Curriculum and Instruction Degree Programs

A person who earns a degree in curriculum and instruction is qualified to craft curricula that encompass various subjects and suit a wide range of learning styles. They may develop curricula for K-12 schools, colleges or professional schools, or for government agencies. Specialists in this area may give guidance to teachers on instruction methods and styles and evaluate and design assessment or testing programs. They may also work on designing and assessing teacher evaluation/development programs. Due to the specialized nature of the field, curriculum and instruction degrees are mostly found at the graduate level. The ideal candidates for curriculum and instruction degrees possess a love of learning, a desire to help shape the curriculum, and the knowledge to make decisions about curriculum. Most graduates of curriculum and instruction programs are already certified teachers who wish to become qualified as a curriculum and instruction specialist. Many colleges and universities offer curriculum and instruction programs that prepare graduates for a variety of teaching and specialist positions. Online degree programs, especially online master’s in curriculum and instruction, are also available to those looking to advance their education flexibly. Learn more about becoming a curriculum and instruction specialist on our career guide.

Curriculum and Instruction Specialist Degrees and Certifications

Graduates with a degree in curriculum and instruction can improve their careers in many ways. Most curriculum and instruction specialist positions are found at the school or district administration level, which will likely take teachers out of the classroom and into an administrative or supervisory role commanding a higher salary. Curriculum and instruction specialists can become mentor teachers for their district, providing guidance and counseling for new teachers. Teachers with this specialization may also be eligible to find jobs as grade level or department chairs, who give important advice to other teachers and influence the curriculum. Many educators in larger districts seek to become curriculum writers for their district and write curricula for different subjects aligned across grade levels.

Bachelor’s degrees in curriculum and instruction are uncommon due to the specialized nature of the field; therefore most prospective curriculum and instruction teachers have a bachelor’s degree in education or teaching, or in the subject area in which they teach. A bachelor’s degree in education may prepare graduates for jobs as a classroom teacher, educational administrative assistant, or educational testing specialist. A bachelor’s degree also prepares you to further your study by earning a master’s in curriculum and instruction or certificate in the field, which will likely be necessary if you want to practice as a specialist.

The vast majority of degrees in curriculum and instruction are found at the graduate level as Master of Education (M.Ed. or EdM), Master of Arts (MA), Doctor of Education (EdD), or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees. Master’s degrees and EdDs are focused more on the practice and application of educational theory, while PhD programs are aimed at those who want to conduct research or be educators in the field. Most graduate-level programs require candidates to hold certification as a teacher and have several years of teaching experience to be admitted. Other graduate programs do not require teaching experience and may be ideal for those with a bachelor’s degree in another field who want to begin a career in curriculum and instruction. For candidates who already have a master’s degree, some certificate programs may be available in curriculum and instruction, many of which can be found online. If you are not a certified teacher, it is likely that you will need to become one first and acquire experience before being hired as a curriculum and instruction specialist, so you should either look for a program that includes teacher certification or plan to become certified in another way.

Top-Ranked Curriculum and Instruction Degree Programs

The following schools were ranked by US News & World Report as having the best curriculum and instruction graduate programs in 2019. While US News ranks these programs at the doctoral level, all 10 schools offer master’s programs as well, which are typically taught by the same faculty and are thought to be similar in quality.

1. Michigan State University
2. University of Wisconsin—Madison
3. Teachers College, Columbia University
4. Stanford University
5. Vanderbilt University (Peabody)
6. University of Michigan—Ann Arbor
7. University of Texas—Austin
8. Ohio State University
9. University of Georgia
10. University of Washington

See our Best Colleges for Education Majors page for more information on top-ranked schools for teachers.

Best Value Schools with On-Campus Curriculum and Instruction Programs

We have researched the not-for-profit teaching schools in the US offering a curriculum and instruction program at the graduate level and compiled the table below of the best value options. To make our list, schools must have a high graduation rate (85% or above at the undergraduate level) and a low net price (less than $20,000 per year for undergraduate students). A high graduation rate is a traditional indicator of a school’s success, while a low net price represents the affordability of a school. The combination of a high graduation rate and a low net price, along with other factors, suggests a good value school. In the table below, we’ve also included other important information about these schools, including the percentage of tenured faculty, degrees offered, and US News & World Report national and best undergraduate teaching rankings.

