Master’s in curriculum and instruction program guide

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Introduction to a master’s in curriculum and instruction

Behind every great movie is a camera operator, director, producer, and assorted crew members responsible for making a motion picture come to life. Like the members operating the technical equipment behind a movie, curriculum and instruction developers, analysts, and directors are behind educational systems to ensure a curriculum is efficient, educational, and up-to-date with current research. A master’s degree in curriculum and instruction will provide you with the essential skills and in-depth knowledge needed to create, implement, research, and develop curriculum and instructional strategies that benefit children of different backgrounds and diverse learners.

What do I need to apply?

To be admitted to a master’s program you need a completed bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a minimum GPA of 3.0-3.5, letters of recommendation, a goal statement, and a resume. Your letters of recommendation should be from someone who can speak on behalf of your academic or professional qualities. A goal statement for your master’s program should indicate your aspirations and goals for the program, why it would help your professional goals, and what you can contribute to the program. Some schools may also require assessment scores like the GRE which will test you in mathematics, writing, and verbal reasoning.

Online vs. on campus

Twenty years ago the idea of online education was abstract and unheard of, now it is becoming one of the most desirable ways to earn a degree from a higher education institution. Courses and entire programs are often offered exclusively online or as hybrid programs. One of the reasons for this is to keep students safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Online or hybrid courses are suitable for students with professional or personal obligations that result in a preference for a flexible study program. Whether you want to pursue a degree online or on campus, it is important to first check if the university is accredited.

Does my university need to be accredited?

Accreditation is an important component of any higher education institution. Accreditation agencies represent the U.S. Department of Education and are responsible for evaluating degree programs and educational institutions. Accreditation ensures that the standards set by the agency have been met or exceeded.

Universities that are accredited provide the knowledge and skills needed to enter the workforce, apply for licensure, or credential programs. If your master’s degree is not from an accredited university then it will not be recognized by other academic institutions for admission to a doctorate program, licensing agencies, credential programs, and some employers.

What will I learn?

Principles of curriculum design

This course teaches curriculum design and development. After learning the principles of education you implement this knowledge to plan the curriculum for a specific teaching group.

Foundations of language and literacy

A course in foundations of language and literacy will cover the complex dynamics of language acquisition and literacy development. This course will examine typical and atypical language development, and the diversity of communication styles in different cultures.

Cross-cultural education

This course focuses on the implementation of instructional models that can help students from different linguistic, cultural, racial, ethnic, or intellectual backgrounds succeed academically.

Curriculum and assessment

This course provides theoretical and practical applications of assessments and curriculum planning for educators. You will consider the research findings that can improve the practices and procedures in educational institutions related to student assessments. Using this data and the existing research can result in curricula that directly addresses the needs of students.

Master’s thesis or project

A master’s thesis or project will be an in-depth summary of the knowledge you have acquired throughout the program. Typically a master’s thesis is between 30-80 pages in length, and is a summary of the knowledge and skills you gained throughout the program.

Program concentrations

English as a second language (ESL)

This concentration focuses on teaching students whose first language is not English. It will primarily focus on instruction and assessment techniques, strategies for teaching students reading and writing, and second language acquisition. It will prepare you for a career working with ESL children and adults.

Applied behavioral analysis

This concentration will give you knowledge about the principles of applied behavior analysis. You can develop the essential skills to observe and analyze behavior and to develop an intervention plan which is often based on positive reinforcement of appropriate behavior. This is important for those who want to work in applied behavior analysis therapy, for example with students on the autism spectrum.

Educational technology

A concentration in educational technology will introduce students to technologies that can be utilized in educational settings. You will look into the theory and practice of addressing the specific needs of different learners with technology.

Career options

This profession requires excellent leadership and planning skills because you will need to coordinate education policies, programs, and procedures. Depending on where you are employed, you may develop business partnerships or work in educational marketing and recruitment. Curriculum and instruction administrators may work in community colleges, corporations, or government agencies.


The average salary in 2020 for the director of curriculum and instruction was $81,049.

A curriculum and instruction specialist is responsible for developing new curricula or making improvements to a curriculum that already exists at a school. They may also conduct research, work with teachers, and assess the quality of education and instruction.


The average salary in 2020 for a curriculum and instruction specialist is $75,000.

A school principal can be employed at the elementary, middle, or high school level managing day-to-day activities, enforcing school policies, overseeing staff, and ensuring their student’s learning environment is safe and stimulating. They sometimes counsel students and help them set goals.


The average salary in 2020 for a school principal was reported as $109,970.

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.

Financial aid

Financial aid opportunities are available in the form of grants, scholarships, and loans. Most students will opt for grants and scholarships first, and funnel the leftover cost into a loan. One of the most popular ways to reduce the cost of a higher education degree is through Federal Student Aid. This is a federal grant which uses your financial information to assess your need for financial assistance. Once the free online application, FASFA, is filled out you should hear back within a couple of weeks with information regarding your eligibility.

Continuing education

Doctorate in early childhood education

This doctorate program will prepare you for a career in research, education, and administration. You will continue your knowledge about early childhood education and study aspects of this field such as educational psychology, assessment practices, evidence-based research, and policies that influence early childhood education.

Doctorate in higher education

A doctorate in higher education program will examine ideas and issues that surround the higher education system such as affordability, college access, race, gender, inclusion policies, and international education. In addition, this program can focus on the influence of policies and government on higher education institutions.

Doctorate in curriculum and instruction

A doctorate in curriculum and instruction will provide you with the knowledge and skills needed to have a leadership role to teach curriculum and instruction at the postsecondary level. You will learn about educational theory and use research-based principles to solve problems. Some programs may offer the opportunity to choose a concentration in areas like urban education, early childhood education, or k-12 education.

Association for Behavior Analysis International

Since 1974, this association has been promoting science, providing career opportunities and education, hosting events, and creating a platform for its members to network and enhance their knowledge in the philosophy, science, and application of behavior analysis.

Association of International Education Administrators

The Association of International Education Administrators is a member organization that aims to provide administrators with knowledge, additional resources, and networking opportunities that focus on ethical leadership, inclusivity, respect, and innovative leadership.

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

This association aims to provide educators with a platform that helps them achieve excellence in learning, teaching, and leadership to support all children in the public or private school system.