Online Master's Programs in Gifted and Talented Education

As the field of education continues to promote inclusion for students at all learning levels, gifted and talented education (GATE) professionals are increasingly in demand. Earning a master's in gifted and talented education online can help graduates advance their careers toward more specialized and lucrative roles in the field. Educators aspiring to teach high-ability learners can read on to learn more about how to choose the best accredited online gifted and talented education master's degree programs in their state.

Overview of an Online Master's Program in Gifted and Talented Education

Students enrolled in an online master's in gifted and talented education can revisit core concepts in teaching, assessment, and curriculum development, tailored to high-ability learners and GATE learning environments. While specific course offerings and titles will vary by program, read on for some of the most common sample courses found in a GATE master's degree.

Common Classes and Coursework

Testing and Measurement Methods in Gifted Education

This course explores the history and primary objectives of using testing and measurement methods in gifted education. Topics include ability testing, IQ tests, and gifted education services. Students usually learn about the history of intelligence assessment as it applies to education.

Creative Research and Development in Gifted Education

Learners study how creativity in the research and development of gifted education programs has impacted the field over time. Topics focus on the origins of creativity in philosophy, human development, and self-actualization.

Special Gifted Learning Populations

This course introduces learners to an in-depth exploration of the various factors affecting gifted and talented learners. Coursework emphasizes major sources of controversy in the field, including the degree of nature vs. nurture, mental testing, and gender assignment and roles.

Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Learners

This crucial course trains students to evaluate and accommodate the unique needs of gifted and talented learning populations. Coursework explores social and emotional development, family problem-solving in families with gifted and talented members, and planning and guidance for gifted and talented education.

Teaching Methods and Instruction for Gifted Learners

With an emphasis on elementary and secondary education, this course explores various methods of developing and implementing curriculum tailored to gifted and talented students. Topics include team-based instruction, computer-assisted instruction, and one-on-one teaching methods.

Skills You Will Gain

Becoming a GATE teacher requires a unique set of skills beyond the typical educator training program. While all education master's programs build advanced skills in developing curriculum and classroom management, GATE-specific programs emphasize problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication skills in preparation for high-ability learning/teaching environments.

Coursework in an online master's in gifted and talented education trains teachers to hone in on the social and emotional needs of GATE students

Teachers at every grade level and learning style need patience and problem-solving skills. Especially in a GATE setting, teachers rely heavily on these skills to evaluate students on a case-by-case basis and customize their curriculum accordingly. Online gifted and talented master's degree programs tend to highlight skill-building in these areas through testing methods and creative research.

Education master's programs also reinforce critical thinking skills, crucial to teachers in GATE environments. Through in-depth coursework exploring the unique abilities of gifted and talented learners, aspiring GATE teachers can learn to apply innovative methods of instruction. The ability to turn a critical eye to GATE issues serves teachers individually and helps to improve GATE overall, as specialists in this area are relatively new to the education field.

Lastly, but of critical importance, GATE teachers must possess excellent communication skills. Coursework in an online master's in gifted and talented education trains teachers to hone in on the social and emotional needs of GATE students. Educators in this specialization often need to rely on various methods of communication to understand their students' requirements and develop lessons and activities accordingly.

Average Degree Length

A student earning a master's in gifted and talented education online may graduate faster than those enrolled in a traditional program. Most degrees require completion of 32-45 credits in core, concentration, and elective courses. While a typical master's degree takes two years to complete, many schools offer online gifted and talented education master's degree programs that lead to graduation in as few as 14 months.

a typical master's degree takes two years to complete

Whether a student chooses to complete their degree on campus or online, taking full-time or part-time classes affects the program's timeline. Additionally, some schools offer accelerated options for online students enrolled full time. Generally, students pursuing accelerated programs through full-time study or applying transfer credits can save on time and tuition, only paying for the classes they need to graduate.

How to Find a Top Program

Students may need help choosing the best education master's program online. While some schools rely on a prestigious reputation alone, many of the top programs boast above-average statistics in lesser-known performance areas. As shown below, criteria such as graduation rate, research activity, and student-to-faculty ratio can impact a student's choice for the best online master's in gifted and talented education.

  • Graduation Rate

    A school's graduation rate is the percentage of its first-time students who graduate within a program's standard time frame. Schools with high-quality programs tend to attract full-term students and produce high graduation rates.

  • Research Activity

    In the U.S., the most common measurement of a school's research activity is its Carnegie classification. Many of the nation's top colleges and universities earn R1-level doctoral research status, according to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Students can assume a school with R1 classification meets the rigorous standards of the Carnegie Foundation.

  • Retention Rate

    Researching a school's retention rate provides insight into its commitment to its students and speaks to the quality of its long-term programs. The retention rate is the percentage of students that return after the first year to continue a full-time academic program. Schools with high retention rates tend to promote high-quality programs for continued enrollment.

  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio

    The student-to-faculty ratio is important to understand how the level of personalization at a given school. Whether through a traditional or online program, many schools purposely maintain a low student-to-faculty ratio to attract students seeking small class sizes and one-on-one attention from their professors.

  • Average GRE Score

    While some schools boast a high average GRE score for incoming students institutionally, students can learn more from researching a school's average GRE score for their particular program of interest. Schools that enroll students with high GRE scores in a specific major tend to attract highly qualified applicants and maintain excellence throughout the program.

Gifted and Talented Education Careers After Earning Your Master's

Graduates of an online master's GATE program qualify for many teaching and administrative positions. Many graduates already work in education and take the traditional path after earning a master's degree toward becoming a gifted and talented teacher. While teachers cannot pursue GATE-specific certification, they must hold state-issued certification to work in public schools in their state. Private school teachers typically do not require certification or licensure. Students may also pursue the field of special education.

