What are Curriculum and Instruction?

The two terms refer to a specialty or concentration within education that focuses on the research, development, and implementation of the curriculum. The field explores how students learn, as well as creating new trends in the teaching process. The intent of studying the discipline is to improve the quality of education through instruction and exciting courses.

At the master’s level, there are numerous online and campus formats from which to choose. In preparation for a graduate program in Curriculum and Instruction (C&I), a recommended option is an undergraduate degree in education. A bachelor’s degree also provides concentrations. Some of these are Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, Secondary Education, and Special Education. You may also select between a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science. The coursework in the latter generally contains more required credits in mathematics, natural sciences, computer science, or a combination of these.

Whether it is an ‘Arts’ or ‘Science’ degree doesn’t affect meeting the requirements to receive a teacher certification or state licensure. You can base your choice on your interest in the school’s classes.

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Master’s in C&I

The typical graduate program is 30-32 credits, whether you choose a residence or online learning format. This specialty in education involves theoretical knowledge with practical training in areas such as curriculum design, assessment techniques, and educational research.

The typical master’s degree is a Master of Education (MEd). There are additional concentrations available within a C&I program. For example, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) offers an online MEd in C&I with five specialties:

  1. Dyslexia Studies and Language-Based Learning Disabilities
  2. Education Leadership
  3. Reading
  4. Special Education
  5. Technology Integration

The study plan of a master’s degree in education may include core courses followed by required credit hours. Mississippi College’s online program, for example, consists of 9 credit hours of core and twenty-one hours of required content. Whereas, Brandman University in Irvine, California, has 18 hours of core courses and 24 hours of electives. That school refers to their degree as a Master of Arts in Education (MAE), Curriculum and Instruction. Another distinguishing feature of Brandman is that students must have a current teaching credential before beginning classes in the MAE program. Individuals without their teaching credentials may take two specified courses instead.

Other specialties exist within the specialty of C&I. The University of Colorado-Boulder offers three tracks in their 30-credit online Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction. The three choices are:

  1. Humanities Education – relates to students’ understanding of human experience and culture.
  2. Literacy Education – learn techniques to advance literacy instruction (2 years teaching experience needed)
  3. Math and Science Education – gain expertise in teaching and learning of subjects associated with math and science (most applicants have teaching experience).

The University of Texas Arlington also has M.Ed. Degrees with a choice of concentrations. They, too, have the specialty of Science and Mathematics Education. The difference is that UTA’s College of Education separates the two disciplines. There are six concentration courses in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction for the science and mathematics content-curriculum integration emphasis. On the other hand, you may choose from the College of Science for more subjects emphasizing science and mathematics.

Unique to UTA’s M.Ed. is a concentration in Mind, Brain, and Education. This option is a 30-hour non-thesis, non-certification program, focusing on integrating cognitive science, neuroscience, and education.

Admission Requirements

Some of the master’s degrees in C&I are for certified teachers who want to advance their career prospects. Therefore, some schools ask applicants to submit proof of teacher certification or professional endorsement. Candidates must also have an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution. There are schools whose admission statement stipulates that your bachelor’s degree be from an NCATE (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education) accredited program. That is outdated information.

As of 2016, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) replaced the NCATE standards. CAEP accredits schools’ programs in education at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels.

As mentioned in the above examples, there are instances when teaching experience is a requirement for admission. Two or more years are typical — additionally, grades matter for your bachelor’s degree. For example, you may need an undergraduate transcript with a 3.0 GPA for your last 60 hours of courses or 3.0 cumulative GPA, whichever is higher.


By advancing to a master’s degree in C&I, you will be eligible for a career as an Instructional Coordinator. These professionals oversee the school curriculum and teaching standards from kindergarten through high school. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is a financially rewarding vocation with a median wage of $64,450 (May 2018).

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