Earning a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Online

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School curricula seem to change increasingly each year as school districts and state administrators demand more of teachers. Federal guidelines in education morph and grow, and parents pressure schools to add programming. These forces make an online master's in curriculum and instruction a valuable commodity.

Current and future teacher shortages create increasing opportunities for professionals to move into this exciting field. According to a study by the Learning Policy Institute, retirement, attrition, and other factors amount to a demand for more than 300,000 teachers each year. A master's degree in curriculum and instruction places graduates in an ideal position to assume a teaching job and to advance quickly into higher-paying jobs at the administrative level. Read on to learn about the many benefits of an online master's in curriculum and instruction.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction?

A master's degree in the education field can set applicants apart from their peers. Online master's in curriculum and instruction programs include educators with an array of goals. Many want to advance their careers and build their earning potential, while others aim to pursue a specialization in the field of education. Some prospective master's students simply desire to make a transformative impact on their schools through curriculum development.

Why Get a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction?

Pursuing Specialization

Online master's in curriculum and instruction degrees demonstrate an advanced expertise in education. At this point in many students' educational journey, they choose a specialization to focus their career in a certain area of education. Common concentrations at this level include special education, instructional technology, elementary or early education, gifted education, or the STEM disciplines.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Many schools demand that their teachers and administrators have at least a graduate-level degree. An online master's in curriculum and instruction opens doors to executive and administrative positions, which entail more responsibility and a higher earning potential. Leaders in these positions have the opportunity to guide and shape an organization.

Online Learning Technology

Graduates with their online master's in curriculum and instruction stay current on the latest technology, which proves vitally important in the modern classroom. Most online master's programs incorporate a wide variety of apps, hardware, and software, giving students a leg up in the tech world. They may also take classes in instructional technology within the field of curriculum and development.

Prerequisites for Online Curriculum and Instruction Programs

Each online curriculum and instruction program sets its own prerequisites, which commonly include a bachelor's degree and minimum standardized test scores. Some schools design their programs for working teachers, and thus require a detailed resume.

    • Work Experience: Most master's in curriculum and instruction online programs remain open to anyone with a bachelor's degree, with no prior experience requirements. However, some schools serve working teachers and require applicants to hold previous work experience.
    • Exams and Test Scores: Many master's programs require applicants to submit graduate record examination (GRE) scores, though online schools may not require standardized tests. Many distance learning programs emphasize applicants' academic transcripts and work history, instead. Schools that do mandate GRE scores typically prefer scores of at least 300.
    • Coursework: Most online master's degree in curriculum and instruction programs prefer applicants with education degrees. However, many schools now accept students from any background. Applicants with their bachelor's in education may be exempt from certain required courses.
    • Recommendations: Letters of recommendation often play significant roles in the graduate-level admissions process. For master's degrees in curriculum and instruction, these letters usually come from previous professors who can attest to an applicant's ability to handle the demands of master's coursework. Schools typically request two or three letters.
    • Essays: Master's programs often call for application essays -- especially those in the education field. These admissions departments want to know that applicants can write well and communicate their ideas effectively. Instructions typically specify 500-1,000 words on a particular topic.
    • Interviews: Most online programs don't require applicant interviews, but admissions counselors who remain on the fence about a candidate may ask for one.
    • International Students: Many colleges and universities require international students to demonstrate proficiency in English. Some might also ask to see financial information, or require a transcript evaluation by a third party.

How Much Can I Make with a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction?

An online master's degree in curriculum and instruction can open up a range of career possibilities in the education field, including administrative and creative positions. Salaries vary widely by occupation. For example. school administrators can make upwards of $100,000 annually, while freelance editorial consultants may earn half that. College professors generally earn $76,000 per year, while school counselors make about $48,000.

Traditional Careers for Master's in Curriculum and Instruction Graduates

Career Stats Description

Instructional Coordinator

Median Pay: $63,750

Job Growth: 11%

Instructional coordinators develop and manage a school or organization's curriculum. They often assume responsibility for teacher training, tests, and assessments, and acquire educational materials.

Ideal for: Organized, creative, and efficient individuals with strong skills in communication, people management, and planning.

Postsecondary Education Administrators

Median Pay: $92,360

Job Growth: 10%

Colleges hire postsecondary education administrators to run an array of departments on their campuses. These might include student services, counseling, research, or other management positions.

Ideal for: Individuals with strong leadership skills and the ability to manage personnel, solve problems, and think creatively.

University Professor

Median Pay: $76,000

Job Growth: 15%

College professors perform many jobs beyond teaching in the classroom. They serve as advisers and mentors, run academic departments, develop curricula, conduct research, and write for publications.

Ideal for: Individuals who enjoy academia and have strong interpersonal skills, creative streaks, and high IQs.

Curriculum Director

Median Pay: $73,058

Job Growth: N/A

Curriculum directors help school systems and colleges set, develop, and uphold academic standards. They establish goals, design curricula, train teachers, and interact with school administrators.

Ideal for: Focused, organized individuals with strong skills in communication, planning, and problem-solving.

Nontraditional Careers for Master's in Curriculum and Instruction Graduates

Career Stats Description

Educational Consultant

Median Pay: $62,460

Job Growth: N/A

Schools and parents hire educational consultants to assist students with their individual performance. These professionals help prepare students for standardized tests and college by developing curricula, setting training goals, and monitoring data to ensure students and schools hit targets.

Ideal for: Self-directed, confident individuals with planning ability and goal orientation.

