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How to become an instructional designer

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Your guide to entering the realm of instructional design. Steps, qualifications, and tips.

How to become an instructional designer

Instructional designers are increasingly in demand as the world sees a surge in online learning and e-learning initiatives. If you're wondering how to become an instructional designer, this guide breaks down the key steps, qualifications, and opportunities in this dynamic field as well as explores a must-have tool for every instructional designer.

What is an instructional designer?

An instructional designer is a professional who crafts effective learning experiences. Leveraging learning theories like Gagne's principles and Bloom's taxonomy, they design training programs and online courses that are engaging and beneficial for learners. Their goal is to facilitate understanding and knowledge retention.

Instructional designer duties and role

Instructional designers work closely with subject matter experts (SMEs) and stakeholders to ensure the accuracy and relevance of content. They harness multimedia tools to make courses interactive and often manage projects from the ideation phase to final rollout. Their responsibilities include understanding the learning objectives, curriculum development through storyboard, curriculum design, and evaluating the effectiveness of the instructional materials they produce.

Benefits of instructional designer jobs

Being an instructional designer offers numerous benefits. It provides the chance to mold learning environments, ensuring learners benefit from the best educational practices. The role often brings opportunities to work across various sectors, from corporate training to higher education. Moreover, it's a profession that marries creativity with pedagogy, making every project unique.

Qualifications needed to become an instructional designer

While many in the instructional design field start with a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in instructional design, educational technology, or a related field can provide an edge. In-depth knowledge of instructional design models, such as the ADDIE model, and technical skills in tools like Storyline or PowerPoint can be advantageous. Certificate programs, both from universities and platforms like LinkedIn, can further enhance one's instructional design skills.

Steps to becoming an instructional designer

Charting a career path in the instructional design field is a journey that marries creativity, education, and technology. With the rise of online education and corporate training programs, the demand for skilled instructional designers is higher than ever. Becoming an instructional designer requires a blend of academic knowledge, technical prowess, and creativity, all underpinned by a passion for facilitating learning. Here's a deeper exploration of the steps to securing a career in the field:

Educational foundation

Embarking on this journey often begins with a solid educational grounding. A bachelor's degree in education, communication, graphic design, or a cognate discipline sets the stage. However, to further hone your expertise and differentiate yourself in the market, considering a master's program in instructional design or educational technology can be a wise move. Such advanced studies provide a more nuanced understanding and specialized skill set in the realm of instructional design.

Skill development

Modern instructional design isn't just about curating content; it's about presenting it engagingly and interactively. This calls for proficiency in communication skills as well as various learning management systems (LMS) like Moodle or Blackboard, multimedia tools like Articulate Storyline or Adobe Captivate, project management tools, and a gamut of design software. With technology perpetually evolving, an instructional designer's toolkit needs frequent updating.

Understanding learning theories

The bedrock of effective instructional design lies in the theoretical. Understanding foundational learning theories, such as Bloom's Taxonomy, which categorizes levels of intellectual behavior, and Gagne's nine events of instruction, which provide a sequence to optimize learning, is paramount. These frameworks offer a lens through which the effectiveness of instructional materials can be gauged.

Build a portfolio

Much like an artist showcases their best work, instructional designers should curate a portfolio. This tangible representation of your skills can be a game-changer when seeking employment. Incorporate a diverse range of projects: e-learning modules, storyboards, simulations, real-world projects, quizzes, and any other bespoke learning materials you've crafted. It provides prospective employers with a clear indication of your capabilities and design aesthetic.

Network and learn

Instructional design is a dynamic field. Engaging with a community of like-minded professionals can significantly enrich your knowledge. Join organizations, attend industry conferences, and partake in workshops. Immersing yourself in communities, like the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT), and following industry influencers, such as Devlin Peck can keep you abreast of the latest trends, technologies, and best practices.

Average salary for instructional designer job

The role of an instructional designer has become increasingly pivotal as education and corporate training evolve with technological advancements. In the U.S., the average salary for this role is influenced by several factors, such as geographic location, educational background, industry, and years of experience. Typically, entry-level instructional designers, with little to no experience can anticipate a salary in the ballpark of $50,000. However, as they gain experience and expertise, their compensation package tends to grow.

