What is a Curriculum and Instruction Degree?

Curriculum and instruction (C&I) are the interrelated cornerstones of education. Curriculum or course content is what is taught. Instruction or implementation of curriculum is how that content is taught.

C&I specialists are the architects of teaching and learning. Their ultimate goal is to improve education systems by finding ways to help students better engage and achieve. At its core, their work is about asking questions, the answers to which are always evolving. What to teach, why to teach a topic, how to teach, how to assess and evaluate, and how to use technology in the classroom are the consistent drivers of the field of curriculum and instruction.

Students of C&I learn to evaluate academic standards and understand how they impact curriculum development, design materials and identify their potential flaws, analyze and recommend instructional methods, and apply developmental psychology to these processes.

Program Options

It is important to select curriculum and instruction programs which have received accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction – One to Two Year Duration
The Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction is the minimum credential required of professionals working in the field. Admission requirements to a C&I master’s program are a bachelor’s degree and in most cases teaching experience and a valid teaching license. Programs are typically structured around core courses and an area of emphasis chosen by the student. Concentration options may include mathematics, literacy, elementary education, and foreign language instruction.

Here is some sample coursework from a master’s level curriculum and instruction program:

Core Courses

  • Foundations of Curriculum
  • Teachers as Leaders
  • Teachers as Learners: Developmental Theory, Research, and Practice
  • Theory and Practice in Teaching Diverse Populations
  • Introduction to Learning Design and Technology
  • Design and Evaluation of Instructional Materials
  • The Teaching of Composition
  • Reading in the Content Areas
  • Advanced Educational Psychology
  • Adolescent Development
  • Special Problems in Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Processes
  • Research Applications in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Teacher as Researcher
  • Educational Testing and Measurement
  • Statistics for Behavioral Sciences
  • Master’s Thesis Research and Preparation

Possible Concentrations

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Elementary Education
  • English Education
  • Foreign and Second Language Education
  • Mathematics Education
  • Science Education
  • Social Science Education
  • Visual Disabilities

Doctoral Degree in Curriculum and Instruction – Three to Four Year Duration
The C&I doctoral program seeks to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the field from the perspectives of theory, research, and practice. In other words, its objective is to leave its graduates with advanced knowledge in all of these areas:

  • Diversity and Advocacy – ability to promote social justice and education equity
  • Curriculum – ability to design, implement, and evaluate curriculum that promotes student learning
  • Instruction – ability to plan, implement, and evaluation instruction to facilitate student learning
  • Students – understanding of the student as influenced by cognitive, physical, emotional, social, cultural, environmental, and economic factors
  • Research – ability to use research to promote student learning and to contribute to the teaching profession
  • Assessment – ability to use multiple sources of assessment for optimizing student learning
  • Professional Practices – ability to work productively with colleagues and other adults and demonstrate teacher supervisory and coaching skills

Doctoral degree requirements include coursework, professional engagement such as conference presentations, professional development publications, comprehensive exams, and proposal and defense of a dissertation.

The coursework component of a curriculum and instruction doctoral program typically encompasses some compulsory classes in the areas of:

  • Research
  • Leadership
  • General Curriculum and Instruction

In addition, students take courses in their chosen area of focus, examples of which are:

  • Adult and Continuing Education
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Educational and Community Organizations / Policy and Governance
  • Health and Wellness Education
  • Higher Education Administration / Law, Compliance, and Governance in Higher Education
  • Instructional Leadership
  • International Education / International Programs and Curricula
  • Literacy / Reading
  • Online Education / E-Learning
  • Second Language Instruction / English as a Second Language (ESL)
  • Special Education
  • STEM (Science / Technology / Engineering / Mathematics) Education

Degrees Similar to Curriculum and Instruction

Creative Writing
In creative writing programs students analyze how prose and poetry are constructed and also write their own works. Typical classes include American poetry, fiction writing, the contemporary short story, and the creative process.

Desktop and Web Publishing
Programs in desktop and web publishing teach the design and layout of printed and digital documents. Coursework includes web design, multimedia design, writing, and editing.

