If you want to increase your earning potential as an educator and even open doors to promotions and new job titles, earning your master's degree in curriculum and instruction might offer you these opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that educators with master's degrees earn a substantial salary premium over those who hold only a bachelor's degree, with education administrators earning 44% more with a master's.

This guide provides some insight on earning your master's degree in curriculum and instruction, including what you can expect from these programs, and what new career aspects you can look forward to after earning this unique degree.

Should I Get a Master's in Curriculum and Instruction?

This program is offered online and on campus. Working professionals and those looking to change careers might find an online program most accessible, while students entering this graduate program straight from undergraduate studies might find on-campus options more appealing. The online options provide more flexibility around when and where you complete your coursework, while the on-campus option provides more hands-on experience.

Curriculum and instruction programs provide skills in lesson planning, including designing lessons and implementing them, as well as assessing and evaluating their effectiveness. You'll also dive deeper into current issues in educational policy and examine how national education standards might impact instruction and curriculum development. This deeper exploration helps you to become more effective in your education career. While earning your degree, you'll also benefit from the unique networking opportunities provided in an academic environment. Your program may also offer internships and job placement assistance.

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

Those who graduate with their master's degree in curriculum and instruction have the skills and preparation to enter new and exciting job fields and grow within their current careers. These professionals have a passion for education and teaching, and a strong interest in education policy. They typically possess personal qualities such as patience and a self-starting attitude. The occupations below account for just a few of the potential careers graduates with curriculum and instruction degrees might choose to pursue.

Instructional Coordinators

A master's in curriculum and instruction prepares you for a career as an instructional coordinator. These professionals work within schools to oversee curriculum and ensure teaching standards are met. They often work alongside both administrators and teachers.

Median Annual Salary: $63,750
Projected Growth Rate: 11%

Postsecondary Education Administrators

These professionals work at colleges and universities, leading departments, working on administrative boards, and serving on academic committees. Their specific job duties vary by school and role. These professionals work with both faculty and students, overseeing student life and departmental academics.

Median Annual Salary: $92,360
Projected Growth Rate: 10%

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

As this job title implies, these professionals serve as principals at elementary, middle, or high schools. Principals oversee a school's faculty and staff, work directly with students, and communicate with parents. They often serve as the face of the school.

Median Annual Salary: $94,390
Projected Growth Rate: 8%

Postsecondary Teachers

A master's degree in curriculum and instruction prepares you to work as an educator at the postsecondary level, teaching undergraduate or graduate-level courses in your subject area. These educators plan and implement lessons and serve on departmental boards and committees.

Median Annual Salary: $76,000
Projected Growth Rate: 15%

School and Career Counselors

These professionals work within schools to assist students with both academic and career planning. They often work one on one with students to map out academic success plans. They also identify at-risk students who may need extra help or guidance.

Median Annual Salary: $55,410
Projected Growth Rate: 13%

How to Choose a Master's in Curriculum and Instruction Program

When exploring master's degrees in curriculum and instruction, you might wonder which program best suits your goals, lifestyle, and needs. You'll want to consider many crucial factors when deciding, thinking carefully about what you'd like to get out of the program, your ultimate career goals, how much time you can invest earning your degree, and your budget.

Curriculum and instruction degrees vary in how many credit hours you must complete to graduate. Part-time enrollment also lengthens the time it takes to finish a degree, as enrolling full-time allows you to finish coursework faster by taking more classes at once. In general, master's programs in this subject take 18-24 months to complete, but this number fluctuates based on your chosen school and your level of enrollment.

Consider what kind of classes and curriculum contributes to your learning goals. Look at each program's required curriculum and think about how they compare to one another. Find out if each program requires a written thesis or final project; whether it includes any practicum or other direct, hands-on experience; and what the on-campus requirements entail for online programs. Consider also the cost per credit hour, weighing how much it will cost over the span of your program.

Programmatic Accreditation for Master's in Curriculum and Instruction Programs

Attending an accredited program and institution should rank high on your priority list when considering curriculum and instruction master's programs. Colleges and universities generally receive accreditation from either regional or national agencies. These agencies ensure that schools meet certain academic and institutional standards. Agencies also accredit individual programs.

