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Special Education & Communication Disorders

College of Education & Human Sciences

Graduate Certificate Program in Early Childhood Special Education

Who can apply for this program?
Practitioners in early childhood education, special education (K-6), speech-language pathology, physical, or occupational therapy, deaf education, vision impaired, psychology, educational psychology, school administration or other related fields may apply for this non-degree Certificate in early childhood special education (ECSE)/early intervention.

Why a non-degree Certificate Program?
This Graduate Certificate Program is designed to offer an efficient program of study (could be completed in 12-18 months on a part-time basis) that will inform and upgrade interested practitioners in the issues and recommended practices associated infants, toddlers and preschool-age children with developmental delays and disabilities and their families. The Graduate Certificate Program in ECSE can stand alone (12 credits) or be the route for application to a non-degree add-on teaching endorsement in ECSE (30 credits), (Birth through Kingergarten).

State and federal law (IDEA), as well as nationally recognized Recommended Practices (CEC/Division for Early Childhood), call for more programs to embrace this philosophy of early, inclusive, family-centered intervention. State and local administrators, supervisors, and practitioners previously trained in typical child development, early education and care programs, medical or multidisciplinary approaches to allied health and special education will want to upgrade their knowledge and skills with an efficient program of study that addresses the age range (birth to age 5), service locations (home-visiting, inclusive preschools/child care) and team models (transdisciplinary/primary service provider, family-partnerships) reflective of these practices for young children with delays/disabilities.

How do I apply?
Application or admission to the Graduate Certificate Program will be based upon the following application materials and criteria:
a) Graduate Certificate Application.
b) Application to UNL Graduate Studies as a non-degree student
c) Three (3) letters of recommendation for graduate study
d) Letter of intent

e) GPA of 3.00 or higher (undergraduate and/or graduate)
f) Completion of at least one undergraduate or graduate course in special education with a grade of B or better.
g) Previous experience working with children with disabilities, preferred.

What are required ECSE Certificate Program courses?
Students can choose to focus on infants and/or preschool age children in the Certificate Program, or both in their choice of a minimum of 12 credits from the following list of courses.


Required Certificate Courses
  Infant-Preschool Focus Infant Focus Preschool Focus
SpEd 860 Issues in Early Childhood Special Education (Fall term) 3 3


SpEd 861 Infants with Disabilities
(Spring Term)
3 3  
SpEd 862 Preschool Children with Disabilities (Fall term) 3   3
SpEd 960 Family-Centered Services
(Spring Term)
3 3 3
SpEd 863 Medically Fragile Infants 
(Summer Term)
SpEd 882 Students with Severe Disabilities (Fall Term)     3
Total Credits 12 12 12


What are required ECSE Teaching Endorsement Program Courses?

All ECSE Graduate Certificate courses are available from UNL via distance education technologies.

What are the requirements for the ECSE Teaching Endorsement?

The state of Nebraska has outlined the standards expected for the teaching endorsement in Early Childhood Special Education, Birth through Kindergarten. These include 18 graduate credits in ECSE and graduate 12 credits in Early Childhood Education or child development (birth - 8) for a total of 30 graduate credits. (The UNL Graduate Certificate in ECSE accounts for 12 of those credits.) This program must include courses in kindergarten teaching, language or social development, early childhood assessment and supervised field work with children with disabilities in the infant-toddler, preschool and kindergarten age groups.

How does one complete this Certificate Endorsement Program?

Certificate only students will declare their Certificate age-focus preference upon admission to the program and following discussion with the Certificate Advisor, Dr. Chris Marvin.  Students who successfully complete the required 12 credits of coursework with grades of B- or higher are granted the Certificate. Students must request review by the Certificate Advisory Committee following their final term of study. The Certificate Advisor will forward Advisory Committee verification information to the UNL Office of Graduate Studies so that the Certificate is awarded and posted to the student's UNL transcript. There are no university or departmental ceremonies associated with this program completion.

Certificate + Endorsement Students

Certificate + Endorsement students will need to complete all 30 graduate credits and field work, request review by the Certificate Advisory Committee and apply to the UNL Teacher Certification Office in 116 Henzlik to have their application for endorsement processed to the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE). The student will receive a Graduate Certificate in ECSE from the University and an updated teacher certification notice from NDE showing the added teaching endorsement in ECSE (birth thru K).  

The Graduate Certificate + ECSE teaching endorsement program will require the following courses or their approved equivalents:

18 graduate credits ECSE
 Sped 860 Issues in ECSE
 Sped 861 Infants with Disabilities and Home-Visiting
 Sped 862 Preschool Children with Disabilities
 Sped 863 Medically Fragile Infants
 Sped 960 Family-School Collaboration in SpEd
 Sped 882 Methods for Students with Severe Disabilities

12 graduate credits EC/Child Development 
*TEAC 810 Kindergarten Teaching
*CYAF 874 Assessment
CYAF 970/971 EC/Child Development Seminar
SpEd 876 Language Development
TEAC 817 Emerging Literacy

3 credits Field Work in ECSE (100 hours with infant, preschool, K-level)
Sped 897Q Practicum/Student-Teaching
* required

Is financial assistance available for this Certificate Endorsement Program?
Not currently. Scholarships and financial aid and grant-sponsored fellowships are generally dependent upon full time enrollment (9 credits/term minimum) and acceptance in degree-oriented programs.