Instructional Design Careers & Degrees | Become an Instructional Designer (2023)

What is an Instructional Designer?

An instructional designer is responsible for designing, coordinating, and implementing educational material to learners in a variety of fields. The materials must meet expectations regarding satisfying learning outcomes, but they must also adhere to strict standards put in place by quality assurance boards.

Instructional designers are thought of as the architects and designers of the learning process. They can also be known as instructional technologists, curriculum designers, or learning experience designers. The job requirements change often as more individuals seek to gain knowledge through online capacities, whether through their workplace or through schools and universities.

What Does an Instructional Designer do?

Regardless of job location, many instructional designers have similar job duties, including consulting, designing learning materials, and recommending new methods.

Consulting Before Designing

An instructional designer is most often tasked with designing instructional material or overseeing the design of the material. This means a variety of things and involves many sub-tasks, including consulting with pertinent individuals. For instance, they may design learning materials for a business that needs to train their employees on new protocols.

This may involve speaking with the employees to learn their learning style, finding how much time is available to train the employees, and getting a deeper understanding from the owner of what is required. They may also need to consult additional resources to gain knowledge about a specific topic. In this case, the actual designing will involve input from the owner, employees, and various boards or committees (for instance, a safety board).

The instructional designer must consider all individuals and standards when creating their materials. Importantly, some standards must be strictly adhered to. For instance, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requires that employees be trained on a number of safety topics. Instructional designers have designed a number of free materials through videos and other means that businesses can use. However, some businesses will want to consult with other instructional designers in cases where materials are outdated or irrelevant to the current learning objectives.

Creating Learning Materials

The actual creation of learning materials usually involves working on a computer with a variety of different programs. Learning materials may take a number of forms, including print, PowerPoint presentation, or video. Experienced instructional designers will pull from their prior resources to create material that is easy to understand and easy to administer.

Creating a presentation may involve training someone to give the presentation or giving them explicit written instructions on what to say. Individuals teaching a motorcycle training course, for example, use standardized teaching methods which need to be learned before administering the program.

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Creating Online Learning Materials

Many materials nowadays need to be created for online use. Instructional designers need to be knowledgeable on how people learn online as well as how to create materials for online use. Understanding programming languages and web page creation can help many designers advance their career. For example, instructional designers tasked with creating a university standard for how online courses should be taught need to understand what will make students less likely to click through important information, and not cheat on online exams.

Recommend Methods

There are many cases where instructional designers are not actually responsible for creating new material. For instance, many teachers and professors will choose how to administer knowledge, using a variety of techniques they have learned. However, they may need assistance in designing their course as a whole, especially to meet standardized testing requirements. They might meet with a school board to recommend new tactics for teaching and provide guidance on how these new materials should be created and distributed.

Assessment of Learning Methods

Additionally, instructional designers may be responsible for assessing current levels of learning effectiveness as well as new learning techniques. This involves creating and administering surveys or observational data and analyzing the data using analytical methods. The feedback gathered from programs helps instructional designers improve their own as well as their client’s approaches to education.

What is the Difference Between a Technical Writer and an Instructional Designer?

Instructional designers are tasked with the creation, dissemination, and oversight of educational materials that are often given to students and work employees. Technical writers are also tasked with creation of educational materials however they tend to work in industry and generally work with non-educational materials.

Technical writers are responsible for breaking down difficult to understand information into manageable chunks. They may read technical articles and digest these for businesses to understand and implement, or write operation manuals found in consumer products.

Instructional designers may consult with technical writers or use their products in times when they need a better understanding of a topic. They may also work in collaboration on a project, where the technical writer contributes easy to understand content and the instructional designer decides how the information will be distributed.

Can an Instructional Designer Work from Home?

While the vast majority of instructional designers work full time from an onsite office, there is some opportunity to work from home. As the tasks demanded of an instructional designer involve meetings, teamwork, and presentations, working from home is often not realistic. However, some positions are open that only require instructional designers to create material, which can be done from home.

Designers working at a company full-time may be able to conduct phone calls and work on a computer some days from home. However, designers should not count on the option of being able to work full-time at home.

(Video) How to Become an Instructional Designer in 2022

What Do You Learn in an Instructional Design Degree Program?

Instructional design programs focus on teaching students a number of important, practical skills that will help them throughout their career, regardless of where they practice. The following is not an exhaustive list of what students will learn in a program.

