How to Get a Master's Degree in Curriculum Design

Earning a master's degree in curriculum design means learning what makes the best classrooms and administrative offices work. When the teacher becomes the student, the result is a fascinating degree program that focuses in on the behind-the-scenes details of education. Use this guide to find the best curriculum design master's degree for your career goals.

One important detail to note upfront is that master's degrees in curriculum design are non-licensure programs, which means that they generally do not lead toward teacher certification. You must earn certification for grades K-12 through a first or second bachelor's degree, and most master's degrees in curriculum design require that students hold certification in their local state.

Careers for Curriculum Design Graduates

Let higher earnings and more career options be your motivation for earning a master's degree in education. Here are just a few general career categories popularly sought by graduates of curriculum design master's degree programs:

  • Elementary, secondary, or special education teachers
  • Researchers in government and private organizations
  • Administrative positions in K-12 schools

Your own employment and educational history can help determine your career future. A master's degree offers you the focused training you need to pursue rewarding careers in research, education, and administration.

How to Apply for a Master's Degree in Curriculum Design

Even if you're still in the beginning stages of planning to head back to school, it is wise to consider your academic options beforehand. The application process for a master's degree in curriculum design begins long before you fill out your first statement of intent, and it pays to learn more about the different degrees, specialties, and the application process itself.

Step 1: Learn Your MA, MS, and M.Ed. Education Degree Options

There are three degree paths you can choose from for your master's degree, giving you flexibility in training requirements and a targeted career future. Learn more about the three degree options for a curriculum design master's degree:

  • Master of Arts (MA): This flexible degree works for both aspiring teachers and administrators. Specialize in counseling or instructional technology to increase your value as an administrator, or focus on a certain subject, such as science, to remain in the classroom.
  • Master of Science (MS): Offering a more scientific approach to the education degree, the MS typically requires a higher level of research from students. Specialize in technology and work as a high-tech administrator, or move into government research or further education.
  • Master of Education (M.Ed.): The M.Ed. is often considered an appropriate degree for administrative positions in K-12. Other potential M.Ed. specializations include counseling and administration. In some states, an M.Ed. is required for classroom instruction.

Each degree type comes with some flexibility for students--you're not necessarily locked into a research-based career path if you choose an MS over an MA, for example. Just try to make sure your degree matches your career goals in the location where you wish to work.

Step 2: Explore Curriculum Design Coursework Requirements and Electives

The type of degree and specialization you choose has an effect on the types of courses you're required or encouraged to take. After you have chosen to pursue an MA, MS, or M.Ed. degree, you can choose courses based on a broad curriculum design degree, or a degree with a specialty that helps to refine your training. Possible specialization areas within a curriculum design degree include:

  • Subject-based Education
  • Autism Studies
  • Teacher Leadership
  • Counseling

The specializations vary by school, and even within certain specialties, different schools may have vastly different requirements and coursework. Fully researching potential majors and minors is the smartest course of action. See's Guide to Majors in Education for more information on options within your chosen field.

Sample Coursework for a Curriculum Design Master's Degree

Courses and topics included in some curriculum design master's degree programs include:

  • Diversity Issues for School Leaders
  • History & Theory of Curriculum
  • Dynamics of Curricular Change
  • Teaching Reading in Content Areas
  • Promoting Healthy Lifestyles Among Students
  • Teacher as Researcher
  • Literacy

Enhance your researching ability, improve your pedagogy instruction, and learn more about literacy and other specific subject areas with a master's degree in education focusing on curriculum design.

Step 3: Choose Between a Campus-Based and Online Master's Degree

The online master's degree in curriculum design is a popular option for anyone who wishes to maintain work and family commitments while earning a graduate degree. You can earn a master's degree online and enjoy the specific benefits that come with distance education. Of course, online master's degree programs come with their own challenges. Learn more about each type of degree:

  • Online Master's Degree in Curriculum Education: Students often choose online education when full-time work or family commitments mean they simply don't have the time to easily earn a campus-based degree. With tools like accreditation, you can earn a master's degree online with the confidence that your degree is held to the same standard as on-campus education.
  • Campus-Based Master's Degree in Curriculum Education: If you're looking for the traditional college experience, a campus-based curriculum education master's degree offers the environment you want. Meet classroom attendance requirements and work one-on-one with fellow students and teachers.

Step 4: Create Your List of Potential Curriculum Design Programs

After you have determined your preferences for your master's degree, it's time to establish a list of master's degree programs that would best suit your needs. Use this initial list to begin forming your preferences, learning more about course requirements, and seeking out curriculum design programs across the country.

