Early Childhood Special Education

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Program prepares students to support excellent outcomes for young children birth to age 5 with special needs and their families. Our program is open to full- or part-time students and is offered entirely online.

ECSE Program Overview

Master's degree: Our program offers a master's degree in ECSE that can be completed with or without pursuit of the ECSE teaching endorsement.

Graduate Certificate: Our program offers a Graduate Certificate option in ECSE (12 credits). This option can be paired with additional requirements leading to ECSE or EI-Specialist endorsements.

Initial teaching certification: Our program offers coursework leading to the completion of requirements for initial teaching certification in Nebraska with a focus on ECSE. This option must be paired with pursuit of a master's degree.

Endorsement: Our program offers coursework leading to the completion of requirements for Nebraska's ECSE or Early Intervention Specialist Endorsement (NDE Rule 24) for employment as early childhood special education teachers (birth to age 5 with disabilities).

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Apply online today

Upcoming deadlines:
Master's Degree - January 15, June 15
Endorsement/Graduate Certificate - January 15, June 15, October 15

 

Learning Outcomes

 

This option provides students with a master's degree in special education with an ECSE specialization. Students pursue this option if they are interested in an advanced degree with a focus on serving children birth to five with disabilities and their families.

The master's degree can be paired with coursework leading toward the ECSE or Early Intervention (EI) Specialist endorsement. Often, professionals endorsed in other areas pursue the master's and complete the ECSE or EI Specialist endorsement coursework simultaneously to advance their education and careers.

Program Details

Minimum credits Full-time program length
36 1 1/2 to 2 years
  • Students complete courses in special education, research methods, early childhood education and early childhood special education.
  • Students complete a range of practicum experiences in preschool, home-based and community settings with children with disabilities.

Application Process

  • Contact Dr. Higgins (program adviser) prior to applying. It is helpful for us to connect so we can discuss the courses needed for you to complete this option.
  • Apply to the Office of Graduate Studies as a M.Ed. in Early Childhood Special Education.
  • The application will include:
    • Application form
    • Past transcripts
    • Resume/vita
    • Statement of purpose/goals
    • Names and contact information for three references
    • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores
  • Application deadlines: January 15, June 15

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Students interested in pursuing study of early childhood special education, but without the need for an added degree or teaching endorsement, can complete the courses for this non-degree certificate awarded by UNL's Office of Graduate Studies.

Professionals from various disciplines (e.g., speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, supervisors) can complete this option to enhance or improve their knowledge of serving children birth to three and/or three to five with disabilities. This is also a good option for students interested in learning more about ECSE, but do not yet want to commit to complete a master's degree in the subject area.

Program Details

Total credits Program length
12 2 semester (less than 1 year)

Students complete four courses totaling 12 credits in ECSE selected from the following:

  • SPED 860 - Issues in Early Childhood Special Education
  • SPED 861 - Infants with Disabilities and Home Visiting
  • SPED 862- Preschool Children with Disabilities in a Classroom
  • SPED 863 - Medically Fragile Infants
  • SPED 876 - Language Development for Teachers
  • SPED 882 - Specialized Instruction for Students with Severe and Multiple Disabilities
  • SPED 960 - Family and School Collaboration in Special Education

Application Process

  • Contact Dr. Higgins prior to applying. It is helpful for us to connect so we can discuss the courses needed for you to complete this option.
  • Apply to the Office of Graduate Studies as a Graduate Certificate student.
  • The application will include:
    • Application form
    • Past transcripts
    • Resume/vita
    • Statement of purpose/goals
    • Names and contact information for three references
  • Application deadlines: January 15, June 15, October 15

For More Information

This option, paired with the master's degree, prepares students to assume the role of an ECSE teacher (birth through age five) in public or private schools and centers but are not limited to jobs with these responsibilities. After completion of this option, students will also have completed the coursework needed to apply for ECSE teaching endorsement in Nebraska.

