Practice-Based Doctoral Programs

The George Washington University’s professional doctoral programs reflect the philosophy that theory and research should inform practice—and, in turn, practice should inform research by raising new research questions. A list of practice-based doctoral programs are below, and you can explore the full range of doctoral programs available at GW using our Graduate Program Finder.

GW’s practice-oriented doctoral programs often include course work in research methods, with emphasis on the skills required to read and use research literature intelligently and to evaluate programs. Students also spend a good deal of time developing their professional skills and gaining supervised practical experience through practica, internships and rotations—taking full advantage of the Washington area’s abundant training opportunities.

Our oldest and most familiar professional doctoral level programs are offered in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences (the Doctor of Medicine – M.D.) and The George Washington University Law School (the Doctor of Jurisprudence – J.D.). From the Ed.D to the Dr.P.H. and the D.P.T. , other doctoral programs prepare students to become leading practitioners and administrators in various fields of education and health care.

  • Curriculum and Instruction (Ed.D.)
  • Educational Administration and Policy Studies (Ed.D.)
  • Higher Education Administration (Ed.D.)
  • Human and Organizational Learning (Ed.D.)
  • Juris Doctor (J.D.)
  • Medicine (M.D.)
  • Nursing Practice (D.N.P.)
  • Professional Psychology (Psy.D.)
  • Public Health (Dr.P.H.): Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Public Health (Dr.P.H.): Global Health
  • Public Health (Dr.P.H.): Health Behavior
  • Public Health (Dr.P.H.): Health Policy
  • Physical Therapy (D.P.T.)
  • Special Education (Ed.D.)

Research-Oriented Doctoral Programs

The Doctor of Philosophy is a research degree, designed first and foremost to equip students to conduct original research and scholarship in their fields—from English literature to biochemistry. A list of research-oriented doctoral programs are below, and you can explore the full range of doctoral programs available at GW using our Graduate Program Finder.

Courses of Study

Ph.D. programs vary, but many require about 48 credit hours of course work and 24 credit hours of mentored dissertation research. GW students often participate in research with their faculty mentors throughout their studies, the best way to acquire research skills. Ph.D. candidates typically complete an examination to assess mastery of their field. They then decide on a direction for their own research, prepare their dissertation proposal, obtain the approval of their dissertation committee and dig in to their dissertation project—defending it before an examining committee when it is completed. Doctoral students usually graduate within five to eight years, depending on the field of study and the student.

Varied Career Paths

Most people assume that Ph.D. holders become professors when they graduate. In fact, many of our Ph.D. graduates do seek and find academic positions at colleges and universities. However, the expertise and capacity of Ph.D. graduates to drive new discoveries in their fields also place them in great demand by business and industry, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Our Ph.D. degree alumni are making important theoretical and applied contributions in a variety of settings.

Program Data

GW periodically reviews its doctoral programs to encourage continuing excellence and program improvement. GW also participated in the National Research Council Assessment of Research Doctorate Programs.

  • American Studies (PhD)
  • Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics (PhD)
  • Biological Sciences (PhD)
  • Biostatistics (PhD)
  • Business Administration (PhD)
  • Chemistry (PhD)
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering (PhD)
  • Computer Engineering (PhD)
  • Computer Science (PhD)
  • Counseling (PhD)
  • Economics (PhD)
  • Electrical Engineering (PhD)
  • Engineering Management (PhD)
  • English (PhD)
  • Epidemiology (PhD)
  • History (PhD)
  • Hominid Paleobiology (PhD)
  • Law (S.J.D.)
  • Mathematics (PhD)
  • Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (PhD)
  • Microbiology and Immunology (PhD)
  • Molecular Medicine (PhD)
  • Physics (PhD)
  • Political Science (PhD)
  • Psychology (PhD)
  • Public Policy and Administration (PhD)
  • Statistics (PhD)
  • Systems Engineering (PhD)

GW's National Reach

GW faculty and graduate students are contributing to the quality of life across the country, providing leadership, expertise and research in key areas such as health care, environmental issues, education and public service. A selection of recent accomplishments is described below.

Arts and Sciences

  • Frank Sesno, dean of the School of Media and Public Affairs, and CNN special correspondent, developed Planet Forward, an innovative, interactive Web site on climate change and energy issues.
  • Chet Sherwood of the anthropology department joined with collaborators at Wayne State University to win a $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant to study brain energetics and adaptive plasticity of humans.


