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Career Spotlight: What Is a Curriculum Specialist?

October 29, 2020

Quality curriculum plays a key role in ensuring all students have access to a good education. The quality of textbooks, teaching methods, and the treatment of different subjects can all affect how—and how much—students learn. Excellent curriculums can support teachers in critical ways and boost student achievement. Research consistently suggests that comprehensive, rich instructional materials and effective delivery methods can improve student academic success. For this reason, curriculum specialists matter when it comes to building effective schools and closing achievement gaps.

What is a curriculum specialist, and how can those inspired to support teachers and students with quality curriculum pursue this career path?

What Does a Curriculum Specialist Do?

Curriculum specialists develop and improve instructional materials used in classrooms. These materials might include textbooks, workbooks, graphic organizers, projects, tests, or instructional software. They also help guide teachers by recommending textbooks and giving them feedback about classroom approaches, content delivery, and instructional strategies.

Additionally, curriculum specialists analyze current curriculum frameworks to determine if they are effective. They then consider how to adjust frameworks to make improvements or to make sure they meet new initiatives or standards. This might involve examining student learning tracks to assess the frameworks’ effectiveness in helping students progress through different levels of a subject.

Curriculum Specialist Duties and Responsibilities

Typical responsibilities of a curriculum specialist include:

  • Reviewing curriculum in committees
  • Creating and revising exams, scoring guides, and unit plans
  • Choosing instructional materials and textbooks to implement in districts
  • Setting goals for areas of curriculum teachers cover in a school year
  • Learning about innovative instructional methods and new educational technology
  • Helping teachers integrate new technology into their instruction
  • Observing teachers and offering feedback
  • Monitoring district performance by analyzing data and interpreting statistics about curriculum

Path to Becoming a Curriculum Specialist

Curriculum specialists work in consulting, administrative, and supervisorial roles that require a great deal of fluency in best practices for teaching, classroom management, and education theory. As such, they need advanced degrees and work experience.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step in becoming a curriculum specialist is earning a bachelor’s degree. Aspiring curriculum specialists can choose to study education or the subject of the curriculum they want to develop.

Earn a Teaching Certificate

Curriculum specialists begin their careers as teachers. To become a teacher, one must meet certification requirements that can vary by state but typically involve:

  • Earning a bachelor’s degree
  • Completing a student-teaching program
  • Passing a background check
  • Passing a certification exam

Additionally, in some states, teaching certification and licensure require the completion of a graduate degree.

Earn an Advanced Degree

Graduate degrees strengthen expertise in areas such as educational theory, strategies for teaching diverse students, and special education, all keys to effective curriculum development and implementation. An advanced degree in education can also heighten cultural competency and introduce the most progressive curriculums to aspiring educators. Those hoping to launch careers as curriculum specialists can equip themselves with the needed skills by earning either a Master of Arts in Teaching or a Master of Education in Education Policy and Leadership.

Gain Teaching Experience

Classroom teaching gives curriculum specialists needed insight into how activities, instructional materials, and teaching methods play out with living, breathing students. It offers educators the opportunity to apply theories and strategies and better understand how and when they work. To design a successful curriculum, earn the trust of classroom teachers, and deliver valuable feedback to those teachers, curriculum specialists need more than theoretical knowledge—they need on-the-job experience.

Skills Important to the Success of Curriculum Specialists

In addition to understanding what a curriculum specialist is, those interested in the position need to learn about the skills required to succeed. The following skills allow curriculum specialists to competently accomplish the tasks required of them:

Critical Thinking. Quality curriculum and teacher support rely on a curriculum specialist’s ability to assess teaching methods, instructional materials, and student performance data. Curriculum specialists must make recommendations based on their analysis of a variety of factors that affect student learning.

Leadership. To provide useful and effective support, curriculum specialists need to skillfully motivate, guide, and mentor the teachers with whom they work.

Decision Making. Curriculum specialists make important decisions about methods of instruction and curriculum. As such, they should go through a thoughtful process and use relevant factors to make informed choices.

Interpersonal Communication. Curriculum specialists need to explain teaching strategies, changes to curriculum design, and the reasons for those changes, so teachers feel invested. They also need to offer constructive feedback. This requires excellent communication skills and the ability to form positive working relationships.

Support Teachers and Students as a Curriculum Specialist

A curriculum specialist works with teams of educators striving to deliver quality education to all students. Their expertise in the best teaching strategies and most effective instructional materials allows them to empower teachers in the classroom and raise student achievement.

Discover how American University’s online Master of Arts in Teaching and online Master of Education in Education Policy and Leadership programs equip educators with the skills they need to transform education.