Online Master's Programs in Gifted and Talented Education

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) estimates roughly 6% of students in the U.S. are currently enrolled in a gifted and talented program. Earning an accredited master's in gifted and talented education enables students to meet the demands of this innovative field of education and expand the career possibilities for teachers of students with exceptional academic abilities. Read on to learn more about pursuing a convenient and affordable online master's in gifted and talented education.

What to Know About Online Master's in Gifted and Talented Education Coursework

An accredited master's in gifted and talented education includes the preparation required for graduates to pursue certification in this specialization beyond a standard state-issued teaching license. Students enrolled in an online master's in gifted and talented education explore topics like research and development, testing and evaluation methods, and differentiating instruction for gifted and talented learners. Programs typically culminate in a capstone or thesis with some incorporating a student-teaching field experience.

Some master's degrees in gifted and talented education represent a subspecialty of a teaching, early childhood education, or elementary education program. While the field of gifted and talented education doesn't currently hold specific nationwide standards for instructors and specialists, graduate programs prepare students for certification in this specialization, which typically requires a master's degree, field experience, and a passing score on an exam administered by each state board.

A convenient and affordable online master's in gifted and talented education can save students time and money over a traditional degree. Online programs may require minimal campus visits, but the majority offer fully online coursework save for potential field practicum requirements. Most master's in gifted and talented education comprise 30-39 credits and take two years to complete, though many schools offer accelerated online options.

What Common Courses are Offered in a Master's in Gifted and Talented Education Program?

While each school and program offers different coursework in this specialization, the best master's degrees in gifted and talented education train graduates for a variety of professional roles, such as teachers, researchers, and instructional coordinators. Core courses typically explore topics like common testing and measurement methods, research and development specific to gifted and talented curriculum, and the socioemotional needs of gifted populations. Below are some of the most common courses within a master's in gifted and talented education program.

Testing and Measurement Methods in Gifted Education

This course explores traditional and emerging methods of assessment and testing gifted learners. Topics cover IQ, ability, and achievement test types and the history and purpose of using such evaluation methods in gifted education. Courses may also explore the specific tests used in the respective state the school is located.

Research and Development in Gifted Education

Through case studies, field journals, and publications, this course introduces students to methods of conducting research for program development in gifted education. Topics explore various techniques like controlled observation and experimentation and qualitative, quantitative, and naturalistic studies.

Differentiating Instruction for Gifted Learners

Students in this course learn to differentiate instruction between standard and gifted elementary and secondary learners. Coursework incorporates the testing and research methods discussed throughout the master's in gifted and talented education to design and develop gifted learning programs.

The Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Learners

Gifted and talented educators must guide the educational pursuits of gifted learners according to the students' social and emotional needs. This course explores the common socioemotional needs and development of gifted children and outlines various problem-solving techniques for the family to adapt.

Gifted Education Special Populations

This course explores many of the most common stereotypes and historical theories surrounding gifted and talented learning. Coursework explores topics like nature versus nurture development theories, gender differences among gifted learners, and debate over the use of mental and academic aptitude tests in the gifted and talented learning environment.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

Completing a master's in gifted and talented education typically requires a capstone project comprised of a practicum, student-teaching experience, or final exam. Some programs require a seminar course, which is usually completed in the final semester, or practicum in addition to the final project. Programs that offer flexibility for the final project encourage students to develop their own original idea for a sample lesson plan or to go a step further and implement their idea in a supervised teaching experience.

How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master's in Gifted and Talented Education Program?

Students must always put accreditation first when researching trustworthy online master's degrees in gifted and talented education. Only schools with institutional accreditation through a national or regional agency should make the short list. Additionally, some of the nation's best master's in gifted and talented education may receive professional accreditation through agencies like the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Many schools offer other high-quality indicators to attract students. For example, a school or program typically boasts honors like high research classification from the Carnegie Foundation or a high job placement rate for graduates. Other benefits, especially in an online program, may include small class sizes for personalized attention, flexible course schedules, and accelerated completion options.

Career Opportunities With a Master's in Gifted and Talented Education Degree

Students who earn a master's in gifted and talented education can pursue unique teaching and research-oriented careers in this emerging field of education. While all states require public school teachers in K-12 classrooms to hold a bachelor's degree and a state-issued license, some states require gifted and talented educators to earn a master's degree and pursue additional specialty certification through a state board exam. Master's degree graduates commonly pursue the following careers as educators, instructional coordinators, and administrators in the field.

Gifted Educator

Similar to special education teachers, educators of gifted and talented children must consider the learning, mental, physical, and behavioral needs of their students beyond the confines of a typical age- or performance-based educational environment. Like special education teachers, gifted educators must hold a bachelor's degree and state-issued teaching licensure; some states also require a master's degree and additional certification.

  • Median Salary: $59,780
  • Currently Employed:
  • Expected Job Growth in Next 10 years: 3%
Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers fill a similar role to gifted educators in holistically addressing student needs in the context of an unconventional learning environment. These professionals may further specialize in an area such as autism or early childhood education. Special educators must follow the same path to licensure as standard public school teachers and hold a bachelor's degree and state-issued license; however, they may need a master's degree and additional certification in some states.

  • Median Salary: $59,780
  • Currently Employed:
  • Expected Job Growth in Next 10 years: 3%
Postsecondary Teacher

Students who earn a master's in gifted and talented education may qualify to teach other aspiring educators at a two-year college or vocational school. While many four-year universities require instructors to hold a terminal degree in their area of expertise, postsecondary educators with a master's degree in their teaching subject can often pursue positions within community colleges. Employers typically do not require professional licensure.

