Teacher aides in Australia are generally required to obtain a nationally recognised qualification or certificate such as the CHC30221 Certificate III in School Based Education Support or the higher level CHC40221 Certificate IV in School Based Education Support before being employed in a school.
This article will summarise the learning opportunities available for teacher’s aides in Australia and includes qualifications, certificates, short courses and ways of learning and developing your skills independently. If you are actively looking for work or are already employed, we recommend that you complete regular courses, certificates and at least one qualification if you have not done so already. It is important to continually improve your skills and knowledge so you can provide a high level of service to your school and your students. You will also read about what is available in Australia at present, 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 such as the CHC40221 Certificate IV in School Based Education Support. 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, spoke with the experts and have come up with 6 certificates, qualifications and skills that you need to boost your resume so you can be the best teacher aide your school has ever seen!
Note that there is currently no 'legal' requirement in any state or territory for a teacher aide to hold a teacher’s aide qualification or certificate (at least yet – but there has been talk). However, it should be pointed out that very few schools will hire someone without an education support qualification or certificate.
In this article you will learn:
If you want to become a teacher aide, we also recommend that you read this free article: How to become a teacher aide
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 by a school. In fact, you may have already done some paid work as a casual or relief support worker. This is not uncommon, but unless you are (really good) friends with a principal (and even then...), you will need a nationally recognised qualification to get your foot 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 are trying to teach to ‘conceptual understanding’ as opposed to simply teaching to ‘task completion’. You will also need to develop your pedagogical skills and knowledge by learning best practice teaching and learning strategies such as modelling, worked examples, scaffolding, metacognitive skills, reading and writing strategies, play based learning and enquiry/discovery based approaches, and dozens more! Not only that, but you will also need to learn about behaviour management techniques, working with students with disabilities and disorders, and operational and logistical processes and policies. Wow so much to learn!
Even if you are already working in a school, a qualification is still essential and vital for both your job security and also so you can provide the highest level of support services to the classroom teacher and your students. There are several other reasons for why a nationally recognised course is essential:
If you are thinking about enrolling in an education support course, I recommend reading this article first: A Guide to Government Funded Teacher’s Aide Courses which showed that it is often the case that some cheaper courses cost more because of lost earnings potential.
Also, you should bear in mind that if you don’t have a qualification and your contract ends, it is possible that another person who is qualified could be awarded the position the following year. As time goes on, schools are requiring their staff to be more and more qualified depending on their role. We don't recommend waiting until you are out of work to test this theory.
There are two main qualifications that the majority of teacher’s aides in Australia complete before being appointed by a school:
So the next question that many students ask, what is the difference? The CHC30221 Certificate III in School Based Education Support is the entry-level course that covers all of the basics or working in a mainstream classroom the under direct supervision of a teacher. The CHC40221 Certificate IV in School Based Education Support on the other hand covers all of the basics as well as introduces you to working with special needs students such as students with Autism, physical disabilities, learning disorders and significant behavioural issues. We recommend the CHC40221 Certificate IV in School Based Education Support (or our very popular teacher aide combo) given that most work in schools is for special needs students (and the Certificate IV is the 'special needs' course). Speak to your provider about the entry requirements for each course and what suits your needs, goals and intended career path.
Note that to work in a special need's school, which often attracts slightly higher pay, you typically need the CHC40221 Certificate IV in School Based 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 teachers aide).
There are a range of free online certificates or courses for teacher aides that you could easily complete and add to your resume. Normally they are quite short such as 30 minutes to 1-2 hours and are usually video based. 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 that your contract is extended the year after. They are also a good way of learning more without spending money on expensive books or courses.
How do you find these courses? First choose a topic such as ‘vulnerable children’, ‘Autism’ or ‘safety’ and type these terms into Google with ‘free short course’. It may take some time to find these courses, but there are plenty out there. Also, ask your friends and family or your trainer (we have students to do 4 or 5 short courses as part of their nationally recognised qualification to help them supercharge their resume).
This is a very popular and relatively simple (and free) course developed and provided by the government which takes about half an hour:
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 a pdf certificate will be emailed to you (or it could be displayed on your screen at the end).
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 consistently label each document (this is called nomenclature) such as “Jan-2020 Autism certificate” and follow the same structure for naming every certificate as you complete them. The reason for this is because over the years you might complete 20, 30, maybe 50 of these and having them all in one place, nice and neat, comes in handy.
Important tip: Once you are employed (depending on where you live) you will be provided with a login to your employer'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. This applies mainly to anyone working in the public sector.
Some state education authorities have compulsory courses that you must attend such as mandatory reporting and inductions. If it is mandatory, it will be free in almost all cases.
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, Head of Learning Area, fellow teacher aides etc.) to forward you any flyers or emails regarding PDs. You can also ask if there are any PDs that are aware of and would recommend.
Most teachers and teacher aides attend 1-4 PDs per year on average (this is an average – some attend more – some none at all). Typically, these courses are run over a full day (although sometimes for an afternoon or just an hour) and people from schools in the local area are invited to attend.
Schools will generally pay for you to attend a PD if you are employed and provided it is relevant to what you are doing in the school. You can always ask – if you don’t ask, you don’t get, as the saying goes.
In the link below you will see an example of a free online PD. This one, held by the Autism Society, is offered on a regular basis.
An important, free and often overlooked way to continually improve, is to develop your skills and knowledge through practice in the real world. This does happen with experience, but it takes decades. Actively and purposefully practicing is a way of fast-forwarding this process. This is called 'deliberate practice' and it goes hand in hand with reflective practice. The 2 main ways that you can easily and cheaply improve your skills at work is via reflective practice and asking for help and advice (mentorships):
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 now 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, the more you learn, the easier learning becomes as you add and build on your existing knowledge. As you get better at something, mastering new but related skills becomes easier. To use 'teacher speak' you are adding to your existing schema (a way of thinking about and organising the world).
Incremental learning is all about getting slightly better at something one tiny bit at a time. That can mean learning or improving (eben if just a little) every day or week. Imagine for example, that you read this article and you have learnt one or two new things that you then implement in your classroom tomorrow. 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. These small incremental improvements are compounded (in a good way) when you add in books, videos, PDs, short courses, reflective practice, deliberate practice and one or more nationally recognised qualifications.
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 so you get a foundational understanding of the most effective teaching and learning strategies. 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 combined with reflective practice, so you become an invaluable member of the school. This will enable you to provide the best possible service to your students, your teacher and the parents who trust you with their children's education and development.
Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and a #1 best selling 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 ITAC, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.
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The Institute of Teacher Aide Courses is the go-to provider for nationally recognised teacher aide courses. Around 1 in 2 students choose to study Australia's most popular TA course with ITAC.
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