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Early Childhood Education, MSE - Special Education Option

Master’s Degree for Early Childhood Educators - Special Education

Learn how to better address children’s educational needs with a Master of Science degree in Early Childhood Education (ECE) focused on Special Education from the University of Central Missouri. Young children with special needs command additional time, attention and expertise. This pathway will prepare early childhood educators teaching special education students to better address a range of learning challenges.

A master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from UCM will also demonstrate to employers that you have the knowledge and skills critical to teaching students in inclusive class settings. If you’re not already certified to teach early childhood education, you can work with an advisor to create a specialized plan with additional coursework that leads to early childhood education certification in Missouri. For early childhood educators who are already certified, you’ll be able to apply your learning in your own classroom or school.

100% on campus or online degree program options

Offered on our Warrensburg campus, as well as entirely online, UCM’s MSE in ECE - Special Education option allows early childhood educators to advance their professional careers in a convenient way for them.

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Karrie Snider
Associate Professor
Lovinger 3320
Warrensburg, MO
Tel: 660-543-8658 |

College of Education

Department of Career, Technical and Special Education

Special Education

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95% of graduates hired before graduation

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Aligned to NAEYC professional standards

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Longest CAEP-accredited program

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Convenient, 100% online program option

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Established 150 years ago

What you will study

Early childhood educators play a significant role in ensuring children of varying abilities can grow, learn and thrive in their classroom environments.

The graduate coursework you’ll complete in this pathway will help you better understand approaches to teaching special education for students who need additional support, as well as the laws that protect students with disabilities in the classroom. Choose from a variety of electives that align with your career goals, such as:

  • Advanced Evaluation of the Exceptional Child
  • Fundamentals of Autism Spectrum Disorders 

Professional certification for early childhood educators

If you’re looking to obtain your early childhood education teacher certification, an advisor will work with you to help you develop a plan, recommending classes and experiential learning opportunities that will fulfill both your certification and master’s degree in Early Childhood Education requirements.


Excellence in Early Childhood Education

  • UCM has the longest continuous CAEP accreditation in the state
  • A Best Value College for Elementary Education (College Factual, 2022)
  • Top 15%: Most Focused Colleges for Education (College Factual, 2022)
  • A Most Popular College for Teacher Education (College Factual, 2022)
  • Top 10%: Most Popular Master’s Degree Colleges for Teacher Education Grade Specific (College Factual, 2022)
  • Top 6%: Most Popular Colleges for Education (College Factual, 2022)
  • A Most Popular Master’s Degree College for Education (College Factual, 2022)
  • Top 10%: Best Colleges for Education for Non-Traditional Students (College Factual, 2021)
  • A Best Online Masters in Online Teaching Degree Programs (Intelligent, 2021)
  • Top 50: Masters in Elementary Education Degree Programs (Most Flexible Admissions) (Intelligent, 2021)
  • Among the Best Online Masters in Elementary Education Degree Programs by (Intelligent, 2021)


Unique learning opportunities in early childhood special education

At UCM, we believe that you learn best by doing. We strive to provide meaningful graduate school experiences in the field that provide you with in-depth insights into teaching special education and policy. Whether you pursue your Early Childhood Education degree online or in person, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to put your learning into practice.

  • Leadership opportunities: Our MSE in ECE - Special Education option helps early childhood educators teaching in the classroom get better equipped to support and enhance learning for all classroom learners.
  • Diverse learning environments: Our experienced program faculty will show you how to apply your knowledge and skills in early childhood centers, preschool settings and early elementary school classrooms.
  • Educational strategies: Develop teaching tools and techniques to engage children with special needs in play-based learning.


What can you do with an ECE master’s in Special Education from UCM?

