The Best Online Doctorates in Curriculum & Instruction

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Earning an online doctorate in curriculum and instruction is terrific preparation for professional advancement into administrative or leadership positions in PreK-12 private and public school systems, teaching positions at colleges and universities, or in the curriculum and instruction research field. A doctoral program prepares education professionals to evaluate and design curricula that creates optimal learning conditions for all students. With a large grade school population and many educationally underserved populations, the need for qualified individuals in curriculum and instruction is greater than ever.

Graduates of an online Ph.D. in education curriculum and instruction are ready to make significant and positive changes in the field of education. As a result, they pursue careers as curriculum specialists, instructional supervisors, school administrators, professors, researchers, and more. Additionally, earning a degree online allows busy professionals to pursue their education with a flexible schedule that can accommodate the demands of their career.

Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Degree Program Ranking Guidelines

We selected the programs based on the quality of the program, the types of courses offered, the faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the school’s reputation for effectively providing online degree programs.

The Best Online Doctorates in Curriculum & Instruction

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Liberty University Online 

Lynchburg, VA

About this school

The Department of Teacher and Graduate Education at Liberty University provides students with a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and professional program options to pursue general and niche educational fields. The Department’s programs prepare students to enter a variety of roles in K-12 education, university education, specialized fields of study, public education, private education, and more. Housed in the School of Education, students in the Department benefit from access to internship and study abroad programs, career development resources, and more. The Department maintains a commitment to Liberty University’s Christian mission, advancing Christian values and principles in education.

Through the Liberty University Online platform, the Department of Teacher and Graduate Education offers an online doctor of education degree program with a curriculum and instruction cognate. The program develops advanced knowledge and expertise in the area of curriculum and instruction through a balance of theoretical and practical coursework and in-depth doctoral-level research.

The curriculum covers topics such as educational leadership and its history and social foundations, as well as curriculum theory, curriculum change, conflict resolution, and leadership principles and ethics. The program culminates in a dissertation project and defense, based the individual student’s research interests.

Students prepare to pursue or advance a variety of careers in the education field, including curriculum specialist, instructional supervisor, school administrator, and university professor.

The online Doctor of Education program requires 60 credit hours and includes a selection of the following courses for the Curriculum and Instruction Cognate:

  • Conflict Resolution
  • Curriculum Theory
  • Investigations in Curriculum Change
  • Issues and Trends in Exceptionality
  • Issues and Trends in Teaching and Learning
  • Issues and Trends in Technology and Learning
  • Leadership Principles and Ethics
  • Teaching the College Student

Students in the program must complete a comprehensive exam, dissertation project, and dissertation defense.

For admission into the online Doctor of Education program, students must have completed or be near completion of a Master’s degree in a relevant field.


Georgia Southern University 

Statesboro, GA

About this school

Dating back to the 1906 founding of Georgia Southern University, GSU’s College of Education builds on a long history of teacher preparation. The college’s four departments, including the Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading, serve aspiring educators alongside current educators. The college also works with educational specialists and administrators who seek professional advancement in undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs.

The Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading offers an online doctor of education in curriculum studies degree program designed to meet the needs of working professionals in the field. The program allows students to choose from four emphasis areas:

  • Cultural Curriculum Studies
  • Instructional Improvement
  • Multicultural/International Studies
  • Teacher Leadership

Students earning this doctorate in curriculum and instruction online program engage with an interdisciplinary program that blends theoretical and practical approaches to the field. Students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to advance in a variety of educational professions, including instructional specialist, director of curriculum and instruction, and school and program administration. The interdisciplinary core, combined with the above emphasis areas, allows students to develop a strong foundation while also customizing their study path.

The doctorate in curriculum and instruction includes the following online college courses:

  • History of American Curriculum
  • History of American Education
  • Inquiry and Development of Educational Practice
  • Philosophies of Education
  • Power and Schooling

For admission, applicants must hold a master’s degree that is from a regionally accredited institution and was earned with a 3.5 GPA. Applicants must also submit GRE score, three professional letters of recommendation, and a writing sample.

The program only admits students once per year, and new students must begin in the summer semester.


University of South Carolina - Columbia 

Columbia, SC

About this school

The College of Education at the University of South Carolina provides undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in diverse fields in education, including physical education, special education, and curriculum and instruction. The College of Education provides students with plenty of beneficial opportunities for growth through a variety of internship and practicum options, outreach initiatives and educational partnerships in the community, and research centers.

The College of Education offers a doctor of education in curriculum and instruction online degree program with a concentration in curriculum studies designed for professionals working in the education field who seek to advance their careers as curriculum specialists in a variety of professional settings. The program utilizes a curriculum informed by the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate Consortium (CPED) and covers key topics such as instructional design and assessment, curriculum leadership, and practical and theoretical approaches to curriculum design.

