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.
What are the best gifted and talented education programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||University of South Florida||Tampa, FL|
|2||University of Georgia||Athens, GA|
|3||University of Missouri||Columbia, MO|
|4||University of North Carolina at Charlotte||Charlotte, NC|
|5||University of Alabama||Tuscaloosa, AL|
|6||Arkansas State University||Jonesboro, AR|
|7||Nova Southeastern University||Fort Lauderdale, FL|
|8||University of North Texas||Denton, TX|
|9||University of Louisiana at Monroe||Monroe, LA|
|10||Regent University||Virginia Beach, VA|
Choosing a Program
DO I NEED PREVIOUS WORK EXPERIENCE TO GET IN?
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.
CAN I WORK WHILE I COMPLETE MY ONLINE MASTER'S IN GIFTED AND TALENTED EDUCATION?
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.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES TO EARNING MY GIFTED AND TALENTED EDUCATION DEGREE ONLINE?
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.
2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Gifted and Talented Education Programs
University of South Florida
|Tampa, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 73%||
Located in Tampa, USF offers an online master of arts in gifted education through its College of Education. In addition to the degree, this program allows students to use electives to attain a graduate certificate in teacher leadership, instructional technology, or autism spectrum disorders.
The curriculum comprises 36 credits and spans 12 courses, five of which can be used to apply for the Florida endorsement in gifted education. Students take 15 specialization credits, nine core credits, and 9-12 elective credits based on their desired practicum track.
Graduates leave the program equipped with the advanced training needed to work with exceptional children and collaborate with other instructors. Applicants must hold a teaching certificate and bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university.
USF holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of Georgia
|Athens, GA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 86%||
Based in Athens, UGA offers over 30 online degrees and certificates, including an M.Ed. in educational psychology, gifted, and creative education. Rooted in the belief that education should be tailored to the students' individual needs, this program focuses on the research and instructional delivery of this philosophy.
The curriculum requires a minimum of 37 credits, a comprehensive written exam, and a practicum in education psychology. Additional coursework covers topics like characteristics of gifted children, methods and material for the gifted, and human development for education.
Graduates of this program may pursue roles as classroom teachers, professors, school system coordinators, and educational consultants. UGA holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of Missouri
|Columbia, MO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 69%||
The state's flagship institution, Mizzou currently serves over 30,000 students at the undergraduate and graduate level. The school offers an online M.Ed. in special education with an emphasis in gifted education that students can complete in 2-3 years.
Designed for practicing teachers, the M.Ed. program is delivered entirely online and requires 23 credits of courses to apply for the Missouri gifted education certification. The 30-credit curriculum covers a variety of topics, such as learning theory, assessment and evaluation, and curriculum methods.
Graduates of Mizzou's gifted and talented master's program often secure jobs as special education teachers, school counselors, and occupational therapists. Applicants must submit a statement of purpose, letter of intent, and two letters of recommendations.
Mizzou holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
|Charlotte, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
UNC Charlotte offers an online M.Ed. in special education and child development with a concentration in academically or intellectually gifted. This part-time program is designed for experienced teachers who hold a bachelor's degree and an initial teaching license.
Students enrolled in this fully online program learn how to apply diverse and effective teaching methods to enhance the standard curriculum for gifted students. This degree requires 33 credits and includes writing-intensive courses like methods of instructing gifted students, social and emotional needs of gifted students, and advanced curriculum for gifted students.
To satisfy the program's field experience requirements, prospective students must have access to a classroom with AIG or advanced students. Upon graduation, students qualify for the North Carolina's professional educators continuing license in special education: academically or intellectually gifted.
UNC Charlotte is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of Alabama
|Tuscaloosa, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 72%||
Distance learners can pursue an online master of arts in special education from UA. Working educators benefit from an entirely online format, allowing them to continue teaching full time while pursuing an advanced degree.
This MA program aims to develop distance learners' understanding of gifted individuals' needs to facilitate an enhanced educational program. The curriculum spans 30-36 credits and covers topics like creative problem solving seminar, teaching the gifted and talented, and special populations in gifted education. The program requires a practicum for degree completion.
