What Does it Mean to Study Curriculum Design?
With increased accountability required in both traditional and online schools, a career in curriculum design may be an attractive option for students interested in working in education. A curriculum design degree program focuses on the tools necessary to plan and design comprehensive curricula for students, while improving educational methods in the process.
Curriculum design students are expected to learn how to evaluate teacher and student learning processes, setting the ground rules for a learning environment and its development. Advanced skills in teaching, research, organization, administration and communication can all contribute to the success of a professional curriculum designer. More often than not, curriculum designers specialize in a specific subject matter or level of education, adding another layer to their knowledge and skills.
Types of Curriculum Design Degrees
Success in a curriculum design degree program requires excellent research, organizational, and analytical skills. Having experience in education or a related field (whether work-related or through volunteer experiences) is either a plus or a requirement for some programs.
When deciding to pursue a graduate degree in curriculum design (the level at which the specialty is typically offered), it is important to do some research before deciding on a particular program. With an increasing demand for curriculum designers and related professionals in today’s society, more and more universities are offering curriculum design degrees. Recognizing that education professionals often do not have the opportunity to leave their homes and professional lives to attend a class on campus, many colleges now offer the opportunity to earn curriculum design degrees online. More often than not, institutions offer these valuable courses through high-tech methods that can include video conferencing and online chat programs.
Bachelor’s Degrees in Curriculum Design
Programs offering an undergraduate degree in curriculum design are extremely rare. Therefore, aspiring curriculum designers usually must complete a bachelor’s program in education prior to focusing squarely on curriculum design. Additionally, experience working as a teacher or school administrator is typically required for curriculum designers. A teaching license may also be needed to work in a public school system. Bachelor’s degree programs generally take four years of full-time study to complete. Curriculum for undergraduate degrees in education varies by school. However, some common courses at this level include:
- Foundations of Educational Instruction
- Instructional Planning and Assessments
- Facilitiating Engaging Learning Environments
- Ethics and Legal Concerns in Education
Master’s Degrees in Curriculum Design
Because a curriculum design major is rarely offered at the undergraduate level, the most common degree in curriculum design is the Master of Education (M.Ed.) with a concentration in curriculum and instruction, assessment, reading, technology, elementary education, or secondary education. Since many master’s degree students are currently employed in the educational field, online degree programs are a perfect opportunity for these professional educators to increase their own level of education while still maintaining their work and life commitments. These programs require previously earning a bachelor’s degree, and usually take about two years to complete. Some graduate schools offer a Master of Arts designation for their curriculum design programs, such as the Master of Arts in Education with a focus in curriculum and instruction. This program permits teachers to turn education theory into practice with a field-based graduate degree. Students may also choose to pursue a Master of Science in Education with a curriculum design concentration, which focuses on instructional skills and leadership abilities. Topics covered at the master’s degree level may include courses like:
- Principles of Curriculum Design
- Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment
- Instruction Methods and Curriculum for Mutlicultural Education
- Design of Instructional Materials
Ph.D. Programs in Curriculum Design
Although master’s degrees are more common, some universities offer a curriculum design degree at the Ph.D. level. These programs help practicing educators learn the skills utilized in positions of leadership throughout all levels of academia. Students seeking a doctoral degree in curriculum design typically specialize in areas like elementary education, secondary education, special education, or educational research. Because most Ph.D. students do not pursue the degree on a full-time basis, these programs generally take at least two years to complete. Students are usually required to obtain a master’s degree prior to enrolling in a Ph.D. program. Depending on the area of specialization, courses at the doctoral level may include:
- Evaluating Quantitative Research in Education
- Qualitative Research Methods in Education
- Curriculum Considerations for Diverse Populations
- Mediation of Curriculum for Democratic Societies
What Can You Do With a College Degree in Curriculum Design?
Curriculum designers choose the most appropriate learning strategies for a particular organization or school. They also make higher-level decisions, such as recommending the types of learning materials to be purchased. In many cases, curriculum designers supervise the individuals who maintain and distribute these essential learning materials.
