Instructional Design Careers

One of the recurring themes on this blog is instructional design careers. These posts are written from my own experiences both as a job seeker and employee and as a former manager hiring instructional designers.

Start Here: Instructional Design Careers Series

Instructional Design Degrees, Certificates, and Certification

Teaching to Instructional Design


Consulting and Freelancing

Salary, Experience, and Other Topics

Remote Work

Presentations and Podcast Interviews

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55 thoughts on “Instructional Design Careers”

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  3. This is a great site! I’ve enjoyed reading it. I’ve been in “ISD” to varying degrees for a few decades. I’d be curious to learn from you (and your readers / followers) what the current biggest challenge is for professionals in our field? For a short while, I thought it was working with Subject Matter Experts, (especially if required to partner with them while on a project or contract). You’ve given a lot of individuals some great advice on this platform. Your advice to others reminded ME to carve out time to learn the latest tools. IconAuthor, Director, and Authorware ought not be on a 2024 resume. 🙂 Thanks again for maintaining this site! I look forward to reading more from you and fellow ISD’ers who follow it.

    1. Yep, definitely sounds like it’s time to update your skills–and your resume!

      Working with SMEs can be a big challenge, and it’s one that continues to be a challenge even for experienced IDs.

      I’m hearing from an increasing number of people who are struggling with the conflict between creating meaningful training experiences (and possibly non-training interventions) and organizations who just want to crank out traditional elearning. Some of that is because there’s so much compliance elearning that is primarily about reducing legal risk rather than actually training. I have one of those clients now. I know it’s better to not lock down the navigation, but the reality is that it’s more important for this client that they be able to show in court that people were told about policies if they get sued.

      I suspect that because so many people experience this kind of compliance elearning, they aren’t really familiar with anything else. It takes a lot of stakeholder education and consulting to get them to accept other approaches. That’s an ongoing challenge, and not one I feel like I get right 100% of the time myself. But the bad elearning gives us a bad reputation, and it means we’re less valued.

      Julie Dirksen also talks about her theory that if an output is easy to understand, people tend to think it’s easy to create. So, if you create courses that are easy to understand, people assume it was easy to write and design. Of course, that’s not true–content that is easy to understand is often quite challenging to make it feel simple! But that contributes to the undervaluing of the field.

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  11. Hello Christy,
    I am an L & D consultant with over 20 years of experience. My full-time project ended recently, and, I am finding it very tough to get new projects.
    Is it ageism bias or outsourcing has become difficult somehow?

    1. Ageism could be a factor. There are also lots of new instructional design consultants in the US, and there may be some push for American companies to use US contractors.

      If you’re consulting, it’s risky to take on full time projects because of the very issue you’re having now. You commit all your time to a single client, and then you aren’t working on your pipeline of future projects and working on your business.

      So, there are a couple of things it could be besides just ageism or bias against Indian consultants, and these are things you have control over. First, are your skills up to date? You’ve been working for 20 years, but are you keeping up with new technology? Are there opportunities working with new technology like AR/VR that you could explore to give yourself an edge over others?

      Second, at least in the US, most consultants have a website and portfolio that is linked from their LinkedIn profile and social media. I don’t see one on your profile. Actually, I can’t quite tell from your LinkedIn profile what kind of ID consulting you do and what services you offer, and that may be part of why you’re having trouble finding new projects.

      Third, maybe the methods you use to find new projects need to be updated. The job market has shifted, and the ways that people find work now are different from how it worked even 10 years ago.

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  25. I’ve discovered a talent for making online courses. I’d like to become an eLearning Designer/Developer or instructional designer. How much do they start out making? Are they the same thing? Can anyone tell me more about that type of job? Is it actually fun? How can I get into it?

    1. The learning field has a significant amount of inconsistency in job titles, but usually an elearning developer is more on the technical side of the process. They might only build courses using authoring tools like Storyline and Captivate, or they might have more advanced technical skills like Javascript, custom HTML5, H5P, video development, animation, etc. An instructional designer is either on the front of the process (doing needs analysis, planning, outlining, storyboarding, and script writing) or does the whole process including development. In smaller organizations, it’s more common for an instructional designer to do a bit of everything. Both roles are mostly “behind the scenes” writing or creating, rather than trainer or teacher jobs where you interact directly with learners. I think it’s a lot of fun. I’m always learning new things. I love the variety and the opportunities to be creative.

      You can use the eLearning Guild salary calculator to compare salaries based on different variables.

      The posts above have quite a bit of information on how to get into the field. Many people start their transition to this career with a graduate certificate or a masters degree.

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    1. This site turned up a whopping 7 instructional design jobs in my search, two of which are actually multimedia developer jobs. While that’s nice to find a few, it’s not the “many” jobs that you claimed. This doesn’t look like a particularly useful site to me.

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  47. Patrick L. Burgess

    I am currently reading through, and enjoying your site.

    My experience with Instructional Design was a pleasant surprise. An ID class was included with the IT curriculum I had chosen.
    I was fortunate to have an excellent instructor, who forced us to expand our thought processes to grasp the detailed concepts of designing instruction.
    At the time, I had no prior higher learning experience, and my professional background is fairly blue collar…Landscape design, construction, and maintenance.

    Our class split into various teams of roughly four people. My group was assigned with the task of designing an effective teaching tool, for people unfamiliar with basic functions corresponding to a PC keyboard. Our solution was to print a schematic of the keyboard with the pertinent information, on a mouse pad. My contribution was the use of simple color coding on the schematic, to facilitate with the learning process. Each step was given a color, which corresponded to a specific key.
    I borrowed the practice from my habit of incorporating color codes, to help clients visualize two dimensional landscape plans.

    Our instructor was impressed with our efforts, and I experienced a sense of satisfaction, that was quite unique.

    I chose not to pursue an IT career, but I’ve never forgotten the positive experience with that Instructional Design course.

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