Early Childhood Special Education, Master of Arts

Program Purpose

The Masters of Arts program in Early Childhood and Early Childhood Special Education (EC/ECSE) is designed to prepare outstanding early childhood educators to meet the unique educational needs of children from birth to age 8. This program is designed to develop a range of specialized skills for individuals who work in classrooms and community-based settings with children who are at-risk and their families. At the end of the program, candidates may earn either a Master’s degree or a non-degree licensure in ECSE or both ECSE and EC.

Program Focus

Our program prepares leaders in early childhood with a  strong focus on promoting families as partners, collaborative and cross-disciplinary service approaches, recommended intervention practices that are based on research evidence, and appropriate practices for work with children and their families across a range of abilities and cultural experiences. The program also includes extensive field based experiences with children in three age-groups- birth to 2 years, 3- 5 years, Students in classroom and 5-8 years.

The program supports 6 sets of Early Childhood standards as well as Early Childhood Special Education standards for the promotion of intervention in inclusive settings through the birth to age 8 age range. Sample courses include: Typical/Atypical Early Child Development; Curriculum and Instruction in Early Childhood; Applied Assessments in Early Childhood Research and Policy in ECSE; and Practicum Experience.

Additionally, due to small class sizes (maximum 20-25 students per course) faculty maintain a high level of personal interaction with the students.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must apply to the University of Northern Colorado Graduate School before the program area reviews the applicant’s request for admission. To apply, submit the following materials in a single packet along with the application fee. Failure to submit all required materials will delay the evaluation and screening of your application. Applicants with disabilities and from minority groups are especially encouraged to apply

  1. Statement of Educational Philosophy and Goals
  2. Hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.
  3. Resume
  4. GPA of 3.0 in the last 60 semester hours of academic work.
  5. Copy of GRE Scores - if your GPA is less than 3.0 - GPA based on the last 60 hours of a semester system, or 90 hours of a quarter system. If you have a graduate degree GPA is calculated on your last graduate level coursework.)
  6. A copy of your teacher license, if you have a prior teacher license in Colorado.
  7. Verification of passing the Elementary Content PLACE or PRAXIS II test or a copy of your Elementary teacher license
  8. $50 non-refundable application fee
  9. International Students: $60 non-refundable application fee
  10. Completed Online Application
  11. Two Letters of Recommendation (pdf) from supervisors, university faculty, or colleagues
  12. One official copy of transcripts from all accredited college or university attended since completing high school. UNC Alumni need not submit transcripts
  13. TOEFL scores for International Students

Program Overview

The EC/ECSE masters program consists of 30 credit hours of coursework and up to 6 credit hours of practicum experience. The program is designed for the working professional and is presented in three formats: a fully face-to-face format; a 16-week fully online format, and an 8-week hybrid format with meetings in Denver. Generous amounts of field experience are included in coursework to allow for a well-rounded graduate experience.

Upon graduation, teachers can work with young children between birth – 8 years old in inclusive settings such as Public schools, Child care programs, Early intervention programs (including Head Start and Early Head Start), and Family support and home-based programs. According to The Job Search Handbook for Educators (2009) there is some shortage of ECSE professionals across the country. Thus, prospective teachers can be confident that they will be able to find positions. 


At the end of completion of Early Childhood program, candidates may earn either a Master’s degree or an endorsement. Those who have earned a master’s degree in another area may either apply for a second master’s degree or a non-degree licensure in early childhood special education. Candidates who wish to pursue an initial teacher’s license will take additional courses through the university’s Professional Teacher Education Program (PTEP).

Graduates of the program will earn either a masters degree and/or an Early childhood special education specialist endorsement. Additionally they may earn EC generalist endorsement, if they do not already have a license in early childhood education. 

Time commitment

The program length is dependent on candidates’ prior coursework/ license/ degree and Student in computer lab how many credit hours students may be able take in a semester. Students with an initial teaching license typically complete the program in two years.  Students seeking initial teaching license will need to take some additional courses, which will extend the length of the program.

Program Requirements

Visit our UNC catalog program requirements for admissions and other information.

  • Please note the mandatory Introduction to Graduate Research (SRM 600) for masters students in special education.
  • Advanced and core courses that are specific to this program.
  • If you entered the program without a Colorado Teacher License, you may need one or more Prerequisite Licensure courses. These courses are not required if you are graduating studentalready a teacher in Colorado. View the Prerequisite Licensure Requirements for more details, or contact your program advisor.