The Best Online Master’s in Gifted & Talented Education Programs

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Badge (Online) with 2-Line TitleMaster'sin Gifted & Talented Education2017
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Want to help gifted and talented students reach their full potential, but don’t have time for a campus-based advanced degree? An online master’s in gifted and talented education prepares you to work effectively with advanced students in teaching, administration, or instructional design roles, and offers a path toward a significant salary boost. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average base salary for teachers in public schools with a master’s degree exceeds that of teachers with a bachelor’s degree by approximately 20%. A master’s program offers an opportunity to become well-versed in theory, research, and strategies of gifted education.


Master’s programs in gifted and talented education are designed for students who already hold a bachelor’s degree and a current state-issued teaching credential, and most also require a minimum of one to two years of teaching experience. The teaching license can be in any area, whether it be elementary, secondary, or special education. Students who complete an online degree in gifted and talented education programs and have sufficient work experience can apply for endorsements to teach advanced learners.


It’s common for students in gifted and talented education to work in the field while completing their degree. In order to complete the requirements for classroom-based practica, internships, clinical experiences, and other teaching competency requirements, candidates for online master’s in gifted and talented education programs need access to an appropriate educational setting.


Online programs are designed for maximum convenience and flexibility, and have improved in quality in recent years. More options are available for students to select a program that suits their needs and career goals. Many students appreciate the perspective they gain through online programs as they network with peers working in classrooms across the country, and lessons from your online program can be incorporated into classroom teaching experiences while you pursue this degree.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost % Enrolled Online Location Description
1 University of South Florida-Main Campus 75.19 49% Tampa, FL

Home to about 50,000 students from 130 countries, the University of South Florida is renowned for its academically rigorous curriculum, interdisciplinary research, and distinguished faculty. USF, which has more than 180 undergraduate majors and concentrations and numerous graduate programs, offers e-learning opportunities via USF Online.

USF's online master of arts in gifted education is a 36-credit hour program designed to teach certified teachers how best to serve gifted learners. Students learn to address cognitive and affective needs and how best to develop appropriate educational opportunities. The curriculum for this master's in gifted education online program includes a focus on classroom assessment and students with exceptional talents, in addition to practicum supervised by faculty. It also includes 15-hours (five courses) of coursework needed for the Florida Endorsement in Gifted Education. As part of the program, students are required to maintain an e-portfolio. Note that out-of-state students may be eligible to receive in-state tuition.

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2 Nova Southeastern University 70.60 49% Fort Lauderdale, FL

Nova Southeastern University, located in Fort Lauderdale, is an undergraduate college with innovative programming. The school administers e-learning programs that foster scholarship, research, and lifelong learning. Students from across the nation--and world--enroll in NOVA's online degree programs and benefit from NSU's web-based instruction, real-time electronic classrooms (with graphic presentations and audio), and frequent student-teacher communication.

NSU's online master of science in exceptional student education is tailored to the needs of certified teachers, professionals in related areas, or those seeking teacher certification in Florida or licensure in Nevada. A bachelor's degree with at least a 2.5 cumulative GPA is required for this 36-credit online gifted education program. Study topics include classroom management, working with families of exceptional students, social skills training, and strategies in behavior management. Students are required to maintain reflective journals and develop files of student work and assessment instruments. To graduate, students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA.

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3 University of North Carolina at Charlotte 60.61 18% Charlotte, NC

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, an urban research university, is known as a hub of exemplary scholarship at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The school's online programming includes graduate degree programs in education, nursing, respiratory care, and engineering. UNC Charlotte's 33-credit online MEd in special education: academically or intellectually gifted program is designed for experienced K-12 teachers with a minimum teaching license at the level of Standard Professional 1 (SP1).

Areas of study includes instructional methodology for gifted students, qualitative research methods, adapting classroom materials and classroom differentiation, and AIG research implementation. There are no electives in this program, but students must gain field experience with AIG students in the classroom. A research project serves as the program's capstone. Upon completion of this 100% online master's in gifted and talented education, graduates qualify for the state's SP2 teaching license in special education.

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4 Hope International University 59.88 43% Fullerton, CA

Hope International University's mission is to empower students through Christian postsecondary education. Located in Fullerton, California, HIU offers undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs to approximately 2,000 students around the globe. Distance learning facilitates HIU's reach: the university's School of Graduate Studies provides working adults with flexible online learning opportunities.

Hope's 30-credit online master of education with GATE concentration is designed for teachers who teach gifted and talented students, or plan to work in this domain. Students in this master's in gifted education online study areas such as program design, curriculum and instruction, parent and community involvement, and social and emotional development. Program features include sound research, a curriculum that integrates theory and practice, and seasoned faculty drawing from academic and real-world experience. HIU students benefit from academic resources such as individually assigned advisers, an online bookstore, and the school's counseling center.

