Special Education: Specialization in Early Childhood Special Education
M.A., M.Ed., Certificate, Endorsement
Degree: Masters Degree: Endorsement Degree: Certificate Program Type: Online Interest: Communication Disorders

This program prepares teachers and other early interventionists to work with families, infants, toddlers and preschool children with a range of delays/disabilities.

The program reflects:

Our goal is to ensure that services for young children with delays/disabilities and families are:

  • Family-centered.
  • Comprehensive.
  • Interdisciplinary.
  • Community-based/Inclusive.
  • Activity/Routine-based.
  • Developmentally appropriate.

Who should consider this program

  • Special education teachers who want additional specialization (birth to age 5) or continuing education credits
  • Early childhood educators who want to work with young children with special needs
  • Allied health and social service specialists who provide special services for children birth to age 5 with delays or disabilities
  • Those with a baccalaureate degree who wish to pursue a teaching certificate to work with young children with disabilities and their families

Ranked Among The Best

U.S. News and World Report Rankings2016 U.S. News and World Report rankings place this program 14th on the list of "Best Online Graduate Education Programs."


Tuition & Fees For Special Education: Early Childhood

Graduate: Application & Admission

Program & Courses

Master's degree (36 credit hours):

This degree program in Special Education has a specialization in Early Childhood Special Education, with focus on children Birth to age 5 with disabilities, and their families. The degree will require 18 credits of courses focusing on early childhood special education issues and populations. Additional courses can focus on other areas and ages in special education, early childhood education, and/or child development. The degree can be completed with or without pursuit of Nebraska Department of Education teaching endorsement in special education. Professionals working with the special education population, are not teachers, may find this degree program attractive for professional development/advancement.

Graduate Certificate Program (12 credit hours):

This program provides you with concentrated study in Early Childhood Special Education. You will work with your adviser to select courses with an infant focus, a preschool focus, or a combination infant/preschool focus. This certificate does not result in a teaching certificate/endorsement but can be used to meet some requirements for the teaching endorsement in Early Childhood Special Education.

Degree and Endorsement Foundation Courses

  • Prerequisite courses (6-9 credit hours in Special Education)
  • Required Courses (18 credit hours in ECSE and 6-12 credit hours in Child Development/Early Childhood Education)
  • Research Course
  • An additional 16+ credit hours is required if you do not hold a teaching certificate.

Endorsement in Early Childhood Special Education Endorsement (Birth through Kindergarten) (NDE Rule 24) or Preschool Disabilities (30 credit hours):

Required courses address:

  • Family partnerships.
  • Kindergarten teaching.
  • Preschool and infants with disabilities.
  • Autism.
  • Home visiting and classroom-based models.
  • Language development.
  • Early childhood education.

Undergraduate coursework may be applicable for the endorsement. Required UNL courses can be completed in 3–4 years on a part-time basis.

The ECSE endorsement from NDE can be met through the ECSE Graduate Certificate or Master’s Degree program. It is not an option by itself. This endorsement is available to two candidates, one with and one without a current teaching certificate. The add-on endorsement is for the candidate with a valid teaching certificate in either Elementary (K-6), Early Childhood Education (Pre-3), Inclusive (Unified) Early Childhood Education (Birth to grade 3) or Special Education (7–12).The endorsement requires a minimum of 30 credits, with 18 graduate credits in ECSE and 12 credits in Early Childhood Education and Development, including Kindergarten Education. Relevant prior coursework may be considered and lower the total number of graduate credits required. The graduate of this program will be eligible for teaching positions as a preschool classroom teacher for children with and without disabilities or as a special educator in itinerant consultant or coach roles in homes, community child care, preschool or public school programs. Apply to UNL's Graduate Certificate in ECSE or Master’s degree program in Special Education.

Students without a current teaching certificate may combine these endorsement requirements with additional courses and field experiences to earn an Initial Teaching Certificate in Nebraska; student must be admitted to the master’s degree program in Special Education. Students may enroll on a part-time or full-time basis

Endorsement in Early Intervention Specialist Endorsement (Birth to K) (NDE Rule 24):

The early intervention specialist is an endorsement from NDE that can be met through the ECSE Graduate Certificate or Master’s Degree program at UNL. It is not an option by itself. This add-on Endorsement is for the candidate who currently holds a valid teaching certificate in special education (K-6 or K-12). The endorsement requires 18 credits of graduate credit in ECSE and 6 graduate credits in typical early childhood development. This endorsement does not permit the teacher to be a preschool classroom teacher; the program is designed to prepare the special educator as consultant and coach for children under age 5 and their families in homes, child care, preschool or public school programs. Relevant prior coursework may be considered and lower the total number of credits required. The change in age-level served requires that these candidates complete a minimum of 160 contact hours with children under age 5 in home visiting and preschool settings as part of coursework and/or 7 weeks of supervised practicum; on-the job opportunities can be used for some hours. Apply to UNL's Graduate Certificate in ECSE or Master’s degree program.

As a student in this online program, you may choose to take a one or a few classes of interest, pursue the teaching endorsement or graduate certificate, or complete a graduate degree.

View Catalogs & Courses

Transfer Credits

Each degree program within the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is responsible for evaluating transfer credit and determining how the credit will apply to your specific degree program.

The evaluation of transfer credit is based on a review of the comparability of the nature, content and level of the learning experience and its appropriateness to the degree program.

Minor or supportive courses of interest

Not all supportive courses of interest may be available via distance through UNL. Additional coursework required for the endorsement or degree can be transferred to/from cooperating campuses or taken via distance education from other UNL departments.

If you're interested in transferring credit, you will need to consult with the UNL academic department associated with your major. In most instances, you will be requested to submit the respective course syllabus.

Transfer credit information for graduate degrees

Career Services

If you’re enrolled as a degree seeking student in a UNL program you’ll have access to the same career services as on-campus students. Don’t live in the immediate area? We’ll come to you by providing phone or Skype consultations.

After you graduate, the Nebraska Alumni Association will continue to help with resources and events for job seekers.


Online courses are taught by the same award-winning professors and researchers who teach on-campus classes.

Faculty advisers will help you choose courses that will define your personal and career goals while completing your degree.

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Ways Your Education Can Benefit Your Kids

Special education online masters program


Congratulations to Christine Marvin on receiving the Outstanding Professor Award from the College of Education and Human Sciences. Christine is the faculty coordinator and instructor for the Early Childhood Special Education Program.