A career as an instructional designer is great for people with a passion for teaching and technology. Becoming an instructional designer takes a great deal of training as you are essentially learning to become a teacher. Unlike traditional teachers who focus on a specific subject, such as math or reading, you will teach various subjects. This can include anything from simple photo editing to advanced scientific procedures.
A successful instructional designer uses a wide pool of talent to create educational items, from printed materials to presentations, videos, and many other materials for digital, print, and screen publication.
Instructional designers combine their expertise with educational and listening skills to produce effective instruction for students, clients, viewers, and others. Below, we will show you what it takes to become a leading instructional designer and thrive in a rewarding career you love.
Instructional Design Degree
As with many leading careers, you will be required to acquire an instructional design or related degree to begin your career. In addition to the traditional four-year bachelor’s degree, there are other opportunities to gain training and experience as an instructional designer, including:
- Certifications in instructional design
- Associate’s degrees
- Bachelor of arts or science in instructional design
- And even master’s and doctorate degrees in instructional design
The programs integrate theory, research, problem-solving skills, and creativity with technological applications to impart knowledge. Instructional design degrees show students many skills they will need in their careers, such as:
- Build design, analysis, and evaluation skills
- Create, assess, manage, and improve upon a variety of training materials
- Learn a variety of platforms to impart lessons such as video, presentation, speaking, and other skills
- Be capable of supporting a team in their educational and technological advancement in corporate classrooms, training seminars, and other venues
Instructional Design Degree Online
The good news is many instructional design degrees can be earned online. Ironically enough, many of the courses are taught by instructional designers themselves. Online courses can be just as effective as in-person ones. However, they come with the added benefit of taking them at the time and place you desire. This allows students to work and work towards a degree or manage other responsibilities.
Online learning is also better suited to certain kinds of learning styles. One of the great things about online learning is that sometimes courses are synchronous, which means you follow the course material at a certain schedule. Other times, the material is asynchronous, which means the course is “on-demand.”
Regardless of which style of online degree you choose, one of the great things about how the course lessons are delivered is that you can rewind (or rewatch or re-engage) the lesson if you don’t understand a certain part. And you can even share the lessons with a friend or family member to get their opinion.
An instructional design degree online can also be more cost-effective and time-effective than a traditional one.
What do Instructional Designers Do?
Instructional designers can also be instructional coordinators, training and development specialists, and instructional systems designers. The practice is designing, developing, and delivering products and experiences that show users how to do a particular task. Think of an instructional YouTube video; whoever made it performed a type of instructional design.
Instructional design applies to both digital and physical formats. Instructional designers must provide a final product that is consistent, reliable, effectively teaches the intended, and also engages and inspires the audience to learn.
The instructional design process has several steps that vary depending on the intended teachings.
- The first step is usually to determine the topic, what aspects need to be passed along, and what success looks like at the end.
- Next is to determine the best steps in instruction. This generally consists of summarizing the topic at hand, its benefits, its challenges, and anything unique about it.
- The third is to develop a plan of action for instructions. One of the most popular in-person methods is to learn, then do. For example, if teaching how to remove the color from a photo, the instructor shows how to do it first. They then instruct the students to perform the task themselves.
- Afterward, the instructor ensures that all students have learned the task and can do it themselves. And then have a plan for those who may not catch on.
- Create a standard of success for both student and instructor. For example, they may have to pass a quiz, produce a result, or other. The student may have to produce a final, edited photo for approval using the photo task. For the teacher, a questionnaire or review may be needed.
It is also important to measure the results of the instructional design. Direct observations may be used, but scientific measurements are also useful. Using the same example, a scientific measurement may read something like “90 percent of all students were able to edit the photo on the first or second attempt.”
How to Become an Instructional Designer
Most instructional designers must have a bachelor’s degree in the field. They often begin as a sort of understudy to practicing instructional designers. They may help analyze the topics at hand. They can provide valuable research. Beginning instructional designers can also help develop presentations in many forms. Once a satisfactory level of the above has been consistently achieved, they may be asked to give opening presentations of their own before moving on.
