Master's in Secondary Special Education

Become a Licensed Special Educator

The role of a special educator goes beyond the daily impact they make in the lives of students with disabilities- it is also the role of an advocate, impacting social barriers and changing communities.

GW’s Secondary Special Education Masters degree program is nationally recognized. With a strong focus on social justice, graduate of this program will be effective advocates working to enhance the classroom experience for all students. Leading to teacher licensure in special education, this masters prepares students to teach students with emotional and behavioral disabilities and learning disabilities, both inside and outside the classroom.

A Professional Development School (PDS) model is emphasized in the Secondary Special Education program, blending theory and practice of learning to teach, so that concepts learned in a university classroom can be applied the next day to work with students with EBD. In this model, graduate students learn about best practice and research-based interventions through their coursework, while being able to apply them concurrently in their full-time, clinical internship in a therapeutic school setting. Currently, our program partners with both public and non-public schools throughout the DC, VA, and MD area. Graduate students are not only matched with a partnership school for internships, but also with a Cooperating Teacher, who serves as a mentor and support in the school building. University faculty and staff provide bi-weekly supervision and individualized feedback on teaching progress, as well as weekly seminars that provide a forum for professional growth and peer-driven emotional support.

Graduates of this program are highly sought after for post-program employment, as well as demonstrate teacher-retention rates many times higher than the national average.

This program is focused on preparing teachers of students with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities (EBD) in grades 6-12. If you are interested in working with students with EBD in grades K-8, please explore our Special Education for Children with Emotional & Behavioral Disabilities program.

Nationally Recognized: The program is nationally recognized by the Council for Exceptional Children, is accredited by Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and has been training exemplary special educators for twenty years.Convenient Schedule: Courses are scheduled once a week in late afternoons and evenings (Monday-Thursday) to accommodate internship experiences in schools.Location: Unique to the the DC, Maryland, Virginia (DMV) area, our location gives students in the Special Education & Disability Studies Department access to urban or suburban; public, charter, or private schools. This allows students to examine, compare, and contrast schools with widely different student populations, structures, and demographics.

33 credits in required courses and successful completion of a master’s comprehensive examination.

SPED 6201 Overview and Legal Issues in Educating Exceptional Learners
SPED 6203 Research and Practice: Diagnostic Reading for Exceptional Learners
SPED 6231 Curriculum and Instructional Methods in Special Education and Transition
SPED 6236 Introduction to Career and Career–Technical Education and Transition Services
SPED 6238 Issues in Educating Individuals with Learning, Emotional, and Intellectual Disabilities
SPED 6239 Analysis of Teaching and Collaboration for Professionals Working with Students with Disabilities
SPED 6280 Developmental Assessment of Adolescents
SPED 6288 Characteristics of Individuals with Learning, Emotional, and Intellectual Disabilities
SPED 6290 Affective Development and Behavior Management in Special Education
SPED 6992 Behavior Management Practicum: Adolescents with Disabilities
SPED 6996 Teaching Internship in Transition Special Education

Successful completion of a comprehensive examination is required of all students.

Assistant Professor
(202) 994-5986
Assistant Professor
(202) 994-1534
Associate Professor
(202) 994-1535
Assistant Professor
(202) 994-9860
Career Outlook


Our graduates are Special Educators in both public and non-publics schools throughout the nation. In addition to classroom teaching, our graduates are also administrators of special education programs, advocates in the policy arena, researchers and faculty in higher education, and educational consultants.

Program Entry: Summer
Prerequisites: Bachelor's Degree
Campus: Foggy Bottom

Application Requirements

  • Online Application
  • Resume
  • Statement of Purpose
  • 2 Letters of Recommendation
  • Transcripts (unofficial)
  • Application Fee

*Additional application requirements may exist for international applicants

For more information on any of these requirements, please visit our Admissions page.

Transformation Begins Here

Learn more about the MA in Secondary Special Education program located on campus (202-994-8411)

In the News

GSEHD alumnus Topher Kandik (master's, English and special education) published a piece on the Education Post's blog entitled Every Book You Teach Is a Political Choice. Make It a Step Towards Social Justice. Mr. Kandik was also the 2016 Washington, D.C. Teacher of the Year.

Dr. Joan Kester and several special education and disability studies doctoral and master's students presented at the 2017 PA Community on Transition Conference. Amanda Szczerba, a master's student, co-presented with Dr. Kester in a session featuring her capstone project, "Career Development Opportunities for Students with Disabilities." Eric Duer, a recent master's graduate, presented "Entrepreneurship on a Budget." Dr. Kester and doctoral student Matthew Flanagan collaborated with Temple University and the PA Youth Leadership Network to present research findings in a session entitled "Transition Discoveries: Tools & Resources to Improve Transition Practices." Dr. Kester co-presented with Julie Stella and Matthew Flanagan, doctoral students, a session entitled "Digital Inclusion: Let's Brainstorm!"

Dr. Joan Kester, along with two graduates of the online Secondary Special Education & Transition Services master's program (Everett Deibler and Christopher Nace), presented a session entitled Promoting Higher Levels of Youth Engagement at the 2016 Office of Special Education Programs Project Directors Meeting in Washington, D.C.