How to Become a Curriculum and Instruction Specialist

Curriculum and instruction specialists assess the effectiveness of a school's curriculum and design teaching materials and curricula to better meet the state's educational standards. Many professionals in curriculum and instruction gain experience in the classroom as a teacher before moving into administrative positions. Earning a master's degree in curriculum and instruction prepares educators to move into a variety of positions. Curriculum and instruction careers offer ample employment opportunities, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting an 11% growth in instructional coordinator positions by 2026.

Curriculum and instruction careers offer ample employment opportunities, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting an 11% growth in instructional coordinator positions by 2026.

This article explains how to become a curriculum and instruction specialist and transition from an educator preparation program into the workforce. This guide also includes the salary outlook for curriculum and instruction jobs, and where curriculum and instruction specialists find employment. These resources, in addition to professional organizations, job boards, and grant opportunities, can help educators advance their careers and increase their earning potential.

Specialists in curriculum and instruction set educational guidelines for schools or districts to ensure that their teaching content meets state standards and regulations. They also help teachers develop instructional materials, research and evaluate textbooks and classroom materials, and advise educators on how to strengthen their teaching. Curriculum and instruction specialists typically hold a background in teaching before moving into school administration.

At the doctoral level, an online Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction can lead to superintendent positions or administrative positions in higher education.

In addition to positions as a curriculum and instruction specialist or curriculum director, a degree in curriculum and instruction prepares graduates for other administrative positions. For example, an online master's in curriculum and instruction can lead to a career as an assistant principal or principal. At the doctoral level, an online Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction can lead to superintendent positions or administrative positions in higher education. Curriculum and instruction careers also include educational technology coordinator or instructional designer.

A career in curriculum and instruction allows educators to take on an administrative role in a growing field. Curriculum design careers offer exciting job opportunities, and educators benefit from the rewarding ability to use their professional skills to help students. The field also provides opportunities to move up into principal or superintendent roles for those who gain the appropriate levels of experience and education.

How Much Do Curriculum and Instruction Specialists Make?

Many factors affect the potential salary of a curriculum and instruction graduate. Curriculum specialist salaries vary depending on many factors, such as the professional's degree level, years of experience, job setting, and location. As educators gain experience, their salaries often increase, as the following table demonstrates. Similarly, educators with a master's degree commonly earn more than those with a bachelor's degree. Job title also influences salary, with curriculum and instruction directors typically earning more than curriculum and instruction specialists. Location and job setting, such as a public or private school, also affect curriculum and instruction salaries.

Median Salary for Curriculum Specialists by Experience Level
Entry-Level (0-5 Years) $50,000
Mid-Career (5-10 Years) $54,000
Experienced (10-20 Years) $58,000
Late-Career (20+ Years) $61,000
Source: PayScale

Earn Your Degree

Curriculum and instruction specialists often hold a master's degree in their field. In order to evaluate instructional standards and design materials that meet state curriculum goals, educators need the advanced training provided by a master's program. Graduate students in curriculum and instruction gain valuable research and assessment skills, which they apply when evaluating test scores or other student learning metrics. Students also learn about different curriculum models, instructional theories, and learning theories, which they use to design curricula for school districts.

Educators pursuing a career in curriculum and instruction may also need a teaching license or school administrator license to work in public schools. Some states require these professionals to hold master's degree in order to work in these roles. Prospective graduate students should check a program's accreditation status before applying or enrolling. Some licensure boards only accept accredited degrees, and accreditation status also affects federal funding. By earning a master's degree from an accredited program, curriculum and instruction professionals increase their chances of finding a job in their field.

Earn Your License

Curriculum and instruction specialists, especially those who work in public schools, may need to hold a teaching license or a school administrator license. Each state sets its own licensure process and requirements, but nearly all licensed public school teachers must hold a bachelor's degree from an educator preparation program. Most states require supervised practice through a student teaching program, and some states only accept a degree from an accredited program.

After earning a license, teachers undergo a regular renewal process which often includes continuing education requirements.

After completing the educational requirements, candidates for a teaching license may need to pass examinations testing their general teaching skills and specialized subject knowledge, depending on their teaching area and any endorsements. Teachers may also undergo a background check and a drug test. After earning a license, teachers undergo a regular renewal process which often includes continuing education requirements.