Students who major in education study the learning and teaching processes. Among the courses they take are educational psychology and teaching techniques.

In English degree programs, students read, study, and write about the literature and culture of the English-speaking world. Coursework also includes the history, linguistic structure, and use of the English language.

Journalism degree programs teach students how to report, write, and edit articles for broadcast or publication. They include classes in broadcast news writing, copyediting and design, reporting, and media law and ethics.

Speech Communication and Rhetoric
Degree programs in speech communication and rhetoric focus on the study of human communication. Students of the discipline examine how we communicate one on one, within organizations, and in the larger contexts of politics, cultures, and societies. Coursework includes public speaking, speech writing, and analysis and criticism of examples of persuasive speaking or writing.

Technical Writing
Degree programs in technical writing teach students how to convey technical information in writing. Coursework covers building documentation templates and style guides, recognizing translation issues, and formatting documents for visual appeal. And because technical writers are the mediators between the technical subject matter experts and the document end users, programs also stress the importance of developing a communication pathway between technicians and writers.

Skills You’ll Learn

Curriculum and instruction graduates come away from their studies with a considerable set of transferable skills:

Computer Software
Curriculum and instruction professionals produce documentation in various formats. This means that they learn how to use computer software applications and tools – a skill that is transferable to many different fields of work.

Core Writing Skills
Of course, this is the indispensable skill that every curriculum and instruction graduate brings to the job. Throughout the course of their studies, they learn how to write clearly, concisely, and grammatically, with the appropriate style and tone.

Discipline and Creativity
Creating and implementing curricula calls for both discipline and creativity. In the curriculum development and instruction field, discipline means adhering to school board standards and guidelines and paying unrelenting attention to detail. Creativity means identifying the best ways to organize material and convey information while remaining within those guidelines.

Interest in the User Experience
An effective and successful curriculum is one that is validated by the user experience, the confirmation that its objective is met.

Learning and Adaptability
Curriculum and instruction specialists and coordinators are typically lifelong learners, who enjoy the challenge of adapting to evolving requirements to improve learning outcomes.

While they may sometimes work independently, curriculum and instruction professionals are often called up on to work in teams.

Other Skills

  • Research theory, design, and methods
  • Teaching
  • Advocacy for diversity and inclusivity
  • Organization

What Can You Do with a Curriculum and Instruction Degree?

Career opportunities for curriculum and instruction graduates extend beyond schools and school boards. C&I professionals are employed by:

  • Colleges and universities
  • Government ministries of education and organizations specializing in education (examples: education policy, military training)
  • Healthcare – medical centers and teaching hospitals
  • Human resources / training and development departments of businesses and corporations
  • Museums offering education programs
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Public and private elementary and secondary schools and school boards
  • Religious organizations offering education programs
  • Textbook and curriculum publishing companies

Their roles in these sectors involve:

  • Following trends in teaching and learning including technology trends
  • Developing curricula and instruction / lesson plans
  • Coordinating curriculum implementation
  • Planning and conducting teacher training / corporate train-the-trainer programs
  • Observing and mentoring teachers and trainers
  • Analyzing data to determine curriculum and instruction effectiveness
  • Reviewing and recommending textbooks and other instructional materials
  • Developing leaner assessment instructions

Their titles include:

  • Curriculum and Instruction Administrator
  • Curriculum and Instruction Analyst
  • Curriculum Assessment Administrator
  • Curriculum Coordinator
  • Curriculum Developer
  • Curriculum Specialist
  • Department Chair
  • Director / Manager of Instructional Technology
  • Director / Manager of Training and Development
  • Education Specialist
  • Educational Researcher
  • Evaluation Analyst
  • Instruction Specialist
  • Instructional Coach
  • Instructional Coordinator
  • Instructional Designer
  • Lead Teacher
  • Principal / Assistant Principal
  • Professor / Teaching Faculty
  • Subject / Content Area Coordinator
  • Superintendent of Curriculum
  • Training and Development Specialist


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