Master's in Secondary Special Education and Transition Services

The program is designed in partnership with various area public schools and community agencies. The curriculum reflects an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach that emphasizes linking school, community and post-secondary systems.

  • Interdisciplinary Transition Services
  • Adolescents with Emotional & Behavioral Disorders
  • Adolescents with Learning Disabilities
  • 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.

    Transition Services (Online)

    Interdisciplinary 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

    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

    Emotional & Behavioral Disab.

    Adolescents with Emotional & Behavioral Disabilities


    This intensive, one-year, full-time master’s program prepares graduate students to be highly qualified educators of students with learning, emotional, and behavioral challenges. This program is focused on preparing teachers of students with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities (EBD) in grades 9-12. If you are interested in working with students with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities in grades K-8, please explore our Special Education for Children with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders program.

    Program Description

    Secondary Special Education and Transition Services for Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities (SSETS-EBD) is an intensive, one-year, full-time master’s program that prepares graduate students to be highly qualified educators of students with learning, emotional, and behavioral challenges. Using a Psychoeducational approach, graduate students in the program gain the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to facilitate effective instruction and improve outcomes for students in this unique and challenging population.

    Graduate students begin the program in Summer Session (typically late June) by participating in full-time coursework throughout the first summer. In the fall and spring semesters, students are placed in a Professional Development Partnership School for a full-time teaching internship and attend evening courses. The program concludes with coursework in the final summer. Students earn both a Master’s Degree in Education and Human Development, as well as their initial teacher licensure in special education.

    The hallmark of the program is its emphasis on clinical preparation, as graduate students have the opportunity to work directly with students with disabilities in a therapeutic school throughout the school year. The program offers graduate students the opportunity to apply their coursework directly to practice in the classroom while being mentored by school-based cooperating teachers and university faculty and staff. Using a Professional Development School model (see below for description) university faculty and staff work closely with the schools to provide a supportive and enriching environment to gain the skills necessary to teach in this high need field of education.

    Professional Development School Model

    A Professional Development School (PDS) model blends the 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 the PDS 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.


  • One-year program (summer to summer) leading to a Master's Degree in Education and Human Development, as well as Teacher Licensure in Special Education
  • Concentration on working with and teaching students with emotional and behavioral disabilities and learning disabilities
  • "Hands-on," full school year intern teaching experience
  • Supportive mentorship and supervision from University faculty and staff, as well as school-based cooperating teachers
  • Small classroom environment, opportunities for individualization
  • Evening graduate classes
  • Why a GW Master's Degree?

  • 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.
  • Social Justice in Action: Graduates learn more than classroom methods and techniques. They are trained as advocates to change the classroom experience for all students.
  • Theory to Practice to Reflection Pipeline: Graduates are able to directly apply the theory they learn in coursework to their day-to-day practice with students and then self-reflect on their personal and professional growth in weekly seminars and journals with supervisors.
  • Exceptional Employment and Retention Rates: Program graduates are highly sought after for post-program employment, as well as demonstrate teacher-retention rates many times higher than the national average.
  • Curriculum

  • SPED 6239- Collaboration for Professionals working with Students with Disabilities
  • SPED 6201- Overview of Special Education
  • SPED 6238- Characteristics of EBD, LD, and ID, Part II
  • SPED 6222- Legal Issues and Public Policy for Individuals with Disabilities
  • SPED 6288 - Characteristics of EBD, LD, and ID, Part I
  • SPED 6290 - Affective Development and Behavior Management in Special Education
  • SPED 6231 - Instructional Methods in Special Education and Transition
  • SPED 6992 – Behavior Management Practicum: Adolescents with Disabilities
  • SPED 6280 - Developmental Assessment of Adolescents
  • SPED 6280 - Developmental Assessment of Adolescents
  • CPED 6626 – Diagnostic Teaching of Reading in Secondary School
  • SPED 6996 – Teaching Internship in Transition Special Education
  • SPED 6236 – Introduction to Career, Vocational, and Transition Services
  • EDUC 6114 – Introduction to Quantitative Research
  • Graduation Requirements: Master of Arts in Education and Human Development Comprehensive Exam. Completion of the relevant teacher licensure assessments (i.e., PRAXIS) required by the District of Columbia Educator Licensure Services Office.

    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.

    "The professors taught me more than instructional methods and behavior management strategies; they taught me how to be self-reflective and to always ask ‘whose needs are being met?’ I left this program not only a better teacher, but also a better person." - Brian Ernest, alumni

    "This program gave me the gift of self-reflection. Without this skill, my career as a teacher, instructional coach, mentor, adjunct professor, business owner and scholar would not grow. GSEHD suggests, ‘Transformation Begins Here.’ However, it is because of this program that I will never stop growing." - Adelaide Kelly-Massoud, alumni

    Learning Disabilities

    Adolescents with Learning Disabilities


    The GW-Fairfax Partnership Program: Hands-On Experience. Transformative Results.

