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School of Education and Human Development University of Colorado Denver

School of Education and Human Development

MA in Early Childhood Education with Early Childhood Special Education Specialist License


Are you interested in working with a variety of young children (birth to eight), including children with disabilities? Are you interested in providing culturally-responsive, family-centered, developmentally effective early education in an inclusive setting? This program will prepare you with a solid background in assessment, teaching, intervention and collaboration to help you be successful in your career.

Your classes are available in two formats depending on where you live (on-campus and online). Your licensure course work will include fascinating topics such as child growth and development, approaches to young children's learning, curriculum and program development, family-centered practice, culturally-responsive teaching in multicultural and multilingual settings, medical and physiological aspects of developmental disabilities, social and cognitive development/disorders, screening and assessment of young children, and intervention strategies. For students seeking the MA in Early Childhood Education degree in addition to the ECSE license, other course content includes statistics, measurement and evaluation, and research as it applies to early childhood education.

The program is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), Colorado Department of Education, Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

You will study with tremendous faculty who will connect you to the latest knowledge and practices emerging in Early Childhood Education/Early Childhood Special Education.

For additional information, contact the Student Services Center at or 303-315-6300.

The Early Childhood Education program is available in two format options: on-campus and online. The online option is limited to Colorado residents living 60 or more miles from Denver. Our online program objective is to provide an opportunity for higher education in ECE and the Colorado ECSE Specialist license for prospective students outside the Denver metro area who have limited access to advanced academic work in ECE. The online format follows a cohort model - a new group of online students is admitted every other January and takes all classes together in the same sequence.

Students living in the Denver metropolitan area are eligible to partake of the on-campus option. If a prospective student has highly unusual circumstances that prevent them from being able to attend late afternoon or weekend classes on-campus, an exemption may be made for the online eligibility requirements. On-campus students are admitted each semester.

ECSE Specialists licensure program completion varies from six to seven semesters and 24 to 48 credits depending on the selected program option:

ECSE Specialist added endorsement only: 24 credit hours
Master's Degree in ECE +ECSE Specialist added endorsement: 39 credit hours
ECSE Specialist initial license only: 39 credit hours
Master's Degree in ECE +ECSE Specialist initial license: 48 credits

Field experiences are a part of each course and provide an opportunity for the student to gain knowledge, abilities, and dispositions while interacting with children, families, program staff, and community agencies. Students in the ECSE program complete 290 clock hours of fieldwork in conjunction with courses.

Students completing the ECSE Specialist license complete 6 credit hours (510 clock hours) between infant/toddler, preschool, and primary levels practica. ECSE students may complete one of the three practica at their own work site.


Candidates must pass the state licensure PLACE test (#27 ECSE) and pass a practicum portfolio review before applying for licensure. Students completing the MA in ECE also complete comprehensive examination.

The Early Childhood Special Education licensure program is designed for professionals who are particularly interested in learning specialized skills for working with young children with special needs and their families in the age range birth through 8 years of age. Experience with young children with special needs is an important prerequisite to the ECSE licensure program. These field experiences can be in early intervention, preschool, or K-2 settings, and must include working directly with young children with special needs and their families. Field experiences help prospective teachers understand the challenges and become more comfortable with working with young children with special needs. Prior to acceptance in the ECSE licensure program, prospective applicants must provide evidence documenting at least one year of this field experience. This can include employment, practicum experiences from other programs, or volunteer experiences. The experience must include working with young children at-risk for or with special needs (e.g., Head Start classrooms, early intervention providers, inclusive preschools, etc.). In addition to this previous experience, it is required that ECSE licensure students continue to work in an inclusive early childhood program (as paid professional or regular volunteer) for the duration of the ECSE program at CU Denver.

Prospective applicants who meet the requirements for admittance into the Master’s degree in ECE but do not have the required field experiences for ECSE can begin as part of the MA-only track and then apply for transfer to the ECSE licensure program once one year of relevant field experiences has been documented.


Most ECE program classes are offered only once per calendar year. Courses are equally distributed between summer, fall, and spring terms. Average size is 25 to 30 student per class with students taking 2 to 3 courses per semester.

Classes are listed in approximate order of when they will be taken by students. Students must complete a program plan with an advisor prior to registration for classes. This can be done once admitted through our group orientation sessions held each semester or by individual appointment with a faculty member. 

Prospective applicants who meet the requirements for admittance into the Master’s degree in ECE but do not have the required field experiences for ECSE can begin as part of the MA-only track and then apply for transfer to the ECSE licensure program once one year of relevant field experiences has been documented.

Course List





The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving educational outcomes for individuals with exceptionalities, students with disabilities, and/or the gifted. CEC advocates for appropriate governmental policies, sets professional standards, provides continual professional development, advocates for newly and historically underserved individuals with exceptionalities, and helps professionals obtain conditions and resources necessary for effective professional practice. For more information on the Auraria Campus Student Council for Exceptional Children, visit


The professional roles our Early Childhood Special Education Specialist graduates assume include:
Lead teacher
Early interventionist
Service coordinator
Child Find team member
Special education consultant
Behavior specialist
Inclusion specialist

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