Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction

Note: This page provides details on getting a Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. For master's degree information, please see our Master's in Curriculum and Instruction page.

Earning a Doctoral Degree in Curriculum and Instruction can be a lengthy process, taking 3 to 4 years for most. Doctoral programs in this area are typically intended for graduate students seeking a research or advanced teaching position. Earning a doctoral degree can mean career advancement for many who move from the classroom to a curriculum design position or those who move from school age teaching to college level professorship positions. This type of move typically comes with a pay raise.

Choosing an Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction

If you are considering an online degree, you might notice you have quite a few options. It is important to choose a school that is reputable. The following questions may help you in making your decision:

Is the Program Accredited?

To help you understand if a school is reputable or not, one of the first things you can do is to acquire about accreditation. Accreditation happens when an agency or bureau evaluates a school or program based on standards as established by the representing organization. Curriculum and Instruction programs should be accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP). To learn more about accreditation, visit:ed.gov/accreditation.

How Long Has the Program Been Offered?

Being aware of the length of time a school or program has been in operation is a good way to gauge reputation. Do keep in mind that online learning is a comparatively new way of earning a degree, so you are not going to see programs that have been around for many decades. However, do be on the lookout for schools that have only been around for a couple years and have not earned accreditation. Your doctoral degree will not be valid if the school is not accredited.

What Technologies Will Be Used to Facilitate Online Learning?

Online learning platforms vary from school to school, so it may be a good idea to research them before signing on. These learning platform facilitate learning and teaching, essentially acting as a virtual classroom. Online learning platforms such as Moodle and Canvas allow students to access learning materials, multimedia lectures, and communicate with peers and instructors.

What Resources Will I Have Access To?

Online schools often give graduate students access to tools and resources like research databases, journals, career contacts, technology assistance, and mentorship programs. Before choosing a school, it may be a good idea to see what online resources will be available to you as these can really enhance your online learning experience.

What Skills and Topics Are Covered?

To help determine whether or not a program is right for you and your career goals, you may want to see a breakdown of the curriculum. Knowing about the skills and topics beforehand will help you make a confident decision. Be wary of online schools that boast programs that seem "fast and easy". This may be a red flag, as reputable degree programs should require a significant amount of work and effort.

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

Getting to know what recent graduates have done with their online doctorate in curriculum and instruction is a good assessment of how compatible the program is for you and your needs. If given the opportunity, ask graduates how and if their online degree has helped them reach their career goals. Ask for advice about the online learning experience.

Is an Online Degree Right for You?

Many online programs have come into existence in the last decade. Several of these programs offer doctoral degrees online or in a mixed format with fieldwork experiences as well as online work. The advantage of getting a degree online is the availability of start times, scheduling to work around your professional life, and typically cost. Many programs are cheaper in an online format as no actual classroom is necessary. Online classes may also be shorter, but more intense over time.

Tuition and Costs

Earning a doctoral degree in any program can be costly, but some financial help may be available by means of loans and grants through the FAFSA program. The following costs are usually omitted when earning a degree through an online college or university:

  • No costs associated with driving to and from class, parking passes, and on-campus dining.
  • No costs related to moving or living on near campus.
  • Ability to maintain a career and source of income.
  • Often times, there will be no out-of-state fees.

Faster Completion

A common upside we hear about getting an online degree is the amount of time it takes to actually complete a program. This is usually due to the fact that online programs offer a more flexible class schedule. Students may have the option to pick from a wide range of classes with differing start times. Since physical attendance is not required, a lot of students find that they can get more classes competed in a shorter amount of time. Online learners can personalize their class schedules so they can do more in a shorter amount of time.

Accessibility and Convenience

Online degree programs are appealing to those who do not live near a college campus. Since doctoral degrees are very specific, it may be hard for people to find a physical school that is close enough for them to attend. 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.

Flexible Schedule

Online degree programs offer adult students the flexibility they need. For many, this is the single selling point for seeking and online degree. Since students are not required to physically attend class, they have the ability to complete coursework on their own time and from any location. A flexible schools schedule helps students juggle work, family, classes, and other obligations.

Program Curriculum

It is usually a good indication if an online degree program's curriculum is similar to a traditional one. You may even find that online programs are more rigorous. In a good program, you should be able to find:

  • Hard deadlines established to keep students on the right track. This could include things such as assignments, presentations, tests, or reading reflections.
  • Online student interaction requirements via message boards or whole class chat rooms.
  • Doctoral programs should include a cumulative exam, dissertation, portfolio, or project.

Doctoral Program Course Topics

Candidates who are pursuing their Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction work hard to provide their chosen field with new information through research and their dissertation material. While the scope of the field is vast, many PhD candidates will touch on the following topics throughout their career as a student or fellow:

  • Scrutinize social and educational theories of past and present
  • Consider personal and professional experience in the context of effective curriculum and instruction, from both a teacher and learner perspective
  • Frame and pursue issues in education that the individual encounters throughout their career
  • Connect information about instruction globally to that of the United States
  • Use comparative perspectives on important aspects of education
  • Learn to objectively view the concepts of globalization and reform as they affect teaching and learning
  • Examine and evaluate the roles that politics and economics may have on instructional culture
  • Use case studies to evaluate instructional practices throughout the world
  • Construct an historic context for landmark institutions and trends in education
  • Consider the U.S. teaching demographic in international context
  • Use theory, method and practice to create excellent curriculum
  • Examine historical antecedents to formal instruction as we know it
  • Research the values that impact teaching various demographics

Instructional Technology and Curriculum Development

Many degree programs in the field of Curriculum and Instruction emphasize the important integration of technology and curriculum development. Technology is all around us, impacting almost every part of our lives. However, most schools are far behind when it comes to bringing technology into everyday learning. This integration must surpass teaching basic computer skills. In order for technology integration to be successful, it must be planned and implemented across the curriculum. The partnership should happen in ways to enhance the learning process. Many degree programs in instructional design or curriculum and development provide students with opportunities to explore the connection of instructional technology and 21st century teaching and learning environments.

What Can I Do With a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction?

A Doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instructional Design can open the door to many opportunities in both the private business sector and the educational field. Below are a few of the available careers in this area:

College Professor

Many people who earn a doctorate in this area are choosing to do so to work in higher education at the college or university level. This job typically requires a doctorate. The outlook for professors is average as many schools are going online which allows the professor to teach more classes overall.

Associate Dean of Instruction

This job requires someone to work with the head Dean of Instruction to manage college-wide instructional goals and campus operations. This may require supervision of professors and maintaining of certifications for each department.

School Principal

A school principal is responsible for the day to day running of a school as well as ensuring teachers are properly teaching their given subject areas. School principal jobs vary from year to year, but with many reaching retirement age the field is opening up. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has more useful information on school principals.

Online Instructor

While specific training is often required for the given platform, this is usually short and offered by the hiring agency. The number of students, responsibilities, and hours vary from school to school.

Educational Consultant

An educational consultant typically works for themselves or for a business or businesses. These individuals offer programs to help employee growth and morale. These may be speakers or coordinators that work with a single business or several over time.

Professional Associations

Another way to help support and develop a great school curriculum is to take part in professional associations and organizations. Those in the field of curriculum and instruction will want to continuously stay in the loop regarding new information and professional development. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) is the leader in creating and delivering innovative programs that are dedicated to creating curriculum to support the success of each learner. Such organizations give opportunities for professionals to network and stay up-to-date with new research and findings.