Earning a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction Online

Earning an online Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction qualifies graduates to work in K-12 schools, higher education facilities, government jobs, and the private sector. Within schools, these experts direct or administrator age-appropriate curriculum and instruction. Government or private sector positions, however, places these graduates in instructional coordinator roles or in training and learning development departments.

Students considering an online doctorate in curriculum and instruction are usually nontraditional learners who work full time while they earn their degree. Online coursework provides the same instruction as an on-campus degree, but it is designed to accommodate students with professional or personal obligations. For example, distance learning can include asynchronous learning, minimal or no in-person requirements, local field experiences, and potentially lower tuition rates. Ideal candidates for an online Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction have a robust background in education-related roles, and also possess an affinity for designing curricular outcomes to help students succeed.

What Can You Do With a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction?

Graduates of online Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction programs work in multiple industries, and hold diverse positions that demand varying job responsibilities and personalities. For instance, careers in K-12 require that curricula is designed for adolescents and children who must learn basic information. Conversely, roles in higher education develop curricula that prepare adults for their careers.

Instructional Coordinator

Annual Median Salary: $63,750
Projected Growth Rate: 11%

Instructional coordinators develop curricula, review textbooks or training manuals, and mentor staff members. These professionals also conduct training workshops and evaluate assessment data. While many employers require only a master's degree for this role, candidates with Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction have a competitive advantage in the job market.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Annual Median Salary: $92,360
Projected Growth Rate: 10%

Earning a doctorate in curriculum and instruction online qualifies graduates for higher education administration roles that oversee academics. Job responsibilities vary depending on the area of the school administrators manage. Many administrator roles require a master's degree at minimum, though some roles may demand a Ph.D.

School Superintendent

Annual Median Salary: $116,252
Projected Growth Rate: N/A

Superintendents hire principals, control final disciplinary actions for all employees, and collaborate with their school board. Many superintendents also demonstrate strong budget management, leadership, curriculum planning, and human resource skills. While a master's degree is required for this position, applicants with a Ph.D. may have a competitive advantage in the job market.

The Top-Paying Industries for Instructional Coordinators

Federal Executive Branch

  • Employment: 2,380

  • Percent of Industry Employment: 0.12

  • Annual Mean Wage: $94,010

Merchant Wholesalers

  • Employment: N/A

  • Percent of Industry Employment: N/A

  • Annual Mean Wage: $79,570

Specialty (Except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse) Hospitals

  • Employment: 80

  • Percent of Industry Employment: 0.05

  • Annual Mean Wage: $76,690

Home Health Care Services

  • Employment: 100

  • Percent of Industry Employment: 0.01

  • Annual Mean Wage: $74,530

Insurance Carriers

  • Employment: 100

  • Percent of Industry Employment: 0.01

  • Annual Mean Wage: $74,530

Source: BLS

Traits of a Successful Curriculum and Instruction

Jobs in curriculum and instruction require professionals to accurately evaluate curricula, identify relevant teaching methods, and determine a program's effectiveness and efficiency. The best candidates also possess cutting edge knowledge of curriculum design principles and methods. As leaders in educational institutions, professionals must additionally understand management principles that directly relate to strategic planning, leadership, and coordination. Related roles often demand that candidates understand human resource procedures for labor relations and personnel information systems. Furthermore, professionals should know state codes and regulations to ensure programs maintain compliance. Curriculum and instruction jobs also require technological competence, as they may use multiple training software programs, analytical or scientific software, or document management software.

Learning Strategies
Learning Strategies: Leaders of curriculum and instruction draw from a diverse strategy pool to design content that reaches multiple learning styles. Understanding multiple instructional methods can increase the effectiveness of training programs.
Instructing: Curriculum and instruction professionals must know training methods and procedures that help others succeed. The most successful candidates use differentiated instruction to appeal to more learning styles.
Speaking: Effective communication is essential for curriculum and instruction professionals. Most positions require regular interaction with others, frequent collaboration on projects, and the ability convey relevant information clearly and concisely.

Salary by Experience Level

Aspiring instructional coordinators enter a growing and exciting field. Positions within educational institutions and the government usually offer a salary schedule, giving professionals a clear career progression. Additionally, organizations in the private sector frequently look for a competitive edge in their respective industries, making the demand especially strong for professionals who can effectively educate their workforce. Since these professionals are often regarded as subject matter experts, those with a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction earn much higher wages.

