Master's in Early Childhood Special Education

Impact Lives, Starting With Yours

Early childhood educators are uniquely positioned to play a critical role in positively shifting the developmental and learning trajectories of young children. Not only do they nurture and teach young children and partner with their families to facilitate transformative developmental experiences, they also act as advocates and change agents, promoting inclusive communities and equitable opportunities for all children.

In this program, you'll gain hands-on experience while learning from nationally-recognized faculty to earn a Master’s in Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE). Become a change agent and improve outcomes for all young children (ages 3-8), including those with or at-risk for disabilities.

As the only dual endorsement program in the area, successful completion of the program prepares you for initial licensure in early childhood education with an endorsement in early childhood special education (PreK through 3rd grade) in D.C.






Nationally Recognized & Accredited
Nationally recognized by the Council for Exceptional Children and accredited by Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)


Classes are offered in the evenings to accommodate working professionals and for internship experiences. Program can be completed as a part-time or full-time student.


Leading Faculty
Faculty are experts in developmental and educational psychology, behavioral interventions, and special education. They are nationally recognized educators with experience leading innovative work in research and practice across education and health sectors.




The GW Advantage

Unique to the the DC, Maryland, Virginia (DMV) area, our location gives students access to urban or suburban public, charter, and private schools. This allows students to examine, compare, and contrast schools with widely different student populations, structures, and demographics.

The program requires two supervised field work experiences. Students have opportunities to train across an array of service delivery settings for children between 3 and 8-years-olds and receive mentorship and guidance from site and University supervisors.





 Program at a Glance

Degree Awarded:

Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in the Field of Early Childhood Special Education


Special Education and Disability Studies

Course Delivery:

-Main Campus
-Arlington Campus

Program Entry:

Spring, Summer, Fall

Our Mission & Vision

At GW, our Early Childhood Special Education masters program is grounded in an enhanced vision of special education, one that synthesizes 21st century developmental science and critical disability justice frameworks with culturally responsive, evidence-based approaches to early childhood education for children (PreK – 3rd grade) identified with and without disabilities. Our core values frame our approach to special educator preparation. 

  • We believe all children are entitled to equal rights, opportunities, and access to healthy, responsive, strengths-focused, culturally mindful, and effective developmental and educational environments and opportunities. 
  • We believe each child and family is unique and deserving of and entitled to early learning and developmental environments that are responsive to their hopes, needs, and dreams.
  • We believe every child’s development must be understood and honored within the context of family, culture, community, and society.
  • We believe in engaging families as partners; creating school cultures of inclusion, care, and trust; and preparing our students to be career teachers.

Read more about the role of a special education professional in meeting the needs of every learner >

The following requirements must be fulfilled: 39 credits. Successful completion of the master of arts in education and human development comprehensive examination and completion of the relevant teacher licensure assessments (see below) are required.
EDUC 6114 Introduction to Quantitative Research
SPED 6222 Leadership in Disability Public Policy
SPED 6240 Family Support and Guidance in Special Education
or SPED 6100 Selected Topics
SPED 6261 Practicum: Methods and Materials for Young Children with Disabilities
SPED 6266 The Development of Language and Literacy
SPED 6268 Development of Children and Youth with Disabilities
SPED 6269 Etiology, Symptomatology, and Approaches to Intervention with Children with Disabilities
SPED 6290 Affective Development and Behavior Management for Teaching Students with Disabilities
CPED 6622 Foundations of Reading Development
SPED 6260 Developmental Assessment in Special Education
SPED 6262 Formal Assessment of Young Children with Disabilities
SPED 6993 Internship: Teaching Young Children with Disabilities (taken for six credits)
Master of Arts in Education and Human Development comprehensive exam required
Completion of the relevant teacher licensure assessments (i.e., PRAXIS) required by the District of Columbia Educator Licensure Services Office
Program Outcomes

This degree leads to initial licensure in early childhood education with an endorsement in early childhood special education (PreK through 3rd grade) in the District of Columbia.

Students will:

  • Learn how to provide focused instruction and individualized interventions to support young children and their families across school, community, and clinical settings.
  • Use research-based strategies to meet the needs of developmentally diverse young children with and without disabilities and their families.
  • Be strong advocates for the children and families they serve.

