Successful schools require not just great teachers, but also effective curricula—the content of what is taught. Raising the quality of education will help today’s kids and adult learners to gain the skills and competencies so they—and our country—can thrive. A huge part of that is the content and delivery of education, and this is what you will learn in an online master’s in curriculum and instruction. Master’s in curriculum and instruction careers place graduates in the classrooms, teaching other teachers, designing courses and state standards, and taking on leadership roles in the education systems at all levels. If you are thinking of starting this degree, but wonder, “what can i do with a master’s in curriculum and instruction?” then read on to get some ideas about what this degree could do for your career.
Top 3 Reasons to Earn a Curriculum and Instruction Master’s
- Become a Leader in Education in the 21st Century:
With the skills you learn in this degree, you will be helping to improve educational outcomes, design programs that work, and get the satisfaction of doing something important for your community.
- Increase Your Lifetime Salary:
The degree you get now will likely qualify you for a higher salary, even if you stay in your current job. But you will also be able to take on master’s in curriculum and instruction careers that will get you into higher income brackets. Over a lifetime, this will add up to a significant boost in your income, especially if you chose one of the more on the market.
- Broaden and Deepen Your Skills:
Whether you plan to use the degree in the classroom to improve your teaching, expand to administrative roles in education, switch to corporate training, or any other career move, you will have in-demand skills in educational theory and application that will make you better at whatever path you choose.
Is a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Worth It?
To rise in your career in education, or to switch into an education career, you will likely need a master’s degree to get beyond the basic levels of the profession. Your options for master’s in curriculum and instruction careers are quite wide, with everything from becoming a principal to a curriculum designer within your possible choices. To be highly valued in education, whether teaching in the classroom or working for a government education department to set policy, you will need a master’s degree. With one as versatile as the online master’s in curriculum and instruction, you can have mobility to use your skills in many contexts. Plus, you can pursue this degree online for a very reasonable cost, keeping your current job and home life intact. Getting the degree is a solid choice for anyone who works in education.
What is Curriculum & Instruction?
Curriculum and instruction is the field of study that looks at the content and delivery of education to students at any level, trying to make more effective learning possible. By studying educational theories, delivery methods, and student outcomes, professionals can analyze and come up with new ways of making learning effective. Curriculum designers and curriculum developers can be part of a team that helps education move forward to lift more people out of poverty, giving them skills and knowledge that can help them to participate in our increasingly technological economies. This field will teach you how to become a curriculum writer within either a general or specialized area of education.
Master of Arts vs. Master of Science in Curriculum & Instruction
If you are interested in curriculum development or curriculum design, getting youris the best path forward. But should you get a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Arts (MA) in curriculum and instruction? While much of the subject matter for both degree types will be quite similar, there are some differences in the emphasis of the curriculum of the degrees. MA degrees are more humanities-focused, while MS degrees will have a more scientific, analytical emphasis. While you might find a course in quantitative assessment analysis in an MA program, you would be more likely to find multiple courses on similar subjects in an MS program. In an MA program, more theoretical and design ideas will be studied, but you will still find plenty of education theory in an MS.
Another difference with these two types of curriculum and instruction master’s degrees is that the MS is a better choice if you want to continue on to get a doctorate in the subject. While most doctoral programs will accept either type of master’s for admission, you will get more of the research skills in an MS degree that will help you more easily transition into a doctoral program.
If you are a more statistically minded person, you may be more comfortable and interested in pursuing an MS, but it may be just as helpful to stretch yourself to learn more of the theoretical side of this subject. The reverse is true of those with a more creative mindset: learning the analytical skills that can help you to apply your ideas in education may help you to be able to take on leadership roles more effectively.
Another way to think about the two degree types is that the MA is more geared to applying theories to the real world, while the MS is a bit more focused on research. With both degrees, you will learn education theory, research skills, and the differences in the two degree types may end up being smaller than you think. So, look at programs in this subject with an open mind, getting a sense of the ethos of the program, the courses you would take, and take the time to think about what will fit you best, no matter the master’s type offered.
