Curriculum and instruction – degrees, programs, and career options


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HomeCurriculum and instruction

Why choose a curriculum and instruction degree?

Our current education system has developed over time due to the collection and analysis of data that has shaped curricula and teaching practices. What was a typical teaching practice 50 years ago has now been phased out with evidence-based research.

The researchers, educators, and innovators behind these developments in curriculum and instruction have earned their academic credentials in this field. A graduate or doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction can open up many career opportunities where you can develop, and implement curriculum and instructional practices. The knowledge and skills attained in a master’s or doctorate program can prepare you for leadership roles in education, government, or corporate settings.

Online vs. on campus

Whether you want to attend at the graduate or doctorate level, there are different options available to earn your degree. Online degrees give students the freedom and flexibility to study when the time is right for them. If you are pursuing a doctorate degree, which can take several years, then this option may suit your lifestyle better.

Certain courses may be offered as a hybrid which blends components from traditional on-campus learning with online education. Whether you’d like to earn your degree online or on campus, make sure your university is accredited.

Does my university need to be accredited?

Accreditation is an essential part of the higher education process. This shows employers, other higher education institutions, and credential and licensing programs that the degree you have earned met a standard set in place by the accreditation agency. If you want a doctorate in curriculum and instruction then the university is going to check that your master’s degree is accredited.

This shows that your gained knowledge and skills are adequate to progress to a doctorate level program. If you are unsure about the accreditation standing of your university then check the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institution Programs website.

Financial aid

Tuition in the United States is one of the highest in the world. Although the cost can scare students away from pursuing a higher education degree, there are financial aid options available to those who qualify. Financial aid comes in several forms such as grants, loans, and scholarships. One of the most popular ways students ease the financial burden of tuition is through Federal Aid. This is a need-based program that assesses students based on their financial information. A free application, FASFA, is filled out online and a response should be given within a few weeks.

Master’s in curriculum and instruction

What do I need to apply?

If you’ve already completed your bachelor’s degree in a related field, then you may be interested in pursuing a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. Your transcripts will need to show a minimum of a 3.0-3.5 GPA to be academically qualified. In addition to a qualifying undergraduate degree, you may also need GRE test scores, letters of recommendation, a goal statement, and a resume. These requirements will vary depending on the program.

What will I learn?

Principles of curriculum design

This course will cover the basic elements of designing a curriculum, the principles of education, and how these 2 things overlap to create a curriculum that benefits the learning of students.

Foundations of language and literacy

This course will focus on typical and atypical language development and how communication varies in different cultures for contemporary teaching practices. You will also learn how language develops and how to encourage literacy development.

Cross-cultural education

A course in cross-cultural education will focus on how to implement instructional methods which help students from different cultural, racial, or linguistic backgrounds succeed in a class.

Curriculum and assessment

A detailed look at theoretical and practical approaches to curriculum planning and assessment procedures helps educators enhance their teaching practices. You will look at previous research findings that determine the legitimacy of teaching practices in the education system.

Master’s thesis or project

Completed at the end of your master’s program, this written work summarizes what you have learned, including the skills you have attained during the duration of your graduate program. Typically a master’s thesis is 30-80 pages in length.

Program concentrations

pencil English as a second language (ESL)

This concentration will examine how to assess, instruct, and strategize teaching and learning techniques for students whose first language is not English. You will learn strategies for enhancing student reading, writing, and fluency skills. This concentration is for individuals who want to pursue a career working with children and adults in ESL programs.

pencil Applied behavioral analysis

This concentration is ideal for students who plan to work in applied behavior analysis. Their future work may focus on students on the autism spectrum, to help improve classroom behaviors to foster academic success. You will learn the principles of applied behavior analysis and how to develop intervention plans to reinforce desired behaviors.

Educational technology

This concentration will teach you how to introduce technology in educational settings to enhance student learning. You will learn about theory, practice, and how to address the individual needs of students by matching their needs to the relevant technology to improve student learning.

How much will it cost?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the total cost of a 2-year master’s degree is roughly $32,870.

Career options

The director of curriculum and instruction is responsible for coordinating education policies and procedures. You may be employed at universities, corporations, or government agencies working to oversee and coordinate curriculum, staff, budgets, and resources.

The average salary in 2020 for the director of curriculum and instruction was noted as $88,816.

The principal of a school oversees the daily operations of the school, manages staff, enforces school policies, and ensures student learning by providing a school environment that is safe and stimulating. School principals can also help students set and reach their goals.

The average salary in 2020 for a school principal was reported as $108,633.

This individual is responsible for the development of new curricula and making improvements to an existing curriculum based on research-based evidence and contemporary teaching practices. They work with teachers to assess the quality of instruction.

The average salary in 2020 for a curriculum and instruction specialist was $42,803.

Doctorate in curriculum and instruction

What do I need to apply?

To apply for a doctorate program you will need to have bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Generally, your GPA from your graduate program should be a minimum of 3.5 to be considered for a doctorate program. You will also need a research proposal outlining your projected research, a resume or CV which shows professional experience, and some universities may require GRE scores.

What will I learn?

Curriculum theory

A course in curriculum theory will focus on the evaluation of curriculum, by first teaching about the theoretical constructs and development process. This course advances your knowledge of historical approaches to assessment and evaluation practices.

Research methods in education

By understanding the fundamentals of research design, data collection, and data analysis you can gain skills needed not only for your dissertation, but for a career in a research or leadership position. You will learn about qualitative and quantitative research methods and their effectiveness in research development.

Contemporary issues in teaching and learning

This course will cover the issues that currently encompass the education system. You will learn about practical and theoretical approaches to understand and solve these issues, and develop strategies to support student learning.


This is based on the research you have conducted throughout your doctorate program. To graduate, you need to write, present, and defend your research to academic experts in the field. Your dissertation should bring new research to the field of education, curriculum, or instruction.

How much will it cost?

The average yearly cost of a doctorate degree is approximately $28,000 to $40,000 per year. The overall cost depends on the length of your program and the nature of your research.

Career options

A school superintendent is similar to a company’s CEO. The superintendent is responsible for hiring, supervising, and managing school principals and staff. They also incorporate the implementation of requests from the school board into educational programs in their school district.

The median salary in 2020 for a school superintendent is $163,933.

A post-secondary teacher is responsible for creating teaching materials, conducting lectures, and teaching students at the university level in a subject they are considered academic experts in. They also host seminars, write books, and conduct research.

The average salary in 2020 for a college professor is $69,243.

This individual is responsible for working in academic programs at the university level to oversee the assessment and evaluation of student records. They conduct analysis and present the findings to staff and the school board to create educational plans.

The average salary in 2020 for a director of assessment is $79,942.

Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI)

The ABAI has been promoting science, hosting events, and providing a platform for career opportunities since 1974. This association provides users with a place where they can enhance their knowledge of behavior analysis and its application to students

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)

The ASCD gives educators an online platform to network with other educators and access to additional educational resources. This gives users networking opportunities and innovative leadership.

Association of International Education Administrators

This association is a member-based organization that provides educators in leadership roles, such as administrators, the resources, knowledge, and opportunities to focus on essential elements of productive leadership including respect, inclusivity, and ethics.