How to Get a Master’s in Curriculum & Instruction | Salary & Programs

Written by Beth Hering
Published on February 7, 2023 · Updated on March 23, 2023

How to Get a Master’s in Curriculum & Instruction | Salary & Programs

Written by Beth Hering
Published on February 7, 2023 · Updated on March 23, 2023

Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Degree Overview

Improving the educational attainment of our nation’s children involves careful thought about what they are taught and how that material is presented. A master’s program in curriculum and instruction develops the knowledge base and critical thinking skills necessary to tackle these important educational issues.

Individuals with this degree can become instructional coordinators for:

  • Elementary schools
  • Secondary schools
  • Colleges
  • The government
  • Educational service organizations.

They perform critical tasks such as designing curricula, improving textbooks and educational technology, and assessing student performance data.

With a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction, some graduates bring what they’ve learned to the classroom as teachers. Others become administrators and use their backgrounds to make important decisions for their institutions.

The educational system faces several challenges at the moment. Recent social movements have brought equality and diversity issues to the forefront. Likewise, COVID-19 has completely altered traditional learning environments. People with a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction will be leaders in evaluating where students stand and what measures to take to ensure success for all.

What is a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Degree?

A Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction prepares recipients for roles in educational settings. A graduate degree demonstrates expertise and commitment to the field. Depending on the number of courses taken each term, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction takes 1-3 years to complete.

Outstanding Schools with Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Degrees in U.S.

Many respected colleges offer a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Since online learning has removed the need to live within driving distance of the school, students can now explore offerings across the country.

Here are a few of those institutions. Please note that the perfect school for each prospective student varies based on personal needs.

George Mason University

The MEd offered by this Fairfax, VA university attracts students looking for initial teacher licensure and current teachers seeking to advance their knowledge. Participants can choose between hybrid options and complete online studies. A highlight of George Mason’s program is the vast number of concentration options, including niche areas such as:

  • Transformative teaching
  • Assistive technology
  • International baccalaureate studies

American College of Education

Affordability has helped ACE gain a national reputation for turning out a high number of master of education graduates. Designed with the budget of working teachers in mind, programs cost roughly half of what they would at comparable institutions.

The online format eliminates travel and campus housing expenses while maximizing scheduling flexibility. Besides acquiring general knowledge of how to use data and assessment metrics to improve curriculum and instruction, students can also specialize in ten areas.

Concordia University Chicago

Concordia prides itself in creating “master teachers” through its degree program in curriculum and instruction. The faculty expect students not only to learn the material but also to put it into practice in their current educational setting. Graduates walk away with a foundation in curriculum models and theories, contemporary educational issues, and perspectives in cognitive development. Study formats include online, on-site, and hybrid.

Grand Canyon University

No need to travel to Arizona! GCU offers a master’s in curriculum and instruction online for educational professionals ready to take their careers to the next level. Graduates leave knowing how to plan, write, and deliver instruction that is developmentally appropriate, engaging, and culturally responsive. They also become well-versed in using data and student achievement information. Most courses are six weeks in length, so students progress quickly.

University of Denver

At the heart of this master of arts in curriculum and instruction program is a reflection on the questions:

  • “What should be taught?”
  • “How should we teach it?”

The school offers the following concentrations:

  • Curriculum studies
  • Math education
  • Gifted education
  • Culturally and linguistically diverse education
  • Special education

It also enables students to focus on “twice-exceptionality” – children with both special needs and giftedness.

Check out our full list of schools that offer curriculum and instruction degree programs.

If you’re looking for other schools that offer Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction studies, check out the Find Your Perfect “U” tool. You can search over 6,000 colleges and universities with 11 different filters to find the perfect school for you!

What Can I Do with a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction?

Earning a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction can lead to many different careers. Schools employ these graduates to teach, oversee curriculum, train faculty, and assess student performance.

Others find work with the government or educational service organizations that focus on educational standards, textbooks, educational technology, and data interpretation.

Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Salaries

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows the median pay for instructional coordinators in 2019 was $66,290 per year. In addition to educational level, factors such as years of experience and industry can influence pay. For instance, instructional coordinators employed by the government earned a median income of $76,270 in 2019.

The National Council on Teacher Quality notes, “On average, a master’s degree earns teachers an additional $2,760 in their first year of teaching compared to a bachelor’s degree. This salary advantage expands to an average of $7,358 per year by the time a teacher reaches the maximum point of the pay scale.”

Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Job Projections

While projections do not guarantee job growth, the future appears promising for those with a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction. The BLS predicts employment in education, training, and library occupations to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. In 2019, 192,900 people were classified under the occupational title “instructional coordinator.” By 2029, this number should rise to 204,300.

Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Career Paths

With a graduate degree in hand, a student can apply for a range of opportunities. Here is an overview of some career paths:

  • Median Salary: $66,970 
  • Career Outlook: +10% (2020-2030)

These professionals plan what is taught, how teachers convey the information, and how well students grasp concepts.