  • Basics of Instructional Design: Students will spend one to two courses covering what instructional design is, where and how it can be applied, and how the field is changing.
  • Virtual Design: Students looking to create online material will focus on how students learn in an online environment and how to best present information.
  • Video Production: Required in some programs, optional in others, producing videos is one type of media used to provide instruction.
  • Education: As many designers go on to practice in an academic environment, students will learn how to learn. These courses may be taken through a school’s education department.
  • Instructional Design Challenges: These courses will teach students common challenges in the field and how to overcome them. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills will be learned and practiced.
  • Age Differences in Learning: How to create and present material differs widely depending on the audience. Students will gain knowledge on the learning differences between children, young adults, and adults.
  • Evaluation of Methods: Students in graduate programs will gain in-depth information regarding how to qualitatively and quantitatively evaluate how effective education methods have been.
  • Research Design: Some instructional designers will learn how to conduct research in order to assess and improve existing educational methods.
  • Consulting: Programs will begin to teach students the skills involved with diplomatically meeting with various individuals and organizations involved in creating education material.

What are the Requirements to Become an Instructional Designer?

Educational Requirements

A very few instructional designers hold a high school degree or equivalent, but many get at least a Bachelor’s degree. A four-year university program is often taught through the communications department. The program will train students to create content using film, web pages, and presentation software like PowerPoint. Students will learn the ways in which individuals learn best as well as what types of methods are best in which situations. Students may also take courses in psychology to better understand how people think.

Master's Degree Programs

As the job market gets more competitive, the majority of instructional designers have chosen to pursue higher education and get a Master’s degree before starting their career. A Master’s degree goes further into depth than a Bachelor’s degree program and allows students to complete larger projects that can be evaluated for feedback.

Master’s degree programs often last two years. Few students go on to receive a PhD in instructional design, however this is a possibility. This higher degree is often pursued by those wishing to teach instructional design, develop ground-breaking materials, or practice in a niche field.

Licensure Requirements

Many instructional designers will not need to gain a license to work, with the exception of those working in public schools. In this case, the licensure requirements differ for each state. Most require instructional designers to gain their professional educator license by submitting an application or taking an examination.

A minimum of a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university is needed in most states before applying for licensure. In some states like Illinois, it takes several months for applications to be approved so instructional designers should plan early.

What is an Online Instructional Design Degree?

Online degree programs are available for students to gain a Bachelor’s and/or Master’s degree fully online. All courses taught in a traditional classroom will be taught online through videos, reading material, or presentations.

Some programs, particularly Master’s programs, demand a capstone project to demonstrate their knowledge. These programs can sometimes be completed in less time than traditional programs if students choose to take classes full-time, year-round. Online courses can also be taken in hybrid formats where students take some courses online and others face-to-face in a classroom. This often allows students to gain more feedback on their work.

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Students looking to teach in certain fields like public schools or universities should note that not all online programs are recognized in every state as being accredited and many do not lead directly to a teaching license. Potential students should take care in selecting a program and should contact the state’s educational board in the state they wish to work in.

What Tools Does an Instructional Designer Need?

Instructional Ddsigners utilize a number of specific tools that help them be successful and grow their career. Some of these tools are optional, and not all potential skills are listed here.

Presentation Software

Different programs like PowerPoint or Prezi are crucial for creating presentation material used in education or business settings. Understanding various presentation tools and ways of creating a presentation will allow instructional designers to be flexible in their designs.

Video Equipment

Being able to work professional video equipment is something that most instructional designers can do; however, a lack of familiarity is not an issue. Many companies will contract out to videographers to create professional videos.


Whether a laptop or desktop computer, instructional designers spend the majority of their time working behind a screen to create content and figure out how educational programs should be laid out.

Graphics Software

While creating graphics is often contracted out to a graphic designer, instructional designers with basic knowledge of Adobe products are more versatile and often more valued within a company.

Multi-Line Telephones

Since instructional designers are required to meet with a number of different individuals and coordinate tasks, many offices are equipped with special telephones. Instructional designers who work independently may need to utilize special conference software or programs to make this work.

Survey Creation Programs

Programs like SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics can be utilized to survey students in order to assess how effective an educational program is. Survey analysis tools are also crucial measurement tools. While these aren’t always necessary, they help ensure programs are meeting standards.

(Video) Transition from Teacher to Instructional Designer

What Skills are Required to Be an Instructional Designer?

Becoming an instructional designer requires a wide array of knowledge and skills that will be put to the test when creating educational materials, training educators, and assessing methods. Certain personality traits will help designers excel, however many skills can be learned through educational programs.

The following is not a complete list but will give instructional designers an idea of what employers are looking for.

