The growing field of curriculum and instruction, where educators evaluate and design curricula to optimize learning, deserves strong consideration as a career path. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for instructional coordinators to grow 11% through 2026. Earning a master's in curriculum and instruction online positions graduates for leadership roles in the field.
This guide covers important information for anyone considering an online master's in curriculum and instruction, including common classes, degree length, and career prospects for graduates.
Overview of an Online Master's Program in Curriculum and Instruction
Course offerings for a curriculum and instruction degree vary by program, but most programs cover curriculum design theory and methodology, evaluation methods, and quantitative research. The following sample curriculum represents some typical course offerings for this degree.
Common Classes and Coursework
Students get an overview of the theory and methodology behind effective curriculum design. They leave the course familiarized with the three most popular models for curriculum design: subject-centered, learner-centered, and problem-centered. The course may culminate with students designing and applying their own curriculum model to a field experience.
Evaluation of Educational Programs and Policy
The course investigates theories and methods for evaluating and improving the efficacy of educational programs and policies. Topics include data collection methods, evaluation methodologies, and system change in educational settings. Learners also study process-, goal-, and outcome-based evaluation strategies, along with how to integrate them successfully.
Teaching and Learning in Diverse Schools
This class covers strategies for teaching students with different learning styles and backgrounds in a typical classroom. Topics may include how race, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status affect learning. The course may incorporate a reflection from a required teaching field experience.
Applications and Issues of Technology in the Classroom
This course explores different methods of using technology to enhance education and educational assessment. Ethical issues discussed include internet safety, online plagiarism, and technology distractions in the classroom. Students learn how to use technology as a teaching and assessment tool through in-person, blended, and fully online classrooms.
Research Design and Analysis
Most master's programs culminate in a research project. In this course, students investigate how to design an original research project, such as a literature review or experiment, then present their findings in a long-form essay. The course may require prerequisite coursework in quantitative and qualitative research methods or applied statistics.
Skills You Will Gain
Online master's in curriculum and instruction students develop strong skills in teaching and learning through fieldwork and classroom studies. They explore how others learn and how to design effective curricula based on those learning styles.
A curriculum and instruction major develops strong written and verbal communication skills
Research project requirements sharpen students' critical-thinking skills. To develop curricula that maximizes positive educational outcomes for students, graduates need these analytical skills. A curriculum coordinator specialist, for instance, evaluates large collections of information about student and teacher performance to make informed decisions that optimize student learning.
A curriculum and instruction major also develops strong written and verbal communication skills. They need these skills to effectively implement school curricula with administrators and teachers and explain and justify changes to curriculum design. Leadership skills also come into play, as these specialists need to convince others to follow their recommendations.
Average Degree Length
It generally takes 35-60 semester credits to complete an online master's in curriculum and instruction, for which three main degree timelines exist:
Part-time students take one or two courses per semester, typically graduating in 2-4 years.
Full-time students take a full course load each semester, typically graduating in two years.
Accelerated students take the maximum course load each year, typically graduating in 1-2 years.
A part-time course load usually appeals to working professionals juggling family and work obligations. Recent graduates may opt to study full-time to earn their degree within two years and transition directly to the workforce. Learners who want to expedite graduation can choose an accelerated program to earn their degree in as little as one year while potentially saving money on tuition.
How to Find a Top Program
Prospective students should consider several signifiers of a quality online master's in curriculum and instruction to ensure they receive the most value from their education.
Strong Research Component
A quality curriculum and instruction program features a strong research component where students learn how to evaluate an issue in education and comment on it through an original project or scholarly work.
Strong Emphasis on Theory
A curriculum and instruction program that offers a strong theoretical basis for curriculum design equips students with a diverse knowledge base to draw on for solving complex problems.
Integrates Teaching Licensure
In many states, curriculum and instruction specialists need a teaching license to operate, so prospective students should look for programs that integrate a teacher preparation program.
Diverse Elective Options
Students should prioritize programs that offer a variety of electives. Diverse electives allow students to customize the degree to their interests and goals.
Students should only consider regionally accredited schools. Regional accreditation indicates that the school meets high-quality standards. It also expands employment, education, and financial aid opportunities.
Curriculum and Instruction Careers After Earning Your Master's
Curriculum and instruction majors often work in education, but they may also find positions in unexpected industries. For instance, many graduates work in corporate environments using their skills to design instructional materials and courses for consumers of technical products.