Many states also issue school administrator licenses for principals, administrative professionals, and other positions within the school. Curriculum and instruction specialists or directors often need a master's degree to earn a school administrator license. Candidates for the license may also need to complete an exam and pass a background check. Because the requirements vary by state, prospective curriculum and instruction specialists need to research the teaching license requirements in their state.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Curriculum and Instruction Specialist?

Most curriculum and instruction specialists have a master's degree and teaching experience. Before becoming a specialist in the field, educators must complete a bachelor's degree, which typically takes four years, and earn a teaching license. After working as a teacher for several years, educators can pursue a master's in curriculum and instruction, which typically takes 1-2 years. Some positions may require an administrative license in addition to a teaching license. Educators complete many of the licensure requirements during their bachelor's or master's program, but they may need to take additional examinations as part of the licensure process.

A curriculum and instruction degree prepares graduates for a variety of career paths within education. The specific career path depends on the professional's degree level and interests. Many curriculum and instruction students become teachers at the K-12 level. A bachelor's degree in curriculum and instruction meets the educational requirements for a teaching license, and building teaching experience helps professionals advance to administrative positions. For example, with teaching experience and a master's degree, curriculum and instruction graduates can become curriculum specialists or curriculum directors. A master's degree also enables curriculum and instruction graduates to pursue administrative positions, for example as school principal.

Educators can also pursue a doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction. As the highest degree in the field, a doctoral degree, such as an online Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction, enables graduates to work in academic positions as a professor of curriculum and instruction. Doctoral graduates may also become school superintendents, academic deans, or provosts.

Earning Your Bachelor's Degree

Earning a bachelor's degree in curriculum and instruction allows graduates to apply for a teaching license and become a K-12 teacher. During an undergraduate curriculum and instruction program, students take courses in teaching and education, curriculum design, and assessment and evaluation. They may also complete research method courses, and many programs incorporate a student teaching component to build a hands-on experience. After completing the program, graduates can apply for a state teaching license and become an elementary, middle, or high school teacher. Graduates may also choose to work as an instructional designer, education program coordinator, or an educational consultant.

Careers with a Bachelor’s Degree

Elementary School Teacher

Description Elementary school teachers educate young learners, typically working with children from kindergarten to fifth grade. They design lesson plans, teach fundamental subjects like reading, mathematics, and writing, and meet with parents to discuss student learning. Elementary school teachers typically hold a bachelor's degree and a state teaching license.
Average Annual Salary $44,365

Middle School Teacher

Description Middle school teachers work with children between 10 and 14 years old, often teaching in a particular subject area, such as math, science, language arts, or social studies. They create lesson plans that meet state standards and curriculum goals, grade assessments, and coordinate with other teachers and staff members. Middle school teachers often hold a bachelor's degree and a teaching license.
Average Annual Salary $46,516

High School Teacher

Description High school teachers educate adolescent learners in a particular subject area, such as science, language, history, or math. They create lesson plans, design assessments, and offer feedback to students. High school teachers also help students prepare for college. The position typically requires a bachelor's degree and a teaching license.
Average Annual Salary $48,612

Instructional Designer

Description Instructional designers create educational and training materials for companies. They design training courses, create customer instruction materials, and develop educational materials for different audiences. Professionals with a background in education, teaching, and technical writing may qualify for these positions.
Average Annual Salary $61,319

Education Program Coordinator

Description Education program coordinators implement educational development programs for students. They also implement curriculum objectives in their programs, evaluate educational materials, and research materials to share with teachers. The position requires a bachelor's degree in education, and many positions also prefer candidates to hold a teaching license.
Average Annual Salary $44,787

Educational Consultant

Description Educational consultants offer advice and guidance on education planning for students, parents, or educational organizations. They may help students and parents choose a high school or college, work for a school to create educational programs, or conduct research. Educational consultants may be self-employed or work for a school district.
Average Annual Salary $63,026

Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction

A master's degree in curriculum and instruction prepares graduates for a variety of careers in education. During a graduate program, curriculum and instruction students complete classes in educational assessment and measurement, educational psychology, and leadership. Many programs require a master's thesis, which helps students build their research skills. After graduation, educators often pursue careers as a curriculum specialist or curriculum director, overseeing the instructional design for a school or district. The degree can also lead to school administrator positions. Prospective students can research the top online master's in curriculum and instruction programs to learn more.

