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Early Childhood Special Education Degree and Training Programs

With a degree in early childhood special education, you can work with children from birth through elementary school by developing curricula and incorporating strategies that can help them read, write and add. Learn about undergraduate programs, curricula, graduate degree programs and employment opportunities.

What Early Childhood Special Education Programs Are Available?

You can complete a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree program in early childhood special education. There are no special requirements for the bachelor's degree program, but having a bachelor's degree is required for admittance into the master's degree program. Some schools require proof of previous experience working with children. For the doctoral degree program, you must have a master's degree that includes special education classes and experience in the special education field. Online programs are available at the master's degree level, but they're very rare.

Degree Levels Bachelor's, masters and doctoral programs available.
Bachelor's Degree Course TopicsThe autism spectrum, types of learning disabilities, family suport strategies, ways to encourage participation
Master's Degree Course TopicsLegal/ethical responsibilities of educators, children's long-term development, disability classification
Doctorate Course TopicsTreatment and intervention strategies for autistic children, methods for helping families of special needs children deal with stressors
Median Annual Salary (2018)$55,840 for special education preschool teachers*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 10% growth (for all preschool teachers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Study at the Bachelor's Degree Level?

A Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Special Education generally takes about four years to complete. Courses cover interacting with atypical and typical young children. In education classes, you may study methods for teaching reading, math and science to children with learning disabilities. Other classes focus on the psychology of interacting with, observing and assessing children's behavior. Some classes prepare you to interact with students of various cultures and provide support when you recognize a child with special education needs. You may also study:

  • The autism spectrum
  • Ways to encourage participation
  • Types of learning disabilities
  • Family support strategies

What Makes Up the Graduate Degree Programs?

Through a 2-year Master of Arts or Master of Education in Early Childhood Special Education, you may create a positive learning environment for special needs children. Some classes focus on the legal and ethical responsibilities of educators working with special needs students. In other classes, you may analyze children's long-term development and intervene if problems arise. Your courses include classifying disabilities from moderate to severe. Some programs have a research focus, but most require a student-teaching experience.

You can earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Early Childhood Special Education. The program takes 3-4 years to complete and includes researching and writing a dissertation pertaining to early childhood special education. The doctoral degree program covers treatment and intervention strategies for autistic children. Some classes address stressors faced by families with special needs children and methods for working through them.

How Can I Use My Degree?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you could find a job working at a preschool with a bachelor's degree in early childhood special education. However, some states require that you have at least a master's degree in special education. A special education license, which requires passing an assessment test, is also necessary. As of May 2018, special education preschool teachers made a median annual salary of $55,840. With a doctorate, you may choose to go into special education research to develop advanced education, diagnostic and treatment methods.