Instructional Design Career Path

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Instructional Design Career Path

Instructional design is a field that is growing in demand. It offers a variety of career paths, from designing and developing instructional materials to managing and directing instruction design projects. If you are interested in making a difference in students’ lives, then an instructional design career may be for you!

In this post, we will explore the different career options within instructional design and provide an overview of what it takes to pursue each one. Let’s get started!

1. What Is an Instructional Design?

According to the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI): “Instructional design is the systematic development of instruction in which success with learners is a primary goal. This process employs specific principles, methods, tools, information, and skills to improve the quality of learning outcomes.”

An instructional designer is a person who designs instruction. They have the expertise to determine what combination of instructional content, media, and learning activities will most effectively achieve the organization’s training objectives.

Instructional designers are problem-solvers. They work with subject matter experts (SMEs) to understand each step in the workflow of a job and to determine the knowledge, skills, and attitudes (KSAs) required for workers to perform effectively and safely. They use this understanding to develop training strategies to deliver change agents capable of improving work performance.

2. What Is an Instructional Designer Do?

According to the ISPI: “The instructional designer is a critical member of a training team. It’s their responsibility to make sure that training materials are appropriate, effective, and meet organization effectiveness standards.”

In addition, according to the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), an instructional designer typically performs the following tasks:

Designs, develop, and/or manages instructional design projects. This includes specifying trainer needs, selecting trainer qualifications, determining required learning content and development activities, writing scripts or storyboards, creating the necessary media for training delivery, etc.

Prepares instruction to help learners retain knowledge and develop skills. This often includes structuring information so that learning is most effective, creating media to deliver the appropriate content, determining instructional strategies to help learners acquire new knowledge or develop skills.

Creates e-learning courses. This may involve developing scripts storyboards, creating graphics and multimedia, writing/editing text for workbooks, etc., managing other designers on the team who are responsible for these functions as well.

Develops and maintains standards of quality and presentation of materials. This often includes writing and/or reviewing detailed specifications for the design of learning activities, courseware, and other training materials; creating, maintaining, or managing style guides for their organization to ensure consistency across projects.

3. What Knowledge Do I Need to Become an Instructional Designer?

According to the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI): “A bachelor’s degree or higher is usually required. Formal training in instructional design, communications, and/or media production will help you land a job as an instructional designer.”

The most common types of degrees for this profession are:

  • Undergraduate – Associate degree (AA), Bachelor’s degree (BA or BS)
  • Graduate – Master’s degree (MA, MS, MM), Doctorate (Ph.D., EdD)

Typically, professionals with a bachelor’s degree can find jobs as instructional designers; those who want to advance in the field will typically need to pursue graduate-level education. Of course, it is possible to find employment without a degree if you have extensive experience in the field.

4. How Long Does It Roughly Take to Become an Instructional Designer?

According to the ISPI, it takes roughly 7-10 years of experience as an instructional designer to achieve “instructional design mastery” and become recognized as an expert in the field.

So if you have no training or experience yet but aspire to become an Instructional Designer, it would likely take you at least ten years before achieving mastery in your field.

5. What Are the Different Positions Available?

There are many areas that instructional designers are often involved in. According to the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI): “Common ones include performance technology, corporate training, learning and development, talent management, human resources development, e-learning/distance learning.”

As Instructional Designers are so versatile, you can typically find them working at different levels within an organization. This includes:

Entry-level: trainee, junior instructional designer, program developer

Mid-level: instructional design team member or manager, learning and development specialist, project manager

Top-level: executive director of learning and organizational performance / chief learning officer/vice president of talent management.

6. What Kind of Salary Can I Expect?

The median salary for instructional designers in the USA is $63,000. Salaries can vary widely depending on where you work and what position you have. According to the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), entry-level instructional design positions typically pay between $35,000-$45,000 annually, while mid-level instructional design managers earn anywhere from $60,000-$90,000.

According to the latest edition of Robert Half’s Salary Guide: “The median US salary for instructional designers was $62,500 in 2014.”

7. What Are the Best Industries to Work in?

According to the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), jobs as instructional designers are most common at:

Post-secondary education  “Instructional Designers work in various roles within educational institutions that may or may not be focused on training. They often contribute to course design and development, whether online or face-to-face curriculum and they create performance support materials to assist learners with their studies. Instructional Designers may also work as faculty members, developing courses that support a college or university’s pedagogy.”

