Master’s in Gifted and Talented Education Program Guide

October 28, 2020

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A master's in gifted education provides experienced teachers with the advanced knowledge and skills to help learners who possess exceptional creativity, drive, and talent. Through specialized coursework and practicums, degree candidates learn to assess student needs based on their social, economic, and cultural backgrounds. A graduate education also offers the tools needed to create and implement programs that support students' unique gifts and learning styles.

The BLS projects 7-8% increases for elementary, middle, and high school teachers through 2026.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) reports teacher shortages in every state and at nearly all grade levels. To meet these urgent needs, local and national government agencies implement programs to recruit, train, and retain skilled educators. This means prospective and experienced teachers enjoy extensive support as they pursue career entry and advancement. Educators also benefit from job growth. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 7-8% increases for elementary, middle, and high school teachers through 2026. This guide provides you with the financial and academic information needed to find the master's in gifted and talented education program that best suits your goals.

Should I Get a Master's in Gifted and Talented Education?

For teachers, graduate education represents a crucial element to obtaining advanced state licensure. Most states require a master's degree to become a gifted education teacher. Additional training also opens doors to more job opportunities and better pay. The National Center for Education Statistics notes that, in the 2015-2016 academic year, public school teachers who held a master's degree earned over $12,000 more in base salary than those with only their bachelor's.

Master's in gifted education programs begin with coursework in fundamental areas like learner assessment and differentiated instruction. Candidates also delve into developmental psychology, studying how different stressors affect gifted and talented students. Candidates then apply this knowledge in classroom simulations and real-world practicums, where they plan, implement, and evaluate gifted education programs. Graduate academics also emphasize research, enabling students to pursue their own educational interests. This work culminates in a capstone project, which includes a written thesis and oral presentation.

In addition to advanced coursework and skills training, master's programs offer networking opportunities. Through school-sponsored events and national conferences, candidates meet and collaborate with other educational professionals, leading to research grants, fellowships, and even job offers. While educators can hold positions as classroom teachers, school administrators, and instructional coordinators with an undergraduate degree, employers increasingly prefer candidates with graduate credentials.

Distance education provides flexible course scheduling that benefits active teachers and professionals seeking a career change. On-campus gifted education programs suit recently graduated undergraduate students. These traditional programs allow candidates to build professional relationships and tap directly into university resources.

What Can I Do With a Master's in Gifted and Talented Education?

A master's in gifted education enables educators to pursue careers as classroom instructors. Low-income areas and rural communities throughout the U.S. desperately need Pre-K-12 teachers. Most states require graduate credentials to maintain initial teaching licensure and obtain advanced standing. Educators who want to work outside the classroom can look into jobs as an instructional coordinator. According to the BLS, this career is projected to grow 11%, respectively. Master's degree holders may also pursue work as librarians, counselors, curriculum designers, and online learning experts. They can also apply their skills to the business field as corporate trainers and performance analysts.

Elementary School Teacher

These classroom instructors teach basic topics in math, history, social studies, science, and English reading and writing. They assess student needs, creating lesson plans that cater to specific gifts and talents. Elementary school teachers also prepare students for standardized test through skill-specific curricula. While teachers can get work with a bachelor's degree, graduate credentials provide access to better-paying positions.

Median Annual Salary: $56,900*

High School Teacher

Secondary school teachers who pursue credentials in gifted education may work as specialists who support different groups of students in goal-oriented instructional sessions. They can also assist a group of advanced students, providing tutelage in fundamental areas like history, math, and science. To become a gifted education teacher, professionals need to obtain a master's degree, earn initial state licensure, and apply for advanced teaching endorsements.

Median Annual Salary: $59,170*

Instructional Coordinator

These professionals work with classroom teachers, principals, and other educational advocates to create and implement curricula that meet diverse student needs. With a gifted education degree, instructional coordinators can create programs and materials that challenge high-performing learners. A master's degree serves as a core requirement to obtaining this position.

Median Annual Salary: $63,750*

Training and Development Specialist

These educators work in the corporate sector helping to assess, plan, and implement employee skill-development programs. They also create instructional materials and manage budgets. Specialists may work for one company, or they can occupy positions as mobile consultants. To become a training and development specialist, candidates need a bachelor's degree and additional training through professional certification programs.

