How To Become An SNA

What is an SNA?

Looking to become an SNA? SNA is an abbreviation for Special Needs Assistant. As the name suggests, an SNA is someone who assists children with special needs. The primary duty of an SNA is to provide support for children with additional needs.

The SNAs primary role is to provide care and support. Furthermore, SNAs often work in a variety of classroom settings for various ages, although their role is a non-teaching one.

This can be either in mainstream schools or a dedicated special needs school. They work under the supervision of the classroom teacher or school principal.  


What does a typical day of an SNA look like?

The main role of an SNA is to provide support and guidance for students with additional learning needs and disabilities. The become an SNA is to focus on fostering inclusion. They assist teachers and ensure children with additional needs gain access to all areas of the curriculum including PE and IT.

A typical day-to-day role of the SNA can include but are not limited to:

  • Assisting the teacher prepare classroom materials
  • Assisting children and provide support as needed
  • Ensuring the physical, social, and emotional needs of the children are met
  • Working with the children inside or outside the classroom
  • Assisting children with the hygiene needs such as toileting, clothing, feeding, and general hygiene
Progressive College - How To Become An SNA


Sounds like the job for me – how do I become an SNA?

A good start for those who want to pursue a career in SNA is to look for short training courses for special needs assisting. You can choose between a variety of classroom-based, online, or blended learning course options. Classroom-based classes and blended learning options often require students to attend classes.

Currently, students who wish to enrol must have a Leaving Certificate or Level 4 Certificate or relevant work experiences. Furthermore, to become an SNA, the Department of Education and Science states that those looking to work full-time in schools must have at least 3 passes at Junior Certificate or equivalent.

The QQI Level 5 SNA Certificate requires students to obtain 30 hours of work placement in order to complete the course. The course covers topics that allow students to work in a variety of primary or secondary classroom settings. Here are some of the topics covered by the module:

  • The Role of the Special Needs Assistant
  • Theories of Learning and Behaviour
  • Physical and Intellectual Disabilities
  • Communication and Language Disabilities
  • Child Protection

Students who complete the course can then seek employment or pursue further education such as the QQI Level 6 Certificate. The QQI Level 6 Certificate allows students to tackle broader issues on learning difficulties and disabilities. Students are required to complete 30 hours of work placement in order to complete the certificate. Topics covered at the Level 6 Certificate includes:

  • Equal Opportunities
  • Integration and Inclusion
  • Irish Legislation – EPSEN Act
  • Individual Education Plans (IEP’s)
  • General Learning Difficulties

What are my other course options?

Students can also choose the combined QQI Level 5 & 6 Certificate. In other words, students will receive both the Level 5 Certificate & Level 6 Certificate. Students will be required to complete 60 hours of work placement. By completing the Combined Level 5 & 6 Certificate course allows students to gain valuable knowledge from the modules. As a result, they will stand out when looking for employment. Topics covered can include:

  • Record Keeping
  • Disability Awareness
  • Equal Opportunities
  • Educational Provisions
  • Drama, Music

Similarly, we also offer shorter SNA courses such as our QQI Level 5 and QQI Level 6 Intensive Courses. Therefore, students can complete the course in 5 days. However, they are still required to complete 30 hours of work placement in order to obtain their award.

Upon completion of the Level 5 or Level 6 Certificates, students are now qualified to seek employment in primary and secondary schools. In addition, they can also choose to progress to Level 7 or Level 8 Degree Programmes for Special Needs Education.

Looking to take your first step to become an SNA? Check our list of SNA courses here. You can also give us a call at (01) 488 4300 or email us at [email protected] so we can help you start your SNA career journey today.