Students interested in an administrative role in education may pursue a career as a director of a preschool or childcare specific to gifted and talented education. While this position typically requires a bachelor's degree, employers prefer master's degree graduates for advanced management positions. A professional with a master's in gifted and talented education also meets the education requirements for instructional coordinators and education consultants.

Though job prospects vary by location, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth of 11% through 2026 for preschool/childcare center directors and instructional coordinators, with education consultants earning the highest salary of the lot below.

Gifted and Talented Teacher

Gifted and talented teachers lead classrooms of students with exceptional learning and developmental capabilities. Requirements for gifted and talented teachers vary by state, and while a candidate with a bachelor's degree may pursue entry-level positions, many districts require instructors of high-ability students to hold a master's degree.

Average Annual Salary: $45,473

Special Education Teacher

While special education teachers can pursue national certification in this field of specialization, regulations for GATE teachers are administered independently at state and local levels. GATE teachers possess many of the same unique skills needed in special education classrooms. Teachers in this field typically require a bachelor's degree at minimum, but many employers prefer a master's degree with related experience. Public school teachers require a license or certification; private school teachers do not require licensure.

Average Annual Salary: $59,780

Preschool or Childcare Center Director

Combining the duties of a principal and administrator, preschool and childcare center directors oversee the daily operations and programs of these institutions. Tasks include budgeting, staff management, and program development. While state requirements vary and most entry-level positions require bachelor's degrees, GATE-specific preschools and childcare centers prefer candidates with master's degrees and field experience.

Average Annual Salary: $47,940

Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators with GATE experience play a critical role in the field of contemporary education. These professionals develop and implement curriculum specific to gifted and talented learners, effectively setting the standards for programs and materials in this type of specialized learning. An instructional coordinator typically needs a master's degree and field experience. Some states require public school coordinators to hold licensure in teaching or administration.

Average Annual Salary: $64,450

Education Consultant

Education consultants offer advice to students and their families -- most often those transitioning from high school to college. These professionals focus on this age group due to the complex process of graduating from high school and entering a higher education environment. They may specialize in advising special needs and high-ability students and families. Many education consultants are self-employed, thus may not be held to strict state/school standards. However, professionals with advanced education and experience hold a competitive edge in the field.

Average Annual Salary: $64,772

Source: Payscale and BLS

Additional Certifications for Gifted and Talented Education

The National Association for Gifted Children, in association with the Council for Exceptional Children (NAGC-CEC), issues standards for GATE teacher preparation and recognizes 15 academic programs in multiple states. However, as of 2019, teachers cannot obtain official certification or licensing through a national exam in this specialization. Prospective GATE teachers may choose to obtain state-required teacher certification or licensure in one of the areas below, then pursue supplemental certification through NAGC-CEC.

Child Development Associate

Aspiring early childhood education (ECE) teachers most commonly seek the CDA credential, issued by the Council for Professional Recognition. While this council approves some nationwide programs for students with high school diplomas only, each candidate seeking a teaching license and a supplemental CDA certification must hold a bachelor's degree, complete at least 480 clock hours and 120 training hours in ECE, and pass an exam.

Special Education Teacher

American Board issues special education teacher certification to candidates with bachelor's degrees or higher, who pass all three required exams in professional teaching knowledge, special education, and elementary education. Each candidate must also pass a required criminal background check. States that acknowledge American Board's special education teaching credential also require students to hold elementary education certification. They must meet both of these certification requirements before applying for their initial teaching licenses.

Education Administration/Principal Certification

Aspiring principals and superintendents can apply for administrative certification through their state education board. While requirements vary, most states require each student to hold a master's degree from an accredited college or university, complete an approved preparation program, potentially including a recommendation, and pass a state exam. States also require varying levels of experience, depending on the type of credential.

Professional Organizations and Resources for Gifted and Talented Education Students

The field of education serves many specializations. Both emerging and experienced GATE professionals can access member organizations, credentialing agencies, advocacy groups, and mentorship programs tailored to their career goals and continuing education in this area of expertise. The following list includes just a small selection of GATE teacher resources online.

  • Davidson Institute's Educators Guild Davidson Institute facilitates a robust online community for GATE teachers at elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schools. Members can enjoy free access to a dedicated Facebook page, eNewsletter, and the Davidson database.
  • Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth Among the world's most respected authorities in medical research and scholarship, Johns Hopkins features family-oriented, online, and summer programs for the assessment and education of gifted and talented students.
  • National Association for Gifted Children This organization features the latest information and publications, continuing education opportunities, and advocacy initiatives tailored to GATE educators and families of gifted students.
  • National Society for the Gifted and Talented This association provides a program directory and scholarships for gifted students and their families. NSGT also highlights networking opportunities and a blog dedicated to GATE professionals.
  • Stanford University Education Program for Gifted Youth Backed by Stanford's stellar reputation as a top national university, the school's EPGY serves more than 50,000 K-12 and postsecondary students through online and blended GATE coursework options.
  • Summer Institute for the Gifted Providing a unique immersive experience for gifted learners, SIG enables students ages 9-17 to spend a summer enrolled in a three-week GATE program at a SIG partner university, like Princeton, Bryn Mawr, or UCLA.
  • World Council for Gifted and Talented Children Aimed at cultivating tolerance and acceptance for GATE through worldwide advocacy, WCGTC hosts an annual international conference, publishes member materials, and awards scholarships to gifted learners.
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