    The George Washington University's (GW) Fairfax Partnership Program is a long-standing partnership between GW and Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). The program focuses on preparing teachers to work in secondary schools and results in teacher licensure and a master's degree in Secondary Special Education and Transition Services. In response to the need for high quality content area teachers, participants focus on one content area (e.g., English, mathematics, social studies, biology, etc.), with the goal of gaining a secondary license in a content area.
    Each June a small cohort of 6-8 students begins the program. Small cohort sizes mean that pre-service teachers get a significant amount of individualized attention from program faculty and high quality graduate classroom experiences. Participants work as teaching interns in a full-day, unpaid, year-long internship with 1-2 master special educators in a secondary school in Fairfax, VA. Internship classrooms support students with mild to moderate disabilities such as: learning disabilities, emotional and behavioral disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and autism spectrum disorders.
    The full-time internship model provides participants an experiential learning lab in which they implement and experiment with what they are learning in their coursework, as well as learn directly from expert teachers. Within this structure, they are exposed to a plethora of experiences such as effective teaching methods, how to utilize curriculum and pacing guides, behavior management strategies, grading methods, IEP development and case management. Participants receive guidance and support through structured observations from master GW educators and complete coursework in the evenings at GW's campus in Arlington, VA. The following school year, participants work as provisionally-certified, full- time special educators earning a full teaching salary, while also completing one final GW course, which is specifically designed to increase teacher retention by supporting the growth and development of new educators.
    Two foci of the GW-Fairfax Partnership Program are intensive classroom observations with systematic feedback loops and bi-weekly seminars. Both occur throughout the program to provide developing teachers structures to translate what they are learning in their coursework into the work they do in the classroom. Bi-weekly seminar experiences allow interns to revisit topics learned in coursework and contextualize what they learned into their classroom experiences. Conducted by expert educators, intense classroom observations during their internship year, as well as their first semester as a first year teacher, provide developing teachers with formative feedback and reflective feedback loops. This process supports their personal development and transformation as they problem-solve and reflect to hone the skills and dispositions needed to be effective special educators. The self-reflection and self-evaluation skills participants develop through these experiences are hallmarks of master teachers and skills that GW-Fairfax Partnership-trained teachers carry with them throughout their careers.


  • Nationally Recognized, Locally Respected: The GW-Fairfax Partnership Program is a secondary school-based teacher preparation program that is recognized as meeting the standards of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). The partnership has been preparing high-quality, well-respected special educators in Fairfax County Public Schools for over 17 years.
  • Positive Psychology & Strengths-Based Perspectives, Social Justice, and Reflective Practice: These are the three “pillars” of the GW-Fairfax Partnership Program. Though the yearlong internship, participants learn to know themselves as educators and build on their strengths. Participants learn strategies to meet the needs of diverse learners such as differentiating instruction and positive framing, in order to build effective relationships with students and maximize educational outcomes.
  • Hands-On, Real World Experience: Participants not only learn about cutting edge research-based teaching and learning strategies, but through their yearlong internship working with highly skilled mentors, participants learn how to apply these techniques in real educational settings.
  • Curriculum


    Participants in the GW-Fairfax Partnership Program take 11 courses during the first “year” of the program. This “year” consists of four semesters: the summer prior to their internship year, fall and spring of their internship year, and the summer prior to being hired provisionally in Fairfax.
    As first year teachers, participants work as provisionally-certified, full-time special educators earning a full teaching salary. In the fall, participants take one final course designed to support new special educators

  • Sample Program Plan (12 courses; 34 credits)
  • SPED 6201- Collaboration for Professionals working with Students with Disabilities
  • SPED 6201- Overview of Special Education
  • SPED 6238- Characteristics of EBD, LD, and ID, Part II
  • SPED 6288 - Characteristics of EBD, LD, and ID, Part I
  • SPED 6290 - Affective Development and Behavior Management in Special Education
  • SPED 6231- Instructional Methods in Special Education & Transition
  • SPED 6996- Teacher Internship Seminar (1 credit)
  • SPED 6280 - Developmental Assessment of Adolescents
  • SPED 6233- Curriculum in Transition Special Education
  • SPED 6996 – Teaching Internship Seminar (3 credits)
  • SPED 6222 – Legal Issues and Public Policy for Individuals with Disabilities
  • SPED 6236 – Introduction to Career Education and Transition Services
  • SPED 6996 – Teacher Internship Seminar (3 credits)
  • CPED 6622 – Diagnostic Teaching of Reading in Secondary School
  • EDUC 6114- Educational Research Methods
  • Career Outlook

    As a graduate with a Master’s in Secondary Special Education and Transition Services from GW, you will be a highly skilled special educator, prepared to work in a variety of educational settings. Many of our graduates have long careers as classroom educators, while others go on to educational leadership roles such as department chairs, principals, and policy experts. The vast majority of our program graduates stay in the field of special education, demonstrating career retention rates high above the national average for special education teachers.
    Since the vast majority of our graduates earn teacher certification in both Special Education AND a content area (such as English, mathematics, biology, or history), they are not only well-rounded educators, but also are highly desirable job candidates given their level of knowledge of the general education curriculum. This skillset allows our graduates the ability to teach the general education curriculum to students with disabilities, giving students greater access to educational opportunities.


    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.

    Transformation Begins Here

    Learn more about the MA in Secondary Special Education and Transition Services program located on campus (202-994-8411) or online (844-386-7323).

    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.