Careers with a Master’s Degree

Curriculum Specialist

Description Curriculum specialists analyze teaching materials and frameworks to determine whether they serve students effectively, and may rely on student learning measures, such as test scores or surveys. Curriculum specialists make recommendations to teachers and school administrators. The position typically requires a master's degree.
Average Annual Salary $54,683

Curriculum Director

Description Curriculum directors develop educational guidelines for teachers to follow when making curricula. They ensure that these guidelines meet regulations and educational standards, design strategic goals for educational organizations, and help train educators on meeting curriculum goals. Curriculum directors often possess a background in teaching and hold a master's degree.
Average Annual Salary $73,094

Educational Technology Coordinator

Description Educational technology coordinators work with teachers, school administrators, and school districts to bring technology into the classroom in an organized, efficient way. They advise teachers on the best technologies to implement in the classroom and work with administrators to align technology to the curriculum needs. Most positions require at least a bachelor's or a master's degree, and some may require a license.
Average Annual Salary $50,133

Elementary School Principal

Description Elementary school principals set goals for their schools, ensure the school follows regulations and laws, and manages the budget and other resources. They hire teachers, conduct performance reviews for teachers and staff, and work with school boards and parents to strengthen the school. Many principals hold a special license and a master's degree.
Average Annual Salary $79,962

Middle School Principal

Description Middle school principals act as the highest administrator within their school. They manage teachers and staff members, oversee daily operations, and ensure that the school reaches educational milestones set by the district. Middle school principals typically hold a master's degree and often work as a teacher before moving into administration.
Average Annual Salary $90,978

High School Principal

Description High school principals oversee the teachers and staff members at their school. They set educational goals for the school, monitor the curriculum and teaching progress, and conduct performance evaluations for teachers. High school principals typically hold a master's degree, and some states may require a principal license.
Average Annual Salary $89,132

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Description At colleges and universities, education administrators help students access services or financial aid, oversee the registration process, or manage the admission process. Administrators may work in student affairs, the registrar's office, or as deans for academic units. The position typically requires a master's degree and some administrative experience.
Average Annual Salary $92,360

Doctoral Degree in Curriculum and Instruction

As the highest degree in the field, a doctorate in curriculum and instruction prepares graduates to hold academic positions or work as top administrators. Most professors, for example, hold a doctoral degree. During a doctoral degree program, students conduct original research in their concentration area and write a dissertation, which they defend before a faculty committee. After graduation, professionals with a doctorate may become school superintendents, overseeing a school district, or work in academia as a dean or a provost. Prospective doctoral students can research the top online doctoral programs in curriculum and instruction to learn more.

Careers with a Doctoral Degree

Department Chair

Description Department chairs act as the senior administrative position within a college department. They manage the department's budget, oversee personnel issues, and represent the department to academic administrators. Department chairs typically hold a doctoral degree in their field and earn tenure at their institution before becoming chair.
Average Annual Salary $84,131

Academic Dean

Description Academic deans work at colleges and oversee faculty development, manage the institution's resources, and ensure the college runs smoothly. They also play a role in setting academic standards, recruiting new faculty members, and promoting faculty members. Deans typically hold a doctoral degree and often work as professors before moving into administration.
Average Annual Salary $90,379

School Superintendent

Description School superintendents oversee a school district, managing resources for a group of schools and coordinating with the school board and principal to ensure the district meets educational goals. These professionals set goals and design programs for the district, address problems in the schools, and hire principals. Superintendents often have teaching experience and a graduate degree.
Average Annual Salary $116,891

Provost

Description At a college, the provost acts as a senior administrator, often under the direction of the president. Provosts oversee academic programs, allocate resources and funding, and design plans for the institution. Many provosts begin their career as a professor before pursuing administrative positions.
Average Annual Salary $148,544

Curriculum and instruction specialists benefit from the ability to communicate clearly, create positive working relationships with colleagues, and make decisions supported by data. As an administrative position, a curriculum design specialist must also possess strong leadership skills. During a graduate program, students build these skills through their coursework, assignments, and their practicum or teaching experience. Many educators also build valuable skills as a classroom teacher before pursuing a degree in curriculum and instruction.

Analytical Skills

Curriculum and instruction specialists analyze student test scores, evaluate curricula and teaching strategies, and develop recommendations based on their analysis. These professionals must closely analyze qualitative and quantitative data.

Communication Skills

Verbal and written communication skills help professionals in this field explain curriculum changes and communicate teaching standards. Instructional designers regularly communicate with teachers, principals, and other administrators.

Decision-Making Skills

Curriculum designers determine changes to a school's curriculum, propose teaching methods, and recommend textbooks and other teaching materials. They must hold strong decision making skills to carry out these tasks.

