Paraprofessional is a term used to describe various roles in the industry by individuals that assist licensed professionals with the day-to-day tasks that these professionals need to complete.
For example, in the legal profession, a paraprofessional may refer to a paralegal that assists an attorney or lawyer.
Or, in academia, a paraprofessional may refer to a teaching assistant that assists a teacher, lecturer, or professor.
These jobs can be very demanding, and very challenging, but also, very rewarding.
Table of Contents
- Pros of Being a Paraprofessional
- Cons of Being a Paraprofessional
- Pros and Cons of Being a Paraprofessional – Summary Table
- Should You Become a Paraprofessional?
Pros of Being a Paraprofessional
Many individuals fit well into this type of supporting role and enjoy many benefits associated with this job.
1. On the Job Training
As a paraprofessional, regardless of which industry you are working in, you may want to advance your career and move on to getting a license to be able to practice as a teacher, accountant, lawyer, etc.
In doing so, you may decide to study part-time, while working full-time.
The advantage to this is that while you are working, you are gaining real-life experience in the industry you are working in.
Not only that, but your superior may be able to act as a mentor during your working life by assisting you in gaining valuable industry experience in a much shorter time than those entering the field without the aid of a mentor.
These real-life scenarios are also able to help you better understand and process the information you are learning about the industry as you are working in the field and are able to relate the theory to your practical experience.
2. Shorter Time to Become Qualified
The route to becoming a paraprofessional is usually much shorter and much quicker than becoming a licensed professional.
Most paraprofessionals require a high school G.E.D and some form of education.
For a paralegal, this may be as short as twelve months.
In comparison to the many years of studies it would require to become a lawyer, not to mention the mountains of debt you would place yourself under to achieve this degree, it seems like the better choice for those who wish to enter the legal field in a shorter time frame.
From here, a paralegal may attend university in order to obtain credits toward a law degree.
In the case of a teaching assistant, this may mean that the candidate should obtain an associate’s degree before they are able to work in their chosen field.
This is usually a two-year degree and is also a much shorter time frame and much less expensive than studying towards a full degree.
In terms of an accounting paraprofessional, this may mean obtaining an associate degree, 2,000 hours of work experience, and passing the Uniform Certified Accounting Paraprofessional Examination.
This is still much less expensive than studying for a full degree.
Some paraprofessionals, such as those working in accounting firms or law firms, enjoy excellent employee benefits.
For example, accounting paraprofessionals receive paid holidays, sick days, vacations, health, and life insurance, excellent annual pay increases, as well as above-average wages and salaries.
Paralegals enjoy most of the same benefits, in addition to a stable work environment, being in high demand, and access to retirement funds.
While the salary for an education paralegal is not the greatest, these professionals do still enjoy many other benefits such as those enjoyed by paralegals, and accounting paraprofessionals.
In addition, they may have access to the tuition waiver program of the school, allowing them to pursue further education without the crippling debt that comes with it.
4. Excellent Pay
With the exception of education paraprofessionals, many in the other fields enjoy financially rewarding careers in their chosen fields.
Apart from this, there is plenty of room for advancement and therefore pay increases throughout their career.
However, keep in mind that the salary expectation may differ according to experience, specialty, and geographic location.
But, as previously mentioned, paralegals and accounting paraprofessionals are able to look forward to generous increases each year.
5. A Variety of Career Paths
Paraprofessionals enjoy a multitude of career paths to choose from.
They are not necessarily stuck in one field or industry.
For example, if a paralegal does not want to open up their own business, they are able to move into government work, the corporate sector, or private law firms.
Similarly, accounting paraprofessionals have a plethora of industries or sectors to choose from.
Any type of company or institution that requires the services of a professional accountant may benefit from the services of an accounting paraprofessional.
In the education sector, teaching assistants may work in primary schools, high schools, or tertiary institutions.
6. A Rewarding Career
Paraprofessionals go on to experience extremely rewarding careers much like those experienced by licensed professionals.
As a teaching assistant, you will be exposed to working with children, supporting, encouraging, and teaching children, (under the supervision of a licensed professional) as well as observing the growth and development of your students.