Program Details

Minimum credits Full-time program length
36 1 1/2 to 2 years
  • Students complete courses in educational foundations, special education, research methods, early childhood education and early childhood special education.
  • Students complete a range of practicum experiences in preschool, home-based and community settings. Student teaching is completed during the last semester and includes eight weeks providing early intervention (children birth to three and their families) services and eight weeks in the preschool classroom.

Application Process

  • Contact Dr. Higgins (program adviser) prior to applying. It is helpful for us to connect so we can discuss the courses needed for you to complete this option.
  • Apply to the Office of Graduate Studies as a M.Ed. in Early Childhood Special Education.
  • The application will include:
    • Application form
    • Past transcripts
    • Resume/vita
    • Statement of purpose/goals
    • Names and contact information for three references
    • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores
    • Praxis core official score report
  • Application deadline: January 15

For More Information

This option provides students with the coursework leading to the ECSE endorsement or Early Intervention Specialist endorsement. Students pursue this option if they are interested in advanced training with a focus on serving children birth to five with disabilities and their families, and already have a valid Nebraska teaching certificate. Students complete ECSE and early childhood education and development coursework.

Program Details

Endorsement Minimum credits Part-time program length
ECSE 30 1 1/2 to 2 years
EI Specialist 21 1 to 1 1/2 years

ECSE Endorsement

Students with a valid teaching certificate in elementary (K-6), early childhood education (Pre-3), inclusive (unified) early childhood education (Birth-grade 3) or special education (K-6) can pursue this option. Graduates may apply for preschool classroom teaching positions or as special educators in itinerant consultant or coach roles in homes, classrooms, or other community settings.

EI Specialist Endorsement

Students with a valid teaching certificate in special education (K-6 or K-12) can pursue this option. The option is designed to prepare the special educators as a consultant and coach for children under age 5 and their families in homes, child care, preschool or public-school programs.

Practicum

Students complete a range of practicum experiences in preschool, home-based and community settings with children with disabilities. Students have the option to use their current work placement to complete some practicum hours at the discretion of the program adviser.

Application Process

  • Contact Dr. Higgins prior to applying. It is helpful for us to connect so we can discuss the courses needed for you to complete this option.
  • Apply to the Office of Graduate Studies as a ECSE Endorsement or Early Intervention Specialist Endorsement.
  • The application will include:
    • Application form
    • Past transcripts
    • Resume/vita
    • Statement of purpose/goals
    • Names and contact information for three references
    • Copy of teaching license
  • Application deadlines: January 15, June 15, October 15

Provisional Endorsement

We understand that certified teachers may be hired into EI/ECSE teaching positions and require a provisional endorsement. We help with these requests through our campus Teacher Certification Office by reviewing the necessary application materials and the teacher's credentials/transcripts. To apply for the provisional endorsement in ECSE (Birth-K) or the Early Intervention Specialist (Birth-K), you need: 1) documentation of a valid teaching certificate, 2) completion of 50% of the coursework required for the endorsement program, and 3) an outlined program of study for the desired endorsement. Contact Dr. Higgins to discuss your options for completing the necessary coursework and review this online document for detailed provisional application instructions.

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Financial Support

Grant Funding:
Grant funding may be available to students depending on projects the program is involved in. Funding may depend on degree program or state of residency. No grant funding is currently available.

Fellowships:
Departmental fellowships are available to graduate students each academic year. Applications for graduate fellowships are due mid-April. For specific dates and requirements, please visit the Graduate Fellowships page.

Graduate Assistantships
Graduate Assistantships (GAs) are available to local graduate students each semester. GAs are awarded on a competitive basis and are dependent upon budget allocations each year. GAs are only available for graduate students in a degree-granting program who reside in Lincoln and are able to work on campus. For more information, please see the UNL Assistantships webpage. The deadline to submit an application for a Special Education graduate assistantship is January 15 each year.

For More Information

For information about other forms of financial support available to students, visit the following links:
Office of Graduate Studies Funding webpage
SECD Funding webpage

Questions?

For questions about fellowships and/or GAs, contact Jill England, Graduate Coordinator, at jill.england@unl.edu or 402-472-2141.