What is an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction?
The Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction is, in effect, a teacher’s Ed.D. That doesn’t mean that everybody who holds the degree is a teacher; the job options for people with this Ed.D. are, as we’ll explore below, numerous, and the most lucrative tend to focus on supervision. But it does mean that it focuses on the nuts and bolts of what a teacher does: the design and execution of a curriculum. Think of it as a degree in curriculum engineering, and you’re very close to the mark.
Types of Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Programs
The general curriculum and instruction coursework covers theories of learning, pedagogy, curriculum design best practices, supervision, and assessment. At the Ed.D. level, it’s also quite common to see general educational leadership coursework thrown into the mix.
Supervision and Assessment
Because supervision and assessment play such a large role in curriculum and instruction at the administrative level, it’s not unusual to see degrees in this field that include supervision or assessment in the major title itself. We see this, for example, in Texas A&M’s Ed.D. in Supervision, Curriculum, and Instruction and the University of West Florida’s Ed.D. in Curriculum and Assessment. Because supervision and assessment are already included as course subjects in a standard curriculum and instruction Ed.D., the practical differences between these doctorates and a standard Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction are not always significant.
A teaching focus can be meaningful, as there is theoretically a huge philosophical difference between mentoring a teacher and merely supervising one. Teacher education can play a major role in curriculum and instruction programs, and is sometimes available as a specialization within them (as we see, for example, in the University of Nevada’s rigorous 27-hour teacher education specialization within their Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction), but it is not always immediately clear what the point of view of the teaching component will be. Programs like the University of Pennsylvania’s Ed.D. in Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education use teaching-focused language to make their approach more explicit.
It’s also possible to use specializations as a way to focus your curriculum and instruction program on the exact kind of work you intend to do. If you pursue Boise State’s low-cost online Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, for instance, you can specialize in the curricula surrounding specific academic subjects (literacy, mathematics), student populations (bilingual education, early childhood education, special education), or career tracks (educational leadership, educational technology).
Earning an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction
Curriculum and Instruction Prerequisites
Ed.D. programs typically require an M.Ed., M.A. in education, or comparable master’s degree. Holding an educational specialist degree (Ed.S.) usually grants advanced placement.
Some programs also require a minimum GPA of 3.0, a GRE exam, and/or an admissions essay.
Curriculum and Instruction Coursework
If you sign up for an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, expect to spend a lot of time studying and applying theories of learning; that’s the main disciplinary focus. You will also find yourself covering a lot of more general education subjects outside of your major, such as educational leadership, the history and goals of education, educational psychology, and public policy studies. Research courses also typically make up a large chunk of the curriculum, especially if a dissertation is required.
Curriculum and Instruction Dissertations
Like most Ed.D. programs, the Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction sometimes (but not always) requires a dissertation. When a dissertation is not required, students will be required to complete an original and substantive capstone project that demonstrates their understanding of the field. It is also not uncommon for these programs to require internships or other field work, and it is not unheard of for them to require a comprehensive examination at some point between completion of the coursework and submission of the capstone project.
The University of Virginia’s Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction demonstrates how rigorous a non-dissertation Ed.D. can be, requiring a substantive field work portfolio, two examinations, and a capstone project.
Online Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction Programs
Are Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction Programs Offered Online?
Yes. While there aren’t as many online Ed.D. programs in this field as there are in, say, educational leadership, there are still dozens in our database to choose from.
Online Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction Residency Requirements
You can usually count on spending a week or two per year on campus, but exceptions do exist. Texas A&M University’s Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and Northcentral University’s Ed.D. in Curriculum and Teaching require absolutely no physical residency of any kind, period. Residency in some other programs, such as Boise State’s online Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction (which requires very little residency in the first place), may be negotiable under special circumstances.
Online Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction Field Work Requirements
Not all online Ed.D. programs require internships or field work, and those that do generally allow students to satisfy these requirements off-campus, in their own areas of residence.
Curriculum and Instruction Careers
Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction Jobs
It’s not unusual for people with doctorates in curriculum and instruction to pursue careers as administrators or teachers, but the field most relevant and specific to the degree is actual curriculum work.
People who work in curriculum and instruction as a field are often described as curriculum and instruction directors, curriculum specialists, or something of that nature. This general category of work is classified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as instructional coordination. It doesn’t pay as well as administration (with a median salary of $63,750 per year vs. $94,390 per year for K-12 principals), but it’s growing a little faster (11% vs. 8%) and usually involves far less political intrigue.
Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction Salary
Indeed.com lists average annual salaries for curriculum managers ($56,239), curriculum leaders ($62,046), instructional designers ($63,637), and senior instructional designers ($73,898) that are within 20% of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ median for this job category, but it also lists a few highly lucrative six-figure curriculum and instruction gigs in the IT industry.
This suggests that, while most of the work in the curriculum and instruction field can be found in the traditional education sector, the highest salaries are generally reserved for people who can help Silicon Valley corporations train their employees to use cutting-edge software and programming tools.
Is an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction Worth it?
If you want to work as an instructional coordinator, yes. There is no more applicable degree.
The bad news is that if you don’t work in the IT industry, curriculum and instruction is not a particularly lucrative field. It pays better than teaching, but significantly worse than administration. The good news is that you’re unlikely to ever have trouble finding work; it’s one of the fastest-growing fields in the education sector, and an Ed.D. in the field is still uncommon enough that it’ll make you eligible for relatively high-salary jobs within the education sector.
If you’re a teacher looking for a general teaching-related doctorate, you’ll find few more relevant to your work than an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. But if you’re an administrator, or aspire to become an administrator, an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership is probably a more relevant and effective credential to pursue. If you’re an administrator with a particularly strong interest in curriculum and instruction, a degree that covers both fields, such as Columbus State’s Ed.D. in Leadership and Curriculum, might allow you to cover both bases.
If you’re interested in educating teachers at the college and university level, a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction is probably a better choice than an Ed.D. in the same field, though an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction could still be serviceable for this purpose.
Curriculum and Instruction Resources and Organizations
- American Association for Teaching and Curriculum (AATC): Featuring a journal, email listserv, annual conference, and awards process, the AATC is arguably the leading academic organization in the country dedicated to curriculum and instruction.
- American Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies (AAACS): The AAACS is the AATC’s headier, more radical cousin, bringing an awareness of Freierian critical pedagogy into the conversation. Come for the conference and journal but stay for the task forces, ad hoc committees that take on specific critical issues in curriculum and instruction and produce substantive collaborative projects from the subsequent dialogue.
- Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD): If you’re pursuing an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, this organization—which incorporates the subject into a broader discussion of educational leadership—may be more relevant to your interests than any other.
- The Curriculum and Pedagogy (C&P) Group: Featuring an edited book series with titles like Collective Unravelings of the Hegemonic Web and Liminal Spaces and Call for Praxis(ing), the C&P Group advances the furthest academic edges of curriculum and instruction as a discipline. The organization also sponsors a journal and annual conference.
- National Education Association (NEA): America’s largest union is best known for its political advocacy, but as a professional organization that includes most U.S. instructors and curriculum designers the NEA also offers a great deal of useful resource content and significant networking opportunities.