How to Start Your Instructional Design Career
by Heather Maietta
Are you a creative problem-solver interested in educating the next generation? Then a career in instructional design may be in your future. Many teachers choose a career in instructional design as a second career or as an alternative to teaching, putting their lesson and curriculum planning skills to the test.
What is instructional design? Instructional designers use technology-based theories and models to create curriculum materials that motivate and engage learners of all abilities. If this sounds like a rewarding career path, your background in education may have provided you with the tools to succeed in instructional design. The field also draws professionals from computer engineering, psychology, art, English and more.
Instructional designers develop, refine and evaluate materials and products, and redesign existing courses to implement technology-based improvements.
They can also help teachers and staff members become proficient in applying instructional technology tools and methods in a traditional classroom setting, a hybrid model or a fully online learning environment.
A day in the life of an instructional designer
Instructional designers spend the majority of their time making decisions and solving problems. They do so by analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution for the situation or program. In addition, instructional designers frequently:
- Train and teach others to identify their educational needs, then develop instructional programs to meet these needs.
- Observe and gather information to develop, design and create new applications, ideas, relationships, systems or products.
- Use computers and computer systems ― both hardware and software ― to program, enter data, or process information.
An instructional designer also investigates and evaluates options to find the best solution for their clients. This dedication is what makes the field of instructional design so important for educators and businesses that want to advance in the learning and development arena.
If you can demonstrate an ability to perform these tasks, you’ll be an attractive candidate to a hiring manager. When it comes time to tailor your resume and cover letter to a specific job advertisement, be sure to focus on not only transferable skills, but the skills the job ad notes as being the most important ones for a candidate to possess.
Benefits of an instructional design career
Instructional design uses learning theory and research-based strategies to improve learning outcomes. As a career path, instructional design has many attractive benefits, such as:
- Flexible work schedule. Instructional designers work in a variety of settings, including educational institutions, private companies, or as freelancers in contract roles. This range of options makes instructional design a satisfying career for professionals with different lifestyles and career goals.
- Constant exposure to new technologies. Instructional designers create in a digital space that is continuously updating, recreating and innovating. If you want to succeed in this field, you’ll need a thirst for learning on the job and building new skills. If you’re looking for experience in these areas, you can find plenty of workshops, trade shows and educational conferences that focus on the latest technologies and instructional design techniques.
- Opportunity to make a difference. Instructional design offers a way to make learning accessible to a diverse group of learners. Accessible learning makes it easier for people with learning and accessibility challenges to take advantage of a wider range of educational opportunities. Knowing you’re helping someone learn more effectively can be extremely rewarding for those who want to use education to make a difference in people’s lives. If this sounds like you, a career as an instructional designer may be the right fit.
- Chance to learn something new. Instructional designers get to work with a variety of educators and clientele on a wide range of topical-based projects. This breadth of subject matter allows an instructional designer the ability to stay abreast of the latest and greatest technological innovations. Lifelong learners will appreciate getting to learn about subjects and areas they might not otherwise learn about in their formal education or an industry-specific workplace.
How to become an instructional designer
If you’re interested in a career in instructional design, the good news is that you have many options. Because instructional design training involves adapting learning environments to meet individual needs, you must be able to create, analyze and evaluate training materials. You can build those skills in a variety of ways, from your college coursework to your career experiences. Many people with an instructional design degree also hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education. This enables them to demonstrate a working knowledge of curriculum design and assessment.
Individuals who choose to enter the e-Learning world may also decide to complement their degrees with a course or certificate program in instructional design. These programs offer:
- Proven strategies for designing online instruction to match today’s varied educational and business needs.
- Gaining proficiency in educational technologies used to develop effective instructional materials for a variety of learners.
- Opportunities to network and learn from peers and leaders in instructional design.
- Resume-building credentials that show employers you’re a serious candidate for a position.
An instructional design certificate program or free edX course can be an excellent way to build the skills you need. Many in the field continue on-the-job instructional design training as their careers progress and technology advances.
Ready to take the leap?
The demand for motivated, passionate instructional designers keeps growing in the increasingly competitive education and business sectors. To customize your resume specifically for instructional design, review our Instructional Designer Resume Template.
You can also choose to use our Resume Builder and Cover Letter Templates to help you build your own application materials as you prepare for a challenging and fulfilling career in instructional design.