  • GWSB's Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis hosted a major conference on the housing and credit crisis that drew participants from academia, the federal government and the housing and finance industries.  Speakers, including, Federal Housing Authority Commissioner, David Stevens, examined the causes and implications of the housing crisis that sparked the current economic downturn.
  • The new university-wide Institute for Sustainability Research, Education and Policy, led by GWSB's Mark Starik, will promote, initiate, and evaluate GW sustainability research, focusing on four key areas of sustainability:  global climate change, sustainable organizations, sustainable communities and infrastructure, and urban sustainability.

Education and Human Development

  • The Kingsbury Center Partnership Program created Career Investigations for Transition Youth (CITY), a program for training teachers in transition special education.

Engineering and Applied Science

  • The National Crash Analysis Center, based at GW’s Virginia Campus, won a $19 million research grant to help improve highway and vehicle safety and infrastructure security, using cutting-edge vehicle computer models.
  • An electrical and computer engineering student and his faculty adviser are collaborating with the Clinical Center Molecular Interventions Lab at the National Institutes of Health. They are working on a cancer therapy that utilizes therapeutic ultrasound and heat-sensitive liposomes.
  • The White House recently appointed a doctoral student in engineering management as the executive director of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), a cabinet-level council that coordinates science and technology policy across the diverse federal research and development entities.

International Affairs

  • Elliott School alumni are found throughout the U.S. government; GW alumna Rose Gottemoeller is the assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation, responsible for negotiating a news arms reduction agreement with Russia.
  • Faculty member Amb. Edward W. Gnehm Jr., former director general of the U.S. Foreign Service, was recently elected to the executive committee of the American Academy of Diplomacy.


  • The Creative and Innovative Economy Center works with governmental and international organizations, educational institutions, companies and trade associations to deliver unbiased research and thought-provoking educational programming.
  • A yearly pro bono legal project is organized by the Equal Justice Foundation (EJF) to create opportunities for GW students to share their legal knowledge and skills with the members of society who need them the most. For the past three years EJF has sent a group of GW law students to New Orleans to do pro bono work with the Student Hurricane Network.

Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences

  • An interdisciplinary research project, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is studying consumer perspectives on nursing-quality measures.
  • Students in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences have a wide range of options for experiential learning, including such organizations as the American Red Cross, the Mayo Clinic, the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, National Association of Community Health Centers and the U.S. Office of the Surgeon General.
  • The health sciences programs partnered with the National Committee for Quality Assurance to create a master’s degree in the field of health care quality improvement

Professional Studies

  • The College of Professional Studies established a partnership with the United States Institute of Peace. Under the partnership, content on how to lead teams in conflict environments has been incorporated into the security and safety leadership master’s program.
  • GW’s Graduate School of Political Management has partnered with 80 Million Strong, a coalition of 10 youth engagement organizations, to provide policy recommendations to the U.S. Congress.

Public Health and Health Services

  • The results of a public health student’s practicum yielded recommendations to improve the seat design for taxi cabs to better meet the ergonomic needs of drivers.
  • Dr. Lorien Abroms in prevention and community health has designed an iPhone app that uses an evidence-based method to help smokers quit.
  • As part of a master’s degree practicum, a student helped organize the communications campaign for the U.S. Surgeon General’s Healthy Youth for a Healthy Future physical activity promotion project.

Technology Resources

The pursuit of academic excellence in a large university like GW requires the efforts of talented people, working and studying in well-equipped classrooms and state-of-the-art labs. Increasingly, it also means leveraging technologies that support the creation and dissemination of knowledge.

Academic Technologies

Academic Technologies (AT) identifies, develops, implements, and supports a variety of innovative technology for the enrichment of the academic experience at GW. Through specialized services, such as Blackboard, the GW Mobile app, ColonialCast Lecture Capture, and classroom technology support, AT strives to advance GW’s enterprise goals for the University community. 


The Blackboard Course Management System @ GW enables instructors and graduate teaching assistants to provide registered students with course materials and resources online. In addition to giving students access to syllabi, assignments, and assessments, faculty and students can use Blackboard to communicate via text chat, audio, video, and discussion groups. Enhanced Blogs, Wikis, and Journals provide asynchronous answer-response forums for student reflections on course content. Instructors can also engage students through materials found on YouTube, SlideShare, and Flickr with Blackboard’s Mashup Tool. 