Both paralegals and accounting paraprofessionals enjoy similar levels of job satisfaction in their chosen professions.
7. Opportunities to Make a Difference
As a paraprofessional, your input, experience, and knowledge will have an impact on the work being done.
You have the ability to directly influence the outcome of the project that you are working on simply by participating and utilizing your skills and knowledge.
For example, in the case of a paralegal, these individuals have the ability to improve the quality of their client’s life.
And, teaching assistant, these professionals are able to assist young children to better understand and process the work being done in class.
Cons of Being a Paraprofessional
Just as there are many benefits associated with these jobs, there are a few disadvantages to taking up these roles as well.
1. High Stress/Pressure
Regardless of which career path you choose as a paraprofessional, these jobs come with varying levels of high stress.
For example, as a teaching paraprofessional, you may experience students that are unwilling to cooperate, making your job much more difficult than it should be.
In addition to this, you may be tasked with completing certain functions and having children that are not willing to work with you, or simply misbehave, can make these tasks near impossible.
As a paralegal, you may be faced with doing copious amounts of research in short amounts of time in preparation for a case.
This may include going over a multitude of case laws in order to be fully prepared for an upcoming case.
Multiply this with the number of upcoming cases and you have a recipe for stress.
2. Lack of Career Growth
Unless you are planning on growing into the role of a professional in your field, there is very little growth in the field of paraprofessionals.
For example, the only room for growth as a teaching assistant is to become a teacher.
The only room for growth as a paralegal is to study further to become a lawyer.
Unless you have plans to move up to the next career, you will have little to no advancement opportunities as a paraprofessional.
3. Long Working Hours
You will often be required to put extra work hours in, often in your free time, in order to get work done or to help the professional meet deadlines.
These additional hours may lead to work overload and burnout as a result of the additional stress and pressure placed on the paraprofessional.
And, in the case of a paralegal, you are not entitled to claim time and a half pay for overtime worked as the department of labor has made an exception for the legal industry in terms of overtime pay.
4. Lack of Appreciation
More often than not, it is the licensed professional that receives most of the praise for the work done.
This may not be the case in all companies or institutions, but it does happen.
The paraprofessional is often tasked with the lion’s share of the work in order for the professional to focus on the more important elements of the task, resulting in the professional being the face of the assignment, and the paraprofessional working in the background.
This may lead to the paraprofessional feeling unappreciated and undervalued.
5. Routine Work
The work of a paraprofessional is never glamorous or exciting.
There is often a routine that must be followed in order to get the work done.
This may become somewhat boring and repetitive, leading to job dissatisfaction and often frustration.
6. Competitive Market
Depending on location, the paraprofessional may not be in high demand as there are a lot of paraprofessionals in the specific field and/or in the specific area.
When there is an oversupply, there is usually a lowered demand for these professionals.
This makes the market saturated and very competitive for the available jobs, meaning that the individual is easily replaced.
This can be very demotivating for paraprofessionals.
Although this has indirectly been mentioned under other headings, it still deserves its own heading.
Paraprofessionals often feel that they have more on their plate than they are able to handle.
This may lead to higher levels of stress, job dissatisfaction, fatigue, burnout, or, in rare cases, depression.
Pros and Cons of Being a Paraprofessional – Summary Table
|Pros of Being a Paraprofessional||Cons of Being a Paraprofessional|
|On the Job Training||High Stress/Pressure|
|Shorter Time to Become Qualified||Lack of Career Growth|
|Benefits||Long Working Hours|
|Excellent Pay||Lack of Appreciation|
|A Variety of Career Paths||Routine Work|
|A Rewarding Career||Competitive Market|
|Opportunities to Make a Difference||Workload|
Should You Become a Paraprofessional?
If you plan on becoming a licensed professional, then starting your career out as a paraprofessional may be the perfect start for you.
You will have an opportunity to gain valuable experience in the field before you are qualified, meaning that you will qualify as a professional with a certain number of working hours behind your name.
It also allows you to test the waters before committing to fully pursuing your degree in your chosen field.