SchoolGrad Degree(s)US News Curriculum and Instruction Rank1US News Undergrad Teaching Rank2Grad Rate3% Tenured Faculty4Net Price3
University of North Carolina at Chapel HillEdD Curriculum and Instruction;
PhD Education: Culture, Curriculum and Teacher Education
#18 tie#2791%43%$11,100
University of FloridaEdD Curriculum and Instruction (online);
PhD Curriculum and Instruction
#18 tie#2588%52%$15,283
University of Wisconsin-MadisonDoctoral Minor Curriculum and Instruction;
MS Curriculum and Instruction;
PhD Curriculum and Instruction
#2#3 tie87%49%$15,910
University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignCertificate Digital Learning;
EdD Digital Environments for Learning, Teaching, & Agency;
EdD Language & Literacy;
EdD Learning Design & Leadership (online);
EdD New Learning (LDL) (online);
EdD Technology Specialist (LDL) (online);
EdM Digital Environments for Learning, Teaching, & Agency;
EdM Digital Learning;
EdM Language & Literacy;
EdM Perspectives and Practices;
EdM Technology Specialist (LDL) (online);
MA Curriculum Research, Early Childhood Education, Aesthetics & Teacher Education (CREATE);
MA Digital Environments for Learning, Teaching, & Agency;
MA Language & Literacy;
MS Digital Environments for Learning, Teaching, & Agency;
MS Language & Literacy;
PhD Digital Environments for Learning, Teaching, & Agency;
PhD Language & Literacy
#18 tie#50 tie84%50%$15,829
University of Virginia-Main CampusEdS Curriculum & Instruction;
EdD Curriculum & Instruction;
MBA/M.Ed. Curriculum & Instruction (dual degree);
M.Ed. Curriculum & Instruction (online);
PhD Curriculum & Instruction
#12 tie#17 tie95%54%$16,594
Harvard UniversityEdM Learning and Teaching;
EdM Teacher Education: Teaching and Curriculum (TAC) Strand;
EdM Technology, Innovation, and Education
University of Maryland-College ParkM.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction with Certification#23 tie#3385%44%$17,241
College of William and MaryMAEd Curriculum & InstructionNR#39 tie92%47%$17,415

See Table Notes and References at bottom of page.

Best Value Schools with Online Curriculum and Instruction Programs

The below table shows the best value public and not-for-profit teaching colleges and universities offering online programs in curriculum and instruction. To come up with this list, we considered only those schools with an undergraduate graduation rate of above 75% and an undergraduate net price of below $20,000. Along with other factors such as the US News & World Report rankings and percentage of faculty with tenure, these are common indicators of quality programs supporting student success.

SchoolGrad Degree(s)US News Curriculum and Instruction Rank1US News Undergrad Teaching Rank2Grad Rate3% Tenured Faculty4Net Price3
University of FloridaEdD Curriculum and Instruction#18 tie#2590%50%$15,283
Florida State UniversityM.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction#18 tie#39 tie83%44%$13,318
North Carolina State University at RaleighM.Ed. and MS Learning Design and TechnologyNR#61 tie81%52%$14,771
University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignM.Ed. Curriculum & Instruction: Digital Learning#18 tie#50 tie84%50%$15,829
University at BuffaloAdv. Certificate Educational Technology and New Literacies;
EdM Education and Technology
NR#88 tie76%35%$15,895
Michigan State UniversityMA Teaching and Curriculum (MATC)#1#23 tie80%46%$16,227
University of Minnesota-Twin CitiesMA, M.Ed., PhD, Graduate Certificates#16 tie#2180%43%$16,691
University of Virginia-Main CampusM.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction#12#1794%52%$17,845
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityMA Education, Curriculum, and Instruction: Instructional Technology (ITMA)NR#93 tie84%51%$18,349
Texas A & M University-College StationM.Ed. and EdD Curriculum and Instruction#23 tie#3482%48%$19,118
University of VermontM.Ed. Curriculum and InstructionNR#71 tie76%44%$19,261

See Table Notes and References at bottom of page.

Profiles of Traditional Curriculum and Instruction Degree Programs

Teachers College, Columbia University

The Teachers College at Columbia University offers several graduate degrees in Curriculum and Teaching that prepare graduates to become leaders in curriculum and pedagogy development and design: a 32-credit Master of Arts (MA) with optional certification, a Master of Education (EdM), and a Doctor of Education (EdD). The course sequence takes a broad interpretation of leadership across the components of curriculum and teaching to prepare students for the next stages of their careers. Students also complete an integrative project during their studies that emphasizes student understanding in the practice of leadership. EdD concentrations include curriculum studies, early childhood education, early childhood policy, educational leadership and school change, gifted education, literacy education, and urban and multicultural education. The Teachers College is home to the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching, a research-driven organization devoted to developing an understanding of elementary, middle, and high school restructuring. The Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College was the first in the US established for the scholarly study of problems in curriculum and teaching in all subjects and schooling levels and today maintains its focus on the theory and practice of teaching and curriculum with its top-ranked graduate and undergraduate programs.

Texas A&M University-Commerce

The Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas A&M University-Commerce offers two tracks towards earning a master’s in curriculum and instruction, a Master of Science (MS) and a Master of Education (M.Ed.). In either program, students may choose one of four concentration areas in Multicultural Education, Curriculum Theory, Social Studies Education, or Foundations of Education. Both programs include three core courses: Cultural Foundations of Education, Curriculum Development, and Analysis of Teaching Behavior. Students complete the remaining degree requirements through the careful selection of electives. The MS requires 32 credit hours to earn, while the M.Ed. requires 36 credit hours. Admission is selective and a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75 is recommended. Texas A&M University also offers an online Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction that can be completed in as few as four years.