  • Presentation: Instructional designers must be skilled at both designing presentations as well as administering presentations. This involves knowledge of presentation software as well as having good speaking skills.
  • Computer Based Training Software: Used primarily by instructors, instructional designers need to be skilled at using programs like Blackboard and Moodle in order to utilize these in their instructional designs. For instance, educational facilities not using these programs can be encouraged by instructional designers to incorporate them into their lesson plans.
  • Creating Graphics: While instructional designers do not need to double as graphic designers, having a basic working knowledge of Adobe Photoshop and related programs will help to create eye-catching educational material.
  • Data Collection and Analysis: Creating surveys, collecting data, analyzing and reporting on data is an important skill for instructional designers who are aiming to test new methods or evaluate current educational standards.
  • Webpage Creation: Instructional designers need to understand how online learning takes place as they have a large role in shaping e-learning courses and curriculum. Being skilled at creating learning-based webpages and incorporating test questions, videos, etc. is a critical skill.
  • Writing and Communication: Being able to clearly write and communicate a topic or a method of instruction is critical for instructional designers.
  • Project Management: Many working parts need to be managed when creating instructional programs. Instructional designers need to speak with many individuals and coordinate ideas and sub-projects to make a program run smoothly.
  • Networking: While the majority of instructional designers work for an established educational facility some work independently. In cases where work needs to be contracted out to graphic designers or video creators, instructional designers need to have established networks to turn to for contract work.
  • Video Creation: Engaging videos can make or break a student’s interest in a subject. Recording and editing videos can be contracted out, however independent contractors often learn the basics of these skills in educational programs.
  • Ability to Teach: Instructional designers must themselves be skilled at instructing, whether teaching teachers or testing out new methods with students or business employees. If working with a school or school district, most states require designers to hold a teaching license.
  • Leadership: Many instructional designers report that they are able to make executive decisions when creating materials or advising teachers on new methods. They often need to lead instructors and administrators throughout various processes.

What are the Benefits of Being an Instructional Designer?

Becoming an instructional designer can lead individuals to gain a number of benefits.

  • Sense of Accomplishment: Properly designed educational materials allow students to gain a better understanding of difficult topics. Many instructional designers note they feel accomplished when their methods are implemented and students are successful at reaching their learning objectives.
  • Creativity: Even instructional designers who spend their entire career within one domain get to exercise their creative abilities to tackle tasks. As times change, instructional designers have needed to get creative to continually capture students’ attention.
  • Job Flexibility: The options for employment for instructional designers are wide ranging. While many work for public and private schools or universities, many more work online or consult for businesses. Flexibility can also include the ability to work from home, however this is not always the case.
  • Working with a Team: The ability to work with many different individuals within a team can mean goals are achieved more quickly, which can boost an instructional designers career.
  • Ability to Outsource: While learn all the different skills involved in being an instructional designer can be overwhelming, they have the opportunity to hand off tasks to other individuals. For instance, they may outline how a video should be created but can hand over the actual task to a videographer.
  • Create Something New: Designers who hold graduate degrees may have more flexibility in experimentation with new methods. New formats created can take hold and spread throughout a mode of learning, like streaming live videos with online courses.
  • Job Variety: From creating new material to designing an entire course, instructional designers do not often have a dull moment. Who they work for can change as well as the outcomes of what they are creating.

What is the Job Outlook for Instructional Designers?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have a category for instructional designers but looking at instructional coordinators can give a good idea of the future of instructional designers. According to BLS, the job field is expected to increase 11% in the next 10 years, which is higher than the 7% average of all occupations.

This increase is due to a number of reasons. The boom in online learning has created a large market for designers to focus their skills on the internet to improve learning modules and online degree and certificate courses. While this major shift took off several years ago, instructional designers are now tasked with evaluating and improving current methods.

Public schools are also still heavily focused on meeting state and nationally-mandated learning objectives. This gives instructional designers opportunities to improve existing teaching methods in order to increase student achievement.

What Professions are Similar to Instructional Design?

School Teachers and Instructors

Educators in public schools and universities utilize the services created by instructional designers, but they also create their own. Teachers must follow guidelines put forth by their states’ board of education as well as follow national standards to educate their students. Instructors may be found online and at public and private schools.

Instructional Coordinators

These professionals often oversee curriculum designers and are tasked with overseeing the broad picture of education. They may work with teachers and principals at schools to develop curriculum plans, textbooks, and set learning objectives as a whole in order to improve the education of students.

(Video) Is Instructional Design Right for You?

Technical Education Teachers

These instructors often teach students certain technical skills that can be learned in technical and certificate-based school programs. They often have different ways of teaching as many skills learned are hard skills and require hands-on learning. They may need to adhere to various standards when teaching skills that require safety considerations like welding or becoming an auto mechanic.