Business and industry  “Instructional Designers within business and industry must be able to accommodate the learning styles of workers from diverse backgrounds. They must also work within the organization’s culture and political structure. Instructional Designers are often called upon to develop training materials for compliance or regulatory education, sales training, customer service training, computer software usage, health and safety programs, technical procedures, and much more.”

Government  “Instructional Designers in the public sector are responsible for the design, development, and delivery of training programs that meet government compliance standards. They also develop training content within budget guidelines and work collaboratively with stakeholders to ensure their needs are met.”

8. What Are the Best Companies to Work for?

Some of the leading companies in America that offer jobs for instructional designers include:

  • Intuit
  • Hewlett-Packard
  • The Walt Disney Company
  • Best Buy
  • General Dynamics Information Technology
  • CB Richard Ellis Group, Inc

9. What Are Some Related Job Titles?

In addition to instructional design, there are several other job titles related to the profession:

Curriculum development Specialist – Refers to designing curriculums for courses and training modules.

E-learning Specialist – This job title is primarily used in designing online training courses and programs.

Course Developer – Refers to developing a specific course or program, typically for a specific audience. It could include creating a combination of learning activities, lecture material, and other resources needed for this course.

Lecturer – Typically, this job title refers to individuals who are teaching/lecturing on a specific topic.

Technical Writer – This job title implies the need for someone with instructional design skills as it usually includes creating manuals, documentation, or other types of training material that can be used by end-users.

Writer / Editor – Many times, writing skills are needed to create training manuals, procedures, or other forms of training material.

10. What Is the Outlook for This Profession?

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment opportunities are expected to grow by 22 percent between 2012 and 2022. This growth rate is considered much faster than average, with many employers increasingly struggling to find highly qualified individuals in this field.

According to the same report, “Job prospects are expected to be good because of the need to replace workers who leave this occupation.” Additionally, many employers often look for individuals with experience in instructional design, while some schools and universities offer degrees in instructional design.

11. What Skills Is One Need to Become an Instruction Designer?

The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the following skills as the most important:

Knowledge of instructional design principles and techniques, educational psychology, linguistics, and computer-assisted instruction

Ability to use course management tools to coordinate learning content and an online testing system Ability to analyze trainee data and conduct a training needs assessment to evaluate the effectiveness of training activities

Ability to create multimedia presentations to deliver consistent training messages Ability to work effectively in a team environment. Communicating well with co-workers is essential, especially when working across different locations or time zones.

12. How Do You Grow in This Field?

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, for instructional designers, additional education and training will lead to more responsibility in this field:

“Employees in this occupation may need a master’s degree if they do not have a bachelor’s degree in technical writing, business, or a related field. Knowledge of business software such as word processing packages and spreadsheet applications is helpful. Employers may prefer that applicants know instructional design, teaching techniques, or adult learning principles.”

13. How Do You Become Certified to Increase Your Marketability?

The International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) offers several certifications in the field, including:

  • Certified Performance Technologist
  • Performance Technology Facilitator
  • Certified Training Specialist
  • Performance Consultant Plus (Pre-approved 30 contact hour training for this certification.)

14. What Are the Best Universities for Instructional Design?

Several colleges and universities have put together programs explicitly designed for those interested in becoming instructional designers.

  • The USA – AL: University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, College of Continuing Studies
  • The USA – GA: Georgia State University, Atlanta, College of Arts and Sciences
  • The USA – MO: Missouri Baptist University, St Louis, School of Business & Leadership
  • USA – NY: The Sage Colleges Troy Campus New York, School of Arts and Sciences
  • USA – NY: Pace University, New York City, Wurzweiler School of Social Work
  • USA – OH: University of Cincinnati Clermont College, Batavia Campus Ohio, Department of Health & Human Services Distance Education


Instructional design is a field that is growing in popularity. It offers opportunities to work with people from all walks of life and help them learn new things. If you are interested in working in instructional design, it is essential to get a degree. There are many different ways to specialize in this area, so find one that interests you and go for it. The sky is the limit when it comes to your career as an instructional designer!

About the author

Indu has been educator since last 10 years. She can find all kind of scholarship opportunities in the USA and beyond. She also teach college courses online to help students become better. She is one of the very rare scholarship administrator and her work is amazing.

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