Online Masters in Early Childhood Special Education: Degree Overviews

Get info about online master's degree programs in early childhood special education. Research technical and on-campus requirements, course descriptions and continuing education information to make an informed decision.

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Essential Information

Online master's programs in early childhood education, also known as 'birth to five' or 'infant and toddler' programs, cover typical child development and educational strategies. While lecture-based coursework can be taken online, extensive in-person field experiences and occasional on-campus seminars are required. Candidates can pursue concentrations in special education for disabled children, or more specific subspecialties including behavior analysis, orientation and mobility, early intervention, child development or visual impairments.

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Early Childhood Special Education Degree

Applicants with a bachelor's degree in psychology, social services or a similar field should expect to take two years of full-time study to complete a distance learning Master of Education program, consisting of 35-40 credit hours and up to a year of field experience. An applicant with a bachelor's degree in children's education or a M.Ed. could get credit for some undergraduate courses.

Requirements

Some programs place geographical restrictions upon applicants, accepting only students from the same state or region as the school, or only those who live beyond a particular distance from campus. Potential applicants should pay particular attention to the admissions guidelines for programs they are considering.

Online students may go through the entire program with a cohort of peers. Additionally master's level programs often combine asynchronous and synchronous course components. Classes may be conducted live to allow for remote student participation (synchronous), or prerecorded and available whenever a student opts to view them (asynchronous). Homework assignments, study materials and examinations can be viewed online or downloaded via a virtual learning platform, such as Blackboard. Assignments are typically deadline driven.

On-Campus

Some schools require distance learning early childhood special education degree candidates to occasionally attend special programs on campus. These may range from an afternoon workshop to a week-long summer seminar.

Students will also need to spend up to a year on-site at nearby schools to complete their degree programs. Most colleges work with preschools, elementary schools and other institutions to help education degree candidates arrange practice teaching internships near the candidates' homes.

Technical

Classes designed for live student participation require at least a microphone, if not a Web cam. Students may need access to a video recorder to document their student teaching experiences in a form their instructors can review remotely. Most distance learning departments have specific computer hardware and software requirements, and individual instructors may have additional needs.

Course Topics

Courses include:

  • Child growth and development
  • Learning disabilities
  • Special education methods
  • Play and development
  • Emotional and behavioral disorders
  • Special education and the family
  • Teaching strategies for the visually impaired
  • Severe and profound disabilities
  • Applied behavior management
  • Autism spectrum disorder

Continuing Education Information

All 50 U.S. states require special education teachers in public schools to be licensed. While requirements can vary by state, they commonly include completion of at least a bachelor's program, student-teaching experiences and a licensing exam.

Online master's programs in early childhood special education allow students to pursue their degree in a hybrid format, with in-person field experience supplementing their education. These programs cover topics like learning disabilities and teaching strategies, preparing students for careers in child care and education.

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