Curriculum & Instruction

Aiming For a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction

Aiming For a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction
Curriculum and instruction experts will always be in demand as long as education remains a critical national priority. With the economy inexorably shifting toward technology, medicine, and other knowledge-based fields, that prioritization seems a very safe long-term bet. Image from Unsplash
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Mairead Kelly November 16, 2020

If writing, editing, planning, or managing curriculum at the district, state, or national level appeal to you, a master's in curriculum and instruction can advance your career. We cover how to earn this degree and the jobs for which it qualifies you.

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As a classroom teacher, your work can exert tremendous impact on one—or several—classrooms full of students every year. But what if you’re looking to influence education on a broader scale?

In that case, you may want to consider a career in curriculum and instruction. By earning a master’s in this field, you open opportunities to affect instruction in hundreds of private, charter, and public school classrooms worldwide.

Whether you pursue an online program, go the on-campus route, or advance your skillset through a hybrid approach, a master’s in curriculum and instruction degree enhances your training and sets you on a path to become an instructional leader at the school, district, and state level. You’ll enjoy opportunities to become an instructional coordinator, curriculum or education specialist, principal or administrator, or director of curriculum and instructional design, among others.

In this article about a master’s in curriculum and instruction, we cover:

  • What is a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction?
  • How long does it take to earn a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction?
  • Master’s degree in curriculum and instruction jobs
  • Why get a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction?

What is a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction?

Graduate education programs confer a variety of master’s degrees and doctorates. In curriculum and instruction, the most commonly pursued master’s degree program is the Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. Often described as a practice-based or professional master’s, this MEd combines field-based or practicum experiences with coursework in the theory, history, and psychology of learning. Curricula span topics including pedagogy and instructional strategies, classroom and curriculum management, and educational research. A bachelor’s degree—not necessarily in education—is a common prerequisite for most master’s programs, including this one.

Admission requirements for most MEd in Curriculum and Instruction degree programs mandate that students possess a valid teaching license and have teaching experience. Because this degree qualifies holders for teacher leadership roles, candidates must have classroom experience. To design an effective learning environment, you need to know how one works.

Graduate programs in the field also exist in the Master of Art (MA) and Master of Science (MS) categories. These graduate degrees veer closer to academic than professional degrees, emphasizing research methods and theory. Both typically cover the concepts, principles, and models of curriculum design, curricular and learning theories, teacher education best practices, research methodology, and data analysis. Some MA and MS programs restrict admission to candidates who have achieved teaching licensure. Others admit both licensed and non-licensed professionals with experience in education.

Specialization areas in curriculum and instruction include:

  • Curriculum development
  • Educational technology
  • Elementary education
  • English as a second language (ESL)
  • Special education
  • STEM education

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How long does it take to earn a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction?

How long it takes to complete a graduate-level curriculum and instruction program depends on several factors:

  • Do you plan to enroll full-time or part-time?
  • Do you plan to enroll on-campus, online, or in a hybrid program?
  • How many credit hours are required to complete the degree?
  • Do you need to complete prerequisite foundation courses before starting graduate work?

The online master’s in curriculum and instruction at the College of Education at Florida State University, for example, allows students to complete the required minimum of 30 credit hours of coursework on a part-time basis; it generally takes around two years. In contrast, programs like the MEd in curriculum and instruction at Boston College note that full-time students can complete the program’s required 30 credit hours in as little as a year to a year in a half.

Then there are accelerated programs in which students can pursue the degree over a shorter, more intensive period of study. Many schools offer accelerated programs as on-campus, hybrid, or online degrees. The online MEd in curriculum and instruction at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is one example. Each course consists of intensive seven-week modules, allowing students to complete the program’s required 30 credit hours of online learning and earn their degree in as little as ten months.

Master’s degree in curriculum and instruction jobs

From improving your pedagogical style to advancing to the administrative field, a master’s in curriculum and instruction will broaden your career opportunities in the world of teaching and learning. Employment possibilities with this degree include:

Instructional coordinator

Instructional coordinators:

  • Develop their school’s curriculum
  • Oversee student and teacher progress and recommend improvements
  • Seek out instructional materials to help the school community achieve certain goals
  • Ensure their schools meet government standards for what students achieve and how they achieve it

These professionals work in a wide range of educational environments, from elementary schools and secondary schools to colleges, universities, and centers that provide academic support services. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some pursue careers in areas outside of the immediate education arena with entities that include state and local governments.

The BLS also notes that government jobs for this role offer some of the highest wages across industries. In 2019, instructional coordinators employed by the government made a median income of $76,270; that figure for instructional coordinators across all industries was $66,290.

Curriculum specialist

Curriculum specialists help improve student learning opportunities through collaboration with administrators, teachers, and other education professionals. These professionals are integral to the planning, implementation, and evaluation of education programs.

Like instructional coordinators, curriculum specialists develop and improve their school’s instructional materials and offer feedback on teachers’ implementation and effectiveness. They may also supervise the creation of instructional guidelines and policies, facilitate curriculum review committees, participate in staff development and training activities, and provide guidance to educators regarding which parts of the curriculum they must cover. According to PayScale, curriculum specialists make an average salary of $57,262.

Education specialist

The right experience—usually three years or more in the classroom—and a master’s degree opens doors to education specialist roles spanning educational leadership, school psychology, curriculum and instruction, counseling, and adult education.

Education specialists evaluate and guide improvements to curriculum, individual lesson plans, and teaching methods. They also help coordinate and communicate expectations and progress among students’ parents and guardians, guidance counselors, and teachers, which requires strong interpersonal and communication skills. On average, those in this role can expect an annual salary of $51,488.


As educational leaders, principals manage major administrative tasks, supervise students and teachers, and define performance goals within their school. They ensure that their schools adhere to local, state, and federal requirements.

Day-to-day, principals must manage students and staff, communicate with families and the greater community outside their school, and maintain the basics like safety and orderliness. They also establish a supportive learning environment for its students, which they do by analyzing curricula and student performance and implementing plans to improve a school’s performance.

Ultimately, principals must assume complete responsibility for their school and its performance. They are paid well for their efforts. According to the BLS, professionals in this role took home an annual median income of $96,400 in 2019.

Curriculum and instructional design manager

Curriculum and instructional design managers oversee the curriculum design and development process. This includes:

  • Supervising instructional designers and content developers
  • Defining the processes, tools, and templates of design
  • Collaborating with school leadership in course and program development as well as faculty development and training

Additionally, they are also typically responsible for preparing and administering the budget for their school’s instructional materials and identifying the pedagogical best practices and educational technologies needed to effectively execute its vision of success. PayScale data indicates that those in this position take home an average salary of $81,100.

Why get a master’s in curriculum and instruction?

Curriculum and instruction experts will always be in demand as long as education remains a critical national priority. With the economy inexorably shifting toward technology, medicine, and other knowledge-based fields, that prioritization seems a very safe long-term bet.

Whether you are a classroom veteran looking to make a more significant impact or an educator or administrator seeking to hone your mastery of planning, developing, implementing, and evaluating instructional programs, this degree should open doors to a wide range of new and advanced roles. It should also expand your marketability in the job market, your earning potential, and your effectiveness in supporting students and educators of all levels and learning styles across content areas.

This article was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most recent data on the subject.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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