Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction

Updated August 29, 2022 • 5 Min Read

Licensed teachers with master's degrees and a few years of experience in the classroom may wish to further their career by earning an online Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction. This degree builds upon previous graduate education and teaching experience, offering new teaching methods, in-depth examinations of pedagogical theories, and effective methods of student assessment. The degree allows graduates to advance in their current position, or take on higher-level positions in higher education as professors in teacher preparation programs.

This guide offers a look at careers available to those with a doctorate in curriculum and instruction, and information on what prospective students can expect from the program itself. This guide also outlines the application process and standard admission criteria. Keep reading to learn more about why you may want to earn your online doctorate in curriculum and instruction.

Should I Earn an Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction?

Pursuing your doctorate in curriculum and instruction online offers a pathway to advanced positions in the field. Many professionals choose to pursue a doctorate for professional advancement, and the potential to earn a higher salary. According to data from PayScale, those who possess a doctorate in curriculum and instruction earn more on average than those with a master's in the same field. These professionals have the ability to take on supervisory and administrative roles, working within postsecondary curriculum and instruction departments as well as planning and implementing curriculum initiatives for entire school districts and systems.

Some learners may wish to pursue a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction to explore research and scholarship in the field. Doctoral degrees emphasize research, with courses that explore various methodologies and offer students opportunities to design and implement their own studies. For learners looking to apply their skills and knowledge towards scholarly endeavors, a doctorate in curriculum and instruction will allow them the time and space to do so. Earning a degree online also offers a great deal of flexibility to complete coursework while working.

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

The jobs in curriculum and instruction available to those with doctorates in the field can vary. Typically these professionals work in academic settings, often within public school systems or as professors in postsecondary degree programs. However, some graduates pursue jobs outside of these areas, working as consultants for private institutions, and conducting research. Some may also go on to work for nonprofit educational organizations, serving in leadership and management positions across the education field, and even working for government organizations.

Since a doctorate in curriculum and instruction builds off of topics covered in a master's program, many professionals choose to pursue a doctorate to delve deeper into research and pedagogy, and pursue careers that align with this emphasis. The table below details just a few of the possible career paths available to graduates of accredited online doctorate programs. Keep in mind this list serves as an example of available career options, and is not intended to be exhaustive. Consider how you might align your degree concentration with the career you would most like to pursue.

Career Profiles

Elementary, Middle, or High School Principal

Median Annual Salary: $94,390

Principals handle much of the daily management of a school, including the coordination of curriculum across grade levels. They also prepare and analyze student test scores and other assessment data.

Instructional Coordinator

Median Annual Salary: $63,750

Instructional coordinators use all the integral skills from a curriculum and instruction doctorate to design and implement appropriate curriculum, offer pedagogical guidance to instructors, and analyze student success through assessment data.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Median Annual Salary: $92,360

A postsecondary education administrator with a background in curriculum and instruction may work as academic deans and department chairs, implementing academic policy, overseeing faculty, and advising students.

Curriculum Director

Median Annual Salary: $73,916

Curriculum directors work with school systems, teachers, and administrators to develop curriculum, guiding instructors on its implementation, and ensuring that all instruction and methodologies meet required state standards.

School Superintendent

Median Annual Salary: $116,560

As the top administrator for a school system, the superintendent must have a strong background in curriculum and instruction to ensure all schools and faculty implement required state standards in the classroom.

Curriculum and Instruction Doctoral Program Overview

As you research affordable online doctorates in curriculum and instruction, you'll want to consider which type of degree best suits your goals. In this section, you'll learn more about the different types of doctorates in curriculum and instruction, what typically goes into applying to these programs, and what kind of coursework you might expect while earning your degree.

Types of Doctoral Degrees in Curriculum and Instruction

Depending on your career goals, you have two options for doctorates in curriculum and instruction: the Ph.D. and the Ed.D. Both programs emphasize research and scholarship, allowing students to explore issues in the field and test theoretical concepts. However, these two distinct degrees serve learners differently, ultimately leading to divergent career paths. The Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction often leads to careers in postsecondary education, teaching courses in undergraduate and graduate programs. These positions also provide the resources to continue research in the field.

