Careers in Curriculum and Instruction: Job Options and Requirements

Sep 25, 2019

Curriculum and instruction is generally a degree program that teaches the development and evaluation of school curricula and teaching methodology standards. Continue reading for an overview of the program, as well as job and salary info for some career options for graduates.

A career in curriculum and instruction can involve working as a high school teacher, an instructional coordinator, or a principal. High school teachers are required to have a bachelor's degree and state teaching license, while instructional coordinators and principals need a master's degree. Instructional coordinators are not always required to have a state teaching license, although principals must have their teaching license and an administrative license.

Essential Information

Curriculum and instruction graduate-level degree programs include courses in curriculum design, curriculum training, analysis of teaching, and teaching evaluation techniques. It is fairly common for professionals who want to go into curriculum and instruction to start out as K-12 teachers. These professionals usually hold bachelor's degrees and have a background in education. Common undergraduate courses related to education may include teaching methods, psychology of learning, lesson plan preparation, and use of computers in the classroom. Although a background in teaching is not necessarily required to enter curriculum and instruction degree programs, employers may prefer professionals who possess previous experience teaching and communicating with educators.

Career Titles High School Teacher Instructional Coordinator Principal
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Master's degree Master's degree
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 4% 6% 4%
Median Salary (2018)* $60,320 $64,450 $95,310

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Curriculum and instruction is a somewhat broad field within the education industry. Teachers contribute to the development and implementation of curriculum design and instruction methodologies. Curriculum and instruction designers or specialists have far more control over changing the process, though. Principals and other education administrators often meet with curriculum and instruction designers to discuss curriculum standards and teacher evaluations.

High School Teacher

These educators provide instruction to high school students who are usually between the ages of 14 and 18. High school teachers often specialize by topic, such as English teachers, math teachers, or history teachers. Educators prepare lesson plans, lead class discussions, administer examinations, grade assignments, and communicate with students. High school teachers may also volunteer to support student activities. Besides teaching, high school teachers collaborate with other educators, work with school administration professionals, and participate in discussions about curriculum standards and teaching methodologies.

Education requirements for high school teachers usually include a bachelor's degree and completion of a teacher training program, sometimes referred to as a credential program or licensing program. It is not very common for teachers to major in curriculum and instruction at the undergraduate level, although they may take classes in this area of study. Public school teachers must be licensed, and while each state varies on requirements, most states typically demand that prospective teachers meet education and training requirements and that they pass necessary licensing exams. Teaching licenses must be renewed, and this process is different for every state.

Teachers may also obtain national certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which awards the National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) credential. Although the process is voluntary, taking the exam can lead to higher pay and reimbursement for continuing education.

During the decade between 2018 and 2028, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that open positions for high school teachers would grow by 4%. High school teachers who specialize in science, chemistry, math, or those who teach English to second language learners are expected to have the best job prospects. In 2018, the BLS reported that the annual median salary received by secondary school teachers was $60,320, and this salary reflects all secondary school teachers except those who specialize in vocational training or special education.

Instructional Coordinator

Also known as instructional coaches or curriculum specialists, instructional coordinators analyze teaching practices, student test scores, and current curriculum designs of school systems. They make recommendations on how to standardize curriculum and how to modernize teaching methodologies. Coordinators may also make recommendations on teacher training procedures. Instructional coordinators collaborate with educators, principals, and other school administrators. While coordinators can assess any grade level, some may choose to specialize, such as working only in elementary schools or at high schools.

Minimum education requirements for instructional coordinators include holding a master's degree in the field. Some employers may require coordinators to hold teaching licenses, which implies that coordinators may need a background in teaching. A few employers may require coordinators to have an education administrator license, which is the same license that a principal holds.

During the 2018-2028 decade, the BLS estimated that open positions for instructional coordinators would increase by 6%. The average annual salary received by these professionals in 2018 was reported at $64,450, per BLS data. Certain regions pay better salaries to instructional coordinators, and according to research gathered by the BLS in 2018, instructional coordinators who earned the highest average annual salaries worked in the following locations: New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, California, and Washington.


As an education administrator, a principal acts as the head supervisor at any one school location. In this role, principals make decisions concerning educator development, disciplinary policies, student activity guidelines, and curriculum design. Professionals may meet with teachers and instructional coordinators to discuss how to implement better teaching methodologies, which can include upgrading technology, setting up teacher training programs, or redesigning curriculum standards. Principals also act as liaisons, so principals often communicate with other principals, administrators, superintendents, politicians, and community leaders. Other duties vary significantly, but principals may also participate in such activities as budgetary planning, enrollment, human resources, and community outreach.

Most school districts will only hire principals who have prior experience teaching. Education requirements for this profession typically include a master's degree in a field related to education or administration. Like teachers, principals also have to meet state licensure requirements, but the licensure process may be different for principals, since they are administrators and not active teachers. Prior to employment, candidates may have to submit to background checks.

The amount of job growth predicted for this career field between 2018 and 2028 was 4%, per the BLS. Budgetary cutbacks and economic issues seriously affect job growth for principals, and as more districts opt to build fewer new schools, the need for principals may decrease. In terms of median annual salary statistics for education administrators, which is a general category that does include principals, in 2018 the BLS reported that these professionals earned $95,310.

High school teachers may be involved in developing the curriculum they use to teach students about their subject. Principals must have teaching experience, and may be involved in curriculum decisions for their school. Instructional coordinators analyze school test results and make recommendations about how to adjust the curriculum and improve teaching methods.

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