Median Annual Salary: $60,360*

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Choose a Master's Program in Gifted and Talented Education

Master's in gifted education programs usually take two years and at least 30 credits to complete. However, length varies with course load, program type, and school location. Part-time students enjoy flexible schedules, allowing them to work and take care of their families. Most colleges and universities enable students to individually pace their courses, taking as few or as many classes as they wish within certain limits. Some institutions use cohort learning, where students take one class at a time, advancing through the degree plan at the same rate as their peers.

Graduate candidates benefit from a multitude of program options. Those who do not hold a teaching license can look into on-campus extension programs. These degree tracks take at least three years, but enable students to earn initial state licensure and a master's degree, preparing them for gifted education endorsement. Active teachers usually prefer online gifted education programs for their flexibility. Some colleges even provide accelerated pathways, where students can earn their master's in as few as 12 months. Online programs also come with generous transfer policies that let students earn credits for prior coursework, professional training, volunteer positions, and job experience. However, distance education does come with drawbacks, including a lack of course offerings and specializations due to the linear nature of online curricula.

Cost serves as another major factor for prospective students. Online learners enjoy affordable tuition through discounts and rates that disregard residency status. Prospective students must also consider location and how it affects living costs and job opportunities.

Programmatic Accreditation for Master's Programs in Gifted and Talented Education

To confer degrees respected by employers and government bodies, schools need to earn national, regional, or programmatic accreditation. The Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognize multiple national accrediting agencies, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. Schools obtain regional accreditation from one of six organizations, depending on their location. For example, colleges and universities in Minnesota apply for regional accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission.

In addition to national and regional stamps of approval, schools may earn programmatic accreditation for their master's in gifted education programs. In fact, schools need the approval of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) to meet state licensure requirements. This means that students who earn their degree from a program outside CAEP jurisdiction cannot apply for a teaching license. The best gifted education degrees also adhere to the standards set by the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).

Master's in Gifted and Talented Education Program Admissions

Master's in gifted education programs ask for standard admission documents, including academic credentials, a resume or CV, recommendation letters, and standardized test scores. Colleges and universities also require candidates to hold initial teaching licensure and at least two years of paid classroom experience. Teachers should keep in mind that professional licenses do not seamlessly transfer across state borders. Those who plan to move for school should talk to their colleges and state education departments about reciprocity.

Graduate candidates who do not hold a teaching license may pursue extension degree plans that allow them to earn a master's and a teaching license simultaneously. Certain schools also offer summer institutes that lead to state licensure. Prospective educators can also seek out alternative licensure through state-sponsored programs, such as the Mississippi Teacher Corps and Chicago's Academy for Urban School Leadership.


Master's in gifted and talented education programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree in education or teacher preparation. Candidates should note that colleges and universities that possess regional accreditation only accept degrees from other regionally accredited schools. The requirement varies, but graduate candidates should hold at least two years of paid classroom teaching experience. Schools may also ask for active employment in a public school or an accredited independent or private institution. This academic requirement differs by individual colleges and universities. Some schools, especially ones that facilitate online gifted education degrees, do not necessitate a minimum GPA. Those that do usually require at least a 2.5. Students might offset an unsatisfactory GPA with exceptional test scores.

Admission Materials

Candidates need to submit a general application, usually through an online student account. Prospective students need to send in official academic transcripts from all previous schools. These documents usually come in paper form, but some colleges accept certified electronic copies. Students can request transcripts by contacting their institution's registrar's office. Graduate candidates should prepare two or three recommendation letters. These should come from professors and employers who can attest to the student's ability for academic and professional achievement. Some schools specify who can write recommendation letters. Depending on program specifics, candidates may need to submit GRE or Praxis scores. The latter results generally come from the Core Academic Skills for Educators test, but some schools also require subject and content knowledge scores. Most colleges and universities charge a processing fee. This expense becomes a burden if candidates apply to several schools. Prospective students should talk to their institutions about fee reductions and waivers. Applicants should apply to about five schools.

What Else Can I Expect From a Master's Program in Gifted and Talented Education?

Some colleges and universities offer gifted and talented education as a specialization under a general master's in education program. However, prospective students may find stand-alone graduate gifted education degrees with their own specializations. These include options based on grade level, subject, administrative functions, and supportive roles. Exact offerings vary by school, and students should speak with their departments about specific opportunities.