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5 Arkansas State University-Main Campus 57.80 42% Jonesboro, AR

Having grown from an agricultural school to a modern academic powerhouse, today's Arkansas State University awards undergraduate and graduate degree programs through 11 colleges. Approximately 14,000 students attend ASU and enjoy access to online programs in areas such as business administration, education leadership, media management, and sports management.

ASU's 30-credit master of science in education--gifted, talented, and creative program provides students with teacher training, research best practices, and the development of successful learning models for gifted learners. Areas of study include affective programming in the classroom, assessment of programming for GTC, philosophies of education, and introduction to statistics and research. This online master's in gifted education is an application-based curriculum that can be completed in just 18 months. Note that a seven-week practicum and seven-week internship are required with site approval from the program's director. Out-of-state students need to check licensure requirements for their states to determine program applicability.

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For most online degree in gifted and talented education programs, core coursework requirements are similar but schools vary in quality, focus, and details. When evaluating potential schools, consider program length, licensing or certification requirements for the state in which you plan to teach, and specifics of the curriculum.


Educators learn about many approaches to educating advanced learners in the course of an online master’s program. Gifted students often benefit from a combination of approaches. While there are differences in implementation depending on the needs of the students, here are a few of the ways they are typically classified:

Educational Options Description
Acceleration Accelerated students are advanced to a level that is a closer match to their abilities. It may take the form of “grade-skipping,” partial acceleration through specific fields of study, or early college entrance programs. A popular and low-cost approach, it can benefit students socially by connecting them with academic peers on their academic level.
Compacting Instead of testing out of an entire grade level, students are pre-examined for proficiency and knowledge in specific areas, and allowed to skip units they have already mastered. This reduces boredom and permits advanced students to use the extra time for independent study or moving on to the next unit.
Ability grouping Small groups of high-proficiency learners are clustered in study groups for special lessons. This can involve pull-out programming for enrichment activities, or special class models grouped by ability rather than age. This connects students to role models with similar abilities, and places them in a learning environment that values high performance.
Independent Study Options for independent study include mentorships, online distance learning or correspondence courses, and selected in-depth readings or research topics. This can also be carried out within a classroom setting, and paired effectively with compacting or credit by examination. This approach permits proficient students to advance at their own pace.


Online master’s in gifted and talented education programs typically offer core classes in educational research methods, curriculum and instruction, and classroom assessment, followed by a gifted concentration and a field practicum. While courses vary from school to school, your curriculum is likely to include some of the following classes:

  • Introduction to Gifted Education: Provides an overview of the field, including social and philosophical foundations, definitions, history, identification methods, curriculum analysis, and assessment of characteristics and needs of gifted learners. Also covers theories of intelligence, and social justice issues as they relate to gifted and talented education. The course provides a career foundation for tutors and educational support personnel.
  • Classroom Assessment: Students focus on developing skills to measure dimensions of giftedness, including creativity, intelligence, and achievement. Topics include methods and instruments of assessment, procedures for making placement decisions, statistical interpretation of test results, social and ethical issues in testing, cultural and ethnic diversity, and monitoring the progress of advanced learners. Implications of effective assessment for professional development are also covered, preparing students for careers as curriculum specialists.
  • Collaborative Inclusion Strategies: Students learn strategies, concepts, and methods for effective consultation, communication, and collaboration in gifted and talented educational settings. Students develop respect for the needs of advanced learners through emphasis on understanding the role of cultural, linguistic, and ethnic diversity in identifying gifted youth. Suitable for students interested in classroom teaching roles.


Most online master’s in gifted and talented education programs require an average of 30 to 36 credits, and can be completed in 18 to 24 months. A sample program consists of 15 core credits and 15 credits in the gifted specialty (including a capstone). Courses are usually about seven weeks long, and students typically take two courses per 14-week semester. In addition to the master’s degree, some programs offer a specialty endorsement in gifted and talented education online that can be completed in one year.

In traditional master’s programs, students progress through courses individually, and change courses each semester. In the cohort model offered by many programs, students are engaged in a closely knit learning community throughout their studies and graduate together. The cohort model offers automatic non-competitive enrollment in classes, helps build strong bonds with fellow students, and offers support for completing program requirements in a timely fashion.


  • Professional teaching license: All teachers who work in public schools must be state licensed. Requirements for professional licensing vary by state, but typically include a master’s degree, a background check, supervised teaching experience, and completion of a teacher preparation program. Some states require a certification exam and a specialty exam in gifted education.
  • Administrator license: Administrator licenses are issued to master’s degree holders who have completed an administration preparation program. The licensing process differs from state to state, but typically requires three years of experience as an educator, a licensing exam, and a background check. The license is valid for any career in elementary and secondary administration.

Accreditation is a process of peer review to ensure that institutions meet rigorous standards of quality. It provides a seal of approval to help students avoid “diploma mills” or other dubious institutions. Agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) handle regional accreditation. Schools with regional accreditation have met standards for their state. National accreditation is awarded to vocational, technical, and distance education institutions that have met standards of CHEA-approved agencies. These schools are often for-profit, or have religious affiliations, and the accreditation requirements are less standardized than those for regional accreditation. When choosing an online master’s program, be sure to verify that it is accredited both regionally and by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). CAEP is the field-specific professional accrediting agency for educator preparation providers. Its mission is to ensure and advance equity and excellence in educator preparation accreditation.

