Early Childhood Education: Special Needs M.Ed.

Education students creating activities for their students
Early Childhood Education: Special Needs M.Ed.

The Department of Education offers the master of education degree in early childhood education with an option in special needs. When completed in conjunction with a degree, certification is available as an early childhood special education teacher (birth through eight years). Certification requirements are additional to the master's degree but may be completed as electives for the degree.

This program is an advanced course of study designed for teachers, administrators, and other early childhood practitioners who wish to improve their professional competence and broaden their career opportunities. The program emphasizes the acquisition of knowledge and competencies in child development (birth through eight years), learning environments, developmentally appropriate curriculum, developmental and cultural diversity, and professional leadership. The coursework culminates in extensive field­-based experience.

Admission Requirements

All admitted students are expected to have had at least one course in child development at the upper­ division level and at least 200 hours of supervised classroom experience with children from birth through eight years of age, or the equivalent.

In addition to the early childhood core requirements described above, students choosing this option will concentrate on young children who are at risk for, or have, developmental difficulties and special needs. Coursework emphasizes an understanding of the role of the family, community, and social policy in early development and intervention. The program is non categorical in its approach to assessment and educational planning.

Admission Criteria

In determining admission of students to teacher education graduate programs, several criteria are used:

  1. The undergraduate record. The undergraduate overall minimum grade point average for admission is 3.0.  The undergraduate grade point average of students admitted to the graduate programs in teacher education is approximately 3.52 (based on 2016 admissions).
  2. Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators (Core) exam scores are required. Applicants must obtain, at a minimum, a qualifying score (as set by the state of New Hampshire at the time of testing) on all three (Reading, Writing, and Mathematics) Core exams in order to be considered for admission. Current NH qualifying scores may be found at the ETS Praxis Website under the “Tests required for all licensure areas” page.
  3. Additional required application materials can be found at http://www.gradschool.unh.edu/php/pos.php under programs.


Department of Education
Morrill Hall
University of New Hampshire
62 College Road
Durham, NH 03824

Phone: (603) 862-2310
Fax: (603) 862-2174


Curriculum & Requirements

Credit Hours

The M.Ed. degree requires a minimum of 36 hours of graduate-­level credits. The exact number of credit hours will depend on the student's background, competencies, and professional goals, and will be determined by the adviser.

Core Requirements
EDUC 861Inclusive Curriculum for Young Children with Special Needs4
EDUC 941Diversity and Child Development4
EDUC 942Socio-cultural Perspectives on Teaching and Learning4
EDUC 948Leadership and Advocacy in Early Childhood Education4
Internship Requirements
EDUC 900BInternship and Seminar in Early Childhood Education3
EDUC 901BInternship and Seminar in Early Childhood Education3
Additional Special Needs Requirements
EDUC 860Introduction to Young Children with Special Needs4
EDUC 862Curriculum for Young Children with Special Needs: Evaluation and Program Design4
EDUC 856Supporting Families of Individuals with Exceptionalities4
Selected in consultation with the program adviser based on interest and certification requirements2-8
Concluding Experience
A degree candidate must successfully complete two concluding experiences.
Select one of the following:
Comprehensive written and oral examination
Research thesis
Graduation Portfolio
Total Credits36-42


Applications must be completed by the following deadlines in order to be reviewed for admission:

  • Fall: April 15
  • Spring: Nov. 1
  • Summer: April 15
  • Special: Students who plan to begin their internship Fall semester, must have a completed Graduate School application by March 1st and have taken all prerequisite coursework.

Application fee: $65

Campus: Durham

New England Regional: No

Accelerated Masters: Yes

New Hampshire Residents

Students claiming in-state residency must also submit a Proof of Residence form. This form is not required to complete your application, but you will need to submit it after you are offered admission or you will not be able to register for classes.


If you attended UNH after September 1, 1991, and have indicated so on your online application, we will retrieve your transcript internally; this includes UNH-Durham, UNH-Manchester and UNH Non-Degree work. 

If you did not attend UNH, or attended prior to September 1, 1991, then you must request one official transcript be sent directly to our office from the Registrar's Office of each college/university attended. International transcripts must be translated into English. We accept transcripts both electronically and in hard copy:

  • Electronic Transcripts: Please have your institution send the transcript directly to grad.school@unh.edu. Please note that we can only accept copies sent directly from the institution.
  • Paper Transcripts: Please send hard copies of transcripts to: UNH Graduate School, Thompson Hall- 105 Main Street, Durham, NH 03824. You may request transcripts be sent to us directly from the institution or you may send them yourself as long as they remain sealed in the original university envelope.

Letters of recommendation: 3 required

Recommendation letters submitted by relatives or friends, as well as letters older than one year, will not be accepted.

Test Scores: Praxis Required

Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators (Core) exam scores are required of all applicants to Master’s level (M.Ed. and M.A.T. ) programs leading to initial certification in Teacher Education, Special Education, and Early Childhood Education. Applicants must obtain, at a minimum, a qualifying score (as set by the state of New Hampshire at the time of testing) on all three (Reading, Writing, and Mathematics) Core exams in order to be considered for admission. Current NH qualifying scores may be found at the ETS Praxis Website under the “Tests required for all licensure areas” page. To have scores sent to our office please use our recipient code which is 3922.

For general information about test scores required for admission into our programs please visit our Test Scores webpage.

