Become an Early Interventionist: Education and Career Roadmap

Early interventionists are teachers and caretakers of special needs toddlers and preschool-aged children. These instructors work with children up to five years old, educating them either in their home or an institutional setting. Those who plan to pursue a teaching license in their state should assess which of the following career and education steps are the best match for their region's individual requirements.

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Should I Become an Early Interventionist?

Early interventionists are teachers and caretakers of special-needs toddlers and preschool-aged children. Special-needs children might have developmental delays or disabilities, and interventionists work with them to develop the cognitive, physical and social/emotional skills they need. These tutors and instructors work with children up to five years old either at home or a classroom. A teaching certificate likely will be required, especially if one works in a public school setting.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree required; Master's degree might be required in some states
Degree Field Education, with specialization in early childhood
Experience Professional teaching experience required for some certifications
Licensure and Certification State-issued teaching license required; specialized certifications are available
Key Skills Patience, empathy, consistency, self-management, discipline, organization, behavior management, collaboration, communication
Salary $54,000 per year (Median wage for special education teachers at the preschool level)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor of Science in Education

Many schools offer Bachelor of Science in Education programs, and students can choose to specialize in early childhood intervention. Students learn to manage classrooms, plan lessons and assess the specific needs of their pupils. They also gain hands-on experience as student teachers in an early intervention setting. Graduates may apply for a preschool, kindergarten or early childhood teaching certificate.

Step 2: Complete a Master of Education Program

Some states require aspiring teachers to have a graduate degree to become licensed, and many schools offer a Master of Education program with a concentration in early intervention or early childhood special education. These advanced programs prepare students for work as early childhood interventionists by teaching them behavior management, needs analysis, collaboration and communication. The early childhood intervention specialization also helps students develop valuable skills for working with special needs children. These skills include patience, empathy, consistency and self-management.

Step 3: Gain Experience Working with Special Needs Children

Although students gain practical classroom training throughout their undergraduate and graduate degrees, independent teaching experience is needed to progress past the path of academia and achieve full-time employment. For example, those who might wish to earn a specialized certificate, such as the one discussed below, must first have several years of teaching experience. Most states require prospective educators to complete a training assessment and supervised teaching experiences to gain licensure.

Step 4: Receive a Behavior Intervention Specialist Certificate

Qualified students can earn a Behavior Intervention Specialist certificate. This involves completing an undergraduate or graduate early childhood interventionist program. While exact qualifications vary from school to school, students often must be actively working as an interventionist and complete a series of upper-level coursework to earn this credential. They may also need to pass an examination and assemble a portfolio of behavioral early intervention achievements.

Step 5: Get a Job

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), special education teachers students are expected to see a 6% increase in employment opportunities from 2012-2022. The median annual wage for special education teachers who work at the preschool level was $54,000 as of May 2014. Employment opportunities will be best for those with experience in multiple specialty areas.

Step 6: Advance in Your Career

Teachers in general can expect to earn more money as they gain experience, take on more responsibility and earn advanced degrees and/or certifications.

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