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How to Become an Early Intervention Specialist

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If you’re passionate about working with young children and want to make a transformative difference, becoming an early intervention specialist may be the ideal career choice. Focused on early childhood development, an early intervention specialist works with young children who are experiencing behavioral, cognitive and physical issues. An undergraduate degree in special education, a graduate degree or additional training in early intervention is required for this profession.

Pursue an Early Childhood Intervention Degree

The path to becoming an early intervention specialist begins with a degree in special education. Expect to spend four years in classes and practical experience during this program. You’ll take classes like:

  • Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners
  • Community Resources for Special Education
  • Young Children with Special Needs
  • Assessment for Students with Disabilities
  • Creating Curriculum and Instruction
  • Collaborative Consultation
  • Best Practices in Inclusion
  • Special Education Law and Policy
  • Research Application

You’ll also spend time in a classroom setting to learn how to apply academic learning in a practical setting. Most programs require a semester of student teaching as the culmination of the degree.

Earn a Master’s Degree

Given the high level of knowledge and expertise required for this job, you’ll need a master’s degree or advanced education to earn an early childhood intervention degree. You’ll spend two years earning this degree.

Classes include Introduction to Deaf Studies, Rehabilitation Studies, Consulting in the Helping Professions and Pharmacological Interventions in Special Education. A research project or thesis is the final requirement for this graduate program. You can use this capstone project as a way to differentiate your expertise.

Early Intervention Certification

Licensing requirements vary by state. Most licensure requirements include the demonstration of specific competencies and completion of practical experience. You may have to submit a portfolio that substantiates your educational background along with a copy of your transcript and reference letters.

Consider a Specialization

You can earn additional certifications to further specialize in work with special populations. Some areas to consider include children with autism spectrum disorders, deaf children or children needing help with physical and speech delay.

You can earn an additional early intervention certification to specialize in one of these areas while working in the profession. Specializing may increase your ability to earn more and give you a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Review the Duties of an Early Intervention Specialist

An early intervention specialist works with newborn babies and young children who are not ready for kindergarten. Some positions are associated with a school district, and other positions are with state or private organizations. An early intervention specialist assesses each child to determine his specific needs.

Next, a specific developmental program or individualized education program is designed. Through the use of creative games and activities, an early intervention specialist works with the child and educates the parents about how to continue the work on their own. In some cases, the individualized education program is continued once the child enters school.

Look at the Salary Possibilities

In 2018, the average salary for special education teachers was $62,500, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pay varies by geographical location and employer. You may earn more money working for a private organization. Highest-paying states include California, Texas, Virginia, Oregon, Minnesota and Illinois.

Consider the Job Outlook

You can expect an 8 percent increase in special education jobs between now and 2026. Federal guidelines and funding for identifying children with disabilities may impact this profession. Similarly, fluctuation in the population will drive the demand for these services. Turnover in this profession is high because of the emotional demand of the job duties.


Dr. Kelly Meier has a doctorate in Educational Leadership and has 30+ years of experience in higher education. She is the author and co-author of 15 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education with Kinect Education Group. She is the co-owner of a small business and a regular contributor for The Equity Network. She has numerous publications published by Talico, Inc., DynaTEAM Consulting, Inc. and Kinect Education Group.

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