The following table outlines common careers for graduates with a master's in curriculum and instruction.
Instructional coordinators develop school curricula and set educational standards. These specialists create diverse educational materials, help teachers and other personnel implement materials, and assess material efficacy. Typically, they hold at least a master's degree.
Average Annual Salary: $64,450
Instructional designers create instructional materials for customers to help them understand and correctly use technical products. The position usually requires a master's in education or a related field.
Average Annual Salary: $62,105
Postsecondary Education Administrator
Postsecondary education administrators oversee a college or university's daily functions, including student services, academics, and faculty research. Most employers require at least a master's degree.
Average Annual Salary: $94,340
High School Teacher
High school teachers teach foundational subjects like math, English, and social studies. Most high school teachers hold at least a bachelor's degree, but many employers prefer a master's.
Average Annual Salary: $60,320
Elementary, Middle, or High School Principal
Elementary through high school principals oversee the safe and educational functioning of the schools where they work, coordinating activities with staff and implementing curricula. Most hold at least a master's degree.
Average Annual Salary: $95,310
Source: BLS, PayScale
Additional Certifications for Curriculum and Instruction
While no nationwide professional certification exists for instruction coordination, most states require curriculum and instruction specialists to hold teaching licensure to practice. Graduates can also pursue optional certifications to boost their career and salary potential. For instance, curriculum and instruction majors seeking to become education administrators should consider earning national superintendent certification.
To work in K-12 education, most curriculum and instruction specialists need a teaching license. Teaching licensure requirements vary by state, but candidates typically need at least a bachelor's degree from a program accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CACREP).
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification
Many educators seek NBPTS certification in specific content areas, such as English, mathematics, or social studies. Candidates need a bachelor's degree, a teaching license, and three years of full-time teaching experience. Part-time and long-term substitute teaching experience does not count for the experience requirement. Candidates must also pay a $1,900 fee.
AASA National Superintendent Certification
Curriculum and instruction specialists who work as educational administrators may pursue certification as a superintendent through the American Association of School Administrators. Candidates must complete a practitioner-oriented capstone project relating to a contemporary issue in education administration. The program follows a cohort model.
Professional Organizations & Resources for Curriculum and Instruction Students
Professional organizations and resources can help both students and graduates. Benefits include professional development, networking, and scholarship opportunities.
- American Association of School Administrators Established in 1865, AASA advocates for equal access to education for students of all backgrounds. It also advances the profession of educational administration through publications, learning opportunities, and a leadership program that offers professional certification.
- American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages The ACTFL fosters language teaching programs nationwide through research, advocacy, and publications that include The Language Educator and Foreign Language Annals. Members gain access to internship and scholarship opportunities and career assistance services.
- American Educational Research Association The AERA conducts and supports educational research initiatives related to improving public education quality. The organization assists professionals through training and professional development courses, a virtual research learning center, and an online job board.
- Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development The ASCD develops educational materials for curriculum and instruction specialists, including textbooks, webinars, and onsite professional development courses. Members can also take advantage of various networking events that include the Leader to Leader Conference and EmPower.
- Association for Educational Communications and Technology Established in 1926, the AECT promotes leveraging technology to improve education through research and scholarly activity. The organization hosts an annual conference and formative design symposium.
- The Association for Institutional Research The AIR implements data analysis, collection, and communication to further educational standards and advocate for higher education professionals. The organization also hosts online courses and webinars, scholarships, and networking events for education professionals.
- International Society for Technology in Education The ISTE represents over 100,000 preK-12 and higher education professionals interested in using technology to improve the quality and accessibility of education. Members enjoy access to professional development courses and publications on contemporary issues.
- National Association of State Boards of Education The NASBE advocates for citizen leaders on state boards of education. The organization also offers internships that prepare students for nonprofit and public sector work.
- National Council for Assessment in Education Founded in 1938, the NCME develops psychometric materials for assessing, evaluating, and testing educational materials. The organization hosts specialization-specific job listings and an annual conference.
- The National Education Association Boasting 3 million members, the NEA promotes and supports public education nationwide, from preschool through postgraduate education. The nonprofit also offers grants and partnerships to curriculum and instruction specialists.