Online Degrees In Curriculum Design

Curriculum design degrees blend educational theory with the day-to-day practice of teaching to improve learning at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels. Curriculum designers work closely with teachers and administrators to bring technology into the classroom, implement new teaching methods and evaluate current practices.

The majority of online education degrees in curriculum design (also called curriculum development or curriculum studies) are offered at the following graduate levels:

  • Master of Arts (M.A.): Master’s degree programs in curriculum design generally require one to two years of full-time study. Programs include a mix of social science and educational theory with courses like cultural psychology, cognitive development, the history of education and philosophy of education. Courses in research methods are also required so that curriculum designers can use data to measure the success of programs. An M.A. in curriculum design is the minimum requirement for curriculum designers working in public schools.
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.): Ph.D. programs in curriculum design allow curriculum designers to focus on a particular area of education, such as mathematics or literacy. Ph.D. programs take at least four years to complete and require candidates to write an original, research-based thesis. A Ph.D. is required to teach at the post-secondary level.

Because students in curriculum design degree programs spend most of their time reading, attending lectures and performing independent research, curriculum design can be effectively taught through online courses. Completing a master’s degree or Ph.D. online allows students to learn from anywhere without sacrificing their current jobs. For teachers interested in becoming curriculum designers, online degrees in curriculum design make a lot of sense. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) recognizes online learning as an effective way to advance education while saving time and experiencing technology’s role in learning.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), curriculum designers should be excellent communicators who understand the needs of various student groups. They should have experience creating educational materials and enhancing learning through technology. Because these skills go hand in hand with managing a classroom, many curriculum designers are former teachers.

However, business skills are also transferable to curriculum design. Curriculum designers must manage several projects simultaneously, propose new ideas to administrators and develop systems to measure results. On a given day, a curriculum designer may interact with a variety of professionals, from educational policy makers to classroom teachers. The ability to work with others and accomplish long-term goals is crucial to a curriculum designer’s success. Above all, curriculum designers should be innovative, results driven and passionate about education.

A master’s degree or Ph.D. in curriculum design prepares students to develop curriculum for schools, school districts, corporations, educational support services, museums and other cultural institutions. According to the BLS, there were approximately 192,900 curriculum designers working in the U.S. in 2020, and the majority worked for the following industries:

  • Elementary and secondary schools (55,000)
  • Colleges, universities and professional schools (17,000)
  • Educational support services (8,000)

The BLS reports that the median annual salary for curriculum designers in the U.S. was $66,970 in 2020. Curriculum designers in elementary and secondary schools earned more, with an average annual income of $66,430. Some curriculum designers also worked with the federal government to guide educational policy, and they earned the highest average salary of $89,400 in 2010.

Curriculum design at a glance:

  • Careers: Curriculum design degree holders commonly work for elementary, secondary, post-secondary, and professional schools, as well as educational support services.
  • Salaries: The middle 50 percent of curriculum designers earned annual salaries between $43,930 and $75,970 in 2010, according to the BLS.
  • Growth: Employment of curriculum designers is expected to grow by 23 percent from 2008 to 2010 (BLS).

Schools are responsible for ensuring that today’s diverse student population receives a quality education. Professionals who hold a doctorate in curriculum or instructional design are tasked with developing and applying the latest research to help schools create curricula, instructional materials and assessment programs.

Doctoral degree programs in instructional design are generally offered by colleges of education, and your degree may be a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Doctoral students in curriculum design take courses and complete a focused research project in an area of specialty, such as early childhood education, special education, education technology, science education, or reading and literacy education.

Ed.D. vs. Ph.D.: What’s the Difference?

The curriculum design doctoral degree that is best for you depends primarily on your career ambitions. The coursework required to earn an Ed.D. is tailored to provide an applied approach to current theory and practice in curriculum design. Sample courses offered in an Ed.D. program could include the following:

  • Instructional theories
  • Evaluation and assessment
  • Psychology of learning

In comparison, a Ph.D. in curriculum design requires students to focus on theory through pursuing original scholarship. This degree can prepare you for a career as a scholar and academic as well as an administrator or policymaker. Courses for this degree might include:

  • Introduction to scholarship in education
  • Methods of social investigation
  • Advanced research methods in social sciences

A handful of schools offer instructional design doctoral degrees online. These online doctoral programs often require students to complete short residency requirements, which are typically designed to blend both academic instruction and mentorship, as well as networking opportunities.

What Does a Doctoral Degree Program in Curriculum Design Entail?

Doctoral programs in curriculum design typically have two phases. During the first portion of the degree program, students complete core coursework and elective classes. Coursework usually takes two to three years. Some programs may also require students to complete an internship to gain experience with the day-to-day issues of curriculum design. Once coursework is complete, students are required to pass a set of oral and/or written exams demonstrating their academic competency.

Upon completion of coursework and exams, students advance to doctoral candidacy where they focus their time on completing a dissertation or doctoral project. The dissertation can take one to three years to complete, depending on the topic.

Admission requirements and course listings vary from one program to another. You can browse the schools below and request more information about program details or arrange to speak to an admissions counselor.

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