Concentrations Offered for a Master's Degree in Gifted and Talented Education
Concentration Description Careers
Early Childhood Education This specialization focuses on the cognitive, emotional, physical, and educational development of babies and preschool learners. Candidates take courses like children's literature, building family partnerships, and developmentally appropriate teaching practices. Early childhood education students learn to analyze and implement evidence-based strategies into gifted education programs. Depending on the school, this specialization may prepare students for state-specific endorsement. Preschool teacher, gifted education teacher, childcare center director
Special Education Students develop advanced understanding of cognitive, behavioral, and other learner needs. They also explore the history and ethical implications of U.S. special education laws and programming. Coursework includes inclusion methods, progress monitoring, and assessment of learners with mild-to-moderate disabilities. This specialization prepares students to work in schools, government agencies, and independent living programs. Special education teacher, gifted education teacher, early intervention specialist
Online Learning As the fastest-growing education field, online learning combines the ethical integration of technology and research-supported teaching practices with distance education. Students take classes in instructional design principles, online delivery methods, and educational psychology. Web instructor, gifted education teacher, curriculum developer
Applied Behavior Analysis With an emphasis on educational psychology and data-supported assessment techniques, this specialization trains professionals to discover and support specific learner needs. Students also develop skills in ethical interventions and experimental instructional design. Board certified behavior analyst, gifted educator, educational psychologist
Teacher Leadership This specialization highlights theories and practices in educational accountability through research and practical training. Teacher leaders cultivate cross-cultural learning communities and develop and implement curricular standards. Coursework includes global educational issues, adult learning, and motivational leadership. School principal, corporate trainer, assessment specialist

Courses in a Master's in Gifted and Talented Education Program

Master's in gifted education programs consist of core classes in intelligence theories, exceptionalities, and differentiated instruction. These topics provide the foundation that enable degree candidates to design, implement, manage, and evaluate educational programs. Advanced courses differ by individual schools and by which specializations students pursue. The list below details five popular courses in this field.

Psychology of the Gifted and Talented

In this class, students learn about the nature and needs of the exceptional learners by reviewing research literature, intelligence theorists, and contemporary case studies. Students also delve into the specific characteristics of gifted populations within the context of race, gender, and socioeconomic status. This fundamental class benefits all students in the gifted and talented education field.

Instructional Models for Gifted Learners

This course centers on theories concerning what gifted learners should learn and how. Degree candidates study differentiated instructional models and how teachers use them to enhance creativity and the development of thinking skills. They also learn adaptive methods that cater to individual student needs. Classroom instructors must take this course.

Program Planning and Implementation

In this course, gifted education specialists examine important factors in program development, such as learner input and school standards. Candidates develop a systematic approach to instructional design with respect to specific learning settings. Additional topics include program assessment, communication, and financial management. Instructional coordinator and other administrators greatly benefit from this course.

Creativity in Education

An important class for behavior analysts, educational creativity focuses on the psychological aspects of thinking and gifted behavior. Graduate students learn about the creative process and how to identify gifted and talented learners using data-analytical methods. Students also learn to integrate curriculum materials that foster creativity in elementary and secondary school classrooms.

Educational Leadership

This class prepares graduate students to design, implement, and supervise gifted education programs in K-12 settings. Students also learn to create talent development programs in corporate environments. Additional topics include motivational leadership, effective assessment, and service delivery. School principals and other educational directors must take this course.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Gifted and Talented Education?

Master's in gifted and talented education programs generally take two years and 32-36 credits to complete. Program type and delivery method affect this timeline. Requiring candidates to hold an active teaching license and work experience, conventional graduate programs build upon established skills. These degree plans provide students with the freedom to personalize advanced coursework and apply professional experience toward practicum requirements.

Programs may also offer accelerated pathways, allowing students to earn their master's in one year. Students without teaching experience can opt for a comprehensive extension program, earning a master's and initial teaching license in three or four years. Graduate learners may slow down degree progress by taking minimal classes each term. However, part-time status may increase tuition prices and limit financial aid opportunities. For enhanced accessibility, some schools provide hybrid learning that enables students to combine in-person classes with online coursework. This option suits new teachers who need to maintain job responsibilities but who also want the hands-on training and support of a traditional classroom.

How Much Is a Master's in Gifted and Talented Education?

Prices vary by individual colleges and universities. In general, online master's in gifted education programs are more affordable than traditional degree options. Schools incentivize remote learners through discounted tuition and flat prices, regardless of where students live. For example, the University of Georgia offers a per-credit rate of $629 for all online learners. Liberty University charges full-time students $415 and part-time students $615. The University of Alabama stands as one of the most affordable institutions, with a $394 per-credit rate. However, online students do not enjoy access to graduate fellowships, since these awards require teaching and research work on campus. All learners should take advantage of scholarships and grants offered by their schools, local businesses, and educational organizations.