Master of Art Curriculum & Instruction: Degree Overview
When you enroll in an online curriculum and instruction master’s program, you will learn how to become a curriculum writer and how to apply educational theories to curriculum design. The MA programs will give you all the tools you need to fulfill these functions in somewhere between 30-36 credits of graduate coursework. Average program times for completion are two years, with most students taking courses while working full time. Some programs will allow you to take more classes at a time and graduate more quickly or progress more slowly through the curriculum to accommodate a busy life, so check on the schedule requirements of any programs you are considering to see if it will work with your life.
- Lindenwood University Master of Arts in Education / Curriculum & Instruction
- University of Iowa Master of Arts in Teaching, Leadership & Cultural Competency
- Grand Canyon University Master of Arts in Curriculum & Instruction
Though master’s in curriculum and instruction careers may take you into the classroom to teach, not all MA programs will offer a pathway to certification. Depending on whether you are already a certified teacher in your state, or whether you are taking the degree partly to get your teaching license, you will need to look for a program that has the appropriate pathway for the positions you are interested in after you graduate.
MA programs are often designed specifically for working adults, so part-time attendance is quite common. Online or evening classes are often offered, with some programs holding intensives in the summer or during traditional school breaks to accommodate students who are also classroom teachers or employed in the school system as curriculum developers. Some programs require you to have classroom experience and a teaching license before enrolling, while others are designed for people who may be switching to master’s in curriculum and instruction careers. There are appropriate programs for people with almost any experience or bachelor’s degree type, but if you don’t have the appropriate experience or coursework, you may be required to take some leveling classes before you begin.
Some MA in curriculum development and instruction programs have a general program, but many will allow you to concentrate in an area of specialty. There are many possible concentrations, but some common subject areas would be special education, mathematics, literacy, bilingual and multicultural education, gifted and talented, education technology, early childhood, and many more. Even in programs that offer a general program with no narrow concentration, by doing class projects, a capstone, or a thesis applying theories to your area of interest, you can tailor the degree to your needs. “What can I do with a master’s in curriculum and instruction?” you wonder? Pretty much any specialization that piques your interest within education.
For instance, the MA from Grand Canyon University offers a structured program of courses that include Curriculum Design Theories, Brain-Based Learning, Methods of Instruction and Assessment, and a Capstone project. The capstone can be an applied project that you create to incorporate your subject area or population of students and help you further your goals, while you will find that the other courses all have applications to teaching in your field of expertise.
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Master of Science Curriculum & Instruction: Degree Overview
Like the MA programs, the MS curriculum and instruction master’s programs are usually between 30-36 credits of study and can take between one to two years to complete, depending on how many classes you take at a time. Some programs will allow you to take fewer classes at a time but will usually still require you to finish within a certain number of years, often five to seven. When you are finding the right program for your needs, the scheduling and enrollment policies can vary, but you are likely to find a program that will have requirements that fit your time constraints, as many people will work while completing their curriculum and instruction master’s degree.
- Capella University MS Ed - Curriculum and Instruction
- Eastern Oregon University Master of Science in Education / Curriculum & Instruction
- Grand Canyon University Master of Arts in Curriculum & Instruction
Many of the concentrations offered for the MS in curriculum and instruction overlap with the MA as well. You will find programs with concentrations in elementary STEM education, higher education, English as a second language, educational technology, urban education, special education, and more. If you wonder “what can i do with a master’s in curriculum and instruction?” you will find that you have options in the classroom, educational leadership, government policy, or corporate training. Just as curriculum and instruction jobs may take graduates into administrative or policy positions, it may also be continuing education for classroom teachers who want to hone their expertise. Some MS programs will offer an option to work toward teacher certification, while others will be more geared towards those who have teaching experience.
