Early intervention specialist programs require a bachelor's degree for admission. Many certificate programs require a teacher's license. Certificate programs usually consist of fewer than 10 courses, and some prerequisite courses in the fundamentals of special education are required. The courses cover assessment of children with disabilities, program planning, and current issues in special education. An internship in a classroom is mandatory. In addition to a bachelor's degree, some graduate certificate programs require proof that an applicant is certified in preschool or primary education. They may also require students to complete prerequisite coursework in child development, special education, and legal issues prior to admission. Furthermore, students should demonstrate competency in concepts closely related to their chosen specialization, such as sign language for those specializing in teaching children with hearing impairments.
The length of a master's program varies, depending on if the student is pursuing initial certification. In addition to classroom work, the program includes home visits, family consultations, and field experiences working with children of differing ages. Courses teach students about assessments and goals as well as instructional strategies. Some master's programs may offer general teacher education in addition to training in early intervention. Some programs are available online.
Licensure Certificate Programs
Early intervention specialist licensure certificate programs prepare students to provide intervention services to disabled children from birth to age five. These post-baccalaureate programs also qualify students for state certification in early childhood intervention. Programs cover topics like child care, family support, and nutrition. Students additionally learn about the early identification of disabilities and abnormalities, advocacy, and family-focused intervention. Graduates apply their skills to the intensive care and education of children experiencing a range of disabilities.
Students gain skills required to design, implement, and monitor early intervention services and advocate on behalf of children with disabilities. Coursework provides an understanding of team approaches to working with disabled children and the importance of working with multiple agencies to reach intervention goals. Programs include courses in:
- Infant and child development and growth
- Educational practices and programming
- Curriculum activities
- Screening and assessment
- Instructional planning for young children
Master's Degree Programs
Master's degree programs in early childhood intervention prepare students to work with young children with or at risk of developing special needs. Students learn concepts related to instructional methods, behavioral management, the needs of special education learners, and the technologies used in special education environments. Programs qualify students for state special education teacher licensing for young children. Some programs also offer separate options for students already possessing their initial teaching licensure, and for students wishing to acquire standard licensure.
Students focus their learning in a specific area of early intervention, such as teaching the hearing impaired. As a result, course topics will reflect each student's selected career track. Programs may include courses such as:
- Language, hearing development, and sign language
- Teaching literacy to deaf children
- Applying technology in special education
- Phonics and language structure
- Special needs learning assessment
- Interventions for special needs learners
Popular Career Options
Graduates of master's degree programs have several career options in special education and intervention programs. Graduates find work in rehabilitative programs, hospitals, not-for-profit organizations, and schools. Some popular career options include the following:
- Developmental specialist
- Early interventionist
Graduates seeking teaching opportunities in public schools must gain state licensure prior to gaining employment. Licensure requirements are determined by each state and generally require that an individual has a minimum of a bachelor's degree, has graduated from an approved teaching program, and has supervised teaching experience. Some states additionally offer a general special education license or licenses for specific areas.
Employment Outlook and Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that special education teachers could expect average job growth of 6% from 2014 - 2024. Special education preschool teachers reported median annual earnings of $53,990 as of 2015.
Early intervention specialist programs require a bachelor's degree for admission and provide training in a number of areas relevant to working with special needs children.