The Teaching & Learning Collaborative

The Teaching & Learning Collaborative (TLC) is a faculty-driven center for teaching excellence, a signature initiative of the newly created Office of Teaching and Learning, headed by Vice Provost Stephen C. Ehrmann, and TLC Director Patricia Low Dinneen. The TLC brings faculty and staff together to help faculty broaden their instructional experience, promote the scholarship of teaching and learning, and encourage students as they deepen their commitment to learning.

Division of Information Technology (Division of IT)

The Division of IT is the chief provider of technology infrastructure, services and applications at GW.  The Division of IT partners with stakeholders across GW to equip students, staff and faculty with the technology know-how and tools necessary to achieve academic excellence. The Division of IT works with students, faculty, staff and departments across the university to provide advanced technology solutions.  From Internet and phone connections in offices and residence halls to software that supports admissions, online registration and other aspects of day-to-day business, the Division of IT keeps GW connected.

Doctoral Programs

Each year, the George Washington University awards an impressive range of doctoral degrees—the most advanced and prestigious degrees that universities confer. Most of our doctoral programs take full advantage of the Washington region’s rich opportunities for research and practice, from global policy institutions to high-tech centers.

Although all doctoral programs are rooted in research and scholarship, some of them are designed primarily to train researchers, while others prepare professionals in a field of practice.

To find a graduate program, either click on the type of program below or go to Graduate Program Finder to discover more.

Research-Oriented Programs

GW offers research-oriented Ph.D. programs in the natural and biomedical sciences and engineering, as well as in the humanities and social sciences.

Practice-Based Programs

Mentored opportunities to hone professional skills at the Washington area’s many schools, clinics, hospitals and other facilities are a critical part of GW’s practice-oriented doctoral programs.

Doctoral Research Funding

A variety of internal and external doctoral research and funding is available to help our students pursue a doctoral program.

GW in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Region

The George Washington University’s strategic location in the heart of the nation’s capital affords unparalleled opportunities and resources for learning and research. Those opportunities are found in government agencies, embassies, national museums, performing arts centers and professional associations. Our faculty members work to cultivate initiatives, events and relationships that benefit the GW and external communities.

Arts and Sciences

  • The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences has a long and robust relationship with the Smithsonian Institution. That link includes:
    • Internships for museum studies students
    • Collaborations by hominid paleobiology faculty and students and the National Museum of Natural History
    • A 100-year-old relationship between GW’s Department of Biological Sciences and curators at the Museum of Natural History; and
    • A partnership between GW’s programs in fine arts and art history and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
  • The Department of Forensic Sciences has partnerships with numerous local, state, and federal law enforcement groups, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), the Virginia Division of Forensic Sciences, the Maryland State Police Crime Laboratory and the D.C. Medical Examiner’s Office.
  • The Master of Fine Arts in Classical Acting, trains professional actors through a partnership between the Folger Shakespeare Theatre and the Department of Theatre and Dance.


  • As part of their coursework at GWSB, tourism and hospitality management students learn the business of running a food-service operation.  Students have helped to prepare, serve, and host dinner for nearly 200 guests at Miriam's Kitchen, a Foggy Bottom nonprofit that provides free, homemade meals and other services to more than 4,000 homeless men and women each year.
  • A group of GWSB students had the experience of driving city buses in a simulator room and felt what it was like to walk through a subway car that had left its tracks through a hands-on learning session to understand the operations of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.  The behind-the-scenes program involved students from two operations strategies classes and two supply chain strategy classes.

Education and Human Development

  • Through the Community Counseling Services Center, the Graduate School of Education and Human Development provides counseling services to the public and strengthens the hands-on learning experience for GW counseling students.
  • The Literacy Cooperative Program trains up to 21 new D.C. teachers a year so they may address issues aimed at improving urban teaching and ensuring high-quality literacy instruction.
  • The D.C. Urban Teaching Residency Academy is designed to close gaps in teacher education practice in urban settings by providing new teachers with strategies for addressing student learning needs.
  • The Graduate School of Education and Human Development has more than 10 teaching partnerships with public schools in Washington, D.C.; Fairfax and Loudoun County schools in Virginia; and Prince George’s and Montgomery County schools in Maryland.