Paying for an Online Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction

Paying for school poses challenges for many students in online curriculum and instruction programs. Several options can make arranging funding easier. If you enroll in accelerated sessions, for example, you can earn your degree more quickly, and often pay less in tuition. Applicants should also seek schools with fixed, flat tuition rates, which can save students a considerable amount in costs. Prospective students should also search for scholarships and grants, since many organizations fund students in education and teaching programs.

Subject-Specific Financial Aid, Grants, and Scholarships

Funding your graduate education often requires scholarship or grant aid. Many foundations, communities, and businesses sponsor scholarships specifically for educators. See several options below.

What to Expect from a Master’s Level Online Curriculum and Instruction Program

A master's in curriculum and instruction online typically takes two years to complete. Most programs require you to earn 36 credits to graduate. The exact program length depends on whether you enroll part time or full time. At most universities, students work through four or five core classes, and use the rest of their studies to tailor their education. This might entail selecting a degree concentration, which may include school administration, instructional technology, STEM disciplines, literacy, or elementary education. Most schools conclude with a culminating project, such as a master's thesis or a capstone.

Major Milestones

  1. Specialization

    Selecting a specialization often ranks among the first orders of business for new students in online master's in curriculum and instruction programs. This decision impacts the pathway you follow, including which courses you take.

  2. Core Courses Completed

    Most online curriculum and instruction programs include five or six core courses, which all degree candidates must take. Students typically complete these courses across their first two or three semesters, depending on availability.

  3. Seminar

    The seminar session serves as the prelude to the capstone. Students in their seminar must synthesize information from their degree and prepare a portfolio.

  4. Capstone

    The capstone generally concludes academic work in an online master's in curriculum and instruction, and comes at the very end of a student's program. Distance learners must complete a major project under the guidance of a faculty supervisor.

  5. Master's Thesis

    Programs that don't feature a capstone option usually require students to prepare a master's thesis. This major research paper often takes a year or more to complete.

  6. Application to Doctoral Program

    Many students earning their online master's in curriculum and instruction continue on to a terminal degree in the field. They usually begin preparing applications in their final semester.

Coursework

Every university creates its own curriculum for its online master's degree in curriculum and instruction program. Some schools might emphasize technology, for example, or offer an array of specializations. Most, however, feature a common set of courses, such as those below.

Overview of Contemporary School Curricula

This class explores lessons in use in modern classrooms, taking into account the effectiveness of today's models, how children learn, school politics and culture, and how to best implement change.

Teaching as Inquiry

Students in this course learn to question their approach as educators. They examine curricula to see what works and what doesn't, and how to identify areas for improvement.

Instructional Technology

This three-credit course explores various technologies in modern classrooms, including computers, apps, tablets, and other tech tools.

Differentiated Instruction

Different learners may learn best from different curricula. Educators research methods for effective instruction of students of different abilities, backgrounds, and aptitudes in a single classroom setting.

Capstone

Most online master's in curriculum and instruction programs conclude with some sort of special project, like a capstone. Common prompts include designing a sample curriculum and solving common problems in modern education.

Licenses and Certifications

An online master's degree in curriculum and instruction qualifies applicants for a wide variety of career options, for which requirements vary. Graduates who want to work in school administration, for example, may need a principal's or superintendent's license to do so. Those pursuing research or freelance writing careers do not need licensure. Many school districts and agencies require educators to obtain a teaching license before assuming roles in curriculum development. This licensure usually entails a set number of hours of experience, and passage of state board of education exams.

    • Teaching License: Every state sets its own teacher certification requirements. Most require at least a bachelor's degree before you can apply for certification. Other common requirements include student teaching hours in the classroom and a passing score on the state's licensing exam. Most upper-level positions in education require a teacher's license.
    • Principal's License: Most states require principals to earn licensure of some sort. Most mandate that school administrators hold a master's degree and teacher's license, while others require additional graduate-level certification in school administration.
    • Superintendent's License: Much like for principal licensure, requirements for superintendent licensure vary by state. Qualifications may include a master's degree in school administration.
    • Specialty Certification: Many universities offer specialty certification at the graduate level. These certificate-based programs typically comprise four or five classes in a specific subject area such as special education, STEM discipline, instructional technology, school administration, literacy, or elementary education.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Associations, like those listed below, give graduates access to a wealth of resources including networking, conferences, professional development opportunities, and continuing education workshops and seminars. These organizations often offer mentoring, job boards, and career services, and connect members with the latest news and research.

  • American Association for Teaching and Curriculum: Founded in 1993 to promote curriculum and instruction as a discipline, AATC gives members access to an array of resources. These include listservs, a conference, networking opportunities, and peer review.
  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development: ASCD boasts more than 114,000 members, including school administrators, teachers, and education leaders. The organization promotes excellence in pedagogy through a conference, professional learning opportunities, publications, and educational resources.
  • American Educational Research Association: AERA works to improve education nationwide through the use of scholarly research and assessment. The organization offers members subscriptions to journals and access to special interest groups and job boards, and sponsors grants and funding.
  • National Education Association: As the nation's largest employee association, the NEA strives to advance public education. With more than 3 million members, the organization oversees a vast array of resources including professional development, advocacy, networking, publications, and information exchange.
  • National Association of State Boards of Education: NASBE represents educational boards across the country, working to advance educational excellence on a state-by-state basis. Members receive professional development opportunities and can join study groups and task forces, participate in webinars, or attend conferences.