Early Childhood Education (M.S.Ed.)


The rewards of working with children from birth through age 8 are unlimited, and our M.S.Ed. in Early Childhood Education makes each interaction even more impactful. Our degree strengthens and broadens the preparation of teachers and other professionals who work with young children. Our program is perfect for preschool teachers, elementary school (K-2) teachers, child care administrators, family services workers, parent-educators, family child care providers, intervention specialists and more.

The early childhood education program is approved by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the National Association for the Education of Young Children and Gateways to Opportunity. Candidates who meet the Professional Educator Licensure (PEL) requirements through our program will automatically be eligible to receive the Gateways to Opportunity Level 5 Early Childhood Education (ECE) credential.

You'll need to submit:

  • Your application to the Graduate School.
  • Official transcripts (your undergraduate GPA must be 2.75 or higher) and test scores.
  • A career goals statement.
  • Letters of recommendation.

If you also pursue the Professional Educator License with Early Childhood Education Endorsement, you also need a passing score report for the Test of Academic Proficiency (or a qualifying ACT with writing score or the SAT).

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During our program of study, you will:

  • Apply your understanding of young children's needs and charateristics to create healthy, respectful, supportive and hallenging environments.
  • Create respectful, reciprocal relationships that support and empower families.
  • Use effective assessment strategies responsibly and in partership with families and other professionals to support children' development and learning.
  • Integrate your understanding of developmentally appropriate practices and evidence-based approaches to design and
    implement lesson plans.
  • Conduct yourself professionally and ethically as a member of the early childhood profession.

Although our courses in Early Childhood Education are offered primarily in DeKalb every semester (fall, spring and summer), limited coursework is available at our other regional sites. You can take courses at any NIU campus that suits your scheduling and geographic needs.

You can substitute your life experience for part or all of your pre-student teaching clinical experiences and student teaching if you meet these four conditions:

  • Full-time employment in the grade level and discipline for which you are seeking licensure and for an appropriate length of time, as determined by program faculty.
  • Documentation that your life experience was a single, continuous experience monitored and/or evaluated at a satisfactory level of performance.
  • Letter of recommendation from the school administrator.
  • Written recommendation from the NIU licensure program supervisor that your performance in the experience was equivalent to or greater than that expected of a candidate successfully completing the traditional student teaching or clinical experience.

Non-Thesis Option

  • EPS 506 Theories and Research in Child Behavior and Development (3 credits)
  • SEEC 500 Analysis of Instruction in Early Childhood Education (3 credits)
  • SEEC 504 Developmentally Appropriate Practice in the Primary Classroom (3 credits)
  • SEEC 511 Comparative/International Early Childhood Education (3 credits)
  • SEEC 521 Educational Diagnosis and Assessment of Young Children with Special Needs (3 credits)


  • SESE 523 Observation and Assessment in Early Childhood Special Education (3 credits)
  • SEEC 535 Family and School Partnerships for Academic Success (3 credits)
  • SEEC 598 Master's Project (3 credits)
  • One graduate-level course in research, such as the following, or approved by advisor (3 credits).
    • ETR 519 Applied Educational Research (3 credits)
    • ETR 520 Introduction to Research Methods in Education (3 credits)
    • ETR 521 Educational Statistics I (3 credits)

Additional Requirements

  • A focus area – English as a second language, emergent literacy, movement development, pedagogy in early childhood education, research in early childhood education, and special education – to provide a broader base of knowledge, a supportive skill or more sophisticated research competencies. The focus area requires a minimum of nine semester hours, approved by your advisor.
  • Successful completion of a comprehensive examination. The comprehensive examination is conducted in conjunction with your master's project.

Thesis Option

If you choose the thesis option, you will select research in early childhood education as your focus area. Six of the nine semester hours required for the focus area must be taken in SEEC 699: Master's Thesis (3-6 credits). You are still required to take SEEC 598 (1-6 credits).

Note: Prerequisites may be required for some courses.