Best Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Programs of 2021

We've ranked the top online doctorate in curriculum and instruction programs. Compare schools by cost and convenience. Earn your doctorate online.

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by Bethanny Parker
Published on May 12, 2020

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A doctorate in curriculum and instruction is a terminal degree for education professionals. These programs cover learning theory, curriculum development, and education administration. Graduates can work as school administrators, researchers, and educators.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average cost of earning an education doctorate was $111,900 for graduates of the 2015-2016 academic year. While some schools charge similar rates for online and on-campus students, some do not. For example, some online schools charge online students in-state rates, regardless of their location — it can pay to shop around.

According to PayScale, individuals with a doctor of education (Ed.D.) in curriculum and instruction earned an average salary of $76,000 per year as of September 2021. With this degree, professionals can pursue careers as academic deans, professors, high school teachers, training directors, and elementary school principals. People in these professions earned average salaries between roughly $59,000 and $96,000 per year in 2021, according to PayScale. Additionally, a nationwide teacher shortage has caused a surge in demand for many of these positions.

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

Good teachers possess patience, empathy, and adaptability. They are effective communicators, which usually means they are also good listeners. The same qualities that make them good teachers can serve them well in an online doctorate in curriculum and instruction program.

Students may take up to six years to earn a doctorate in curriculum and instruction. On the shorter end of the timescale, the University of Louisiana Monroe offers an Ed.D. program in curriculum and instruction that can be completed in just 24 months. However, most programs require at least three years and require around 60 credits or more.

In addition to completing necessary coursework, most online doctorates in curriculum and instruction require students to submit a dissertation. For example, Baker University dedicates the first two years of its program to coursework, and students complete their dissertations during their third year. Some programs may require an internship or practicum instead of or in addition to a dissertation.

There are three main types of doctorates that students can earn in curriculum and instruction: Ed.S. (educational specialist), Ed.D., and Ph.D. The Ed.S. degree targets students who already have a master's and want to improve their career options. These programs often require about 30 credits and take two years to complete.

The Ed.D. degree is for teachers who want to become leaders in education. Graduates often work in administrative positions, such as principals or academic deans. The Ph.D. degree concentrates on research and can lead to careers such as postsecondary professor, department chair, and director of student services.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Program?

Curriculum Theory and Design

In this course, students study the political, moral, social, and intellectual aspects of education through a theoretical lens. They discover how recurrent themes appear in modern policy and curriculum.

Instructional Design and Technology Integration

This course covers the evaluation, implementation, development, and design of instructional materials. Students learn to apply instructional design principles to solve problems with instruction in classroom settings.

Quantitative Methods in Educational Research

This course introduces students to the types of statistical inference and multivariate data analysis that are typically used in the social sciences and in education. Students learn about data sets they can use to conduct multivariate analysis.

Qualitative Methods in Educational Research

This course explores the methods and theories of qualitative research in education, including document analysis, interview studies, case studies, and ethnography. Students study techniques for presentation, analysis, and data collection.

Education for Diversity in a Global Society

In this course, students study subcultures that impact education in a global society, including social, economic, and political backgrounds.

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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Program?

In order to enroll in a doctorate in curriculum and instruction program, you must first possess a master's degree. Schools often require a minimum GPA to be considered for admission.

Although specific admission requirements vary from one school to another, most require an application, test scores, letters of recommendation, a resume, and a personal statement. Some also require references.

Application

Most graduate schools don't accept applications through college application systems, so you may need to submit an application to each school individually. This includes submitting the required application fee, which often ranges from $40-$150. Before applying, check to see whether the school offers any fee waivers. That could save you quite a bit of money.

Test Scores

Some schools require graduate entrance exams such as the GRE or MAT, and prefer minimum scores for admission. For example, the University of Louisiana Monroe requires a minimum score of 292 on the GRE or 397 on the MAT. Some schools may require other tests for placement.

Letters of Recommendation

You will probably need 1-3 letters of recommendation when applying for admission to an online doctoral program in curriculum and instruction. Your letters of recommendation should come from academic advisors, professors from your master's program, and/or employers. You can ask your immediate supervisor or another manager who is familiar with your work for a letter.

Resume and Work Experience

Many schools don't require a minimum amount of work experience for students interested in earning a doctorate in curriculum and instruction, but they may request a resume or curriculum vitae. Make sure your resume includes relevant work experiences. Also, make note of any research you have done — either in school or out of school — that is relevant to the degree you're seeking.

Essays

Most graduate schools request a personal statement or statement of purpose. This is an essay in which students explain why they are good candidates for the program. In this document, you'll outline your professional and academic goals and explain why you think the program is the right fit for you.

Official Transcripts

You'll probably need to submit official transcripts for college classes you've taken. The school will evaluate your grades to determine whether you meet the minimum GPA requirement. If you have taken any doctorate-level classes, your school may evaluate them for possible transfer credits.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Degree?

Career Outlook

Due to a teacher shortage that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, educators are in demand all over the country. The National Association of Secondary School Principals reports a shortage of principals, as well. Earning an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction can qualify you for administrative positions such as high school or elementary school principal. It can also help improve your teaching skills if you want to remain in your teaching position.

The average salary for someone with an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction was $76,000 per year in September 2021, according to PayScale. Additionally, the average salary for someone with a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction was $66,000 per year. Both of these salaries are higher than the $61,000 average annual salary earned by professionals with a master's of education (M.Ed.) in curriculum and instruction.

Common job titles for those with an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction include high school teacher, associate professor, instructional designer, and curriculum specialist. Those who opt for the Ph.D. often work as postsecondary teachers, academic advisors, research analysts, and school superintendents.