  • Median Salary: $98,490 
  • Career Outlook: +8% (2020-2030)

Principals lead schools. They take an active role in educational decisions at their specific institution, which could be an elementary school, middle school, or high school.

  • Median Salary: $61,500 
  • Career Outlook: +8% (2020-2030)

Special education teachers focus on students with disabilities. They tailor curriculum and teaching strategies to maximize learning outcomes for each individual.

  • Median Salary: $62,870 
  • Career Outlook: +8% (2020-2030)

High school teachers instruct students in specific subject matters. Those holding master’s degrees often serve as lead teachers or division chairs

 Source: BLS 

*Note that the BLS includes numerous job titles under the umbrella term instructional coordinators, such as curriculum director/specialist/coordinator and instructional designer/specialist/technologist.

Earning a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction

Completing a graduate program in curriculum and instruction helps students become stronger educators. Focusing on a specialty area demonstrates a high level of niche expertise that many employers find appealing.

Types of Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Degrees 

Institutions vary in the type of degree they award. Graduate curriculum and instruction students may walk away with a master of arts (MA), master of education (MEd), or master of science (MS). All three degrees receive respect in the educational community and open doors to career opportunities.

Individuals going on to doctoral studies often opt for the MS, which usually has a greater emphasis on research. Aspiring administrators sometimes favor an M.Ed., while teachers looking to advance knowledge in a specific academic subject or grade level may opt for an MA.

While courses vary by institution, some classes are rather common to master’s programs in curriculum and instruction. A few students can anticipate taking include:

This type of course answers the question “What should be taught?” Expect to learn a variety of both historical and modern theories.
People learn in different ways. Successful educators think about how material gets presented. Exploring teaching strategies increases student retention and engagement.
To understand how well students comprehend what gets taught, schools depend on assessments. Graduate students in this type of course learn about developing effective, fair ways to measure progress and interpret results.
Classrooms are culturally and linguistically diverse. What improvements can educators make to instruction and curriculum to better serve individual students, promote tolerance, and develop global awareness?

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

Completing a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction commonly requires 30-45 credits, depending on the institution and specific program. In terms of time, this amount translates into roughly one to three years.

A variety of factors influence length:

  • Full-time study, of course, leads to faster graduation.
  • Some colleges offer accelerated programs for students eager to complete their studies.
  • Someone without a background in education may need to take additional courses to fill in gaps, resulting in a longer route to graduation.

Skills Learned in a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Program

Graduates of master’s in curriculum and instruction programs walk away as knowledgeable, thoughtful educators. They possess a foundation of the various ways people learn. They know how to think about what gets taught and what improvements might strengthen a curriculum.

Graduates become leaders in their workplace. Honing critical reading and data interpretation skills serves master’s recipients well if they choose to go on to doctoral studies.

Choosing the Best Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Degree

A wealth of variables goes into choosing a master’s program in curriculum and instruction. First, a program must align with a student’s career goals, including interests in a certain niche. Then, individuals must decide whether attending in-person, online, or a hybrid program works best for their lifestyle and learning preferences.

Before making any final decisions, students need to ensure their chosen program has proper accreditation. Every graduate wants future employers to respect his or her degree!

Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Degree Specializations

Some aspects of a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction program are common to all pursuing the degree. However, focusing on a specialization tailors some coursework to a student’s particular interests and career aspirations.

Depending on the institution, specializations within the master’s program in curriculum and instruction may include:

  • Early childhood education
  • Elementary education
  • Middle school education
  • High school education
  • Individual academic disciplines (English, foreign languages, math, science, history, physical education, etc.)
  • Diversity
  • Gifted education
  • Special education
  • International Baccalaureate
  • Learning technologies
  • Literacy
  • Teacher leadership
  • Assistive technology
  • ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages)
  • Transformative teaching

Online vs. On Campus Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Degrees

Depending on the institution, a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction can be obtained on-campus, online, or a hybrid. Students juggling personal and professional obligations often prefer flexible, online studies. Some students prefer taking courses partially or fully on-site for the consistent schedule and social aspects.

Should I Complete Courses Online?

The answer depends on the individual. Many students find pursuing a master’s in curriculum instruction online more affordable because they do not need to leave home. Lack of geographical limitations also expands the pool of institutions they can consider.

Other students focus better when they commit to physically attending a class and being around other students.

When deciding, note that one method is not better or worse than the other. Many schools use the same faculty for both on-campus and online courses. Look for accredited programs that teach what you want to learn.

How Long do Online Courses Take to Complete?

Students pursuing a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction online tend to enjoy greater flexibility in terms of getting work done. Courses involving asynchronous learning allow students to learn at their own pace. This proves beneficial to students wanting to accelerate their studies as well as those who need more time to complete studies due to other obligations.