Personal Statement/Essay Questions

In no more than two pages, describe the reasons you wish to pursue the degree program you have chosen, including relevant personal qualities and life experiences that have shaped your beliefs about learning, development and teaching, counseling, or administration (depending on the program to which you are applying).

Statements must be included with your submitted application.

State and Federal Background Check

Once you have submitted your application you will need to download and print the instructions for completing your Department of Education Background Check and Criminal History Release form. This background check requirement is something that must be completed before the application can be reviewed by the Education department.

Follow the provided instructions and bring your background check documentation to the Department of Education (see instructions for details). The Education department will send the materials to the state for processing. When you drop of the forms the department will provide you with a receipt. You must then send a copy of this receipt to the UNH Graduate School office so we can indicate your background requirement has been met and mark it as received on your application. You may send us the receipt by email to grad.docs@unh.edu (include your name, term applying for, program, and UNH Student ID), mail it, or stop by in person with a copy.

Additional Department Requirements

Important Notes

All applicants are encouraged to contact programs directly to discuss program specific application questions.

International Applicants

Prospective international students are strongly encouraged to complete our international pre-application process and are required to submit TOEFL, IELTS, or equivalent examination scores. Please note that English Language Exams may be waived if English is your first language. If you wish to request a waiver, then please visit our Test Scores webpage for more information.

Explore Program Details


The early childhood program offers the Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree: Special Needs and also supports the Ph.D. in Education for those candidates who choose to focus in the area of Early Childhood.

See the Early Childhood - M.Ed. if you are interested in pursuing the Early Childhood degree without the special needs option.

The program is designed for experienced teachers and other early childhood practitioners who wish to improve their professional competence and broaden their career opportunities. The curriculum emphasizes the acquisition of knowledge and competencies in child development (birth through eight years), learning environments, developmentally appropriate curriculum, developmental and cultural diversity, parent collaboration, and professional leadership. The course work culminates in an extensive 1-year internship experience. This program emphasizes the personal development of each student in close collaboration with faculty and fellow students.

The Early Childhood program is designed to prepare leaders for new careers in early childhood education such as:

  • Early childhood teachers and team leaders
  • Curriculum consultants and staff development coordinators
  • Coordinators for home-based infant and toddler programs or for family and group day care programs
  • Junior college and vocational school child care instructors
  • Administrators of early childhood programs
  • Early childhood special education teachers
  • Early Interventionists

All students enroll in EDUC 900B and 901B, a two-semester sequence consisting of a field-based internship and on-campus seminar. Students must have completed all required courses prior to enrolling in the internship, or be completing those requirements concurrently. The Office of Field Placement in the Department of Education will work to place students in a school that is part of our school-university collaborative. Students in the Special Needs option must have an internship that is linked with a public school and be supervised by a licensed special educator. It is recommended that students in the Special Needs Option complete a hybrid internship, which includes a primary internship placement in a public school and an additional placement in early intervention. All early childhood interns spend a minimum of 20 hours per week for two semesters in the internship.

Based on satisfactory performance in the first semester internship, post-baccalaureate candidates with current certification may petition for exemption from the second semester internship.  The decision to grant the petition will be made by the Director of Educator Preparation in collaboration with the intern, cooperating teacher, and UNH supervisor. 

Candidates may elect to add teacher certification to their master’s degree. Dual certification (Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education) is also available. Please see plan of study for more information. To be recommended for certification, candidates must demonstrate completion of teaching methods courses (Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies). This requirement can be fulfilled through elective credit coursework in the Master’s degree or through transcript evaluation of prior coursework. Master’s degree students who complete additional targeted coursework can be recommended for teacher licensure as an Early Childhood Special Educator (birth - 8 yr).

A blended approach to teacher preparation is a hallmark of the Early Childhood Program. Students take a core curriculum that emphasizes understanding the development of young children, the affect of diversity on teaching and learning, and a family centered community-based approach to education. Teacher candidates take course work in relevant teaching methods to the area of certification being sought and the PRAXIS II examination. Lastly, students complete a full year internship in an inclusive education setting with a licensed teacher in the area of certification they seek. The curriculum content of the program is keyed to National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) guidelines for advanced degree programs along with New Hampshire State Teacher Certification standards.

Requirements for Early Childhood Special Education Teacher Certification (Birth-8yr)

  • Required courses for M.Ed. Early Childhood Special Needs Option
  • Early Childhood Teaching Methods Core Coursework (listed below)
  • Praxis II Examination: Education of Young Children*

* Note: Although the State of NH Department of Education does not require the Praxis II exam for Early Childhood Special Education certification the UNH program recommends students take the exam.

Early Childhood Teaching Methods Core Coursework

Literacy Course (4 credit hours)

Choose from:

Subject Course Number Title Credits
EDUC 806 OR Introduction to Reading Instruction OR
EDUC 907 Foundations of Literacy Instruction 4

Content Knowledge Courses (6 credit hours)

Subject Course Number Title Credits
EDUC 803 Teaching Elementary Science 2
EDUC 803 Teaching Elementary Social Studies 2
EDUC 845 Math with Technology in Early Education 2

UNH Undergraduate students in high academic standing (3.2 GPA) may apply for early admission to the Graduate School for the accelerated master’s program. UNH students accepted to the Graduate School may enroll for up to 12 graduate credits (800-level courses), which count toward both their undergraduate and graduate degree.

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