Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology vs. the Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction: Which Degree is Right for Me?

Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology vs. the Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction: Which is Right for Me?

If you’ve read Ashford University’s Forward Thinking blog, you may have come across the article “Getting Work Experience vs. Getting a Master’s Degree.” Perhaps you’ve even determined a master’s degree is the right choice for you. Now it’s time to decide which degree you should pursue. Ashford University now offers 20 master’s degrees, and deciding which degree you should get can be just as difficult as deciding to pursue your graduate education. While the options are plenty, two increasingly popular degree programs are the Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology and the Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction. To help students choose between the two options, here’s a look at the programs. 

Who’s the Target Population?

The following are some of the key target populations that the MS in Instructional Design and Technology and the MA in Curriculum and Instruction programs tends to serve. Although these lists are not absolute, you may find that you identify with one group more than others.

Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology 

  • Individuals with instructional design undergraduate degrees
  • Professionals already working as instructional designers and learning & development (L&D) specialists who are looking to advance their career
  • Professionals working in the field of education who may want to make a career change into the field of instructional design.

Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction

  • P-12 and post-secondary educators seeking leadership roles in curriculum and instruction
  • Professionals outside of education responsible for training/instruction and curriculum development
  • Individuals seeking to become experts in curriculum development and instruction

How Do You See Yourself Using Technology?

One thing to consider when deciding between these two College of Education graduate programs is whether you enjoy designing documents, graphics, videos, and other forms of instructional materials using a variety of technologies. Although both degrees focus on the integration and evaluation of a variety of technologies for instruction, the curriculum and instruction program is more focused on the use of various technologies to support teaching and learning. Also, technology used in this program is likely to be technology that would be more available to students and teachers in school environments. 

Alternatively, the instructional design and technology program is more focused on the use of technology to develop activities, assessments, and materials for instruction in addition to the use of technologies for the implementation or delivery of teaching and training.

Where Do You See this Degree Taking Your Career?

If you desire to work with existing standards and expectations for learning and create a coherent program of study for learners of all ages, the MA in Curriculum and Instruction degree program from Ashford University prepares you for a broad range of careers that will require instruction and curriculum design skills. 

Alternatively, if you are interested more in the design and development of instructional solutions to address learning needs that you identify in collaboration with stakeholders in a variety of organizations, then the MS in Instructional Design and Technology degree may be your best choice. Job outlooks are excellent for both degree choices. There are a variety of possible career opportunities with each degree. The following is not a complete list. However, they are some of the more common positions that one might hold with each degree. 

Individuals with a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction degree may pursue a career as a:

  • Curriculum specialist
  • Curriculum and instruction director
  • Curriculum and assessment director
  • Training and development coordinator/director
  • Staff training and development manager

Individuals with a Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology degree may pursue a career as a(n): 

  • Instructional designer
  • Instructional design manager
  • Learning and development specialist
  • Learning development strategist
  • Media collections director
  • Technical services specialist
  • Training and development specialist

Ultimately, your professional path will be determined by the types of degree qualifications employers are seeking, so be sure to investigate your career path fully before making your degree choice.

What Are Your Interests? 

If your passion aligns more with expanding your curriculum design and instructional skills, that is, guiding or training others in a variety of learning environments, then the program in curriculum and instruction could be for you. The concepts and skills you will acquire can position you for leadership roles in curriculum and related fields. 

If you enjoy determining the needs for learning and then designing, developing, and evaluating the effectiveness of designed instructional solutions, then the program in instructional design and technology may be for you. Although the program includes knowledge of instructional strategies, it is not a degree that is intended to prepare you for classroom instruction. In addition, with today’s growing online learning landscape, an instructional design and technology professional is more likely to create stand-alone eLearning or instructional solutions in the form of an online course that they are not overseeing for the learners. 

What Next?

If you have not already done so, start looking at companies, organizations, and other types of places of employment who have posted jobs you might pursue and see which skillsets and education requirements they are looking for in candidates. Do you already love where you work and want to grow in that organization? If so, talk to your leadership and human resources personnel about the types of degree qualifications that will serve your desired path the best. Do you have an organization or school in mind where you would like to be employed already? Reach out to its human resources department and key personnel to establish contact and learn about what they are seeking from candidates. You may also reach out to career services at Ashford University for guidance on selecting the master’s degree that may be the best fit for you.
 
To learn more about the Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction and Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology programs, contact an Ashford advisor to explore these degree choices.

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Written by Dr. Lisa Johnson, assistant professor in the College of Education; Dr. Chris Sorensen, program chair and assistant professor in the College of Education; and Dr. Amy Rogers, program chair of the Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction and assistant professor in the College of Education at Ashford University.

Questions? Talk with an Advisor