A Para Pro’s Guide to Paraeducator Salaries

In this paraeducator salary article of your dreams, you will first learn what paraeducators do. Then you will receive a brief explanation of why paraeducator salaries are more painful than stepping on a Lego. Lastly, you will see how, though small, you can build financial freedom using your para salary. Now, let’s get to it. 

But first, a paraeducator's salary evolution.

Let me take you back to 2009 when I first became a paraeducator.  The starting pay is only $9.50 per hour in the middle school level of a therapeutic day school for autism for 37.5 hours per week as a 1:1. Providing summers and holidays off with minimal medical benefits.  

Now let’s jump to 2013,  I know have a few years under my belt.  I quit the therapeutic day school and now I’m in a public school district preschool program position as a 1:1 again. The pay here is now $11:50 per hour from 8-4 with a half-hour lunch and two 15 minute breaks. This position came with union representation, therefore the benefits were better, especially  the medical and dental benefits

Finally, I’ll take you to 2019, I have over a decade of experience in paraeducating and I find myself in a new district. The pay is $16.50 from 7:30 to 2:30, not gonna lie, I love.love.getting out at 2:30. This position also comes with union representation and again amazing benefits.  

At this time if you have been following along you will notice that the para pay is barely over minimum wage and in 10 years it only went up a measly five dollars. That’s not financial freedom living, now is it? In addition, you are probably wondering how am I going to build financial freedom with these meager earnings. Well, let's read on learn how.

What does a paraeducator do?

You can find most paraeducators, additionally known as paraprofessionals, para-swamis, teaching assistants, or aides, just to name a few, in special education environments. All though this may be true, many educational settings from early childhood preschool programs to colleges and universities, offer paraeducator positions. The paraeducator's job entails assisting teachers by providing educational support in order to help students achieve their educational goals. 

Is being a paraeducator a good job?

It is my humble opinion that paraeducator positions are good jobs, all though hard at times, they are very fulfilling. If you are a person with a natural love for children, compassionate, filled with lots of patience and understanding then you will find a paraeducator job highly invigorating.

 5 Reasons Paraeducating is a Good Job

  1. Empower students.
  2. Strenghten teaching skills.
  3. Great employee benefits.
  4. Shorter workdays.
  5. Summers and holidays off.

Is a Paraeducator Job Hard?

In contrast, you can make the paraeducator job hard if you do not have a support system for your own self-care. You will burn out! Plus, all the joy of the job will dissipate.

 5 Reasons Paraeducating is Hard Job

  1. Difficult students.
  2. Gossip.
  3. Bodily Fluids.
  4. Always taking data.
  5. Low.Paraeducator.Salaries.

What is a paraeducator salary?

Now that you are all caught up on the paraeducator job, let’s talk salary. Generally, paraeducators are hourly employees averaging 37.5 hours per week.  So, how much do paraeducators make? Well, that answer could vary depending on location and employer.

Simply put the average paraeducator's salary depends on where you look. According to

  • Glassdoor and Zippia the national average is 33K.
  • Meanwhile, on the high end there is Zip Recruiter and Indeed claiming top pay at around 40K. 
  • In contrast to Payscale and Salary which are representing the low end suggesting 23K.
  • Concluding that it is safe to say that the paraeducator salary varies from 23K-43K. 

Be that is it may, my personal experience with paraeducator salaries fall in the low end.  Yup, salary, and payscale are the most accurate in my book (and I was in special education).  Don’t believe me, well let’s do the math. 

So, how much do paraeducators get paid? The average hourly pay is 15$ an hour, averaging a 6.5 hour workday of an average workweek of 37.5 hours summing up to $97.50 per day. Coupled with no pay for summer, winter, or spring break leaving 36 workweeks. Providing a grand total of $20,250 per year. Not much financial empowerment there.

Speaking of special education there is a misconception that special education paraeducator salaries are higher.  To be frank, most salary reports for paraeducators are based on special education paraeducator reports since it is the field with the most paraeducator positions.

Can you make a living on a paraeducator's salaries?

If you are single, with no dependents, no debt, and are a phenomenal budgeter then yes, you can make a living on a paraeducator salary.

But not all paraeducators are in that position in life.  Paras come from all walks of life. From single moms to retired grandmas.  Many paraeducators I've encountered need a second income to help them feel more comfortable or just make ends meet. 

I know personally that if I were a single mom I could not make it on my para salary alone. Leaving me completely grateful and appreciative of my hubby's income. However, I started to plan and strategize on how I could make a living on my paraeducator salary and my solution is blogging.

Is this why paraeducators quit?

In my humble opinion, yes. Some may suggest that it is the workload but I personally think it is the pay. Yes, paraeducators may have a lot of responsibilities but I have experienced that many paraeducators find a flow and make the job enjoyable but eventually leave to level up in the education field as they find their specialty to increase their income.

How can a paraeducator grow?

There are many ways a paraeducator to grow varying from professional development to self-care but for the purpose of this post, we are going to focus on financial growth.

The beauty of being a paraeducator is that you are at the bottom of the education scale and you can go in many directions from there depending on your education. A para can go on to be a teacher, specializing in therapy like speech, OT, or mobility, just to name a few. I've had para friends become BCBAs who focus on behavior, social workers or simply stay as paras just because they love it. However, I happen to enjoy leveraging my para skills on the internet.

How can a paraeducator make more money?

As I stated earlier, many paraeducators quit in order to make more money, In order to do so, they have to pay for institutional schooling in order to level up. I find nothing wrong with this route but it does leave you holding a bag full of student loan debt.

I rather leverage the skills I have already developed as a para or in life in general and teach them to others online.

If you click on the link above they will take you to startamomblog.com, where I learned how to build this site, and Suzi, the mastermind behind startamomblog, encourages her students through her bright personality and easy to follow baby steps to get you building your financial empire.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, they do. In fact, in most public school positions, the district board and the union reps get together and agree upon a salary increase schedule. The one for my distinct gives paraeducators a raise every year. Averaging about a 50 cent increase. So the longer you commit to the district the higher the pay.

No, paraeducators don't get paid during the summers but you should check with your union rep or hr rep and ask if they offer unemployment. My district started offering it last year, 2021.

For the most part, paraeducators get paid for most major holidays like Labor Day, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day, MLK, President's Days, and if your school is still in session Memorial Day.

Many public school districts work with unions to provide exceptional benefits to their employees. In addition, some paraeducators remain to stay in their positions for the benefits alone.

It used to not be the case. Fortunately, since covid, the union reps negotiated for us and 2021 was the first year I was able to collect unemployment during the summer. I recommend you check with your union representatives and see what they are offering.

It seems that the best pay for paraeducators can be found in the city and wealthy suburbs.

The last thing you need to know about paraeducator salaries

In short, paraeducators assist teachers to achieve students' goals. The job itself can be quite rewarding. Unfortunately, the pay does not reflect the job responsibilities. Causing paraeducators to quit in order to pursue higher income because like I said in my intro the para salary hurts more than stepping on legos.

So quit stepping on legos. Your tribe is waiting to hear you teach what you know. Start blogging today!

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