A master’s in instructional designer prepares professionals to work at the intersection of design, education, and communications. As the world becomes more digital and people are interacting with digital interfaces for everything from healthcare to entertainment, instructional design and instructional designers are becoming more important. Today, there are a number of instructional design master’s program options to choose from.
Here’s a quick example of what an instructional designer might do: Imagine there is a new version of Microsoft Office. A business wants to switch over but doesn’t know how to get their workers to ease into the transition. This business decides to hire an instructional designer or an instructional design team to help. This team would visit with management, listen to their needs, and develop a plan of action to teach the workforce the new software. This plan would then be implemented and its success measured. Check out our complete guide on “What is instructional design?” for more details
Think about how common that kind of scenario is today, and think about how many people are downloading new apps, or trying new digital products for the first time. In all of those instances, good instructional design can help new users navigate and be successful.
Instructional Design Master’s Online
In order to break into this field, you will need the proper education. Many universities, colleges, and institutions of learning offer in-person instructional design master’s degrees. However, many others offer an accredited instructional design master’s online. Benefits include being able to earn the degree from anywhere and often completing course requirements at any time.
There are a number of emerging online course formats and the material taught by professors can either be live (synchronous) or recorded (asynchronous). Assignments are given through the web or email and turned in the same way. Additionally, many schools have instructors who are constantly available to answer questions and participate in the learning process.
Campus-based or in-person master’s degrees in instructional design programs differ from an online program in several ways. First, you must attend classes at a traditional learning institution at a certain time each day and on a certain day of the week. The number of classes available are limited, as well as the number of classes you can miss without failing the individual course. In addition, the classes are given on a semester-by-semester basis, which may be two to four times a year. It is up to the school to decide which classes are given which semester, what time they are given, how many times they are given, etc.
Online courses, on the other hand, offer more flexibility. Sometimes online courses are on-demand, which suits busy schedules, but it is also better for some learning styles.
A possible benefit of in-person classes does include more face-to-face time with your instructors. However, that is all dependent on the school, class, class size, and other factors. For example, certain classes are too big for face-to-face time and are given in auditorium sized classrooms.
Other drawbacks for in-person instructional design master’s degree can include:
- Hefty application fees and admission forms.
- Obligatory entrance exams and scores such as SAT, ACT, etc.
- Limited or no transfer policy for credits earned or credits you may already have.
- Geographical constraints
Earning an instructional design master online can avoid many of these drawbacks. For example, certain schools allow you to apply online, which results in a great saving or elimination of the application fee and simplicity in their forms. Others do not require certain scores on entrance exams or that you even complete them. Online universities also tend to allow more credits to be transferred both into and out of their institutions. They can offer similar or superior internships and real world experiences in instructional design. Finally, many of these online institutions are accredited by the same agencies as in person schools.
A meaningful and directed curriculum is key to a successful education in instructional design. A highly respected master’s degree in instructional design will prepare you to develop courses and learning strategies of your own to impact the lives of thousands of learners.
An instructional design degree equips you with a range of skills including how to understand the pressing issue at hand, the task that must be learned and taught, and a variety of techniques for teaching it. The master’s will show you how to work with a wide variety of students of all ages. You will learn how to connect with their learning style, individual needs, and help them thrive in your learning arena.
Instructional design teaches you various learning theories to help you identify important characteristics in yourself for developing instruction. Although it is a teaching and educational degree, you will not need a teaching license unless you plan on working in an institution of learning that requires one.
The instructional design field is an exciting one. Prepare yourself to study with peers who also enjoy the field of instructional design and are passionate about obtaining a career in the industry. Many degree programs will allow you to take on group projects in order for you to learn from each other. Others may have contests in which the best student project wins some sort of prize or even the opportunity to work on an instructional design task in the real world. Be sure and do your best on these types of projects as they can be a highlight for your educational career after you graduate.
Many master’s degrees in instructional design may require a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Some programs offer you the ability to earn this bachelor’s degree during your studies. Many also allow you to transfer in existing credits for other degrees you may have, have pursued, or are pursuing. Be sure to check with your colleges of choice to see which has the best options for you.
Each learning institution has its own curriculum, but you can generally expect four different types of classes:
- Foundations of instructional design such as analysis, issues, instructions, and more.
- Research for design, questions, analysis, and how to develop proposals.
- Measurement in data analysis, evaluations, processes, and other issues.
- Individual and/or group projects for imagined or real world tasks.
You may also take specialty classes if you wish to enter a special field in instructional design such as education, corporate, non-profit, and others. One thing you should definitely focus on during your education is the development of a professional portfolio to show potential employers your skills.
No matter what your field of study, the goal of any instructional design master’s degree is to each you how to:
- Analyze: You learn to understand the needs of learners including why a learning solution is required of them. It may be the case that some other type of solution is needed such as overall performance improvement or a different, non-measurable goal such as improving teamwork. You also develop goals in training, learning objectives, and how the training will be delivered.
- Design and development: This involves the actual creation of instructional materials as well as the delivery methods you will use. It may involve curriculum, lesson plans, presentations, job aids, participant guides, e-learning tools, and anything else to be used in the teaching of the subject material.
- Implementation: Now that you have your teaching materials, presentation, etc. it is time to take them into your classroom whether it be in person, online, or via another method. You will interact with your students, take their questions, pass on your knowledge, and finalize.
- Evaluation: There are a number of methods to evaluate the success of your program. These can include but are not limited to reviews from students, exams on the material, performance evaluations to determine the level of improvement, if any.
Tuition and Financial Aid
Each school has its own criteria for tuition. However, you should not use total cost as your only method for choosing a school, or even your top method. There are many other factors to consider. For example, you may want to fast track your degree. In this case, you may want to evaluate the cost saved versus the time you will save to see which is right for you. You may also want to earn an instructional design degree in a certain field. In other cases, you may already have college credits or a degree in another field.
Financial aid is an option for just about any school, college, university, or other. Most financial aid programs require you to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It is a standard form most students fill out when seeking financial aid for any higher learning, including an instructional design degree. You must fill it our for every year you attend school. However, it can be done online at no cost. Learn more by visiting the official FAFSA site.
Other costs vary by institution, as well as by whether you choose to attend online, in-person, or a combination of both. They may include textbooks, teaching aids, parking, taxes, internet fees, and others. However, many of these expenses are tax deductible when filing your return, even if you choose to fill out the short form.
Instructional design professionals may also be referred to as training and development specialists. The earnings for this job classification vary from field-to-field. However, the average salary for someone in instructional design was $62,700 for 2020, the latest year data is available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The best paying fields were professional, scientific, technical, finance, and insurance. The worst pay was for those who entered into administrative or supportive services. However, all salaries were above the national average.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the job market for instructional designers is expected to grow nine percent from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average.
Yes, there are a number of design scholarships available. The school or program where you are applying will probably be the best and most up-to-date resource for scholarships and grants.
Accreditation all depends on individual schools and programs. It is a good idea to research and inquire about accreditation before enrolling in any online program.
Instructional design is a new and exciting career that continues to develop over time. It is not a standard career, and continuing education may help you stand out from the crowd. Your career will most likely begin at the entry level and lead to more robust duties in the future. As your education and career progresses, be sure to document all the challenges and solutions you develop to show to future employers. A master’s degree in instructional design may be right for you if you are ready to become a leader to those who need your skills, as well as a student always looking to learn something new.