Home / Career Guides / How to Become an Instructional Designer

How to Become an Instructional Designer

Do you have excellent written and oral communication skills, a good understanding of website design, and the desire to work in the education field? As an instructional designer, your career will include helping to design learning environments and experiences for K-12 learners.

Instructional designers create learning materials and experiences. They review requirements and specifications to develop creative learning environments. They must have exceptional communication skills, both verbal and written to collaborate with teachers and other educational experts. They need a solid understanding of social media technologies to create and edit online learning material to meet educational goals. 

Instructional designers need good presentation skills to train educators on the use of online learning systems. Advanced computer skills are a must, as is knowledge of learning software tools such as Blackboard, Canvas, Camtasia, and Captivate. They also should have a good understanding of varied learning styles and be able to design material accordingly. If you are familiar with website design, video technology, and have a passion for creating learning material that will help young people learn new things, a career as an instructional designer is a great option.

Sample job description

We are hiring a full-time instructional designer to work on our learning management system. Duties include developing online courses and maintaining coursework in an e-learning environment. The required skills for this position include a bachelor’s degree in education or instructional design, and ability to create engaging experiences for students with various learning styles, and familiarity with interactive media tools. The instructional designer will be responsible for the overall design of the learning experience and will create all necessary materials. They must be able to think creatively and have a strong understanding of how people learn. The ideal candidate will be able to work independently and be comfortable working in a fast-paced environment.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Develop instructional materials, including curricula, learning modules, and other training materials
  • Collaborate with educators, trainers, and managers to develop learning objectives
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of instructional materials and learning experiences
  • Update or create new courses as needed
  • Create online learning environments, including learning management systems and/or portals
  • Ensure the availability of all materials needed for training or coursework

Education and experience

  • Bachelor’s degree in education, instructional design, or a related field
  • Experience with e-learning software and tools
  • Knowledge of best practices for course design and instructional development
  • Experience with content management systems or other web tools

Required skills and qualifications

  • Exceptional creative problem-solving skills
  • A strong understanding of how people learn and how they engage with different types of media
  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills
  • Familiarity with learning theories and instructional design principles
  • Ability to work independently and take ownership of projects
  • Understanding of the organization’s goals and its unique approach to learning

Preferred qualifications

  • Master’s degree in education, instructional design, or a related field
  • Experience working with multicultural populations
  • A portfolio of completed projects demonstrating strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Expertise in interactive media design
  • Experience working with adult populations or specific industry sectors, such as healthcare or government agencies
  • Training in instructional design or work experience in another related field, including journalism, technical writing, writing for marketing purposes, graphic design, or training and development

Typical work environment

Most instructional designers work full-time in an office. However, a number of instructional designers now work remotely. They may also be required to travel to on-site training sessions or meetings. While some of these people will be hired on by specific companies, this is also a popular freelance position where instructional designers will work with many people and companies at a time, helping them on their specific projects. This can be a popular contract position.

Typical hours

Most instructional designers are full-time employees who work regular business hours, which are Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM. However, some may be freelance workers or independent contractors and can set their own schedules.

Available certifications

Though many instructional designers will learn what they need to throughout their education, there are also some who will go on to pursue certifications. Here are the most popular:

  • Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) Certification. This certification covers ten Areas of Expertise (AOEs) included in the ATD certification competency model: Training Delivery, Instructional Design, Learning Technologies, Evaluating Learning Impact, Managing Learning Programs, Integrated Talent Management, Coaching, Knowledge Management, Change Management, and Performance Improvement. This will improve an instructional designer’s ability to design and create upper-level curricula and programs.

Career path

Instructional designers develop instructional materials and learning experiences for students or employees. To get there, they need to receive an education and also take on certifications. Beyond that, there are a variety of career paths an instructional designer can take. Some become e-learning developers. These designers create e-learning courses, flash animations, and interactive multimedia presentations. Others will become technical trainers. These instructional designers develop training materials for software or hardware platforms. After this, they may pursue becoming a learning management system administrator.

Once receiving experience, instructional designers may move into a management position. They would be overseeing and coordinating training programs and initiatives within an organization. Finally, they could become a director. This position requires experience in instructional design, as well as a previous management position. Directors of e-learning oversee the entire online learning process from design to implementation.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 25-9031

2020 Employment190,400
Projected Employment in 2030208,900
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 10% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift18,400 increase

Organizations increasingly rely on instructional designers to develop and deliver content that employees and students need to learn in today’s constantly evolving workplace. As a result, instructional designer jobs are on the rise.

Job opportunities for instructional designers are expected to increase 10% from 2020 to 2030, which is faster than average growth. This is due to the increasing demand for more effective and innovative instruction in all educational settings.