The program places strong emphasis on the importance of understanding, acknowledging, and accommodating diversity in the classroom and through curriculum design.

Students prepare to pursue a variety of careers as curriculum specialists in areas such as PreK-12, higher education, and private education.

The online EdD in Curriculum and Instruction program requires 60 credit hours and includes the following required courses:

  • Advanced Study of Diversity and Curriculum
  • Applications of Learning Principles
  • Curriculum Leadership
  • Curriculum Seminar: Classics and Theory
  • Gender Diversity in Schools and Communities
  • Instructional Design and Assessment
  • Introduction to Diversity and the Curriculum
  • Principles of Curriculum Construction
  • Racial and Ethnic Diversity and the Curriculum

Students must complete a comprehensive exam, dissertation, and defense.

For admission into the online Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction program, students must hold a relevant Master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution.


New Mexico State University 

Las Cruces, NM

About this school

Founded in 1956, the College of Education at New Mexico State University offers over half a century of tradition in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in education. Composed of five departments, the College of Education represents a diverse array of fields under the education umbrella, including: Counseling and Educational Psychology; Special Education and Communication Disorders; and Curriculum and Instruction. The College participates in research and community engagement through programs such as the STEM Center, and the Alliance for Teaching and Learning.

The Department of Curriculum and Instruction offers an online doctorate in curriculum and instruction degree program resulting in a Doctor of Education or a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Designed for mid-career professionals, the program prepares students with the advanced knowledge necessary to pursue a variety of upper-level careers in education. The curriculum includes theoretical and practical approaches through coursework covering topics such as curriculum mediation, curriculum and diversity, social justice issues, and education and technology, as well as in-depth research through dissertation work.

Students prepare to advance professionally in the education field, in careers such as curriculum specialist, instructional supervisor, school administrator, and university professor.

The Doctoral in Curriculum and Instruction online program requires 48 credit hours and includes the following core courses:

  • Acquiring Emancipatory Discourses
  • Curriculum for a Diverse Society
  • Curriculum Mediation for Democratic Communities
  • Early Childhood, Communities, and Social Policy
  • Pedagogy of Learning in a Diverse Society
  • Social Justice Issues in Education
  • Technology, Society, and Education

Students must complete a dissertation and defense, as well as three one-week summer residencies.

For admission into the online Doctoral in Curriculum and Instruction program, students must hold a Master’s degree in Education, and have three ye


Regent University 

Virginia Beach, VA

About this school

The School of Education at Regent University provides students with a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and professional program options in diverse fields in education. Building on the Christian mission of Regent University, the School of Education maintains a commitment to developing well-qualified leaders in education with programs built on Christian principles. The School of Education provides students with the benefits of internship and practicum opportunities, scholarship opportunities, flexible online programs, and more.

The School of Education offers an online doctor of philosophy in education degree program with a concentration in curriculum and instruction for students seeking to advance careers in education. The program utilizes classroom teaching, as well as in-depth research through dissertation work. The curriculum develops advanced knowledge in curriculum and instruction through courses that cover diversity and inclusion, program evaluation, curriculum assessment, theories of development, and more.

Students prepare to pursue or advance careers in a variety of professional roles and settings, including university education, curriculum and instruction consultant, school district administration, and more.

The online Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction program requires a minimum of 75 credit hours and includes the following core courses:

  • Advanced Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
  • Advanced Study of Theories in Learning and Development
  • Advanced Theory and Practice of Leadership, Communication, and Organizations
  • Curriculum and Assessment for College/University Teaching
  • Data-Driven Decision Making
  • Diversity, Inclusion, and Theory in the Classroom
  • Strategic Planning and Program Evaluation

Students must complete a dissertation and defense, as well as three one-week residencies.

For admission into the online Doctor of Philosophy in Education program, students must have a relevant Master’s degree.


End of list, bravo!

What Is an Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction?

Students earning an online doctorate in curriculum and instruction degree learn to assess, design, and implement changes in curriculum and instruction, often for preK-12 educational programs. Graduates emerge with either a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) or doctor of education (Ed.D.) degree, which signifies they have completed the highest level of study in their field.

Programs typically cover subjects such as instructional leadership, curriculum assessment and development, research theories, qualitative methods in curriculum and instruction, instructional design and technological integration, and curriculum and diversity. Students devote significant time to research in the curriculum and instruction field, and they hone their abilities in curriculum evaluation.

Typically designed to meet the needs of midcareer professionals in education, an online doctorate in curriculum and instruction program combines advanced online coursework with a culminating dissertation or practicum experience that integrates theory and practice.

Prospective students should note the varying career tracks open to those with a Ph.D. or an Ed.D. For example, a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction often leads to a career in research or a teaching position at a college or university. Meanwhile, learners with an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction typically fill administrative or leadership positions in education as well as positions in curriculum design and instruction.

