Best Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Programs

May 12, 2020

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An online doctorate in curriculum and instruction prepares students to work in early education settings, middle and high schools, and universities. Participants of these programs learn how to design and implement curricula that serves both students and teachers. The best online doctorate in curriculum and instruction programs combine coursework and field education. A typical program covers the fundamentals of curriculum design, ethics, law, and psychology to produce well-rounded graduates who can use education to guide future leaders. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 11% increase in the number of instructional coordinators between 2016 and 2026 — significantly higher than the average job in the nation.

Choosing a Program


Many schools require candidates to hold undergraduate and master's degrees to gain admission into an online doctorate program in curriculum and instruction. Candidates may also need to hold a valid teaching or administrative license, which may impose an additional set of requirements. An academic adviser or enrollment counselor can confirm whether or not a potential online program requires prior work experience.


Applicants should conduct ample research to find the best online doctorate in curriculum and instruction program that matches their academic and career goals. Students can explore a school's website to learn more about doctorate programs and course offerings. Calling a school's admissions offices to speak with an enrollment counselor or academic adviser can also be helpful; these individuals can provide specific details about a program and help students contact department staff.

Related Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.


Programs that award a doctoral degree in instruction online typically cater to students looking for a flexible academic schedule. Additionally, these programs generally require fieldwork, meaning most doctorate students must work while earning their degrees. Learners typically coordinate their residencies with their instructors. Aspiring graduate students can talk with an enrollment counselor to learn more about the residency application process.


Students often choose online learning to take advantage of more flexible scheduling. By accessing their coursework online, distance learners can more easily incorporate their education into their everyday lives, without spending the time it takes to physically attend class. Additionally, the best online doctorate in curriculum and instruction programs cost less than their on-campus counterparts. Program websites list tuition and fee rates to help with comparison shopping.

What Are the Best Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Programs?

School Location
Andrews University Berrien Springs, MI
Carson-Newman University Jefferson City, TN
Columbus State University Columbus, GA
Concordia University-Chicago River Forest, IL
Evangel University Springfield, MO
Georgia Southern University Statesboro, GA
Kansas State University Manhattan, KS
Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
New Mexico State University-Main Campus Las Cruces, NM
Regent University Virginia Beach, VA
Southeastern University Lakeland, FL
Southern Wesleyan University Central, SC
Texas A & M University-College Station College Station, TX
Texas Tech University Lubbock, TX
The University of West Florida Pensacola, FL
University at Buffalo Buffalo, NY
University of Denver Denver, CO
University of Florida Gainesville, FL
University of Florida - Online Gainesville, FL
University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe, LA
University of Memphis Memphis, TN
University of South Carolina-Columbia Columbia, SC
University of Toledo Toledo, OH
University of Virginia-Main Campus Charlottesville, VA
Valdosta State University Valdosta, GA

What Else Can I Expect From an Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Program?

Online doctorate in curriculum and instruction programs consist of coursework, residencies, and dissertations. However, credit requirements and course offerings vary depending on the institution. Regardless, students should have knowledge of the educational system and some administrative experience prior to entering a program.

Admission Requirements for an Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction

At minimum, online doctorate in education curriculum and instruction programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree. Many programs impose additional requirements, such as a master's degree in education or experience working as a teacher or administrator. Programs requiring work experience also tend to ask for at least one recommendation letter from a work supervisor. Some schools may accept promising applicants who lack these experience or education requirements as long as students take foundational coursework during the first 1-2 years of their program.

Online doctoral programs in curriculum and instruction — like their on-campus counterparts — aim to attract the best applicants. As such, many schools use GPA cutoffs; the best programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0-3.5. However, these programs may make exceptions in specific circumstances. Finally, like many other graduate programs, applicants often need to submit GRE scores. Programs may waive this requirement for applicants who already hold a graduate-level degree.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction

Concentration Description Careers This Concentration Prepares For
Educational Technology As more schools adopt advanced technologies as instructional tools, education leaders need to know how to educate teachers, students, and families on technology best practices. This concentration stresses online learning techniques and covers the field's latest changes and advancements. Doctoral students examine how various technologies impact classroom and virtual learning. Postsecondary teacher, researcher, educational consultant
Learning and Development This type of doctoral program stresses curriculum design, instructional design, and instructional development. Students also explore the latest research related to performance improvement, helping students work to the best of their abilities. Classwork involves developing curricula based on the most recent research. This concentration prepares students to work in academic settings and advisory roles. Principal, instructional coordinator, researcher, curriculum developer
History Education An online doctorate in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in history education stresses social studies instructional best practices, as well as how teaching this subject has evolved over time. Many students possess experience teaching history at the primary or secondary level. Graduates can improve the quality of instruction that students receive and advocate for history teachers. Instructional coordinator, postsecondary teacher, principal


Specific class offerings vary by program. However, the core curricula of online curriculum and instruction programs typically have some classes in common, including the ones mentioned below.


Credit requirements and fieldwork can affect the length of an online doctorate in curriculum and instruction program. Each school imposes its own program requirements, including a mandated number of credits. Some programs may also require students to complete specialty courses unique to that institution. Doctoral programs typically require anywhere from 60-90 credits and take 3-5 years to complete.