See where a doctorate in curriculum and instruction can take you. Learn more about teaching careers.

Career Paths

Academic Dean

Academic deans manage and develop the faculty and staff at a college or university. They determine academic needs and set goals for the faculty. They develop plans of action and evaluate the results. They also make sure their department does not exceed its budget. Academic deans may help with recruitment to increase student enrollment.

Average Annual Salary (September 2021): $96,780

Elementary School Principal

Elementary school principals supervise and evaluate staff at an elementary school. They must follow their district's policies and procedures for evaluating teachers. Elementary school principals need to be able to work effectively with school administrators, teachers, parents, and students. They may need a principal's certificate or license.

Average Annual Salary (September 2021): $84,960

Instructional Designer

Instructional designers develop materials that help customers and others understand their company's products. They evaluate their customers' needs and create customer training courses and other instructional materials. They must be able to make use of multimedia technology to deliver their training materials. Instructional designers target their educational materials to an adult audience.

Average Annual Salary (September 2021): $64,220

Postsecondary Professor

Postsecondary professors teach students at the college level. They give lectures and teach students in the classroom. They also help students with thesis papers, dissertations, and research. In addition to teaching, postsecondary professors may be required to oversee exercises and laboratory experiments. They grade papers and evaluate student performance.

Average Annual Salary (September 2021): $89,200

Department Chair

Department chairs lead their departments within a college or university. They develop goals and curriculums for the programs in their department. They supervise professors, assistants, and other staff, manage the budget for their department, and make sure their staff has the materials they need. In addition to supervising others, the department chair may have their own classes to teach.

Average Annual Salary (September 2021): $84,320

Curriculum and Instruction Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

Ed.S., Ed.D., and Ph.D. degrees are terminal degrees, meaning that there is no higher degree that comes after them. However, students who want to develop another specialty besides curriculum and instruction can earn relevant graduate certificates.

For example, at Michigan State University, students can earn graduate certificates like the economics of education, educational psychology, educational technology, elementary STEM education, English language learner education, and more.

How Do I Choose an Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Program?

Cost

According to NCES, the average cost of earning an education doctorate for graduates in 2016 was $111,900. And the average cost of a Ph.D. was $98,800. In general, private schools are more expensive than public schools and in-state tuition is cheaper than out-of-state tuition. Some schools offer in-state tuition rates to all online students. Keep in mind that the true cost of your education also includes expenses related to housing, transportation, and lost income from missed work.

Program Format

If you're working, a part-time program may allow you to keep your job while attending school. This is especially true if the program is asynchronous instead of synchronous, meaning that there are no specific login times. Synchronous programs require you to attend online lectures at set times. If you choose a part-time program, it will take longer to get your degree.

Location

When considering location, you need to find out if the programs you're considering have any on-campus requirements. If they don't, you can attend from anywhere, and location doesn't matter. However, if there are on-campus requirements, you need to consider the cost of transportation, especially if the school is far away from your home.

Accreditation

Third-party accrediting organizations evaluate a school's curriculum and determine whether it meets certain standards. If it does, the program is accredited. The most important accreditation at the institutional level is regional accreditation. This type of accreditation is conferred by organizations recognized by the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Credits from regionally accredited schools are more likely to transfer to other schools.

Student Support

Before choosing a doctorate in curriculum and instruction program, determine what kinds of student services you might need and check to see whether the school offers them. Student services include internship help, mentoring, networking opportunities, and academic advising. Some schools have writing and math centers for students who need extra help in those areas.

2021 Best Accredited Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Programs

Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

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How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

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

Frequently Asked Questions About Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Programs

Is a doctorate in curriculum and instruction worth it? true

Like most career paths, there is some progression in pay as you go from a bachelor's to a master's or a doctorate in curriculum and instruction. However, the salary increase you receive as a result of your higher degree depends on many factors, including your employer and location. Whether it is enough to be worthwhile is something you have to determine for yourself.

In 2021, the average annual salary for someone with a B.Ed. was $57,000, according to PayScale. Those with an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction earned $61,000 a year. Professionals with a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction made an average of $66,000 per year, while those with an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction earned $76,000 annually.

What can I do with a doctorate in curriculum and instruction? true

With a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction, you can work as a postsecondary professor, academic advisor, director of student services, department chair, or school superintendent. According to PayScale, as of September 2021, the average salary for these positions ranges from roughly $44,000-$120,000 per year.

With an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction, you can work as an academic dean, training director, school principal, instructional designer, or curriculum specialist. The average salary for these positions ranges from roughly $59,000-$97,000 per year.

How long does it take to get a doctorate in curriculum and instruction online? true

Most Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs in curriculum and instruction take at least three years to complete. Some Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction programs can be completed in just two years, while some Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs in curriculum and instruction may take as long as six years to complete. The typical Ed.D. or Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction requires about 60 credits.

How much money can I make with a doctorate in curriculum and instruction?

Lucrative jobs for those with a doctorate in curriculum and instruction include professors and associate deans. According to PayScale, these professionals made about $121,130 per year as of September 2021. Other jobs that typically pay well include school superintendent, vice president of academic affairs, research director, and academic dean.

Individuals with a doctorate in curriculum and instruction often work in administrative positions in elementary schools, high schools, colleges, and universities.

What are the highest-paying jobs I can get with a doctorate in curriculum and instruction?

Depending on their experience, one of the highest-paying positions that someone with a doctorate in curriculum and instruction can pursue is provost.

According to PayScale, provosts earned an average salary of $154,180 per year in September 2021. Provosts serve as senior academic administrators at postsecondary institutions. They are often in charge of dispersing funds and making sure that the quality of education at their school is high quality. They must have good communication skills and strong leadership abilities.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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