A curriculum design professional is instrumental in implementing new technology in classrooms or other learning environments. They may be responsible for monitoring important equipment and software, ensuring that it is being utilized in the proper manner. They might also work with computer and media specialists to determine the best way of delivering materials to students and other individuals.
In order to make the curriculum design process work smoothly, curriculum designers often meet with educational decision-makers, committees and advisory groups to determine the needs of participating students. Additionally, many curriculum designers train teachers and other professionals on how to make proper use of educational technology and instructional materials. Those with a curriculum design degree may be found working in the following positions:
Instructional coordinators are charged with developing and maintaining teaching standards and curriculum in schools. They ensure that the curriculum produces the desired results, assess the teaching techniques used to deliver the curriculum, and work closely with school administrators and teachers. These professionals may also conduct teacher training.
- Minimum Educational Requirement: Instructional coordinators are required to hold a master’s degree in curriculum design. They are usually expected to have experience in teaching, education administration, or both.
- Special Certifications or Licensures: Licensing requirements vary by state. However, many instructional coordinators are required to hold a teaching license, a school administrator license, or both — particularly if working in a public school setting.
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals
School principals are in charge of managing the day-to-day activities at a particular school. Some of their responsibilities include managing staff, creating class schedules, preparing budgets, and coordinating teacher and staff training. Principals may also be required to develop standards for teaching and curriculum. Then, they evaluate student and teacher performance as it relates to these standards.
- Minimum Educational Requirement: A master’s degree in education administration is required for most principal positions. Experience teaching is also considered a prerequisite.
- Special Certifications or Licensures: Principals must be licensed as a school administrator in most states. They may also be required to satisfactorally complete a licensing exam, earn continuing education, and pass a background check.
Postsecondary Education Administrators
School administrators at the postsecondary level manage particular departments or schools within a college or university. Depending on their area of expertise and involvement, duties for postsecondary administrators vary widely. Positions in postsecondary education administration range from the admissions department to school deans.
- Minimum Educational Requirements: Educational requirements for some entry-level positions may be satisfied with a bachelor’s degree, although most positions require a master’s degree for consideration. Previous experience working in the field may also be required. For positions overseeing academic areas (such as deans), a Ph.D. is typically needed.
- Special Certifications or Licensures: Licensing requirements vary by state and area of expertise.
Curriculum Design Salaries and Career Outlook Data
Annual Mean Wage
|Education Administrators, Postsecondary||144,880||$112,400|
|Education Administrators, Kindergarten through Secondary||271,020||$100,340|
Curriculum Design Associations and Organizations
Curriculum designers are an important part of any educational system. Graduates of curriculum design degree programs must continue to stay current on the latest trends and technology in education. There are a variety of organizations and associations that offer support services and opportunities for continued professional development to curriculum designers and other educators. Some of these groups include:
- ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) — The ASCD is an organization of superintendents, principals, teachers, and educational advocates dedicated to the pursuit of teaching and learning excellence. This association offers workshops, videos, consulting services, books, and many other professional development opportunities for educators. They also have an annual conference among multiple other events.
- AASA, The School Superintendents Association — The AASA is an organization that advocates for public education and school district leadership at the national level. Additionally, they upkeep trade publications, important information, and other resources for their members.
- Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA) — This organization is focused on promoting and managing education on an international level. The AIEA publishes a professional journal, maintains a variety of resources, and holds an annual conference for its members.
- National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) — The NAASP is an organization for principals working in middle and high school settings that promotes high ethical standards and advocacy on the national stage. Members may participate in professional learning opportunities as well as connect with other members throughout the U.S. and abroad.
- American Association of University Administrators (AAUA) — The AAUA is an organization of administrators working in higher education. The group actively promotes the importance of professional development, and has helped establish professional and ethical standards for postsecondary administrators.
- Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/elementary-middle-and-high-school-principals
- Instructional Coordinators, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/instructional-coordinators
- Postsecondary Education Administrators, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/postsecondary-education-administrators