Programmatic accreditation adds an extra layer of assurance that your chosen program meets important academic standards. When it comes to graduate programs in education, programmatic accreditation often comes from agencies such as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. This extra accreditation assures your future employers that you earned your degree from a trusted institution and that you possess the skills necessary to succeed in the field.

Master's in Curriculum and Instruction Program Admissions

Graduate applications often include sending official transcripts, submitting test scores, and completing personal details, as well as more involved steps, such as recommendation letters, a personal statement or essay, a curriculum vitae or resume, and samples of previous research or academic work. Sometimes, applying to online programs may require more steps than applications to campus-based programs.

You should generally apply to three to eight schools. Choose these schools based on factors such as courses offered, admission requirements, program length, and tuition costs. Below, you'll find information on applications and admissions to curriculum and instruction programs.


  • Bachelor's Degree: Generally speaking, you'll need a bachelor's degree to gain admission. Some programs may require a bachelor's degree from a specific major area or certain courses as prerequisites.
  • Professional Experience: Some programs require educational experience that students must have earned after completing their bachelor's program. However, others admit learners straight from a bachelor's program.
  • Minimum GPA: Most master's in curriculum and instruction programs require a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. However, you can sometimes offset this with recommendation letters or professional experience.

Admission Materials

  • Application: There are often many moving parts when applying to graduate programs. Applications may take longer than undergraduate applications, so allow yourself plenty of time.
  • Transcripts: You must send official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions you have attended. Official transcripts often require a small fee. You can order them through your school's registrar office, which is often accessible online.
  • Recommendation Letters: More often than not, you'll need recommendation letters along with your application. Get these from professors and mentors who can speak to your experience in the field, as well as to your strengths as a student. Give recommenders at least four weeks to write and submit these letters.
  • Test Scores: For a master's degree in curriculum and instruction, you likely must take the Graduate Record Exam and submit official scores through the testing agency. On average, a 155 or higher on verbal reasoning and a 150 or higher on quantitative methods counts as competitive.
  • Application Fee: Fees for applying to graduate programs tend to run a bit higher than undergraduate programs, so budget accordingly. Fees range from $30-$75, depending on the school. Some schools offer waivers for students who demonstrate financial need.

What Else Can I Expect from a Master's in Curriculum and Instruction Program?

No matter where you earn your master's degree in curriculum and instruction, you can look forward to coursework designed to help you build important skills that will allow you to grow as an educator. While specific course offerings, requirements, and available concentrations vary based on your chosen school and program, below you'll find some examples of what you can expect from a curriculum and instruction master's degree.

Concentrations Offered for a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction
Concentration Description Careers
Early Childhood Education This concentration emphasizes coursework in elementary education. Individuals study early literacy, intervention methods, and instructional theory in an early childhood education setting. This prepares graduates to work with children, often from preschool through fifth grade. Elementary educator, reading Instructor
Bilingual Education This concentration prepares students to teach in an increasingly bilingual society, emphasizing instruction in more than one language. Courses emphasize teaching English as a second language, and working with students whose primary language and language spoken at home may not be English. ESL instructor
Adolescent Literacy This concentration examines literacy through adolescence, generally from middle school through high school. Students in this area examine young adult texts and study literacy theory for learners in this age group. This track also emphasizes teaching methods for struggling adolescent readers. Reading instructor
Reading Intervention A reading specialist concentration focuses on different types of interventions to aid struggling readers of all ages. Courses emphasize early interventions and teaching methods to address struggling readers before the problem progresses into higher grade levels. Individuals study phonetics and other reading instruction methodology. Reading specialist/interventionist teacher
Educational Technology This concentration provides educators with the skills to make the most of technology and methods for using this technology in educational settings. Students in this area explore different types of technology and consider how to adapt them for use within different types of classroom settings. Teacher, technology specialist

Courses in a Master's in Curriculum and Instruction Program

The courses you encounter while earning your master's degree in curriculum and instruction differ based on your chosen school and program, as well as your selected concentration. The courses below serve as just a few general examples of what you might take while earning your degree.

Curriculum Theory

This course examines how educators and policy makers have viewed education and curriculum in the past, and asks students to consider how their own educational philosophies play a role in the way they create and implement curriculum in their own careers.