In addition to tuition, prospective students must factor in cost of living, particularly housing fees. For students who plan to move for school, websites like Payscale provide tools that let them calculate and compare living expenses by city and state. Graduate candidates should also budget for technological expenses, conference attendance, and the costs that come with obtaining their gifted education endorsement.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Gifted and Talented Education Prepares For

NAGC Micro-Credentials

This in-person skill development program provides educators with the tools to identify gifted students and bolster educational equity. The NAGC program includes collaborative work and portfolio building. Participants examine best practices to help students from diverse backgrounds, particularly those from low-income, high-need communities. The program aligns with the standards set by Digital Promise, a leader in educational innovation.

OLC Certificate Programs

The Online Learning Consortium offers two certificate programs for distance educators. The fundamental program consists of one foundational course and three electives. The advanced option helps experienced teachers fine tune existing curricula through a 12-week workshop. Educators can also pursue the OLC Mastery Series Program to develop specific skills in areas like blended learning, instructional design, and online learning leadership.

ATD Certification Programs

The Association for Talent Development offers training for gifted education specialists who want to work in business and management. Candidates can become either an Associate Professional in Talent Development or a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance. The former focuses on three expertise areas, while the latter builds on ten, including evaluating learning impact and training delivery.

TEI Professional Development Programs

Founded over 40 years ago, the Teacher Education Institute provides comprehensive and affordable courses for gifted education specialists -- all of which may yield credits toward graduate programs. Students can enroll in asynchronous online classes, or they can take on-site courses, completing them over two weekends. The catalog includes multiple intelligences, accelerated learning, multicultural education, and teaching special populations.

Resources for Graduate Gifted and Talented Education Students

Davidson Institute for Talent Development

Established in 1999, the Davidson Institute supports students who score exceptionally high on IQ and assessment tests. The institute also operates an Educators Guild, which provides lesson plans, curriculum design strategies, and guides on how to foster supportive parent-teacher relationships.

American Association for Gifted Children

The AAGC offers in-depth gifted education research and literature through its online library. Teachers benefit from articles on differentiated teaching methods, classroom management, and out-of-class skill building. The association also facilitates events, including national conferences and international symposiums.

Center for Gifted Education Policy

As part of the American Psychological Association, the CGEP conducts research, raises public awareness, and advances government policy dedicated to gifted and talented education. Teachers benefit from a wealth of literature, including best practices and learning guidelines.

American Federation of Teachers

Founded in 1916, the AFT serves as one of the largest professional unions in the U.S. The federation supports teachers through policy advocacy, professional development opportunities, and community action initiatives. Teachers can also take advantage of career listings and research-based articles.

National Education Association

Boasting over three million members, the NAE offers guidance on lesson planning, teaching strategies, and school Life. Teachers also benefit from local meetings, national assemblies, and grants for research and continuing education.

Professional Organizations in Gifted and Talented Education

Master's in gifted education programs provide teachers with the tools necessary for job entry and advancement. However, to sustain robust careers, educators should seek the support of professional organizations, like the five detailed below. While membership usually entails an annual fee, it enables access to professional development programs, job boards, and networking opportunities through local meetings and large-scale conferences. Professional organizations also offer scholarships and grants.

The CEC not only sets the standards for gifted education programs, but also advocates for students, families, and teachers through research and policy initiatives. Members benefit from award programs and an expansive, topic-based online library. The organization also provides professional development support, including webinars and a career center. The NAGC advances gifted and talented education through community building, advocacy, and educational programs. Member-specific resources include financial support and research publications. The association also provides conventions, expert speaker series, career guidance, and professional development through e-learning and micro-credentials. SENG supports the intellectual, spiritual, and emotional well-being of gifted students through advocacy training and mental health initiatives. Gifted education teachers benefit from mini-conferences, webinars, and training and certificate programs. TAG provides over 35,000 members with national conferences, job support, and peer-to-peer mentorship programs. Gifted education teachers also get access to a comprehensive library of newsletters and research-intensive journals. Conceived in 1975, the World Council advocates for gifted education by disseminating research and facilitating an international network of students, teachers, and advocates. Members enjoy scholarships, awards, job postings, and a world conference.
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