Training and Development Specialists

Individuals in this career track are tasked with creating education material that focuses specifically on educating employees through businesses. While an instructional designer may do this job as well, many specialists receive particular training in their area of expertise and hold specific knowledge regarding what standards are required.


What degree do most instructional designers have? ›

While a bachelor's degree may qualify you for an entry-level position in this field, most instructional design professionals hold a master's or doctoral degree. This is because an advanced degree is usually required by higher education institutions and also preferred by many government and corporate employers.

What is the career path for an instructional designer? ›

In a normal career progression on learning design career path, you start as an instruction designer or L&D Specialist, transition to Senior ID, then to Principal ID or Learning Architect before transitioning to leadership roles like Associate Training Director or Training Director.

Where do instructional designers make the most money? ›

As you can see, instructional designers in the USA and Australia top the charts when it comes to total compensation. The average compensation of instructional designers in India is also much lower than that in the other countries.

What is another name for an instructional designer? ›

In fact, in addition to the mainstream titles of Instructional Designer or Elearning Developer, IDOL members have ended up with job titles such as Learning Content Designer, Course Developer, L&D Coordinator, Training Design Specialist, Learning Architect, Instructional Technologist, Learning Experience Designer, ...

Is a degree in instructional design worth it? ›

Knowing Instructional Design is a Career and is Worth Pursuing. Yes, you can make a career out of caring for students' learning experiences online. Some people actually do very well for themselves financially in the public sector or in consulting.

Is instructional design a good career? ›

Instructional designers report high job satisfaction, earn above-average salaries, and enjoy good work-life balance. If this career aligns with your interests and you feel confident that you can learn the skillset (which we'll cover in this article), then you should definitely consider pursuing it.

What can I do after instructional design? ›

Some Jobs in ID are:
  1. Curriculum Designer.
  2. eLearning Developer.
  3. Media Specialist.
  4. Authoring Specialist.
  5. Learning Management Specialist.
8 Nov 2021

Are instructional designers in high demand? ›


Is there a future in instructional design? ›

One result of the growing demand for instructional designers is likely to be a re-ordering of the ID labor market. Schools will likely need to offer flexible and remote work options to get the best ID talent. In many ways, the work of an instructional designer is well suited for hybrid and remote work.

What are 3 qualities of the ideal instructional designer? ›

The Most Important Skills To Look For In An Instructional Designer
  • Creativity. Instructional Designers need to be creative; think outside the box. ...
  • Communication Skills. Instructional Designers need to be able to say a lot in few words. ...
  • Research Skills. ...
  • People Skills. ...
  • Time Management Skills. ...
  • Flexibility.
1 Oct 2017

Do instructional designers write content? ›

As the title says, an Instructional Designer designs instructions. Yes, they're writers, but they don't just write. They understand learning processes and design the instructions around the medium to be used, and around the learner's perspective and requirement.

How hard is it to be an instructional designer? ›

You have to be intuitive, so you can understand your clients' needs. You also have to be insightful and innovative, so you can guide them effectively with practical solutions to tackle their real and pressing problems. Being an instructional designer is a challenging job.

What are the three types of instructional design? ›

The model categorizes learning objectives into three core principles: Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor. The Cognitive model is the most widely used when it comes to creating learning objectives during instructional design.

What are the 3 major components of instructional design? ›

While there are many different models and theories that guide instructional designers as they develop effective learning experiences, instructional design practices calls for all instruction to include three primary components: Clear goals and objectives. Learning activities. Assessments.

Is instructional design a science or an art? ›

Instructional design is both a science and an art. Scientifically, it is a process of organizing information in a logical sequence in order to present new information to learners while at the same time, activating and scaffolding the learners' existing knowledge.

Is instructional design a stressful job? ›

While every job comes with its share of stressful situations, being an instructional designer provides you with a relatively relaxed work environment. It doesn't bleed into your personal life and gives you ample time to pursue other hobbies, spend time with family, or simply enjoy life.

How do instructional designers make money? ›

How Do You Earn More as an Instructional Designer?
  1. Choose a specialty. Many ID's believe that being a jack-of-all-trades equates with a higher salary, but this is usually not the case. ...
  2. Upgrade your authoring software. ...
  3. Become a manager or supervisor. ...
  4. Use your industry expertise. ...
  5. Sell your own courses.
19 Mar 2020

Do instructional designers teach? ›

Instructional designers are teachers of teachers, assisting with the framing of an instructor's ideas for their class and understanding what is and isn't possible (Morris, 2018).