Pay by Experience Level for Instructional Coordinators

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):

  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):

  • Experienced (10-20 Years):

  • Late-Career (20+ Years):

Source: PayScale

Certifications and Licenses a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction Prepares For

  • Teaching License: Many school districts require curriculum directors to hold a teaching license and multiple years of experience. Professionals can earn these licenses prior to their Ph.D. program, though candidates should keep their licenses valid even if they no longer teach.

  • Superintendent License: Superintendents complete an exam that evaluates the relevant standards, knowledge, and skills professionals they need to effectively carry out their duties. Categories include educational, instructional, and administrative leadership. Students must also complete an advanced degree and complete hours of relevant experience.

  • Administrator Certification: Similar to superintendent or principal certificates, curriculum directors can earn a program administrator certification. Details and requirements vary by state. However, states typically require candidates to hold an advanced degree, and multiple years of experience to qualify. Applicants should also provide a clean background check.

Steps to Earning a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction Online

While undergraduate and graduate programs possess similar application processes, applying for a Ph.D. program often includes additional requirements. Furthermore, as colleges and universities set their own standards, application processes may differ. However, despite these differences most programs feature some common requirements. The section below contains the general process required to earn an online Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

number one

Find the Right Program for You

The first step for any student intent on earning their online Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction is to identify programs that meet their personal or professional needs. For instance, some schools offer accelerated programs for students who wish to graduate sooner, while other programs follow traditional semester schedules. Applicants may also want to consider the percentage of coursework offered online, as some programs require in-person components. There are other variables to consider as well, including the cost of attendance, admission requirements, and GPA and GRE score expectations.

number two


As the highest degree one can earn, applying to doctoral programs requires more effort than a bachelor's or master's degrees. For instance, programs often require applications to include relevant work experience, evidence of preliminary research on potential program supervisors, and an in-person entrance interview. Some schools even require a letter of motivation that outlines the student's objectives, along with a research proposal that demonstrates the applicant's base knowledge. Students must also provide noteworthy transcripts of previous coursework and letters of recommendation.

number three

Dissertation or Capstone

The best accredited programs require a culminating experience prior to graduation. These projects are usually rigorous and professional assignments that demonstrate a student's knowledge and contribution to the field. While a master's program typically requires a thesis, capstone projects can be required at all degree levels, and can result in a deliverable such as a portfolio, product, or publishable document. To earn a Ph.D. In the field, most programs require students to complete a dissertation.

number four

Fellowship or Internship

Fellowships and internships provide opportunities for students to gain professional experience and potentially land a permanent a position within an organization upon graduation. Internships are usually short-term opportunities and may or may not include stipends. In contrast, fellowships often last from several months to several years. Students engage in research on current issues within their field, and gain access to professional development opportunities. Unlike internships, most fellowships provide some kind of compensation.

Curriculum for an Online Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction

  1. Politics of Education: As the head of educational institutions, administrators must understand relevant laws and policies. This course examines how politics transforms social values and resources. Students analyze the roles of federal, state, and local governments, and their impact on school policies.

  2. Sociology of Education: School administrators create learning environments that allow all students to thrive. Therefore, the best leaders evaluate ways to close achievement gaps. In this course, students explore fundamental sociology principles and theories that influence education, analyze empirical research, and develop innovative strategies to combat disparities.

  3. Economics of Education: Effective school leadership accounts for the impact of economics on education. In this course, students use microeconomic theories to examine current problems in educational institutions. Students also learn about returns to education, production functions, labor markets, and economic growth. This course prepares future school leaders to make qualitative decisions.

  4. Qualitative Research Methods: Qualitative research allows educational administrators to make sound decisions by identifying political and ethical concerns. This course also allows professionals to identify valid and reliable research. In this course, students examine qualitative research from an administrative and policy perspective. Students also explore epistemology, methodology, and representation approaches to examine current issues.

  5. Leadership Communications: Administrators often speak on behalf of their department or facility, which reflects many stakeholders. This course prepares graduates to address multiple audiences, identify the best theories to effectively communicate messages, and generate appropriate context-specific messages. This course also emphasizes leadership skills including inspiration, motivation, and decision-making.

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