Gain the knowledge and skills necessary to adapt curricula for diverse student populations, manage individual education plans and adhere to special education law. UCM’s master’s in Early Childhood Education, with an emphasis in Special Education, prepares early childhood educators to work in settings such as:

  • Childcare centers
  • Preschools
  • Private schools

Careers in early childhood special education

At UCM, 95% of our Early Childhood Education students are hired before graduation. Your master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from UCM increases your potential to advance your career and earnings. Use the interactive tool below to learn more about employment trends, projected growth and career pathways in early childhood education.




Financial assistance options for your MSE in Early Childhood Special Education

A UCM graduate degree in Early Childhood Education is a valuable investment in your future. As a top-ranked university for low student debt, according to LendEDU, the University of Central Missouri offers a variety of resources to help you finance your graduate education.

Several scholarships are available to graduate students, including those enrolled in UCM’s master’s in Early Childhood Education - Special Education degree program. You may qualify for scholarship opportunities such as these:

  • Graduate Student Achievement Award
  • Dorothy Stockton Sims Scholarship for non-traditional graduate students

You may also qualify for scholarships within the College of Education. Use the UCM Scholarship Finder to learn more about how to apply for these opportunities and more.


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Make yourself more marketable.

UCM graduate certificates add value to your MSE in Early Childhood Education, providing you with specialized knowledge in addition to teaching special education skills.

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Explore other programs related to early childhood education.

If you’re still exploring options for grad school, UCM offers several related programs in education you may also be interested in:


Student Learning Outcomes

With a Master of Science in Education degree in Early Childhood Education (ECE), you will use the knowledge and skills obtained in the program to achieve the following professional skills:

  • Demonstrate and apply understandings of early childhood development, including theoretical perspectives on how children learn through play collaborating with a diverse population of peers to create meaning in today’s society.
  • Acquire fundamental knowledge of a play-based curriculum for support and advocacy in implementation in the early childhood setting.
  • Develop a strong sense of ethical conduct within early childhood teaching, learning, and business.
  • Identify significant issues specific to early childhood education in research and address through practice.
  • Better understand the impact of pedagogy and exposure to diversity for teaching in an increasingly complex and diverse society.


Admission Requirements

To be accepted into the Master of Science in Education in Early Childhood Education (ECE) degree program, in the School of Teaching & Learning, you must: (a) have a minimum cumulative undergraduate grade point average of 2.75; (b) submit proof of teacher certification or professional endorsement from any of the 50 states or territories and have graduated from a CAEP or regionally accredited university; (c) submit a copy of your last summative teaching evaluation, or a letter from a school superintendent, principal, director, or professor attesting to teaching skills and/or graduate studies potential. International applicants should meet these requirements in comparable ways.


Required Core Courses

The following courses are required by all three options within the Master of Science in Education degree in Early Childhood Education (ECE):

  • ECEL 5710 Early Childhood Education: A Constructivist Approach (3 credit hours)
  • ECEL 5740 Play in Early Childhood Education (3 credit hours)
  • ECEL 5920 Childhood Research and Development (3 credit hours)
  • CFD 5500 Research Methods (3 credit hours)
  • CFD 4580 Resilience (3 credit hours)
  • ECEL 5750 Curriculum and Pedagogy in Multicultural Education (3 credit hours)
  • ECEL 5790 Collaborative Practice in Early Childhood Education (capstone) (3 credit hours).

Leadership Option Courses

The Early Childhood Education Special Education option is concentrated on preparing early childhood educators for teaching in inclusive childcare settings, or in early childhood special education specifically. In addition to the core courses, you will select three of these courses for this option:

  • EDSP 5350 Evaluation of Students with Disabilities (3 credit hours)
  • EDSP 5510 Fundamentals of ASD (3 credit hours)
  • EDSP 5100 Intro to Research in Special Education (3 credit hours)
  • EDAD 5120 School Law (3 credit hours)
  • EDSP 5700 Advanced Organization and Administration of Special Education (3 credit hours)
  • EDSP 5200 Advanced Education of the Exceptional Child (3 credit hours)
  • EDFL 5320 Curriculum Development and Assessment (3 credit hours)


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