Special Education, MA or M Ed (Early Childhood Education)

Master of Arts Degree or Master of Education Degree in Special Education with a Specialization in Early Childhood Education

University of Nebraska - Lincoln

  • Fully Online
  • 36
  • $357.00
  • $750.00

Program Overview

The online Special Education MA or M Ed with a specialization in Early Childhood Education program (ESCE) prepares students to support excellent outcomes for young children birth to age 5 with special needs and their families. 

Students choose the Special Education, MA or M Ed programs with a specialization in Early Childhood Education because: 

  • The program offers a master's degree in ECSE that can be completed with or without the pursuit of the ECSE teaching endorsement. 
  • The program offers coursework leading to the completion of the requirements for initial teaching certification in Nebraska. 
  • The flexible online format allows busy professionals the opportunity to learn from dedicated faculty members. 
  • The collaborative learning experience allows students to gain insight from colleagues across the country. 

Whether the student is an entry-level or experienced educator in the field of early intervention, this program will increase their ability to provide services for young children with delays/disabilities and their families that are:

  • Family-centered
  • Comprehensive
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Community-based
  • Equitable
  • Developmentally appropriate

Career Outlook: Special education teachers engage with children and youth that have a wide variety of disabilities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the need for special education teachers will grow by about 8% from 2016-2026. Although most special education teachers work in public schools, some find jobs in the private sector taking care of special needs children in childcare services and other institutions.

More about the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders:

The Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders (SECD) is dedicated to enhancing the lives of individuals with special needs, their families, schools, and communities. 

The vision is that every individual with special needs will:

  • Achieve maximum potential for learning.
  • Communicate autonomously.
  • Enjoy optimum health and well-being throughout the lifespan.

Students have the ability to choose to:   

  • Take one or a few classes of interest.
  • Pursue the teaching endorsement or graduate certificate.
  • Complete a graduate degree.

Admissions and Requirements

To be accepted to this program, you must have:

  1. A Bachelor's degree

  2. 2.5 GPA or above on a 4.0 scale

  3. A license/certificate required

    A copy of current teaching certificate

  4. Taken the GRE

  5. Taken the TOEFL or IELTS

    (Only required if English is not your native language)

  6. A written personal statement

  7. 3 letters of recommendation

  8. Official transcripts from all previous schools

NOTE: If you reside in state(s) , contact a program adviser before applying.

To apply to this program:

  1. Complete and submit the online application for Graduate Studies
  2. Pay $50 application fees
  3. Apply and be admitted to the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders

Courses You’ll Take

Core Courses

Course NumberCourse NameCredits
SPED 815Reading and Writing Disabilities: Elementary Students1 - 3
Prereq: Parallel SPED 815A For elementary education majors: SPED 201, TEAC 311 and 313. For SPED majors: SPED 201, 302, 303, and 304; or equivalent. Theory and techniques for assessing and teaching early literacy skills in small groups and one-on-one for children who struggle with literacy. A. Reading Center Practicum: Elementary Students (1-3 cr, max 3)
EDPS 800Foundations of Educational Research3
Prereq: EDPS 459/859 or equivalent or parallel EDPS 859. Purposes and characteristics of research process, selection of research problems in education and social sciences, critical review of published research, research ethics and institutional review, sampling methods, threats to validity in research.
SPED 800Characteristics of Exceptional Persons3
Etiology, growth and development, and characteristics of persons who differ from the norm.
SPED 812Assessment Techniques for Diverse Learners3
Prereq: SPED 201 and 303 The role of general education teachers in the primary purposes of assessment of learners with diverse needs. Knowledge and experience with interpreting norm-referenced test information as related to planning educational programs. Use of assessment information for instructional planning and evaluation. Testing accommodations and classroom grading.
SPED 454Behavior Management3
Techniques for managing children's challenging behaviors. Functional assessment of behavior problems, strategies for preventing behavior problems, techniques for increasing prosocial behavior, and non-aversive procedures for decreasing problematic behavior.
SPED 897QStudent Teaching: Exceptional Learners - Early Learners - Early Childhood Special Education3
Prereq: Permission Laboratory and teaching experience in the area(s) of specialization: Early Childhood Special Education

Elective Courses

Course NumberCourse NameCredits
SPED 863Medically Fragile Infants3
Unique needs, family-coping strategies, specialized medical staff, and various health-care settings of chronically ill infants and toddlers. Overview of etiology, characteristics, and developmental implications of selected medical conditions related to developmental disabilities.
SPED 861Infants with Disabilities and Home Visiting3
Prereq: SPED 960 and permission. SPED 861 requires a practicum in home visiting. Assessment and intervention strategies for developing appropriate early intervention programs for infants and toddlers with disabilities. Rationale and principles for conducting home-based, family-centered, and transdisciplinary services.
SPED 860Issues in Early Childhood Special Education3
Introduction to the history, philosophy, and research related to early intervention practices with children 0-5 years of age. Discussion of issues related to legal mandates, model programs, family involvement, integration, transitions, service delivery systems, teamwork and assessment for young children.
SPED 882Specialized Instruction for Students with Severe and Multiple Disabilities3
Prereq: SPED *881 for the Severely/Multihandicapped endorsement program or SPED *862 for Preschool Handicapped endorsement program; and permission. Majors in severe disabilities must parallel with SPED 896P (1 cr). SPED *882 requires observations in schools and applied assignments. Selection, design, and implementation of best practice instruction for students with severe disabilities, multiple disabilities, or deaf-blindness.
SPED 862Preschool Children with Disabilities in a Classroom3
Prereq: An assessment and behavior management course; and permission. SPED 862 requires an applied experience. Selection, design and implementation of developmentally appropriate, activity-based interventions for preschool-age children with disabilities. Ecological assessments. Instructional factors, such as classroom environments, activity planning, selection, use and modification of strategies, home-school communications, and consulting to staff in inclusive settings.
SPED 960Family and School Collaboration3
Prereq: Professional experience or completion of one practicum and/or field experience with young children (birth to age 5) or other individuals ages 5 to 21 years who have disabilities. Functions and interactions of both family and education systems. Impact of having a child with a disability on the normal and stressed family system. Promote family-professional partnerships in assessment and intervention for the child and/or student with an IFSP/IEP. Communication skills are reviewed and practiced for effective teaming among educators and for interviewing, consulting, collaborating and coaching with family members and other community team members.

Tuition & Fees

Nebraska Residents

Per Credit Hour


3 Credit Hours


Out of State Residents

Per Credit Hour


3 Credit Hours

About Faculty

University of Nebraska online courses are taught by expert faculty who embody the qualities resulting from research experience and professional/field experience. Students learn from faculty with a variety of backgrounds, many of whom are published researchers in their fields. NU faculty who teach online do so in a way that optimizes learning within the online modality and because technology enables students to access education they may otherwise may not be able to pursue.

Application Deadlines

Rolling admissions. Application review will begin upon receipt of all required application materials.