Master's in Special Education for Children with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

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.

Graduate students in the Special Education for Children with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities (EBD) program gain the knowledge and skills necessary to become highly qualified special educators working with a diverse population of students with learning, emotional, and behavioral challenges. Graduates of the program will be eligible for teacher licensure in Special Education - Emotional Disturbance (ED), Learning Disability (LD), and Intellectual Disabilities (ID).

A Professional Development School (PDS) model is emphasized in the EBD 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.


Why a GW Master's in Special Education for Children with Emotional & Behavioral Disabilities?

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.


The following requirements must be fulfilled: 34 credits in required courses, successful completion of the master of arts in education and human development comprehensive examination, and completion of the relevant teacher licensure assessments (see below).


CPED 6224 Diagnostic Teaching of Reading: K–6
CPED 6412 Elementary School Curriculum and Methods (taken for 4 credits)
SPED 6201 Overview of Legal Issues in Educating Students with Disabilities
SPED 6202 Researching Current Trends in Special Education
SPED 6238 Issues in Educating Individuals with Learning, Emotional, and Intellectual Disabilities
SPED 6239 Teaching and Collaboration for Professionals Working with Students with Disabilities
SPED 6260 Developmental Assessment in Special Education
SPED 6288 Understanding the Characteristics and Needs of Students with Disabilities
SPED 6290 Affective Development and Behavior Management for Teaching Students with Disabilities
SPED 6990 Practicum in Teaching Students with Disabilities
SPED 6991 Internship in Teaching Students with Disabilities

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


Ihrig, Karen Assistant Professor, Special Education and Disability Studies
Rice, Elisabeth Associate Professor, Special Education and Disability Studies


Career Outlook

Our graduates are Special Educators in both public and non-public 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.

I learned so much from the professors in the program: how to defuse a conflict cycle, different ways of thinking about student behavior, and evidence-based teaching practices. However, it was the application of these concepts in my daily work in a high school serving students with significant emotional and behavioral challenges that solidified these concepts. Because I was able to apply the information I learned on Tuesday evening in my Behavior Management class in my own classroom on Wednesday morning, I was able to see the power of effective teaching practices in action. I saw my students grow, both academically and emotionally. After returning to GW to complete my doctorate degree, I am now an assistant professor at Montana State University Billings teaching courses in classroom management and special education. My sincerest desire is to engage and inspire my current students as much as the professors at GW did for me in The Programs for teaching Students with EBD."

-Dr. Brian Ernest, EdD


Program Entry: Summer, Fall (part-time)
Prerequisites: Bachelor's Degree
Campus: Foggy Bottom

Application Requirements

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

*Additional application requirements may exist for international applicants.
For more information on any of these requirements, please visit our Admissions FAQ page.


Applications are now being accepted for Summer and Fall 2023. We encourage you to apply as early as possible.

Apply for Summer/Fall 2023  
Priority Deadline Nov 1
Round 1 Deadline Dec 15
Round 2 Deadline Jan 16
Round 3 Deadline March 1
Round 4 Deadline May 1


For more information, contact the GSEHD Admissions Team at or 202-994-9283.

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Learn more about the Master's in Special Education for Children with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders program. Complete the form linked below or contact the GSEHD Admissions Team at 202-994-9283.

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