Special Education Assistant Career Info, Job Duties and Requirements

Sep 22, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a special education assistant. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and necessary skills to find out if this is the career for you.

Working alongside teachers, special education assistants aid students with disabilities. The type of help these assistants provide varies on the needs of the student and teacher and can include helping students with classwork to creating specific lesson plans with teachers.

Essential Information

Special education assistants work with specially trained teachers to educate students with emotional and behavior disorders, intellectual disabilities, communication challenges or physical disabilities. Prospective special education assistants should complete an associate's degree program for teacher assistants, and they may also be required to pass a skills test designed for individuals working with special needs students, depending on state requirements.

Required Education Associate's degree
Other Requirements Skills test for working with special education students, depending on state; background check; on-the-job training
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 4% for all teacher assistants
Median Salary (2018)* $26,970 for all teacher assistants

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Special Education Assistant Career Information

A variety of methods are used in special education classrooms, so assistants in this field must be adaptable and able to pay attention to details and instructions provided by teachers. Most work with special needs children includes both one-on-one interaction and small group settings. In some cases, a teaching assistant may work with younger children like toddlers who have shown developmental disabilities and delays. With the supervision of a therapist or teacher, these assistants use games and exercise to aid the physical and behavioral development of special needs students.

Job Duties

Though the duties of a special education assistant vary depending on students' specific needs, their primary goal is generally to provide classroom support to teachers. This support includes work with students and other tasks like paperwork and lesson planning. These assistants also help by attending to any physical needs a student may have, like grooming or eating. Overseeing students to ensure that no harm or danger befalls them in the classroom and in other areas like hallways, cafeterias and playgrounds is another important job aspect.


Special education assistants must pass a background check prior to hiring. Some school districts also require prospective special education assistants to pass a drug screening. This position requires excellent communication and writing skills along with the patience to handle difficult and stressful situations. Experience working with children and remaining calm under pressure is helpful for this career. The ability to speak a second language like Spanish and knowledge of different cultural backgrounds is helpful for assistants working in urban areas.

Educational Requirements

Employers usually prefer to hire special education assistants who have some experience with children, either formal or experiential. Due to the specific needs of special education students, a special education assistant should have an associate's degree along with some understanding of physical disabilities, developmental disorders, learning disorders and other special needs. Job training involves understanding the rules and operations of the school along with receiving a thorough explanation of each student's special needs.

Special education assistants perform a variety of functions that may include providing one-on-one student support or crafting lesson plans with teachers. They are expected to have at least an associate's degree and knowledge of different types of disabilities. Special education assistants must also be prepared to take a skills test in order to prove their competency.

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