Interpersonal Skills

Instructional coordinators work with teachers and principals to ensure a school meets curriculum goals and follows teaching standards. They must build and maintain positive working relationships with their colleagues.

Leadership Skills

Curriculum and instruction specialists may serve as mentors to other educators, training teachers in classroom management and instructional techniques. They must act as leaders in the school.

Curriculum and instruction specialists work in a variety of locations and school settings. They design curricula for diverse student populations, specialize in different teaching and instruction areas, and pursue careers in government, higher education, and K-12 education. This section explores the options available to professionals who earn a master's in curriculum and instruction. It also examines how factors such as location and setting affect careers in instructional design.

Locations

Professionals pursue curriculum and instruction careers in locations across the country. Location affects a curriculum and instruction specialists' career in several ways. For example, the licensing process varies by state, with each state setting their own educational requirements, test scores, and renewal requirements. Location also influences salary, with some states offering higher salaries based on cost of living, demand, and state regulations. Curriculum design jobs may similarly vary depending on the area's risk populations, the makeup of the student body, and the area's rural or urban setting. The following state map provides data on variations by location.

Settings

Curriculum and instruction specialists work in different settings, which shapes salaries, job requirements, and working conditions. For example, instructional coordinators working for the government tend to earn the highest salaries on average, while those working in higher education, including professional schools, typically earn the lowest salaries. Administrative roles at four-year universities, which pay above-average salaries, tend to come with additional employment requirements, such as a Ph.D. When considering curriculum and instruction jobs, educators should also research how different job settings will affect their career. The following table lists instructional coordinator salaries according to job setting.

Instructional Coordinator Median Salary by Setting
Government $76,060
Elementary and Secondary Schools: State, Local, and Private $69,540
Educational Support Services: State, Local, and Private $61,330
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools: State, Local, and Private $56,630
Source: BLS

After earning a curriculum and instruction degree, graduates pursue a variety of career paths. Most curriculum and instruction specialists work in elementary and secondary schools or at colleges or professional schools. Graduates enter a growing market for these positions, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting an 11% increase in job openings for instructional coordinators by 2026. By highlighting teaching experience, licenses and certifications, and other qualifications on their resume and during interviews, curriculum and instruction professionals can increase their chances of finding a job.

Several resources can help education professionals on the job market. Curriculum and instruction professionals can use job boards like the American Association of School Administrators Job Bulletin to look for positions, learn resume tips, and post a resume. Other resources, including professional organizations like the American Association for Teaching and Curriculum and news sources like the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Blog, offer networking opportunities and help professionals stay current in their field.

  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development ASCD represents professionals involved in curriculum development. The association offers advocacy, professional development resources, newsletters, and webinars for members. ASCD also hosts an annual conference with networking opportunities.
  • National Education Association The largest professional organization for educators, with a history that dates back to 1847, today NEA represents over three million members. The association offers classroom resources, career guidance, and grants for members. Educators can also join state and local affiliates.
  • American Association of School Administrators Curriculum and instruction specialists in administrative positions may also benefit from joining AASA, an association that offers professional development resources, continuing education classes, and certification options for administrators. The association also publishes journals, books, and research papers on the profession.
  • Common Core The nationally adopted Common Core standards, which are implemented by the states, offer guidelines on learning standards for every grade level. Curriculum and instruction students and professionals benefit from suggested lesson plans, activities, and other resources offered through the Common Core website.
  • TEACH Grant Students earning an undergraduate or graduate degree in teaching who plan to teach in a high need field qualify for the federal TEACH grant program, which provides $4,000 in educational funding. Recipients agree to teach in a qualifying school for four years after they graduate, or the grant converts into a loan.
  • U.S. Department of Education State Contacts The federal Department of Education offers a resource page which lists important state educational agencies, including state departments of education, higher education agencies, special education agencies, and teacher licensing boards. Teaching professionals can use those resources to find their local education agencies.
  • Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation Curriculum and instruction students should always choose an accredited program to ensure their degree meets licensing and certification requirements. CAEP, the accrediting agency responsible for teacher preparation programs, provides a database of accredited programs, which prospective students can reference when researching programs.
  • National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Depending on their teaching area, curriculum and instruction graduates can pursue board certification through NBPTS. Teachers must hold an accredited bachelor's degree and a minimum of three years of experience teaching to qualify for the exam. NBPTS offers board certification in social studies, math, science, art, special education, and other disciplines.