What Can You Do With a Doctoral Degree in Curriculum and Instruction?

Job seekers with an online doctorate in education curriculum and instruction pursue a variety of exciting careers. In a variety of positions including teaching and administrative roles, these professionals carry out many essential functions in public and private school systems as well as education-focused companies around the world. Workers in this field are organized team players. They focus on the needs of their schools or organizations and develop coherent strategies to meet their goals. The following list highlights some popular careers for graduates of online doctoral programs in curriculum and instruction.

  • Curriculum Director:
    These professionals design and implement effective educational frameworks in the classroom. They coordinate projects with senior management and assist with teacher training courses.
  • Assessment Specialist:
    These specialists work for schools and private education companies to develop educational performance assessment materials. They test to determine student placements and assess their progress over time. Many assessment specialists have prior teaching experience.
  • Instructional Designer:
    Instructional designers develop and implement various types of learning curricula or modules based on scientific research. They work for schools and companies to develop learning materials for children, adults, employees, and customers based on needs and company strategies.
  • High School Principal:
    Principals oversee virtually every aspect of high school administration. They work to improve the educational environment around their schools and offer disciplinary actions for students, teachers, and staff as needed.
  • Superintendent:
    These administrators, as heads of the school system or district, work full time around the year on staffing issues, hiring and removing employees as needed, and budgetary plans. They work with school boards and principals to make sure schools meet their educational goals within their budgets.

Salary by Experience for Curriculum and Instruction Careers

Job Title 5–5 Years 1–10 Years 10–20 Years 20+ Years
Curriculum Director $59,000 $65,000 $75,000 $76,000
Assessment Specialist $44,000 $51,000 $56,000 $62,000
Instructional Designer $57,000 $66,000 $73,000 $81,000
High School Principal $78,000 $82,000 $87,000 $93,000
Superintendent $104,000 $120,000 $109,000 $129,000

Source: PayScale

Choosing an Online Curriculum and Instruction Doctoral Degree Program

When researching a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction online program, consider your schedule and availability, learning style, and financial situation. Some programs offer entirely online programs that distance learners complete from virtually any location with internet access. Alternatively, hybrid formats require some in-classroom work. Be sure your program also offers what is best for your lifestyle. Students with financial concerns may find it advantageous to investigate in-state programs, as these tend to be the most affordable options.

Whichever route you choose, you should set aside several weeks to research programs before you apply. Students spend several years in doctoral programs, and you want to find a school that meets your educational and financial needs.

  1. Program Cost:
    The cost of online doctoral programs in curriculum and instruction vary significantly between schools. Some may cover the cost of tuition completely for doctoral students, while others can charge out-of-state tuition rates that are double in-state tuition. If the financial aspect of graduate school concerns you, search for low in-state tuition rates. Alternatively, you may locate programs that charge the same for all distance learners regardless of their location.
  2. Transfer Policies:
    Students with previous college courses from accredited programs can save time and money provided they meet the transfer credit policies of their school. In many cases, online doctorate in education curriculum and instruction programs honor transfer credits recently earned with a B average or higher. If you plan on transferring credits, be sure to locate and understand your prospective school’s transfer policy.
  3. School Size and Type:
    Public and private schools often feature different class sizes for online courses. In many cases, smaller private schools offer fewer vacancies in online courses to make a professor’s job more manageable. Public schools may offer multiple sections of one class, with multiple professors handling the workload. One is not better than the other, but smaller classes may result in a more competitive admissions process.
  4. Program Length:
    Depending on the graduation requirements, most full-time students complete the Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction online in 3–5 years. Part-time students spend more time finishing classes and other requirements and may spend up to seven years in a graduate program. Graduate schools often establish a maximum number of years a student may pursue a degree before their earned credits begin to expire.
  5. On-Campus Requirements:
    In hybrid programs, students take one or more classes in person in a classroom. While most curriculum and instruction degrees feature entirely online programs, some learners may prefer to split their time between remote work and classroom instruction. Considering on your learning style and schedule, find a school where the format fits your needs.

Accreditation for Online Curriculum and Instruction Doctoral Degrees

When researching prospective schools, distance learners should consider only college and universities with regional or national accreditation. These designations ensure that your program meets certain academic standards and offers quality training. The more prestigious designation is regional accreditation, often awarded to schools with academically focused programs at the associate through doctoral levels. Nationally accredited schools also meet high standards of educational quality and typically offer career-focused programs. Online doctoral programs in curriculum and instruction may also hold programmatic accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Both private organizations and the federal government take part in the accreditation process. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is a private membership organization that represents over 3,000 colleges and universities and 60 institutional and programmatic accrediting organizations. CHEA holds institutions to high educational standards and ensures a positive relationship with other accrediting bodies and the government. The Department of Education (ED) approves accreditors, both national and regional, and ensures they possess the expertise to determine educational quality. For students to receive federal aid from the government, their school must hold accreditation from an ED-recognized body.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctoral Degree in Curriculum and Instruction?

