How To Get a Job as an Instructional Designer

To be a doctor, you need a specialty, a PhD, and a residency — in that order. To be a lawyer, you need a law degree and to pass the bar. To become an instructional designer, well… the path isnt as clear. Some pursue a career in instructional design directly out of college, while many more become IDs later in life after a first career in education or another field. Many instructional designers stumble on the field completely by chance. Although the demand for IDs is increasing, so is awareness of the field, which means it’s becoming more competitive to land a job. Whether you’re just starting out or pondering a mid-career change, we’ll tell you what you need to know to get started on your journey towards instructional design.

Here’s how to become an instructional designer:
  1. Learn the instructional design theory.
  2. Learn the eLearning development technical skills.
  3. Learn visual design and composition.
  4. Build your instructional design portfolio.
  5. Network with other instructional designers.
  6. Create your instructional design resume.

How to Become an Instructional Designer in 2022

What does an instructional designer do?

The learning landscape is no longer one-dimensional. It has changed into a blend of mobile, online and classroom learning.. An instructional designer applies educational models and theories to develop and design experiences, content and other materials to aid in skills and knowledge acquisition. Instructional designers first conduct needs assessments to understand the requirements of both the learners and the organizations, then develop individualized learning and training solutions. They are tasked with creating and implementing instructions to make learning more engaging and fun.

Here are a few tasks an instructional designer is typically responsible for:

Collaborating with subject matter experts

Instructional designers collaborate with subject matter experts to curate the content to include in the course. Other roles include devising interaction and assessment modes to ensure optimum efficacy of learning.

Planning and analyzing training processes

Designing instructions for a learning program involves a concrete understanding of the course expectations and a thorough assessment of a learners goals. An instructional designer designs a curriculum based on that information. They also gather feedback and implement it into future training solutions.

Creating multimedia tools

Modern training methods often require many types of multimedia tools, including PDF files, graphs, mini-videos, infographics and links to sources within a single eLearning course segment. However, such a wide range of data can become overwhelming for a first-time learner. In collaboration with subject matter experts, a design team and a tech team, an instructional designer will help improve the content format and choose the most appropriate tools to ensure the learning experience goes smoothly.

Structuring and designing eLearning systems

The effectiveness of an eLearning course depends on the structure and flow of the content. Content organization is one of the roles of an instructional designer. The professional ensures that courses are appealing to learners and easy to follow, so they remain engaged.

What is an instructional designer?

Instructional designers work across various industries, including the military, government, business and learning institutions. These professionals are responsible for developing instructional materials and creating course designs, including job aids, handouts, participation guides and presentation materials. They also conduct training evaluations and assess the impact and effectiveness of learning solutions.

How to become an instructional designer

Aspiring instructional designers dont necessarily need a dedicated certificate or academic program to stand out in the market. Although a dedicated instructional design degree program may not lead to a higher income, it can increase your ability to compete against other candidates for employment and promotion. Other advantages to earning a degree include internship and networking opportunities. Your success will also be influenced by your level of experience in the field.

Here are the most important steps toward employment as an instructional designer:

1. Learn about the methods, principles and theory

One requirement to succeeding as an instructional designer is understanding the theories and frameworks of the field. The decisions that instructional designers make are guided by theories such as Merril, ADDIE Model, Gagne and Blooms Taxonomy. It is equally vital for an aspiring instructional designer to understand the science behind why and how we learn. These theories include specific learning theories such as situated cognition theory, inquiry-based learning and discovery-based learning. Umbrella behavioral theories in the field include behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism.

2. Become proficient with relevant software and tools

One of the requirements for an entry-level job in instructional design is learning to design e-learning experiences using standard industry tools. Software programs used in instructional design include Adobe Creative Cloud, Lectora, Adobe Captive and Articulate 360. Instructional designers follow a system when evaluating a learning solutions effectiveness, developing learning materials, assessing learners needs and designing a learning process. To be successful in instructional design, you need to be proficient in the use of these tools.

3. Develop essential skills

The roles of an instructional designer are elastic. Instructional designers may find themselves researching new initiatives, developing curriculum and courses and interviewing experts. As such, instructional designers need considerable skills to execute their roles. Communication and writing skills are vital for conveying objectives and messages to an audience. Instructional designers also need interpersonal, organization and problem-solving skills to manage projects with team members and matter experts. Creativity is also required when an instructional designer is devising new approaches for presenting the information. Other essential skills for an instructional designer include video development skills, familiarity with graphic design and programming skills.

4. Build experience and a portfolio

Instructional design employers are less concerned with academic qualifications than experience and skills. Everyone, including professionals who have never held a role as an instructional designer, can raise their experience level by pursuing internships and volunteer opportunities. While doing so, put together a portfolio of instructional materials you have designed or helped create.

5. Practice interview skills and create your resume

The final step to becoming an instructional designer is a great resume and job interview. When putting together your resume, choose the most relevant skills to highlight. These typically include technological skills, experience in educating others, curriculum development and problem-solving, among others. Prepare for your interview by practicing your answers to frequently asked questions, such as why you chose the field, what experience you have and what value you can bring to the company.

Essential skills for an instructional designer

Instructional designers need to develop a long list of skills. Here are a few of the most important ones:


How do I become a teaching instructional designer?

5 Steps to Become a Successful Instructional Designer from Being a Full-Time Teacher
  1. Conduct a thorough research.
  2. Take eLearning courses.
  3. Build a strong portfolio.
  4. Do some volunteer work.

How do I get experience as an instructional designer?

How to Get Instructional Design Experience
  1. Formal Classes. Many colleges and universities understand the importance of experience-based learning when it comes to instructional design. …
  2. Consulting. …
  3. Volunteering in Your Workplace. …
  4. Networking.

What skills does an instructional designer need?

Top 10 Instructional Designer Skills That Today’s Instructional Design Candidates Should Have
  • Deep Level Of Understanding Of Learning Models. …
  • Learning Technology Experience. …
  • Presentation Technology Knowledge. …
  • Project Management Skills. …
  • Visual And Artistic Talents. …
  • Assessment Development. …
  • Understanding Of Virtual Reality.

How hard is it to be an instructional designer?

As an instructional designer, you have to be a problem-solver. You have to be intuitive, so you can understand your clients’ needs. You also have to be insightful and innovative, so you can guide them effectively with practical solutions to tackle their real and pressing problems.

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