Engineering and Applied Science

  • Environmental engineering faculty and students use one of the world’s largest wastewater treatment plants as a real-world laboratory even as they improve the water quality of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
  • A doctoral student in the School of Engineering and Applied Science helped create most of the code for Scantegrity, a joint project of several universities creating a “voter-verifiable” balloting system that combines optical-scan technology and allows voters to verify their ballot was counted.

International Affairs

  • As part of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Knowledge Lab, master’s degree students in the Elliott School’s security policy studies program presented an assessment of how changing demographics in a particular part of the world are affecting military power and U.S. national security.
  • The Security Policy Studies program runs simulation exercises, working with both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency to provide students with a window into real-life security decision making.
  • Elliott School students work and intern in many of the U.S. and international organizations that are just blocks from the GW campus, including: World Bank, U.S. State Department, the White House, U.S. Congress, International Monetary Fund, Amnesty International, and the U.S. Institute of Peace.


  • Founded in 1971, the Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics provide members of the local community with critically needed legal services while giving motivated law students the opportunity to experience the practical application of law. The clinics help students develop skills as negotiators, advocates and litigators.
  • Under the auspices of Professors Mary Cheh and Joan Schaffner, the Animal Welfare Project raises awareness of animal welfare issues and promotes legislative changes to advance animal welfare and improve the lives of animals in the District of Columbia.
  • The Criminal Justice Reform Project conducts research and analyzes laws that affect the ability of persons released from prison to re-enter and re-integrate into the community.

Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences

  • M.D. and physician assistant students participate in a student-run clinic, Bread for the City, that provides health care for uninsured D.C. residents.
  • The Interdisciplinary Student Community-Oriented Prevention Enhancement Service (ISCOPES) is a yearlong service-learning team experience that provides health-related services in Washington, D.C. Many of the clients for these services are underserved or uninsured individuals with few economic resources and limited access to medical treatment. Their language or literacy levels may also prevent their full involvement and acceptance in the community at large.
  • Students and faculty in the physical therapy program have developed and staff a PT clinic in an underserved area of Washington, D.C.

Professional Studies

  • GW’s Center for Excellence in Public Leadership offers a yearlong program to help increase the leadership and advocacy skills of community leaders in Washington, D.C.
  • Students in the landscape design/sustainable landscapes program have designed master plans for two nonprofit institutions. They re-established residents’ vegetable and flower plots and added ADA-qualified access ramps at Knollwood, a retirement community for armed forces officers in Northwest D.C. They also reorganized the circulation, parking and approach to the Rust Sanctuary in Leesburg, Va. The sanctuary is an Audubon Naturalist Society property.
  • The strategic public relations program’s Alexandria Fellowship offers a one-year scholarship for an Alexandria, Va. resident, in return for community service in the city as part of the graduate program experience.
  • The paralegal studies program presents seminars, workshops, roundtables and other community education and enrichment events on topics ranging from the role of paralegals to immigration.

Public Health and Health Services

  • Taking a break from studying for finals, Public Health Student Association (PHSA) students teamed with AmeriCorps volunteers to help build a home in Northeast D.C. It was all part of a local Habitat for Humanity project.


Our Extended Campus

GW offers graduate programs in various areas in the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. area, Virginia, Maryland and online. To search graduate programs by location, please use our Graduate Program Finder

At the George Washington University, graduate study and research extend far beyond our classrooms and campuses. Partnerships and collaborations with public and private organizations offer our graduate students opportunities to work with top corporations, government agencies, professional associations, international organizations and nonprofit and community-based services. Through these initiatives, our students, faculty and alumni not only expand their experience and expertise, they also make a real difference within the university, their professions and their communities throughout the metropolitan D.C. region, the nation, and the world.

Learn about the exciting projects and accomplishments that make GW and our graduate experience unique:

Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area

The George Washington University’s strategic location in the heart of the nation’s capital affords unparalleled opportunities and resources for learning and research.  

Across the Nation

GW faculty and graduate students are making key contributions across the country, providing leadership, expertise, innovation and research in business, medicine and health care, policy, critical infrastructure, education and national security.  