The duration of your online Ph.D. in education curriculum and instruction program depends on your availability and the graduation requirements set forth by your department. Doctoral distance learners typically complete 91–120 credits over the course of 3–4 years. In addition to coursework, Ph.D. degree seekers usually need to complete a final capstone project or write a traditional doctoral dissertation. The research and writing for the dissertation, alone, may take up to two years. While all students progress through doctoral programs at different rates, especially during their final years, full-time distance learners can expect to spend no less than four years earning the degree.

Courses in an Online Curriculum and Instruction Doctorate Program

  • Instruction Theories and Trends
    Students learn about the impact of legislative and socio-political forces on how schools develop curricula, learning activities, and class structure. The course covers both new theories and time-tested models of instruction for learners of all ages. Doctoral students also learn about classroom diversity and focus on the experiences of underrepresented groups based on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation.
  • Clinical Experiences in Improving Instructional Effectiveness
    The course examines behaviors that influence students’ academic achievement. Degree candidates learn effective pedagogical techniques and various classroom strategies. Additionally, degree seekers develop data collection techniques. This class takes place in a classroom or school setting, either in a student’s current position or a location approved by their advisor.
  • Discourse Analysis
    Students explore the main types of discourse analysis, including conversation analysis, critical discourse approaches, and rhetorically informed discourse. Doctoral students learn to take notes, transcribe recorded discourse, and distill important information for analysis and research. Depending on the program, learners may develop structured interviewing techniques that professionals often use in educational research scenarios.
  • Education Policy and Law
    The course covers modern-day approaches to education policy issues and the history of litigation involving K-12 schools and students. Degree seekers develop an understanding of legal and policy development in the 20th-century American schooling system. Case studies and examinations of pertinent laws serve as starting points for class discussion, assignments, and research projects.
  • Gender Issues in Education
    This course helps students understand the various issues of gender and sexual diversity in education and schools. Learners delve into gender construction and the influence of the educational system. The course presents theories and research about contemporary educational issues, including those related to sexism and homophobia.

Curriculum and Instruction Certifications

Professionals with a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction online may wish to pursue further certifications. These credentials increase your employability in specialty areas of the field or allow you to seek jobs with public and private schools. Additionally, certifications can increase your earning potential. Most states require professionals in educational and administrative roles in the school system to possess a teaching or administrative certification. Ph.D. holders with a certification in a specialty area may also pursue jobs as departmental chairs at the college level or find employment as a specialist in grade schools or high schools.

The following three certifications may prove useful for professionals with training in curriculum and instruction in varying career tracks.

  • Curriculum Specialist Certification:
    Ph.D. holders with this credential work as school administrators and focus on improving the effectiveness of instruction at an institution. They often have teaching experience and create new curricula or revise existing instructional methods.
  • Teaching Certification:
    Most professionals working in public and private schools pursue a standard teaching certification that complies with the rules and regulations of their state. This certification helps new graduates prepare for jobs in higher education and creates new teaching employment opportunities.
  • Education Administration License:
    Public school professionals in most states need a teaching credential or education administrator license. Each state education board determines its requirements. In most cases, learners need a degree in an education-related field, complete a training program, and participate in supervised practice teaching experience.

Curriculum and Instruction Professional Organizations

Professional organizations open many opportunities for those with an online doctorate in education curriculum and instruction. Undergraduates, graduate students, job seekers, and seasoned education professionals all benefit from memberships with organizations in their general field or specialty area. The annual and regional conferences organized by these associations make for exceptional networking opportunities. These gatherings also give workers in this field an opportunity to present their research, collaborate with colleagues, and establish contact with potential employers.

The list below highlights some popular professional organizations for people working as teachers and curriculum and instruction specialists.

  • American Association for Teaching and Curriculum:
    Founded in 1993, AATC offers members access to annual conferences that feature keynote speakers and to curriculum and teaching experts. Members use exclusive access to online journals to stay current on news and research in the field. The homepage also features an active job board.
  • American Federation of Teachers:
    Founded in 1916, AFT represents 1.7 million members worldwide. The association features five divisions, including pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals; higher education faculty and staff; federal, state, and local government employees; and nurses and other healthcare professionals. Members take advantage of daily updates, a job board, e-newsletters, and online networking opportunities with others in their specialty area.
  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development:
    Based in Virginia, the ASCD boasts over 113,000 members from 129 countries. Superintendents, principals, teachers, and students take advantage of the organization’s online webinars, school and office supply discounts, career coaching services, and legal advice. The group also hosts annual leadership conferences, including meetings focused on teaching excellence and educational leadership.

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