Schools may deliver online programs in asynchronous and/or synchronous formats. Learners taking asynchronous courses study and complete coursework at their own pace, typically meeting weekly deadlines set by faculty members. Synchronous programs may use a hybrid format — mixing online and in-class coursework — or adopt a cohort format. In cohorts, students progress through classes in lock-step with a group of their peers. Participants may meet in-person and work on assignments together, although some courses allow students to complete group work entirely online.

Skills and Competencies Gained in an Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Program

Online doctoral programs in education curriculum and instruction convey many essential skills and competencies. This section describes five core skills students typically hone during the course of their programs.

Curriculum: Education leaders must understand both modern curriculum — including its development, forms, and foundations — and how changes in education might affect curriculum development for future teachers. This skill prepares graduates to work with educators at all levels. Research: To write papers and complete their dissertations, students must learn advanced research skills, including citation styles and research methodologies. On the job, graduates use these skills to find the latest publications, which can help improve the performance of the people they supervise. Leadership: Graduates seeking to become education administrators should possess strong leadership skills, including the ability to provide feedback, mentor others, and manage a workplace environment. Students gain these skills by studying successful leaders' strategies and techniques. Analysis: In addition to strong research and leadership skills, curriculum and instruction leaders need to know how to analyze data related to numerous topics. Gaining this skill requires studying statistics and other analytical methods. Instruction: All educators — no matter their job titles or responsibilities — should understand modern instructional methods. Learning about current instructional methods helps graduates mentor teachers and other professionals about instructional best practices.

Additional Requirements for an Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction

Online doctoral programs in curriculum and instruction include extra requirements that students must complete in addition to their coursework. In some programs, students intern at local schools or district offices for one semester during, typically during their second year of study. Many programs also require a capstone or action research component, where students perform original research. Students use these research results to write their dissertations, which may take 1-2 years to complete. To earn their doctorate, students must also successfully defend their dissertation to their defense committee.

Accreditation for Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Degrees

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education oversee a host of accrediting agencies, certifying that these organizations use reasonable standards when reviewing institutions and verifying their accreditation status.

The most popular and widely respected form of accreditation — regional accreditation — primarily serves traditional colleges and universities, both public and private. Online programs at a school also benefit from this type of accreditation. Six regional accreditation agencies in the U.S. exist, representing the western, northwestern, southern, northeastern, midwestern, and New England regions of the country. Alternatively, national accreditation is typically reserved for technical, vocational, or for-profit institutions.

Additionally, individual programs and departments at a school can receive specialized accreditation. Specialized accrediting agencies, such as the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, focus on particular disciplines, extending accreditation to programs that adequately prepare students for work in a specific field.

Accreditation for the best online programs in curriculum and instruction typically comes from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). With the goals of providing continuous improvement, quality assurance, credibility, equity, and strong foundations, CAEP uses evidence-based practices to ensure educator programs meet various academic standards. The agency also hosts CAEPCon — an annual conference where attendees learn about changes in agency policy, standard revisions, and quality rubrics.

Employment Outlook for Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Graduates

Online doctorate in instruction and curriculum programs prepare students for careers in P-12 teaching, administration, and higher education. Graduates can find professional success as curriculum specialists, instructional coordinators, directors, and superintendents. Those interested in working directly with students should consider working as P-12 educators, while graduates who want to work with administrations to develop curricula may enjoy a superintendent or administrative position. Overall, students who enjoy working with others and taking on leadership responsibilities typically perform well in online doctorate in instruction and curriculum programs.

Salary and Growth Rate by Career
Position Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate
Instructional Coordinator $63,750 11%
Postsecondary Teacher $76,000 15%
High School Principal $59,170 8%


The best online doctorate in curriculum and instruction programs help students find positions as specialists and directors. These positions offer attractive salaries, and their demand continues to grow. Because a professional's salary usually depends on their experience, these workers tend to stay in their positions for extended periods of time, steadily increasing their earning potential, as shown in the table below.

Job Title Salary for Entry-Level Employees Salary for Mid-Career Employees Salary for Experienced Employees Salary for Late Career Employees
Curriculum Specialist $56,000 $62,000 $69,000 $81,000
Superintendent $105,000 $110,000 $120,000 $127,000
Education Administrator $51,000 $61,000 $75,000 $83,000
Director of Assessment $64,000 $72,000 $80,000 $93,000
Director of Instruction $56,000 $65,000 $69,000 $78,000


Professional organizations for curriculum and instruction educators and administrators connect graduates with like-minded individuals in their field. These organizations also provide networking opportunities for students to help them land jobs after graduation. Many maintain branches all over the country and feature alumni members from various universities. Graduates interested in developing their careers in the field of curriculum and instruction should look into the organizations mentioned below.

Financing Your Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Program

Students can utilize a number of resources to help pay for their degrees. For example, they can research local and national organizations to apply for scholarships. Some employers also provide financial assistance to employees who elect to go back to school; prospective students can contact their company’s human resources department to find out if such a program is available.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education provides grants, scholarships, and loans to students who qualify for federal aid. Students should complete the Federal Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) form each year to find out if they qualify for federal assistance. As a last resort, learners can also take out loans from other public and private institutions.


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