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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 and universities, professional schools, or 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.

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 students in curriculum and instruction programs are certified teachers who wish to become qualified as curriculum and instruction specialists. Due to the specialized nature of the field, curriculum and instruction degrees are mostly found at the graduate level. 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.

Quick Facts

  • There are 501 colleges and universities with curriculum and instruction programs.1
  • 4 schools offer a certificate in curriculum and instruction.1
  • No schools offer an associate’s degree in curriculum and instruction.1
  • 14 schools offer a bachelor’s degree in curriculum and instruction.1
  • 496 schools offer a master’s or advanced degree in curriculum and instruction.1

For not-for-profit colleges and universities.

Table of Contents
Curriculum and Instruction Degrees and Certification
Top-Ranked Curriculum and Instruction Degree Programs
Best Value Schools with On-Campus Curriculum and Instruction Programs
Best Value Schools with Online Curriculum and Instruction Programs
Select Curriculum and Instruction Degree Programs
Curriculum and Instruction Degree Requirements and Coursework
Additional Resources
Frequently Asked Questions

Curriculum and Instruction Specialist Degrees and Certifications

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 (often 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.

Undergraduate degrees in curriculum and instruction are uncommon due to the specialized nature of the field; therefore most prospective curriculum and instruction teachers first earn a bachelor’s degree in education or teaching, or in the subject area in which they teach. A bachelor’s degree will prepare you to further your study by earning a master’s, Education Specialist (EdS), Doctor of Education (EdD), or PhD in curriculum and instruction, which will be necessary if you want to practice as a specialist.

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 yet 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, especially in public K-12 schools. If this is the case, you should either look for a program that includes teacher certification or plan to become certified through an alternative route. To gain state certification, you will need to attend a teacher certification program approved by your state and pass your state’s required exams. Check with your state’s board of education for more details. If you are already a certified teacher, you may be able to add an endorsement in curriculum and instruction to your teaching license to qualify you to be a specialist. Certification may not be required for jobs outside of the public school system.

Curriculum and instruction is a broad field; as such, most degrees in curriculum and instruction offer further areas of specialization (also referred to as concentrations, specialties, or emphases). Common areas of specialization include:

  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)/Behavioral Analysis: Focuses on changing or improving behavior like social skills or communication using learning principles and theory.
  • Educational Level: Emphasizes the instruction of a certain age group, such as early childhood education (ECE), elementary education, middle grades education, or secondary school (high school) education.
  • Educational Technology/Instructional Technology: Emphasizes the use of technology as an instruction tool in the classroom.
  • English as a Second Language (ESL): Focuses on the instruction of students for whom English is not their first language.
  • Gifted and Talented Studies: Focuses on the instruction of students who have been identified as gifted.
  • Special Education: Focuses on the instruction of students with identified disabilities.
  • STEM Education: Focuses on STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
  • Other Subject Area: Focuses on one school subject such as literacy, science, math, a foreign language, or English.

Top-Ranked Curriculum and Instruction Degree Programs

US News & World Report’s Best Curriculum and Instruction Graduate Programs 2020

  • Michigan State University (#1; online)
  • University of Wisconsin—Madison (#2; on campus)
  • Teachers College, Columbia University (#3; on campus)
  • University of Michigan–Ann Arbor (#4; on campus and hybrid)
  • Stanford University (#5; on campus)
  • Ohio State University (#6; on campus)
  • Vanderbilt University (#7; on campus)
  • Indiana University–Bloomington (#8 tie; on campus or online)
  • University of California–Los Angeles (#8 tie; online)
  • University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign (#10; on campus or online)2

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 Rank2US News Undergrad Teaching Rank3Grad Rate1% Tenured Faculty4Net Price1
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 CREATE;
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 CREATE;
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 CREATE;
MS Digital Environments for Learning, Teaching, & Agency;
MS Language & Literacy;
PhD CREATE;
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
NR#196%45%$17,030
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

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 Rank2US News Undergrad Teaching Rank3Grad Rate1% Tenured Faculty4Net Price1
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

Select Curriculum and Instruction Degree Programs

Traditional 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 from one of four concentration areas: Multicultural Education; Curriculum Theory; Social Studies Education; or Foundations of Education. All 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 (EdD) in Curriculum and Instruction that can be completed in as few as four years.

University of Illinois atUrbana-Champaign

The top-ranked Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois at 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.

Online and Hybrid 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 and 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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Additional Resources

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: What kinds of degrees are offered in curriculum and instruction?

Answer: The vast majority of degrees in curriculum and instruction are found at the graduate level as Master of Education (M.Ed. or EdM) or Master of Arts (MA) degrees, Education Specialist (EdS), Doctor of Education (EdD), or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees. Master’s degrees, EdSs, and EdDs tend to be more focused more on the practice and application of educational theory, while PhD programs tend to be aimed at those who want to conduct research or be educators in the field.

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 be certified teachers who 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). While CAEP accreditation is optional, it is viewed as an indicator of quality and many states accept CAEP-accredited programs as meeting teacher certification requirements.

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