Master's in Secondary Special Education and Transition Services


Empowering Youth. Collaborating for Change.

Become an advocate for at-risk youth and youth with disabilities, inspiring and empowering them to make successful life transitions. With a Master of Arts in Education in Human Development in Secondary Special Education and Transition Services from the George Washington University (GW), you will learn to lead transition programs and services for all youth with disabilities in various settings, including post-secondary education, employment and independent adulthood.

GW’s Special Education Transition Services degree program is nationally recognized and meets the Transition Guideposts of the U.S. Department of Labor National Collaborative on Workforce & Disability for Youth (NCWD-Youth) and the CEC Advanced Knowledge and Skills Base for Transition Specialists. With a strong focus on social justice, this program will provide you with critical knowledge of legislative requirements and research, as well evidence-based practices and experience gained through a hands-on internship.

In this program, you will design strategies that inspire youth to envision, own and lead their own futures—including careers, post-secondary education, living alone and other hallmarks of maturity. You will graduate prepared to become a transition specialist, skilled in the design of effective youth development programs and poised to help youth, families and communities now and in the future.


Why a GW Master’s in Special Education and Transition Services?

  • Leadership Emphasis: Prepare to be recognized as a “transition leader,” helping your organization and peers become more competent in critical knowledge and skills, with the program’s ‘train-the-trainer’ leadership component.
  • Applied Research: Engage with a curriculum that is driven by the leading research in the field, applied in the field by experts and designed to help achieve a variety of transition outcomes. All course content is based on a self-determination philosophy where students with disabilities must control their transition planning and have opportunities to practice the skills necessary to assume adult rights and responsibilities.
  • Interdisciplinary Interaction: Build knowledge related to the planning and achievement of successful post-school outcomes based on first-hand experience from faculty and peers during discussion forums and small group projects.
  • Scholar-Practitioner Faculty: Learn from faculty members who are active professionals, ready to share their real-world experiences and unique perspective.

Curriculum (39 credit hours)

GW’s Master’s in Secondary Special Education and Transition Services is a 39-credit master’s degree and can be completed in as little as 2.5 years.

The program requires 39 credit hours of graduate course work and school and community-based internship to apply learning to field-based professional practice and research.

  • SPED 6236 Introduction to Career, Vocational and Transition Services (3 credits)
  • SPED 6234 Seminar-Professional Development in SPED/Transition (3 credits)
  • SPED 6230 Vocational Assessment (3 credits)
  • SPED 6280 Developmental Assessment of Adolescents (3 credits)
  • SPED 6210 Universal Design for Learning and Assessment (3 credits)
  • SPED 6231 Instructional Methods in Special Education and Transition 
(3 credits)
  • SPED 6233 Curriculum in Transition Special Education (3 credits)
  • SPED 6255 Collaboration with Systems and Families (3 credits)
  • SPED 6222 Legal Issues and Public Policy for Individuals with Disabilities (3 credits)
  • SPED 6235 Employment Models for Individuals with Disabilities 
(3 credits)
  • EDUC 6114 Introduction to Quantitative Research (3 credits)
  • SPED 6995 School/Community Based Internship (6 credits)


  • SPED 6253 Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorders (3 Credits)
  • SPED 6254 Autism Spectrum Disorders and Transition to Employment and Post-Secondary Life (3 Credits)

Program Outcomes

As a student in GW’s Master's in Secondary Special Ed & Transition Services, you will have a unique opportunity to engage in research, scholarship, publishing and leadership activities. The program enables you to:

  • Design effective youth development instruction and programs by engaging youth, families and community partners to promote full citizenship and equality of access to the full spectrum of adult life experiences
  • Employ various formal and informal transition and career assessments to inform effective transition planning
  • Demonstrate knowledge of competitive, supportive and customized employment models based on assessments, information, needs and employment policies
  • Demonstrate procedures to ensure inclusion of specific transition-related content when addressing academic standards, instructional strategies and curriculum design
  • Apply universal design for learning to address individual learning style preferences
Assistant Professor
(202) 994-5986
Assistant Professor
(202) 994-1534
Associate Professor
(202) 994-1535
(202) 994-3291
Assistant Professor
(202) 994-1533
Career Outlook

Career Outlook

As a graduate of the Master’s in Secondary Special Education and Transition Services from the George Washington University (GW), you will be prepared to advance your career as a transition specialist for youth with disabilities in a wide range of professional settings. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job growth in special education will reach 6% overall by 2022.1 Better screening and identification of various disabilities in children are expected to increase the demand for special education services.

Within special education, transition services is an area of particular growth. Public vocational rehabilitation professionals and Centers for Independent Living are now mandated under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 to provide extensive transition services. These legislative changes are increasing the need for a broad range of transition professionals to help provide services that improve the post-school outcomes of youth with disabilities.

Secondary Special Education Career Opportunities

  • Agency transition professional
  • Guidance or career counselor
  • Lead transition coordinator or transition counselor
  • Leadership positions as a transition specialist in secondary education
  • Secondary transition educator or consultant for state and local education agencies
  • Special education director
  • Transition and employment coordinator
  • University positions in disability services or as an adjunct instructor

Potential Employment Settings

  • High schools and technical schools
  • Local and state education agencies
  • Adult services agencies
  • Public and private vocational rehabilitation providers
  • Community providers
  • Career one-stop centers
  • Medicare waiver providers
  • Centers for Independent Living
  • Parent/youth advocacy organizations
  • University settings

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, on the Internet at


Certificate Offered

GW offers a Graduate Certificate in Transition Special Education online. Should you wish to pursue the Graduate Certificate, you have the option to transfer all 12 credit hours into the Master's program.

Other Programs

GW also offers a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling program and a Certificate in Job Development Job Placement. The master’s program is accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE) and is ranked 6th in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

In the News

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.