Paraprofessional is a title given to individuals in various occupational fields, such as education, librarianship, healthcare, engineering, and law. Historically, paraprofessionals assisted the master professional of their field. In more recent times, paraprofessionals have become a professional in their own right, providing services which meet the needs of a particular recipient or community.
The Greek prefix "para-" indicates beside or side by side (as in "parallel"); hence, a paraprofessional is one who works alongside a professional, while being a professional themselves. 
The paraprofessional is able to perform tasks requiring significant knowledge in the field, and may even function independently of direct professional supervision. It is generally understood that paraprofessionals are the next most qualified professional after the master professional in their field. For example, physicians are allowed more independence than physician assistants (also known as paraphysicians), however physician assistants are more qualified than paramedics. Lawyers are allowed more independence than paralegals, however paralegals are more qualified than other legal professionals.
Some paraprofessional occupations require extensive education, testing and certification, especially in the areas of law and health. Others paraprofessionals require only a certain level of education or acquire education outside the professional norm, such as in librarianship. In some occupations, such as that of a paraeducator or paralibrarian, requirements for education and certification differ geographically.