What is the difference between an IEP and a 504 Plan?

Both plans area designed to provide accommodations and support to children who need it while in school. Even though in many ways these two plans are very similar, there are some very distinct differences to make note of as well.


  • Both provide a blueprint for the educational experience of a child
  • Both are at no cost to the parents
  • Both provide a list of accommodations and services that will be needed for the child
  • Both address the needs of the child brought on by a form of a disability
  • Both create a list of needed accommodations for the child
  • Parental consent is required for both plans
  • Both plans address ways for parents to resolve discrepancies found with the school and the accommodations being provided


  • An IEP is part of Special Education Services, a 504 plan is not
  • An IEP applies under IDEA, a 504 plan is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • To qualify for an IEP a student has one or more of the 13 specific disabilities listed in IDEA and the disabilities affect the child’s educational performance, a 504 plan has a broader definition of a disability and can be applied to students who are able to continue in a general education classroom and don’t qualify for an IEP
  • An IEP has very strict rules and requirements for who can create the plan, the 504 plan is much less specific and can make the evaluation
  • An IEP is very specific, sets goals, ensures progress, and spells out the accommodations needed, the 504 plan spells out the accommodations but is not standardized
  • AN IEP must be reviewed at least once a year, a 504 plan is to be reviewed as needed or more often depending on the rules of the state

Understanding the differences between the two plans can help parents know what plan is going to best work for their child. Some students will benefit more from an IEP than a 504 plan while others will perform with only minimal accommodations to ensure they can enjoy the learning environment of the general education setting.