Best Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction

TBS Staff Writers
Updated October 19, 2023
Graduates of an online Ph.D. in education curriculum and instruction are ready to make significant and positive changes in the field of education.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Online Ph.D. Curriculum and Instruction

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.

The Best Online Doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction Programs

#1 Best Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction

Andrews University

  • Location-markerBerrien Springs, MI
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$28,992
  • Out-of-state$28,992
  • Retention Rate87%
  • Acceptance Rate67%
  • Students Enrolled3,390
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment27%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 Best Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction

Baker University

  • Location-markerBaldwin City, KS
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$29,300
  • Out-of-state$29,300
  • Retention Rate75%
  • Acceptance Rate88%
  • Students Enrolled2,595
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment43%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 Best Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction

Indiana University Bloomington

  • Location-markerBloomington, IN
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$9,575
  • Out-of-state$35,140
  • Retention Rate90%
  • Acceptance Rate78%
  • Students Enrolled43,260
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment19%
  • AccreditationYes
#4 Best Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction

Kansas State University

  • Location-markerManhattan, KS
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$9,735
  • Out-of-state$25,251
  • Retention Rate86%
  • Acceptance Rate95%
  • Students Enrolled21,719
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment27%
  • AccreditationYes
#5 Best Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction

Liberty University

  • Location-markerLynchburg, VA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$15,417
  • Out-of-state$15,417
  • Retention Rate81%
  • Acceptance Rate51%
  • Students Enrolled85,586
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment92%
  • AccreditationYes

Best Online Doctorate

Curriculum & Instruction


The Best Schools

Online Doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction Programs Ranking Guidelines

We selected the following programs based on their quality, curricula, faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation — including the school’s reputation for effectively providing online degrees.

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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.

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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.


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 Title1-5 Years5-10 Years10-20 Years20+ 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
Source: PayScale

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