Skills: Paraprofessionals must have a strong understanding of the curriculum and the ability to provide individualized support to students. They need excellent communication and interpersonal skills for collaborating with teachers and students. Substitute teachers need to quickly grasp and teach new material, manage classroom behaviors effectively, and adapt lesson plans as needed.
  • Salary: Paraprofessionals and substitute teachers have differing salary scales, often influenced by their educational qualifications, the district they work in, and the length of their assignments.

Comparison Paraprofessional vs. Substitute Teacher:

Aspect

Paraprofessional

Substitute Teacher

Responsibilities Assist with instruction, support special needs students, administrative tasks Teach lesson plans, manage classroom
Qualifications High school diploma or equivalent, possibly a college degree or certification Bachelor’s degree, teaching license
Work Environment Consistent, often in one school Variable, may work in multiple schools
Skills Curriculum knowledge, individualized instruction, communication Quick learning, classroom management, lesson adaptation
Salary Varies, often based on district and qualifications Varies, generally higher than paraprofessionals but dependent on assignments and district

This table and the key takeaways provide a clear overview of the main differences between paraprofessionals and substitute teachers, helping individuals considering a career in education to understand which role might suit them better.

Sources

Megainterview uses only high-quality sources to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy & guidelines to learn more about how we verify content, fact-check, and ensure our content remains accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. We Are Teachers, https://www.weareteachers.com/what-is-a-paraprofessional/[]
  2. National Education Association, https://www.nea.org/substitute-teachers[]
  3. Glassdoor.com, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/paraprofessional-salary-SRCH_KO0,16.htm[]
  4. Glassdoor.com, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/substitute-teacher-salary-SRCH_KO0,18.htm[]

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Natalja Atapin is a seasoned job interview and career coach at Megainterview.com and brings a decade of recruitment and coaching experience across diverse industries. Holding a master's degree in Organisational Psychology, she transitioned from coaching to managerial roles at prominent companies like Hays. Natalja's passion for simplifying the job search process is evident in her role at Megainterview.com, where she contributes practical strategies to assist professionals and fresh graduates.

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