 Apply Now

We invite you to join our diverse, dynamic community and develop the knowledge and skills to weave social justice ethics, culturally responsive practices, strength-based strategies, and disability rights lenses into a robust and equity-focused teaching practice. Please review the following admission and financial information.

Ready to take the next step in your career? Review our step-by-step guide to applying to GSEHD >

To learn more about the program, admission process, and upcoming events, please connect with the GSEHD Admissions Team at or 202-994-9283.

Apply Now     Schedule Consultation with Admissions Coach    

To be considered for admission, applicants must submit the online application form as well as the following required supporting documents. There is no application fee.

  • Prerequisite: Bachelor's Degree

  • Resume

  • Transcripts from all previously attended colleges or universities

  • Statement of Purpose

  • One Letter of Recommendation

*Additional application requirements may exist for international applicants.

View more details about requirements    

Applications are now being accepted for Fall 2024. We encourage you to apply as early as possible.

Application Timeline Spring Summer Fall
Priority Deadline Aug 1 Nov 1 Nov 1
Round 1 Deadline Sept 15 Dec 15 Dec 15
Round 2 Deadline Nov 1 Jan 16 Jan 16
Round 3 Deadline Dec 15 March 1 March 1
Round 4 Deadline N/A May 1 May 1
Round 5 Deadline N/A N/A Jun 15
Round 6 Deadline N/A N/A Aug 1


For more information or to inquire about the next admissions cycle, contact the GSEHD Admissions Team at or 202-994-9283.



 Tuition & Financial Aid

We know embarking upon graduate school is a big decision - due in part to the costs of attending. At GW, we understand the time and thought behind making graduate school work for you. Please take a moment to learn more about the options and opportunities available to help fund your graduate education.

Learn more about scholarships, grants & financial aid  

Graduate tuition is charged per credit hour, unless otherwise noted. Rates vary by program and location.

The tuition rate* for the on-campus (Foggy Bottom) Master's in ECSE program is $1,905 per credit hour.

The tuition rate* for the off-campus (Alexandria) Master's in ECSE program is $975 per credit hour.

This program requires 39 credits.

Please note: Additional fees may apply for international students, late fees, etc. Current tuition rates may be updated during the year.

*Summer 2024, Fall 2024 and Spring 2025

View the current fee chart   

Scholarships are available to eligible admitted students. Review eligibility requirements and learn more about funding your education >



Devin Lawless headshot
quotation mark

I can truly say that I left my masters program feeling like an expert in early childhood development. The broad range of courses led by so many thorough professors made me feel overly prepared to begin my teaching career.

Master's in Early Childhood Special Education




 Career Outlook

Within this field, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports job growth of 4% over the next ten years1 with better screening and identification of various disabilities in children increasing the demand for special education services. In addition, children with disabilities are being identified earlier and enrolled into special education programs.

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Special Education Teachers, at (visited September 08, 2022).

ECSE Career Opportunities
teacher sits in floor to work with pre-k students in classroom

Our graduates are prepared to take on critical roles in the education of students, with or without disabilities, including:

  • PreK-3 Teachers/Special Education Teachers
  • Compliance Coordinators
  • IEP Team Leaders/Coordinators
  • Instructional Coaches/Leaders/Coordinators/Administrators
  • Special Education Department Coordinators/Chairs
  • Behavior Specialists
  • Educational Consultants
Potential Employment Settings
teacher leans down to assist elementary students using tablet

Graduates are prepared to work with children in multiple settings including:

  • Head Start and Early Head Start
  • K-3 Classrooms
  • Inclusion/Co-Taught Classrooms
  • Alternative Schools
  • Public and Private Child Care
  • Tutoring Companies
  • Early Intervention Programs
  • Hospital Settings
  • Specialized Agency Programs



Early Childhood Special Education Faculty

Dr. Doran Gresham

Assistant Professor, Special Education and Disability Studies

(202) 994-1509
Dr. Karen Ihrig

Assistant Professor, Special Education and Disability Studies

(202) 994-5986
Dr. Elisabeth Rice

Associate Professor, Special Education and Disability Studies

(202) 994-1535
Dr. Beth Tuckwiller

Department Chair and Associate Professor, Special Education and Disability Studies

(202) 994-9860




 Upcoming Events






Take the Next Step in Your Career

Complete the form below to learn more about degree requirements, course descriptions, tuition, and more.



Shape the Future of Special Education (image of two young boys in an embrace in the special education classroom)