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How to Become a Special Education Teacher's Aide

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Teachers' aides, also known as instructional aides, paraprofessionals or parateachers, perform a wide variety of tasks to assist teachers and their students. They may work individually with special education students or provide classroom assistance to the teacher. According to the No Child Left Behind Act, special education teachers' aides must meet specific requirements if they work in a Title 1 school. (The school is so classified if it has a large number of students from low-income families and the district receives supplemental funding from the U.S. Department of Education.) States and local education boards set the standards for special education teachers' aides in non-Title 1 schools.

Complete an associate’s degree or two years of college, or or pass a rigorous test given by the school district, to become a teacher's aide in a Title 1 school. Special education aides must be highly qualified to work in classrooms that receive Title 1 funds.

Meet the minimum requirements for special education teachers' aides set by states or local school districts with non-Title 1 schools. Contact the state board of education or the local school district to determine the requirements. Often teachers' aides must have a high school diploma and be at least 18 years of age. Some states provide on-the-job training, while others have a certification program based on education and work experience. Most states require a background check for all teachers' aides.

Complete a certificate program for special education teachers' aides. While an associate's degree meets the qualifications for employment in a Title 1 school, a certification improves the resume of a teacher's aide. Complete coursework that includes child growth and development, child psychology and working with families of children with special needs. As teachers' aides often assist with the instruction of writing, reading and mathematics, you should develop good writing, language and math skills.

Decide whether you are interested in a part-time position with no benefits or a full-time position with benefits. Determine if you want to work with students in elementary, middle or high school.


In some classrooms, teachers' aides work closely with students to teach grooming habits and life skills. In others classrooms, teachers' aides operate audiovisual equipment and keep detailed records.

In some schools, teachers' aides work with the students in special education classrooms. In other programs, special education teachers' aides assist students as they participate in regular classrooms.


Kim Dieter has taught agriscience classes, developed curriculum and participated in the school accreditation process at the secondary and community college levels since 1980. She holds a Master of Science degree from the University of California, Davis, in animal science.