Around the World

GW’s influence is felt around the world. An indispensable part of that influence comes through our highly diverse graduate student population, our partnerships with exemplary educational and research institutions around the world and our international projects that span the globe. Learn more...

Certificate Programs

Graduate certificate programs typically involve 12 to 18 hours of graduate course work in a focused area of study, providing specialized training to help expand students’ areas of expertise, teach them about new developments in their fields, augment their professional skills and provide credentials that help advance their careers. The George Washington University’s graduate-level certificate offerings have expanded significantly in recent years to almost 90 programs. For a full list, please use our Graduate Program Finder.

Students should be wary of the word “certificate,” which can simply acknowledge participation in a workshop. Only a graduate or post-master’s certificate signifies the successful completion of graduate-level courses.

Some of GW’s graduate certificate programs are a subset of the courses in a master’s degree program, enabling students to test the waters before deciding to pursue a master’s degree. Students who are later accepted to the master’s program may be allowed to count all of their completed certificate courses toward their degrees. Or a student may pursue the graduate certificate and master’s degree concurrently.

Admission to most graduate-level certificate programs requires a bachelor’s degree and an undergraduate record indicative of readiness for graduate work. Many programs do not require admissions tests such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) unless or until a student seeks admission to a related master’s program. GW also offers a few post-master’s certificate programs, which require a relevant master’s degree for admission.

Master's Programs

As a growing number of professional and administrative positions require a master’s degree, the George Washington University offers a full range of masters’ programs that meet the demands of the marketplace while fulfilling our students’ academic and career aspirations. The wide variety of program options include the following types:

Terminal Master’s Degree

In certain fields such as fine arts, this degree is the highest-level credential.

Academic Master’s Degree

Generally offered in arts and sciences fields such as English or biological sciences, this type of degree program enables students to explore fields of interest, prepare for doctoral-level study and help advance their careers. In academic fields in which a master's degree is not required for admission to a doctoral program, the master’s may be  viewed as an optional step rather than a degree of interest in its own right.

Professional Master’s Degree

This degree program prepares students for specific professions through a blend of academic content and skills training. At GW, it typically focuses on developing professional skills, making full use of the Washington area’s abundant opportunities for incorporating practica and internships. We offer a tremendous range of highly ranked professional master’s programs across our nine schools and colleges, including specialized degrees in fields such as finance and forensic sciences, as well as professionally focused programs in areas such as international affairs, engineering and computer science. GW’s College of Professional Studies was created explicitly to develop innovative and interdisciplinary professional master’s degrees to meet emerging needs in the workplace.

Thesis and Non-Thesis Programs

In some masters’ programs, students may choose whether to write a thesis or pursue an alternative. Most of GW’s programs do not require a master’s thesis but do require students to take a comprehensive examination that covers the substance of the program. Some programs require a capstone project or another culminating project in place of a thesis. Students who plan to go on to doctoral study may wish to complete a thesis to gain valuable experience undertaking an original research project.

Combined Programs

More than 60 combined bachelor’s/master’s programs allow GW undergraduates to get a head start on a masters’ degrees. Students can double count some course work toward both their bachelors’ and masters’ degrees and can often complete a master’s in only one year. Although a few of these programs accept entering freshmen, most accept junior-year students who have more certainty about their career goals and interest in spending one more year at GW to graduate with a master’s degree. At the master’s level or beyond, other combined programs allow students to simultaneously earn two degrees, such as an M.B.A. and an M.A. in international affairs, or a master’s degree in public policy or public administration and a law degree.

Master’s & Certificate Programs

The George Washington University has a proud history of leading innovation in graduate and professional education, first as a resource for local residents working in the Washington area’s burgeoning government and business sectors and, more recently, as the intellectual center of an international city—drawing students from across the nation and around the world. Our master’s degree and graduate certificate programs position students to take the next steps in their professional development, whether they aim to earn doctoral degrees or advance their careers.

Master’s Degree Programs

As a growing number of professional and administrative positions require a master’s degree, the George Washington University offers a full range of master’s degree programs that meet the demands of the marketplace while fulfilling our students’ academic and career aspirations.

Graduate-Level Certificate Programs

Graduate certificate programs typically involve 12 to 18 hours of graduate course work in a focused area of study, providing specialized training to help expand students’ areas of expertise, teach them about new developments in their fields, augment their professional skills and provide credentials that help advance their careers.