Educational Psychology

This course explores different advances in childhood and educational psychological theory that may help educators better understand student needs, and how they can craft curriculum that caters to these specific psychological needs and theories.

Curriculum Evaluation

This course emphasizes the skills needed to evaluate an existing curriculum based on various educational and curriculum theories. Students gain the knowledge to build stronger curriculums and analyze the effectiveness of those already in place. They also discover improvement areas.

Research Design and Analysis

Any graduate program requires some research, and this course provides the skills needed to create a research design and implement various pillars of strong research to build and complete a research project.

Curriculum Design

A master's degree in curriculum and instruction provides graduates with the skills they need to oversee existing curricula and build their own. This course often culminates in a final project of the student's own curriculum design.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Curriculum and Instruction?

The time it takes to complete a master's degree in curriculum and instruction varies based on several factors. Course requirements and the number of required credit hours vary by program, but generally, these programs require 30-45 credits to complete. The amount of time needed to fulfill these credits depends on whether you enroll part time or full time, and how the coursework is paced. For example, a cohort-based program requires you to move through courses at the same pace as a group of peers, whereas a self-paced program allows you to progress through courses at your own pace. Generally speaking, you should allow around two years to complete your degree.

The longer it takes you to complete your degree, the higher the overall cost. Programs with more required credit hours may also ultimately cost more as tuition is billed per credit hour.

How Much is a Master's in Curriculum and Instruction?

You'll pay tuition based on the number of credit hours you take and how much your school charges per credit hour. However, students will also incur other costs. Be sure to budget for fees, textbooks, and commuting and housing costs. Tuition costs vary by program.

Consider also the non-tuition costs of earning your curriculum and instruction degree. The cost of living varies by city, which is important to remember if you are attending an on-campus program. Factor in any technology costs you might incur, such as purchasing a laptop or other device you may need for school. These costs should be included in your overall degree cost. Because of all these factors, each student's individual program cost varies.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Curriculum and Instruction Prepares For

Teacher Licensure

Every state requires teachers to hold some form of licensure in order to practice. Each state's process for earning and obtaining this licensure varies. Generally, earning a bachelor's degree and passing an exam is required.

Special Education Certification

If you desire to work in special education, you may need to earn a special certification. You can sometimes earn these certifications through your master's program.

Teaching English as a Second Language

Some programs offer an opportunity to earn a certification in teaching English as a second language, a focus becoming more and more lucrative and marketable as educational settings become more diverse. This certification prepares you to work with students who may be learning English and may not speak it as their primary language.

Reading Specialist

Your degree in curriculum and instruction may include coursework on diagnosing and correcting reading problems. Some programs offer the opportunity to earn a special certification in reading, which could open up more career opportunities as a reading specialist in various educational settings.

Gifted and Talented Certification

Earning a certification in gifted and talented education often supplements other educator training and licensure. Professionals with this certification are prepared to work with advanced students who excel at the current curriculum. These instructors may work specifically within their chosen subject area or across disciplines.

Resources for Curriculum and Instruction Graduate Students

Grad Resources

This website provides services to grad students, including research help, crisis care for students in emotional distress, and access to on-call mentors.

Google Scholar

Available for free on Google, students can access the full text of thousands of peer-reviewed, scholarly articles. The easy-to-use interface also provides a way to find articles you may then access through your school's library.

Teachers Pay Teachers

This crowd-sourced database of teaching materials includes lesson plans, worksheets, and full units created by teachers. Students completing practicum hours or working in the field may find this useful.

Directory of Open Access Journals

This directory provides students with a list of scholarly journals that do not charge or have a paywall in front of full-text research articles. Students conducting graduate research find this tool especially useful.

NCTE Teaching Resources

This page from the National Council of Teachers of English provides several resources, including lesson plans, journals, books, online learning opportunities, and the NCTE newsletter.

Professional Organizations in Curriculum and Instruction

As a graduate student, you'll find that professional organizations provide a great way to get connected with your field. These organizations offer valuable resources and ways to learn more about current issues and trends in your field. Many professional associations and organizations also offer annual conferences, access to special research articles and scholarly journals, networking opportunities, and continuing education programs.