The Ed.D., although it also emphasizes research, ultimately leads to careers within education administration, working in the elementary, middle, and secondary school systems as curriculum coordinators, administrators, and principals. The Ed.D. may also allow students to complete a capstone seminar or project in place of a formal dissertation, depending on the individual school and program. Generally speaking, both degrees require about the same amount of time to complete.

Application Requirements and Admission Criteria

Applying to an online Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction program requires a few prerequisites. Applicants often must already possess a teaching license prior to admission, although some programs may substitute a master's degree or a certain amount of teaching experience in place of formal licensure.

When applying, applicants must often submit scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) from the last five years, as well as professional letters of recommendation, and official transcripts from all previously completed postsecondary coursework. Most programs will also ask applicants to compose a statement of purpose that outlines your reasons for applying and your career goals, and how you expect the program to help you reach them. Schools may also ask for the applicant's research interests, depending on the program. Typically, applicants to these doctorate programs have a minimum grade point average of 3.5.


The courses required in an online doctorate in curriculum and instruction are designed to prepare students for careers in leadership in education, working within public school systems, universities, and governmental agencies. Courses in these programs are generally structured in sections: general education and prerequisites; core courses; specialization or elective courses; capstone or dissertation courses; and any required practicum hours.

General education covers any foundational courses and master's-level prerequisites students may need in order to progress to the doctoral curriculum. Specialization and elective courses contribute towards the student's chosen concentration area, such as human relations or leadership. Depending on degree requirements, dissertation or capstone hours may entail seminar courses for a capstone project, or supervised hours to complete a dissertation. Some programs require practicum hours, which generally involve working in a classroom setting.

Specific courses offered and required will vary by program, but the sample courses below offer a general idea of what prospective students might expect to take in this program.

  • Curriculum Fundamentals
    This foundational course in curriculum introduces concepts in organizing and developing curriculum, as well as examining patterns and processes in curriculum changes.
  • Instructional Design
    This course explores various types of instructional theory and design, including a look at the existing research in the field, and implications for practice.
  • Theoretical Models in Education
    This research course introduces the cornerstone theories in education and curriculum. Students discuss key figures in educational theory and examine the intersection of theory and practice.
  • Postsecondary Teaching
    This course explores topics in postsecondary pedagogical methods including student assessment, curriculum development, and problems in teaching in higher education.
  • Research Methods
    This research course introduces topics in advanced research and scholarship, allowing students to explore both qualitative and quantitative methodologies for data collection and analysis.

Program Outcomes

An online Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction prepares learners for leadership in advanced positions within the field of education and beyond. Both the Ph.D. and Ed.D. provide learners with skills, knowledge, and competencies necessary to succeed in a variety of curriculum and instruction jobs in public school systems, higher education, and even government agencies.

Students in these programs gain valuable skills in communication and organization. Doctorate programs foster these skills by holding learners to high academic standards. Strong skills in organization and time management are key for program success. Composing professional research papers requires advanced capabilities in written communication, which remains integral as learners move into their careers in curriculum and instruction.

Doctorate programs in curriculum and instruction emphasize a strong knowledge of current policies in education, and a working understanding of how those policies affect professionals and students alike. Students will also learn how to work within these policies to create and implement appropriate curriculum.

Accreditation for Online Curriculum and Instruction Doctorate Programs

Choosing an accredited doctorate in curriculum and instruction online should be a top priority as you research programs. Schools often hold regional or national accreditation, with regional serving as the more common and prestigious option. Individual programs in curriculum and instruction may also hold programmatic accreditation separate from the school's overall accreditation. In curriculum and instruction, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation serves as the most common programmatic accrediting body. Check with each school and program individually to ensure you select a program with the appropriate accreditation.

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