Special Education Instructional Assistant: Job Description & Requirements

Special education instructional assistants require little formal education. Learn about the training, certification and job responsibilities to see if this is the right career for you.

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Special education instructional assistants are required to have a high school diploma or GED. In some states a certificate or associate's degree may be required. They typically need to have CPR and first aid training as well.

Essential Information

Special education instructional assistants, also known as teacher assistants, work exclusively with special education students. They tend to the physical needs of disabled students and provide instructional support to teachers and students. Most schools require special education assistants to have at least a high school diploma as well as on-the-job training. Additional credentials, such as CPR certification, may be required.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent; associate's degree may be required in some districts
Additional Requirements On-the-job training
Certification/Licensure Varies by state; CPR and First Aid certification is typically required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% for teacher assistants
Average Salary (2015)* $26,550 annually for teacher assistants

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Job Description

Job duties for a special education assistant can include physically assisting students with tasks like eating, using the bathroom, riding the bus and moving from one classroom to another. In addition, special education assistants are often called upon to provide instructional assistance to special education students.

Special education instructional assistants may tailor lessons to an individual student's needs or assist students with especially challenging assignments. Special education instructional assistants may also monitor and record a student's progress or behavior in an effort to better meet a student's needs.

Instructional assistants may also work closely with teachers to prepare lesson plans that best fit the needs of their students. They may also clean the classroom and prepare demonstrations or visual aids for specific lessons.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Teacher assistants, a broader category that included special education instructional assistants, were expected to see a 6% growth in employment outlook during the 2014-2024 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The average annual salary for all teacher assistants was $26,550 as of May 2015, the BLS noted.


All states require special education instructional assistants to have earned a high school diploma or its equivalent. Some states require that instructional assistants have completed some college coursework. Many colleges offer associate's degrees or certificate programs specifically for students interested in becoming instructional assistants. Specializations are often available for students who want to work with special education students.

More rigorous standards are in place for Title I schools, which have a high percentage of low-income students and receive additional federal funding. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, assistants in Title I schools must have at least an associate's degree or must pass an exam. In most cases, special education instructional assistants also receive on-the-job training. Some states require teacher's assistants, including those who work in special education, to have additional certification and licensure.

In addition to meeting educational requirements, special education assistants must also be able to meet the physical demands of the job, which include stooping, kneeling and lifting. Most school districts require instructional assistants to pass a drug test and background check. Teachers' aides are often required to be both CPR and First Aid certified.

Special education instructional assistants assist students with special needs who require extra help in school. Their duties depend on the specific needs of the students they're working with. Educational prerequisites and certification requirements vary, depending on the state and school.

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