Individuals in the early childhood education program explore general education topics as well as child growth and development and the basics of disability assessment. Graduates of this program typically go on to earn bachelor's degrees in early education or another related field. A practicum is required in most programs so that students gain teaching experience at an affiliated school. Prerequisites of the program include a high school diploma or GED, and in some cases, proof of immunization and a criminal background check is required.
Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Special Education
This associate's degree program emphasizes both the theoretical and the practical, teaching individuals the basics of special education and then allowing them to put what they've learned into practice. Standardized tests, such as the SAT, are often not required for this degree. However, placement exams may be required to verify basic aptitudes in math or English. These programs explore core education courses and general education courses, such as math and English composition. Most programs offer laboratory facilities at affiliated preschool and early education programs. Common courses include:
- Infant teaching techniques
- Art for children
- Family and child health
- Creative development
Career Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment opportunities for teacher assistants to increase by about 6% between 2014 and 2024. Job prospects are expected to be strong for assistants who wish to work with special education students. The BLS also reports that the mean annual wage for teacher assistants was $26,550 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
Students who want to continue their education beyond the associate's degree level have several options. Many 2-year schools feature credit transfer arrangements with local 4-year colleges that enable associate's degree graduates to enter a bachelor's degree program as 3rd-year students. Graduate programs are available for early childhood special education, such as a Master of Science in Education - Early Childhood Special Education.
An associate's degree program in early childhood special education prepares individuals for jobs as teaching assistants. In most states, teaching assistants are not licensed, nor do they need to hold special certification. Some districts or schools may have additional credential requirements to ensure that teacher aides meet No Child Left Behind requirements.
The Associate of Science in Early Childhood Education program prepares students for an entry-level career as teacher assistants who specialize in children with special educational needs through courses involving infant and child development and hands-on application. Graduates can choose to pursue their bachelor's degree program for further studies.