How do I start a career in instructional design? ›

Many start by working as educators or trainers, and then move into instructional design, after building their skills in curriculum design and assessment. Educators can also enhance their instructional design skills through online courses that add to their classroom or training experience.

How competitive is instructional design? ›

Instructional Design is a very challenging profession. It's competitive. Designing great learning experiences, then putting them out in the world, to possibly fail, can take an enormous amount of emotional energy.

Is instructional design a tech job? ›

Employed Instructional Design Technologists commonly hold degrees in Educational Technology, Business, Education, and Computer Science. In fact, many Instructional Design Technologists take the time to hone their craft even longer than most and end up pursuing Master's degrees.

How long does it take an instructional designer to build a course? ›

A average 1-hour interactive elearning course will take 197 hours to develop. But development of a 1-hour elearning course can range between 49 hours for the low end of the range of a “basic” course to 716 hours for the high end of the range of an “advanced” course.

Why instructional designers are in demand today? ›

Outside of the education realm, instructional designers will continue to be in demand to create updated training with appropriate content for organizations of all types, ranging from nonprofits and government entities to corporations.

Do instructional designers travel? ›

Instructional Designer - CareConnect Training

Minimum of 3 years' experience in training, curriculum development and instructional design is required. Able to travel up to 25% of the time within network and system.

Do instructional designers work from home? ›

Though some of the courses instructional designers work on may be taught in person, many are online.

Do you have to be creative to be an instructional designer? ›

Instructional designers also use interpersonal, organization and problem-solving skills to manage projects with team members and matter experts. Other essential skills for an instructional designer include: Creativity.

Do instructional designers do graphic design? ›

Many instructional designers are also copy editors. Some even come with a digital marketing background in website content, digital analytics or graphic design, so they have an innate ability to gather, monitor, and use learning analytics to inform their work and meet the organization's goals too.

Is instructional design only for elearning? ›

Instructional design makes e-learning more engaging

Based on their analysis and background, instructional designers can then select the most relevant tools and strategies that best suit the learners' needs in order to create a more interactive learning experience.

What does an instructional designer do at a university? ›

Instructional designers are paramount in the process of learning. They are tasked with redesigning courses, developing entire courses or curriculums and creating training materials, such as teaching manuals and student guides.

What are the 5 key stages of instructional design? ›

In this post we'll explore the five stages of the ADDIE model of instructional design—analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation—and how this process can help or hurt your learning evaluation methods.

Can a teacher become an instructional designer? ›

The best thing about choosing instructional design as a career is that, as a teacher, you already possess most of the skills required to succeed in this field. So, by developing some additional skills, learning several tools, and following the right course of action, you can easily make a smooth and easy transition.

What skills must an instructional designer have? ›

Top 10 Instructional Designer Skills That Today's Instructional Design Candidates Should Have
  • Deep Level Of Understanding Of Learning Models. ...
  • Learning Technology Experience. ...
  • Presentation Technology Knowledge. ...
  • Project Management Skills. ...
  • Visual And Artistic Talents. ...
  • Assessment Development. ...
  • Understanding Of Virtual Reality.
22 Jul 2017

What is the 4 instructional design models? ›

"Many current instructional design models suggest that the most effective learning environments are those that are problem-based and involve the student in four distinct phases of learning: (1) activation of prior experience, (2) demonstration of skills, (3) application of skills, and (4) integration or these skills ...

What does an instructional designer do day to day? ›

They train people not only in how to use educational technologies, but why and when to use them to maximize the teaching and learning experience. Instructional designers often work in higher education, elementary or secondary education, government, or companies providing educational support services.

How do I sell myself as an instructional designer? ›

Create an Online Portfolio

An online portfolio is one of the most tried and true methods to market yourself as an eLearning designer. Creating a website and online portfolio makes it easier for you to be “found” on the internet, and gives you an opportunity to showcase yourself and your work.

Is there demand for instructional designers? ›

œObviously the demand for experienced IDs is greater than for freshers, as this is a new-age industry requiring a combination of academic and ICT skills.

Is instructional designer in demand? ›

Instructional design related jobs are in high demand worldwide as organizations are turning towards IDs to solve performance problems and deliver rich learning experiences. Instructional designers are hired across a broad range of organizations including: Government. Medical.


1. How to Get an Instructional Design Job With No Experience
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2. What I Wish I Knew Before Applying for Instructional Design Jobs
(Dr. Luke Hobson)
3. How to Get the Instructional Design Career of Your Dreams - Become an Instructional Designer
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4. How to become an Instructional Designer in 2022 with Cara North
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