To ensure that the organization accrediting an institution or program is reliable and worthy to provide the official stamp of approval, agencies need to “accredit the accreditors,” a function that is handled by the DOE and the CHEA. The DOE, a government agency, facilitates equal access and promotes educational excellence and achievement. The CHEA is an association of degree-awarding schools that recognizes institutional accrediting organizations through its focus on quality assurance. The DOE and CHEA databases contain only recognized accreditors. You can find a list of all accredited schools on the DOE and CHEA websites.


Graduates who hold master’s degrees in gifted and talented education may work within a wide variety of service settings. For example, many work in public or private elementary, junior high, or high school classrooms as teachers, program facilitators, or curriculum specialists. Others work in educational consulting agencies, contribute to textbooks, or specialize in professional development for gifted education. Educators with extensive leadership and classroom experience often move into administrative positions. To properly serve the needs of gifted students, professionals in the field must be critically reflective and able to make student-centered decisions. Below are examples of five career opportunities for educators with a master’s degree.

  • Instructional coordinator: Instructional coordinators supervise school curriculum development and instructional standards with the goal of quality improvement. They often work in district headquarters alongside teachers and administrators to develop educational material and implement teaching strategies. A master’s degree, a teaching or administrator license, and related experience are requirements for this professional role.
  • Special education teacher: In a gifted and talented educational setting, special education teachers adapt lessons to suit the needs of advanced learners, teaching subjects such as reading, writing, and math at advanced levels. They must be state licensed to teach in public schools, and may work in pullout settings or in special schools for the gifted.
  • High school teacher: High school teachers instruct students in 9th through 12th grades, helping them properly prepare for entry to colleges and jobs. With state licensure and a master’s specializing in gifted and talented education, teachers may begin their work with advanced placement students, and may eventually move into administrative or program facilitation roles.
  • Middle school teacher: Middle school teachers students typically from the 6th through 8th grades, to help them properly prepare for the challenges of high school. All public school teachers are required to earn state licensure, and a master’s in gifted and talented education may improve hiring prospects and open career paths into administration.
  • Elementary school teacher: Elementary school teachers instruct younger students, typically in kindergarten through 5th grades, in basic subjects such as math and reading to prepare them for future education. Teachers in public schools must hold a state-issued license, and those who earn a master’s may move into positions in curriculum design or educational administration.

Salary and Growth Rate by Career

Position Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate
Instructional coordinator $62,460 7%
Special education teacher $57,910 6%
High school teacher $58,030 6%
Middle school teacher $56,720 6%
Elementary school teacher $55,490 6%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


One of the advantages of a master’s degree is an increased chance of being hired for the job you want. According to a recent report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, job placement rates favor graduates with master’s degrees in education. This is particularly true in special needs education, where master’s degree holders are 2.5% more likely to be employed than college graduates with some work experience. The table below features data from the Georgetown report comparing unemployment rates for master’s degree holders with those of experienced bachelor’s degree holders for three concentrations in education.

Unemployment by degree type

Major Unemployment rates for experienced bachelor’s degree holders Unemployment rates for master’s degree holders
General education 4.1% 2.4%
Elementary education 3.4% 1.7%
Special needs education 4.5% 2.0%

Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce


Students and graduates of online degree in gifted and talented education programs can take advantage of professional development and networking opportunities by joining membership organizations. Widely available members-only benefits include scholarships, continuing education webinars, and extensive career services such as job boards, coaching, resume writing, and reference checking. Conferences are usually held annually, and feature expert speakers. Some professional associations can connect students with mentors, or even offer access to legislative meetings for educational policy recommendations.

  • National Association for Gifted Children: NAGC supports those who enhance the growth and development of gifted and talented children. The organization offers an expert speakers program, a career center, access to webinars on demand, scholarships and awards, and an annual convention featuring over 300 sessions.
  • The Association for the Gifted: TAG, a division of the Council for Exceptional Children, helps parents and professionals work more effectively with gifted and talented youth. The association publishes a journal, offers discounted student memberships and insurance, and provides members with access to a career center and continuing education programs.
  • World Council for Gifted and Talented Children: WCGTC is a worldwide organization providing support and advocacy for gifted and talented children to ensure that they reach their potential. The organization offers a biennial world conference, awards and scholarships, a newsletter, job postings, a student research database, and members-only networking.

The first step toward qualifying for all federal financial aid is to complete the FAFSA form offered by the U.S. Department of Education. Grants, fellowships, federal and private loans, scholarships based on need or merit, and institutional financing plans may be available. Students who intend to teach at schools serving low-income students should consider grant programs such as Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education. The U.S. Department of Labor database is an excellent place to begin.


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