  • U.S. News and World Report ranks the top schools in curriculum and instruction. Browse the A-Z directory for a full list of potential programs nationwide.
  • See the U.S. Department of Education's search page for schools accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council.
  • Check out's listing of online master's degrees in education and make contact with schools that meet your credentials.
  • For campus-based programs, see's campus-based master's degree programs in curriculum design.

Establish a general list of potential schools, and you can begin to focus your list based on accreditation, credentials, and your requirements as a student. For more information on online education, check out's Resources for E-Learning Articles page. The guide provides resources for articles on online education from a range of sources.

Step 5: Determine Master's Degree Program Accreditation

Confirming the accreditation of each master's degree program on your list is an essential part of the degree research process. In order for a school to earn accreditation, it must be approved by a third-party accrediting agency. These agencies consider a school's academic record, finances, teacher profiles and other elements before making their findings public.

There are many benefits to ensuring a school holds current accreditation:

  • Help guarantee the value of your degree to future hiring managers
  • Ease the process of transferring credits and take advantage of federal financial aid
  • Ensure the quality of your master's degree program

Make sure that each potential program is accredited by an accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Search for accreditation status by institution within the department's extensive database. While the process can be time-consuming, the reward lies in the confidence you can gain from knowing the value of your degree.

Step 6: Focus On Curriculum Design Master's Degree Programs That Fit Your Goals

At this point, you should have verified your long list of accredited master's degree programs in curriculum instruction. From there, it's time to apply a few categories to each potential school and narrow down your list to the best master's degree programs for your needs and goals. Work with the following categories:

  • Application: The most exclusive schools usually require the largest applications from students. Use to contact specific program representatives and learn more details about the application process. Transcripts, a resume, and proof of teacher certification are the basis of all applications.
  • Region: If you are considering campus-based programs, think about the cities or towns surrounding each potential school. Research each region's environment, cost of living, and teaching internship opportunities, and give extra credence to schools located in areas where you would like to someday work.
  • Perks: Think about the extras offered by individual programs attempting to distinguish themselves from the group. Special internships, community interaction, and electives could help add to the unique charm of a particular school.
  • Financial Aid: Funding is an important perk that can make the difference between schools. Think about programs offering teaching stipends, department-wide scholarships and grants, and other funding options beyond the traditional funding offered by the government. Note that schools offering the most funding are typically the most exclusive.
  • Faculty: Consider the publishing history and research interests of faculty members at each school. Be careful not to apply to a school based on one faculty member, as instructors move from university to university on a regular basis. The best curriculum design programs offer a well-rounded faculty to students.

It may take a while to narrow down a large list of schools to the strongest contenders, but you save time and application fees in the long run by choosing only schools that best suit your needs and personality. After you've been accepted to an accredited curriculum design master's degree program, you can attend with the knowledge that you've done your research and made the best choice.

Step 7: Begin the Process of Choosing a Master's Degree in Curriculum Design Program

After you have determined the best curriculum design program candidates, it's time to begin the application process. The most important thing to remember when applying to master's degree programs is that each school has its own specific requirements. Stay organized with all elements of the application:

  • Prerequisites: Learn which tests, courses, or degrees are required for applicants. International students must complete a TOEFL exam to prove they are able to take courses delivered in English.
  • Requirements: Students should hold a teaching license in their state, meet certain GPA requirements from their undergraduate studies, and complete a graduate application. Many schools also require that students have at least one year of teaching experience.
  • Personalization: The key to a successful master's degree application lies partly in your ability to personalize it to the school. Once you've learned about individual programs, it should be simple to write each statement of intent to reflect the unique reasons why you'd like to attend a program.
  • Deadlines: Each school has its own deadlines for application, transcripts, and financial aid filing. In addition, the federal government has a deadline for its financial aid application. Stay current on all deadlines with a calendar detailing each benchmark.

Staying organized means a lower stress level and stronger applications overall. Applying to a handful of curriculum design degree programs helps your chances of being accepted to a program with the best funding.

Whether you're applying for an MA, MS, or M.Ed. in curriculum instruction, you have the power to research and make an informed decision about your academic future. Take control of your career with a campus-based or online master's degree in education.


  • Accreditation Institution Search U.S. Department of Education
  • Curriculum & Instruction Master's Degree Program University of North Texas
  • Curriculum and Instruction Master's Degree Program Portland State
  • Curriculum Design University of Delaware
  • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction Program Information UT TeleCampus
  • Master's in Curriculum and Instruction Illinois State
  • The Online Master of Education Degree in Curriculum and Instruction (M.Ed.) UMass Lowell
  • Top Education Schools U.S. News and World Report

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