Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction

Note: This page provides information on getting a Master's in Curriculum and Instruction, for doctoral degree details please see our Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction page.

Earning a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction may take some sacrifices, but the benefits are endless. One main benefit to earning an advanced degree is the financial gain associated in most fields. Additionally, more job opportunities are likely to be available at higher levels.

Degrees in curriculum and instruction have been around for years. People often choose this field to help shape the learning objectives and ways in which learners are presented materials within the classroom. Many people begin as teachers and move into curriculum and instructional design, but this is not a prerequisite. The field combines the principles and theories behind communication, education, and psychology to understand how people learn.

Choosing an Online Master's in Curriculum and Instruction

When considering an online master's degree, you will want to be sure the school you pick is reputable and legitimate. In order to help you with this decision, review the questions below:

Is the Program Accredited?

In short, you should be confident in your decision if the school and program you choose are accredited. Accreditation occurs when an agency or organization representing the area of study makes an assessment of validity and success. Upon request, schools should be able to provide proof of accreditation. If you would like to learn more about the accreditation process, visit: ed.gov/accreditation

How Long Has the Program Been Offered?

Being aware of the length of time a school has been in operation is a good way to gauge a program's reputation. Do keep in mind that online learning is a comparatively new way of earning a degree, so you may not see programs that have been around for longer than a decade. However, consider it a clear red flag if a school has not been in service long enough to gain full accreditation from a reputable agency (one that is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation).

What Technologies Will Be Used to Facilitate Online Learning?

Online schools use varying modes of technology to facilitate teaching and learning. Such technologies act as virtual classrooms. These "classrooms" may consist of discussion boards, online syllabi, study materials, and multimedia lectures. Some technologies are more user friendly than others so it might be a good idea to make your own assessment before signing on.

What Resources Will I Have Access To?

Many colleges and universities give students access to resources such as online catalogs, scholarly journals, and research centers. Student services such as advising, mentor programs, internships, and technology assistance may also be available. Knowing these resources ahead of time may help you make a confident decision. If a school offers student services and resources, it is usually a good sign.

What Skills and Topics Are Covered?

When considering an online degree in curriculum and instruction, you may want to become aware of the program goals before committing. Reviewing these goals will help you decide whether or not the program and its curriculum are compatible with your career goals. Program goals and outcomes should give you good insight as to what you will have learned by the time you are ready to receive your degree.

Do You Have Job Placement Information for Students Who Recently Graduated from the Program?

Getting connected with alumni is a good way to network and make career contacts. This will also give you a good idea as to what graduates have done with their online Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. If given the opportunity to connect with recent graduates, be sure to ask for tips and advice for finding success in an online program.

Is an Online Degree Right for You?

Earning a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction can be an intense process, especially for those who are busy and/or working full time. However, earning a degree online is a valid alternative. Often, online classes are shorter, but more intense. Earning a master's degree in this manner may take less time overall and will still provide the same degree certification at the end of the program. This also allows for varying start dates for busy professionals. Earning a master's degree will also allow for a higher paying position in most cases, especially for those individuals already in a related field. Below we will dig a bit deeper into online education, as it is a relatively new form of learning.

Flexible Schedule

A big appeal of online education is the flexible time schedule. For many, earning a master's degree may seem impossible due to responsibilities that come with adulthood, such as work or family. These responsibilities often limit the time and ability for such students to attend actual classes. However, online classes allow students to complete their program requirements at their own pace. Since attendance in a brick and mortar classroom is not required, students can set their own schedules. Schoolwork can be done whenever it is most convenient- whether that is early in the morning before dropping the kids off at school or during a break at work.

Accessibility and Convenience

Online education might be good for you if you do not live close to your desired campus. Many master's degree programs are very specialized and not offered at all universities. With that said, you may not be able to find a college campus close enough to where you live or work. Since physical attendance is not required, online programs give students the opportunity to have a broader range of schools and programs to select from.

Self-Starter

Time and time again, we hear that online courses require a lot of organization and planning. If you are able to motivate yourself to stay on top of due dates and requirements, online education might be a good fit for you. Online students will be held to the same expectations as those who attend school at a college campus.

Tuition and Costs

If you are considering an online degree, you may realize that some of the expenses associated with earning a higher degree from a traditional college are eliminated:

  • No fees having to do with with commuting, parking, or on-campus meals.
  • No costs related to relocating and living on campus.
  • Ability to maintain a source of income by working.

Program Curriculum

The curriculum and expectations of good online programs should be very similar than traditional ones. In strong online programs, you should be able to find:

  • Firm deadlines and trackers to help students stay on the right track. In many cases this may include tasks, presentations, practicums, quizzes, and reading assignments.
  • Communal chat rooms or message boards to help students interact and work together.
  • A culminating thesis, project, exam, portfolio, or project.

Master's Program Course Topics

Students pursuing a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction will find the course load greater than at the undergraduate level. While time management becomes critical, students also find greater freedom in allowing their professional and personal interests to drive their learning. Courses can vary widely from program to program, but some of the common topics are described below:

Instructional Technology Foundations and Theories of Learning

This course would review pedagogical and practical issues that were related to design and development of technological instruction. There is typically an emphasis in investigating instructional design as a field and applying core learning theories to applicable design in instructional technology.

Educational Research in Technology

This course focuses on developing skills and insights with a basic understanding of performing research. The focus also relies on the interpretation, critique, application, and use of educational research to help students develop and expertise in action research areas.

Visual Design and Applications

This type course will provide a basic knowledge of the capabilities of graphic and visual design applications that are currently available. Students will focus on effective visual design practices in the use of instructional products. This is often an elective.

Web Accessibility and Design

This course would help students develop an understanding of the principles of universal web design by creating accessible web sites and authoring tools. This is often an elective.

More course topics:

  • Design research questionnaires and scenarios in order to gather data on curriculum and instruction issues
  • Explore major theories that contribute to effective instruction
  • Curricular and instructional approaches to bridge first to second languages
  • Planning for effective learned by using assessment tools
  • Interact with graduate and undergraduate students to both teach and strengthen understanding of concepts
  • Study the most advanced theories and practices
  • Liaise with educators throughout the country to compare experiences and practice
  • Categorize the emotional, intellectual and developmental characteristics
  • Collaborate with stakeholders as a member of the teaching team to plan and develop curriculum
  • Identify curriculum standards and student learning goals
  • Create multidisciplinary units of instruction that involve 2 or more subjects
  • Create lesson plans that adequately cover Common Core standards and support prior learning
  • Evaluate educator's own professional practice and decide how best to remediate
  • Develop success criteria and model professional behavior that results in effective classroom discipline for greater learning
  • Gather data points for effective communication with parents
  • Use effective communication in class, clinical and field studies
  • Research emergent trends in the effectiveness of technology for instructional purposes

What Can I Do with a Master's in Curriculum and Instruction?

The face of curriculum and instruction is ever-evolving because of how quickly the educational world is changing. A Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction can be a versatile degree and may lead to a number of career paths within the field of education such as:

  • lead elementary school, middle school, or high school teacher
  • curriculum and instruction coordinator or specialist
  • department chair
  • curriculum lead
  • district liaisons
  • professional development organizer
  • and other educational leadership positions

Professional Associations

Joining professional associations is a good way to get connected, network, and stay up to date with happenings in the field of education as well as curriculum and instruction. For example, ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is a community of educators committed to excellence in teaching, learning, and leading. Such professional associations often host annual seminars, expos, and conferences. Participating in these events is a great way to continuously grow professionally.