Upon completion of this program, students also obtain the credits required to be eligible for the gifted and talented certification. Prospective students must hold a bachelor's-level teaching certificate from an accredited college or university.
UA holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Arkansas State University
|Jonesboro, AR||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
Located in Jonesboro, A-State currently enrolls over 5,000 distance learners and offers more than 35 online degrees, including a master of science in education degree with a major in gifted, talented, and creative. The 30-credit program is designed for practicing educators and students can complete the program in as little as 18 months.
Distance learners in this M.S.Ed. program develop the necessary proficiencies to create advanced models for and identify gifted students. The 10-course curriculum features classes like current issues in gifted education, philosophies of education, and affective programming in the classroom.
A-State serves as the flagship university of the Arkansas system and holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commision of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. All online students in this program pay the same tuition rate, regardless of state residency.
A-State holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
Nova Southeastern University
|Fort Lauderdale, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
NSU — based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida — oversees an array of online master's in education degrees, including a specialization in exceptional student education. This fully online specialization caters to certified teachers and non certified professionals.
Through collaboration with a faculty member and an academic advisor, students in this program customize their coursework to align with their individual career needs. However, the program requires all students to complete 36 credits and take courses in educational research for practitioners, educational and psychological assessment of exceptional students, and special education law.
The exceptional student education track prepares online learners for careers like special education teachers, school counselors, and special needs service providers. NSU's online education platform offers a variety of student support services, including access to the virtual library, faculty and student discussion forums, and academic advising.
NSU holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of North Texas
|Denton, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||
Located in Denton, UNT offers an online master of science in educational psychology with a concentration in gifted and talented students that can be completed in 15 months. With most course rotations taking place over the summer, this fully online program is especially useful for current teachers.
The 33-credit curriculum prepares practicing educators to identify the cognitive and affective needs of gifted students. Coursework includes six core credits, 18 concentration credits, six elective credits, and a three-credit supervised capstone course.
This MS program prepares students for careers as tutors, special education teachers, and school psychologists. In addition to earning the MS degree, students also obtain the gifted and talented certificate upon program completion. Admission requirements include a 1- to 3-page personal statement, GRE scores, and two written letters of recommendation.
UNT is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of Louisiana at Monroe
|Monroe, LA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 44%||
ULM offers an online master of education in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in special education in gifted education. Students in this program learn how to apply theories of affective needs and instructional strategies in the classroom.
To earn this M.Ed. degree, students must complete 36 credits and an eight-week practicum. During this eight-week session, students apply their knowledge and skills to a supervised experience where they work with gifted children. Core classes include developing creativity in the classroom, effective consultation, and research-based instruction.
Prospective students must hold a teaching certificate and a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. Applicants can select from one of five start dates each year.
ULM is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
|Virginia Beach, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
A private, Christian university located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Regent provides an online master of education in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in gifted and talented.
Distance learners enjoy instruction from renowned scholars and practitioners and explore topics such as strategic planning and program evaluation, models and strategies for teaching the gifted, and psychology and education of gifted learners. The curriculum culminates in a professional experience project, in which students compile a portfolio that provides evidence of program competencies.
This program aims to help current educators advance in leadership roles or pursue new education opportunities like curriculum developer, content specialist, and department head. Out-of-state students and licensed educators cannot apply for the Virginia gifted education endorsement.
Regent is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
What Else Can I Expect from an Online Master's in Gifted and Talented Education Program?
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.
GIFTED AND TALENTED EDUCATIONAL OPTIONS
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:
|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.|
CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE IN GIFTED AND TALENTED EDUCATION
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.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN GIFTED AND TALENTED EDUCATION?
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.
CERTIFICATIONS AND LICENSES A MASTER'S IN GIFTED AND TALENTED EDUCATION PREPARES FOR
- 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 for Online Master's in Gifted and Talented Education Degrees
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.
Employment Outlook for Master's in Gifted and Talented Education Graduates
MASTER'S IN GIFTED AND TALENTED EDUCATION CAREERS
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|
|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|
|Special needs education||4.5%||2.0%|
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.
Financing Your Online Master's in Gifted and Talented Education Program
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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