University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign

The top-ranked Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign offers several competitive master’s and doctoral degree programs in Curriculum, Aesthetics, and Teacher Education. These flexible and personalized programs allow students to choose a primary focus in curriculum, aesthetics, or teacher education paired with a specialty sub-field in early childhood, middle grades, secondary, or social studies education. Although students are given specialization opportunities, the school emphasizes shared inquiry and diversity in education with an interdisciplinary approach to curriculum and instruction. At all levels, students are given a firm foundation in educational psychology, philosophy, and policy. Students pursuing a graduate degree under a non-licensure track will complete and defend a master’s or doctoral thesis that makes an original contribution to curriculum and instruction scholarship. Professional clinical experiences can be arranged through the Department of School and Community Experiences. Competitive fellowships, graduate assistantships, and tuition waivers are available for qualified students.

Profiles of Hybrid and Online Curriculum and Instruction Degree Programs

Arkansas State University

Arkansas State University offers a Master of Science in Education (MSE) in Curriculum and Instruction that can be completed entirely online. The 36-credit-hour program of study can be completed in as few as 20 months and includes core courses in Supervision and Evaluation of Teaching; School and Community Relations; and Introduction to Statistics and Research. A curriculum internship is also required to be completed in the final semester of study. The program leads to curriculum and instruction endorsements in Arkansas. By taking optional courses, students may also qualify for curriculum director or special education director positions. It is strongly recommended that prospective students seeking licensure in other states confirm licensure requirements for their desired certification areas.

University of Georgia

The University of Georgia’s Department of Career and Information Studies offers a Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Learning, Design, and Technology that can be pursued on a research track in preparation for doctoral study or professional tracks for specialization in School Library Media, Instructional Technology, or Instructional Design and Development. All concentrations in the professional track are offered in flexible online in part-time formats, with courses designed to meet the needs of working professionals. Real-world projects are emphasized throughout the curriculum for hands-on learning, and all students complete a research thesis or its equivalent to integrate learning in research methodology and scholarly writing. The curriculum additionally includes field experience and clinical practice opportunities. Many graduates qualify for teacher certification or a certification upgrade and go on to work in a variety of educational settings. The College of Education at the University of Georgia is consistently ranked among the top research institutions in the US.

University of Virginia

The University of Virginia Curry School of Education features an online Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Curriculum and Instruction that emphasizes research-based practice. This entirely online master’s in curriculum and instruction program takes students through a course of study that includes the history, theory, and philosophy of curriculum development and instruction while preparing students to work within modern frameworks for best practices in education. Four concentrations are offered: Gifted Education; English Language Learners; Reading Education; and Instructional Technology. The program requires at least 30 credit hours to complete and includes such courses as Principles of Curriculum Design, Classroom Assessment, and Education Across Cultures. The degree can be completed in as little as one year with full-time study; part-time study is also permitted. Currently licensed Virginia educators are eligible for a discounted tuition rate.

Curriculum and Instruction Degree Requirements and Coursework

Demand for graduates of curriculum and instruction degree programs is increasing in light of curriculum restructuring nationwide. Those interested in greater participation in developing curricula and implementing new instructional methods may be a good match for a curriculum and instruction degree. Since these degree programs are available both with and without teacher certification tracks, a curriculum and instruction degree program can further careers in teaching and in administration.

Some examples of common classes that can be found in a curriculum and instruction degree program (ordered from least to most advanced) include:

  • Introduction to Curriculum Theory
  • Instructional Theory
  • Educational Psychology
  • Leadership & Management of Change
  • Educational Assessment for Instructional Improvement
  • Curriculum Design
  • Curriculum Evaluation
  • Advanced Theories of Curriculum and Instruction
  • Educational Research

Teaching and Education Programs

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Frequently Asked Questions

Question: How long does it take to complete a degree in curriculum and instruction?

Answer: The time to completion varies based on whether a student is full- or part-time and whether the program is at the master’s or doctoral level, but most master’s of education in curriculum and instruction can be completed in one to two years of full-time study, while doctoral programs typically take around five years to complete

Question: Do I need to be a certified teacher to earn a degree in curriculum and instruction?

Answer: Most graduate-level programs in curriculum and instruction prefer that applicants are certified teachers and have at least two years of teaching experience.

Question: Can I earn a master’s in curriculum and instruction online?

Answer: Yes, many schools offer curriculum and instruction degree programs online in full and part-time formats. Check with your state’s board of education to make sure your chosen program(s) will qualify if you plan to get an endorsement.

Question: How do I know if a program is accredited?

Answer: The board of education for each state typically provides a listing of approved programs for certification or administrative specialist training. You can also check for program accreditation through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).

Table Notes and References:
1. US News & World Report Best Curriculum and Instruction Programs Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-education-schools/curriculum-instruction-rankings
2. US News & World Report Best Undergraduate Teaching National University Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/undergraduate-teaching
3. National Center for Education Statistics: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
4. College Factual: https://www.collegefactual.com/