To take one school as an example, the MS in Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Purdue University doesn’t lead to licensure for teachers, but there may be options for some of their concentrations to get advanced teacher certifications. You don’t have to be a teacher to enroll in the Purdue program, as administrators and curriculum specialists are also welcome, but some experience in the field of education is recommended. The concentrations offered in the program are Educational Technology, Integrated STEM Education, English Language Learning, Mathematics Education, and Gifted, Creative, and Talented Studies. For the degree, students will take core courses like Theories & Trends in Curriculum and Instruction, Teachers as Leaders, and Multicultural Education. The concentrations will all have specialized courses, such as English Language Development, Social and Affective Development of Gifted Children, Foundation of Learning Design and Technology, Teaching and Learning Algebra and Functions, and Assessment in STEM Education. In addition, most concentrations allow for one elective class, so students can add on an area that will most benefit them in their master’s in curriculum and instruction careers.
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5 Career Outcomes with a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction
There are many curriculum and instruction jobs out there, most notably as a curriculum specialist, coordinator, designer, developer, manager, and so on. But master’s in curriculum and instruction careers can also include jobs such as educational program officer, teacher trainers, lead teacher, training and development manager, education consultant, instructional technology manager, school principal. And many more. Let’s take a look at some of the most common career outcomes for curriculum and instruction graduates:
- Curriculum Specialist
These professionals support classroom teachers with their expertise in developing new curricula, improving content, training teachers, and acting as collaborators on the ground to support the delivery of superior learning. For training and development specialists, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects job growth of 11% between 2020-2030, which is faster than average.
- Curriculum Developer
Creating instructional materials for the classroom or online delivery, curriculum developers support teachers by researching the effectiveness of materials, improving curricula, and helping teachers implement new curricula. Technical curriculum developers can command much higher salaries and often work in companies. For training and development specialists, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects job growth of 11% between 2020-2030, which is faster than average.
- Curriculum Coordinator
Curriculum coordinators are teaching leaders who help develop educational plans, implement them, order educational resources, coordinate plans across the school or district, align curricula with state standards, and analyze results of state testing. For instructional coordinators, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects job growth of 10% between 2020-2030, which is about average.
- High School Teacher
Primary responsibility for instructing secondary school classes in academic, vocational, technical, or specialized subject at public or private schools. For high school teachers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects job growth of 8% between 2020-2030, which is about average.
- School Principal
Principals are leaders of the overall school, supervising administrative, teaching, and support staff. They are responsible for providing a safe and productive learning environment and having oversight over curriculum. For elementary, middle, and high school principals, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects job growth of 8% between 2020-2030, which is about average.
For every region of the country and every level of experience and education, the curriculum specialist salary or other school salaries can vary widely from these medians. You will also find that the curriculum coordinator job description may overlap with the curriculum developer job description, and the job title for either set of responsibilities could be “curriculum specialist.” So, while there are distinctions between these different positions, different districts may define the jobs in slightly different ways. However, all three are involved in working with teachers and administrators to plan effective curricula to serve the needs of students in their programs. Teachers and principals, as well as many other educational professionals, will benefit greatly by getting their master’s degree in curriculum and instruction.
Who Shouldn’t Get a Curriculum and Instruction Master’s?
A curriculum and instruction master’s degree may not be the right degree for all education professionals. You may wonder, “what can’t I do with a master’s in curriculum and instruction?” For some specialties, curriculum and instruction is not in the center of capabilities required to do the job. If you want to be an instructional designer, working with technology to create online educational resources, you will want to get a degree in instructional design, which includes much more technical training and work with delivery formats. For people who are switching to a teaching career from another field, a master’s in teaching (MAT) may be a more appropriate degree because it gives you hands-on experience in the art of teaching. Also, for those seeking a teaching license, most curriculum and instruction master’s programs do not include a certification pathway, so an MAT or another master’s degree may be a better choice.
Getting your online master’s in curriculum and instruction is a great way to take the skills and understanding that you have of teaching, your subject matter, or the education system to the next level. Becoming a leader in education requires being part of the massive changes that are taking place in education, and whether you are a teacher, an administrator, a specialist, or a corporate training expert, getting your master’s degree in this field will help you design and deliver the best educational experiences for students. You will also likely get a raise, even if you keep your current position. Higher salary, more effective skills, and the ability to move up into leadership positions—what’s not to like about a curriculum and instruction master’s program?