Prospective students always should ensure the school they want to attend has regional accreditation. Choose an institution approved by the U.S. Department of Education or the nonprofit Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Also, ensure that the program’s accreditation is deemed acceptable by one or both of these organizations.

Applying to Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Degree Programs

Getting into a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction degree program requires applying to individual schools. Be prepared to provide information about undergraduate studies and professional work experience.

Admission Requirements for Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Programs

Depending on where a student applies, the prospective school may ask for:

  • An official transcript from undergraduate studies that shows classes taken, GPA, and degree awarded with date
  • Proof of any graduate classes completed, certifications, or licenses
  • A list of places the student has worked, including dates and duties
  • A description of other relevant activities, such as volunteer work or participation in professional associations
  • Scores from the GRE
  • Letters of recommendation that support the candidacy
  • Responses to essay prompts
  • A personal statement explaining why the student wants to pursue this degree

Many master’s in curriculum and instruction programs only accept certified teachers. In such cases, individuals lacking this credential need to address this issue first.

Paying for a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Degree

Financing higher education is a major concern among most students. Some set aside money from their job in order to return to school. Others look for scholarships, grants, or loans. Students sometimes select online studies in order to continue working while attending school.

Students pursuing an advanced degree often look at the money spent as an investment. It may take some effort and sacrifice to cover tuition. This money eventually gets recouped, however, through greater job prospects and a better paycheck.

How Much Does a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Degree Cost?

Program cost depends on a variety of factors. Private schools often charge more than public institutions. In-state tuition reduces costs for eligible residents. Online studies sometimes prove cheaper than on-site because students eliminate the costs of travel and campus housing.

Students pursuing a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction may qualify for financial aid. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see the availability of loans and grants.

Someone currently employed should look into possible reimbursement for higher education from their company. Some places set aside money for professional development because the information acquired benefits the organization.

Scholarships for Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Students

Scholarships provide money that does not need to be repaid! Cultural and civic organizations, as well as individual schools, sometimes offer scholarships, so it pays to ask. Many professional associations provide scholarships for graduate work that promotes better educational systems and teachers.

A few scholarship opportunities for students interested in pursuing a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction include:

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics – This professional association offers several scholarships for people interested in improving math education, with some geared toward improving instruction at a specific grade level. Others focus on a certain aspect of math education, such as technology or innovative lesson plans.

Biology Educator Leadership Scholarship – The National Association of Biology Teachers annually awards a practicing educator this $5,000 scholarship toward graduate studies focused on life science education.

American Association of University Women – These Career Development Grants help women who already hold a bachelor’s degree pursue graduate studies. Funding ranges from $2,000 to $12,000.

Inspire Our Future – awards a $500 scholarship that a current teacher can use toward the pursuit of a master’s degree. The application includes an essay on how to inspire students.

Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Career Resources

People enrolled in master’s in curriculum and instruction programs may find the following organizations helpful to their education and career:

ASCD – This well-established group – founded as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development – boasts more than 113,000 members from 129 countries. Its stated mission is to “empower educators to achieve excellence in learning, teaching, and leading so that every child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.” The ASCD website offers many articles on critical educational issues as well as information on attending free webinars.

NEA – The National Education Association has long championed justice and excellence in public education. Whether looking for a specific educational report or the answer to a general question, this community of more than three million educators wants to help. Its website includes a reference library on timely topics.

AAE – Since 1994, the American Association of Educators focuses on professional development and advocacy for teachers. This non-union group advocate for maximum involvement by parents and local control of educational facilities. Explore its website for resources and links covering topics such as character education, teaching materials, and job recruiting.

NASET – The National Association of Special Education Teachers serves as a vital resource for curriculum and instruction students focusing on special education. The organization helps members “stay abreast of current issues that are shaping the field, affecting the lives of students, and influencing professional careers.”

NAME – Graduate students interested in advancing diversity and equality should check out the National Association for Multicultural Education. Since 1990, this group has promoted the development of “culturally responsible and responsive curricula.” The multicultural learning section on its website features teacher case studies, reflective activities, and ways to achieve desired student outcomes.

Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction FAQ

  • Can I get a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction online?
    • Yes. Many reputable programs exist to obtain a degree in this manner. Before committing, make sure the institution is accredited.
  • What is a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction?
    • This graduate degree explores making decisions about what gets taught, how to teach it, and how to evaluate student comprehension. Students often focus on these issues for a specific academic discipline, for a certain age group, or for pupils with special needs.
  • Should I get a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction?
    • The decision to pursue higher education is a highly personal one based on current life situations and future career aspirations. In general, higher education provides you with more opportunities with more responsibility and pay.
  • What are the career options for someone with a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction?
    • Many graduates find employment as instructional coordinators overseeing what schools teach and how they teach it. Some received a master’s in curriculum and instruction choose careers as teachers or principals.

Get more's college news, advice, updates, financial aid, and more straight to your inbox.