Instructional designers may also be asked to be familiar with one or more instructional design models such as:
- ADDIE — A five phases model that includes analyzing, designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating.
- Successive Approximation Model — A simplified ADDIE model that aims to gain feedback and build models.
- Dick and Carey Model — Uses an entire system of instruction rather than focusing on individual components.
- Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping — A business-focused model that uses flowcharts, measurements, and more.
- Kemp Design Model — The nine-step model identifies instructional problems to selecting resources for support purposes.
- Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction — A problem-based theory that utilizes activation, demonstration, application, as well as integration.
These skill sets will allow you to build the desired knowledge to show and impress potential employers. They may present you with a particular issue they have. You can then answer with one or more of these models to help them solve. Be sure to constantly check the most in-demand and proven instructional design methods as they often change from year to year. Your current organization may also even offer to pay for part or all of the cost of your instructional design training.
Instructional Design Career Paths and Options
Many industries need instructional designers, ranging from sales and marketing firms to hospitals, colleges, and universities. Instructional designers work in various capacities, including teaching one kind of technology or software, or application. They might be hired to be a more comprehensive designer and trainer for various needs.
The average salary for instructional designers was from $41,950 up to $71,450 in 2020, according to the latest data from the BLS, the most recent data that exists. This results in an average salary of $62,700 per year or an hourly wage of over $30 per hour. The highest 10 percent made over $100k per year. This is higher than the national average, with rates varying per instructional designer.
Below are modified examples of actual instructional designer job descriptions.
- Design, develop, and evaluate instructional materials. Work with internal and external partners to determine the lesson’s focus and implement accordingly. Develop engaging learning activities and compelling course content promoting retention. State end goals and match them. Maintain course documentation and course folders. A degree in the field and a minimum of seven years’ experience are required.
- Transportation and logistics software project needs an instructional designer to develop custom training materials for course development. Will include drastic changes to business processes. Develop exercises and activities that enhance the ongoing learning process. Estimated duration five months with 100% remote-work available. Relevant degrees and experience are required.
- The ID is responsible for designing and developing new and effective learning solutions and instruction for our GitLab customers, partners, and sales professionals. Help students achieve desired outcomes. Meet all milestones and final deliverables by given deadlines. Become a mentor to managers, other trainers, and business partners on best practices in instructional design solutions. Be willing to take on additional assignments as needed.
- The instructional designer will be responsible for a full range of development and learning activities for instructor-led and web-based training programs. Will perform needs assessments, design curriculums/instructional plans, evaluate effectiveness training, and consult on various learning issues. Leads teams, including students, clients, and subject matter experts, to complete projects.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career focuses on planning and administering programs that improve the skills and knowledge of workers. IDs work in nearly every industry and spend most of their time with students. This time is spent giving presentations, leading activities designed to train, and developing materials for continued learning.
In general, instructional designers create and deliver training materials to learners. They may work with traditional printed materials, such as manuals or pamphlets, in addition to multimedia and other eLearning technologies. They can be found inside and outside the educational sector in various industries, including retail, health care, the military, and many others.
In the corporate sector, instructional designers are essential when new training, methodologies, or other programs are introduced. They are the ones who are tasked with properly educating workers on the new criteria. They help ensure that their organization works efficiently and wisely using their capital.
Instructional designers may work as part of a team or on their own. Even when working alone, instructional designers must meet with managers, specialists, and other leaders to help with their curriculum. At the end of the process, it is not unusual for the instructional designer or lead instructional designer to be responsible for 30 percent to 40 percent or more of the resulting success or failure.
Instructional design is more of a journey than a standard career. You may be expected to perform at an internship or entry-level for a while when first starting out. However, success can be earned with consistent, reliable results and positive reviews from your clients.
The good news is that given the ongoing digital transformation and the increased reliance on technology for everything from school to job training, instructional designers will be more and more in demand. Along with the increase in career options, instructional design programs and paths to becoming an instructional designer will also become common and easy to access.