  • Median Salary: $78,470
  • Currently Employed: 1,
  • Expected Job Growth in Next 10 years: 11%
Instructional Coordinator

These professionals are responsible for developing and coordinating the instruction of learning and educational materials. Working in tandem with teachers, administrators, and principals, instructional coordinators may specialize in writing curriculum tailored to the needs of gifted and talented learners for an elementary, middle, or high school classroom. Some states require instructional coordinators to hold a state-issued license, and employers require a master's degree and education experience.

  • Median Salary: $64,450 per year
  • Currently Employed: 181,600
  • Expected Job Growth in Next 10 years: 6%
School Principal or Administrator

All elementary, middle, and high schools and school districts require principals and administrators to oversee general operations. Postsecondary administrators are sometimes called deans or provosts. These professionals must work closely with faculty and staff to manage day-to-day functions of the facility and its programs while also working toward long-term goals like developing gifted and talented curriculum and human resources. Principal and administrator positions require a master's degree and field experience.

  • Median Salary: $95,310 per year
  • Currently Employed: 275,400
  • Expected Job Growth in Next 10 years: 4%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

What's the Expected Job Growth for Gifted and Talented Education Careers?

The BLS projects especially high job growth for instructional coordinators and postsecondary teachers with gifted and talented education expertise. By contrast, the BLS projects jobs for special education/gifted and talented teachers to increase only 3% by 2028. This rate includes preschool teachers (8% growth) with experience in gifted learning, as this age group is commonly diagnosed with special needs or gifted learning abilities. Additionally, principals and administrators of gifted and talented programs may see a job growth of 6% and 4%, respectively, through 2028.

Professional Organizations for Careers in Gifted and Talented Education

As an emerging and nuanced specialty field, current and recently graduated gifted and talented educators often see a wealth of benefits from joining a professional organization. These organizations offer a variety of continuing education, networking, and research opportunities specific to gifted and talented education. The following national and international organizations provide perks to gifted and talented educators, including career and networking services and access to job opportunities and annual industry conferences.

National Association for Gifted Children

  • With a membership comprised largely of K-12 education professionals, NAGC supports the comprehensive growth and development of gifted learners from all walks of life. The organization emphasizes professional development and volunteerism, offering members benefits like access to an annual convention and expert speaker series and free professional teaching tools.

National Society for the Gifted and Talented

  • NSGT represents the nation's most prominent nonprofit organization dedicated to the ongoing development and improvement of gifted and talented education. While NSGT membership is reserved for gifted and talented children and teens themselves, the organization also serves educators in this specialization through a database of teaching and curriculum-building tools and resources.

International Gifted Education Teacher Development Network

  • One of the only networks of gifted educators with an international reach, IGET's five-person leadership team consists of educators and advocates from across the U.S. and South Africa. Members may join as individuals or on behalf of a school, department, or district, and enjoy free monthly newsletters and virtual mentoring sessions, discounts on webinars and conferences, and free annual advertising in the IGET newsletter.

Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted

  • SENG uniquely supports educators in the pursuit of gaining a comprehensive understanding of their gifted students' emotional needs. The organization provides resources like a mental health provider directory and information on the misdiagnosis initiative. Educators enjoy a discounted membership rate and benefits like exclusive access to the online SENG community network, webinars, online support groups, and continuing education opportunities.

World Council for Gifted and Talented Children

  • With a membership that joins gifted children and their families with teachers and researchers in the field of gifted and talented education, WCGTC hosts a biennial conference in a different international location every other year. The organization offers variable membership rates for students and grants members access to exclusive field publications, the archive of scholarly journals, and discounted world conference entry.

How to Pay for a Master's in Gifted and Talented Education Degree

Federal aid comes in many forms with a variety of grants and debt-relief programs targeting teachers, especially those willing to work in high-need and/or low-income areas after graduation. Generally, schools require incoming students to complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the universal determinant of a student's federal financial aid eligibility. Many schools also qualify students for other institutional scholarships, fellowships, and work-study programs based on financial need as determined by the FAFSA.

Federal Financial Aid

To determine whether a student qualifies for need-based federal financial aid, schools require a FAFSA form with admissions applications. The FAFSA uses a student's financial records (or of their family, if the student is a minor) to evaluate how much federal aid that student should receive to put toward their education. Through the FAFSA, aspiring gifted and talented educators may qualify for awards like the TEACH Grant, which is disbursed by the Department of Education.

Inspire Our Future Scholarship offers this scholarship to legal U.S. adult residents with a minimum 3.5 GPA who are majoring in a qualifying area of teaching, educational leadership, early childhood education, special education, or child development. Applicants must submit an essay with the application.

Nancy Larson Foundation Scholarship

The Nancy Larson Foundation offers scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing an education degree concentrated in elementary education. Applicants must submit an essay detailing their teaching career goals and professional strengths along with community service and teaching experience.

Association of American Educators Teacher Scholarship

The AAE offers a teacher scholarship for full-time educators who have not received an AAE grant or scholarship in the last two years. While the award does not expressly fund coursework toward earning a graduate degree, students may pursue the teacher scholarship to supplement the costs of earning field experience. AAE also offers a classroom grant to help offset the cost of teaching supplies.