Mid-level designers with several years of experience under their belt can earn between $60,000 to $75,000. Seasoned professionals, who have amassed significant expertise and possibly hold advanced degrees or specialized certifications, can command salaries upwards of $80,000 annually. Additionally, those in high-demand metropolitan areas or specialized industries may find even higher earning potentials. It's also worth noting that apart from the base salary, many instructional designers receive additional benefits, bonuses, or opportunities for freelance and consulting work that can significantly augment their income.

Top places to find instructional designer jobs

Navigating the diverse landscape of instructional design job opportunities requires a keen understanding of where demand is most prevalent. Let's delve deeper into the top places where instructional designer careers are in high demand:

Higher education institutions

With the rise of online education and distance learning, colleges and universities are in continuous need of instructional designers. Here, designers collaborate closely with faculty and educational technologists, developing courseware that facilitates optimum student engagement and comprehension. Opportunities within these institutions not only revolve around building online courses but also refining and modernizing traditional curriculum content. This dynamic environment allows instructional designers to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of academia, ensuring that students receive an education that is both contemporary and effective.

Corporate sector

The corporate world is characterized by its ever-evolving nature, necessitating continuous training and development initiatives. Companies, particularly multinational corporations and those in rapidly changing industries seek instructional designers to devise training modules that align with their strategic objectives. Whether it's onboarding new employees, introducing a new software tool, or training staff on updated company policies, instructional designers in the corporate sector translate business needs into engaging and impactful learning experiences.

Nonprofit organizations

Within the nonprofit realm, the focus of instructional design often leans towards making a palpable difference in communities. Whether it's designing courses for adult literacy, training volunteers, or creating modules on sustainable practices, instructional designers have the chance to craft content that directly impacts society. Working in this sector offers a unique blend of professional challenges and the intrinsic reward of contributing to a larger cause.

E-learning companies

As e-learning continues its ascendancy, companies specializing in crafting online learning courses, training programs, and learning management systems are in constant need of skilled instructional designers. In such environments, designers collaborate with a diverse set of clients, understanding varied needs and translating them into robust online learning experiences. This domain often allows for considerable creativity and innovation, as designers are tasked with creating courses for a multitude of subjects and demographics.

Online job platforms

In today's digital age, online platforms like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor serve as critical hubs for job seekers and employers alike. These platforms aggregate instructional design job postings from around the globe, catering to a spectrum of experience levels and specializations. Regularly scouring these platforms, setting up job alerts, and cultivating a strong online professional presence can open doors to a plethora of opportunities.

Speechify AI Studio — A must-have tool for instructional designers

In the rapidly changing digital world, Speechify AI Studio emerges as a crucial tool for instructional designers. This advanced platform offers AI-driven features that cater to contemporary instructional needs. Designers can use its AI video editing to integrate various multimedia for impactful e-learning modules, while AI voice overs ensure clarity and consistency. The 1-click dubbing enhances accessibility with multiple languages, and AI avatars add a personalized touch, boosting engagement. Leveraging Speechify AI Studio, designers can produce inclusive, top-tier educational content suitable for diverse learners. Experience Speechify AI Studio for free today.


What are the top job interview questions for instructional designers?

Job interview questions hiring managers ask instructional designers often revolve around their design process, experience with learning management systems, understanding of learning theories, handling of stakeholder feedback, and past projects or challenges they've addressed.

What do instructional designers do?

Instructional designers utilize a systematic design process and problem-solving skills to craft and refine the learning process, specifically catering to the principles of child and adult learning. They emphasize creating a learning experience design, ensuring content is both engaging and tailored to the unique needs of learners.

What should I include in my instructional design portfolio?

In your instructional design portfolio, include diverse samples of course modules, storyboards, multimedia elements, feedback from stakeholders, and explanations of design decisions aligned with learning theories and outcomes.

How do I get an instructional design certificate?

To get an instructional design certificate, enroll in a recognized instructional design program offered by universities, professional associations, or online platforms, and complete the required coursework and assessments.

What does an instructional design degree program consist of?

An instructional design degree program typically consists of coursework in learning theories, instructional strategies, multimedia tools, course development, assessment methods, and the integration of technology in education.

Are instructional designer jobs full-time or part-time?

Instructional designer jobs can be both full-time and part-time, depending on the organization's needs and the scope of projects.

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.