Instructional designers create opportunities to learn. They work in government agencies, educational institutions and corporations teaching a variety of audiences. While the instructional designer is not an expert on the subject matter, she is an expert in learning theory and program design. This highly skilled career requires college education, work experience and technical skills.
While there are still some old-timers out there who got in the field before there were instructional-design degrees, newbies will need a degree. The current rule of thumb is that you will need a master's degree in instructional design, educational technology or other related major. Expect to take classes such as adult learning theory, strategies for teaching adult learners, online learning, education technology and curriculum design. You should also become familiar with the ADDIE instructional design model.
Most job postings for instructional designers want several years of work experience. Employers value past experience managing projects and teams, communicating with subject-matter experts and working with diverse audiences. A track record of meeting deadlines is also important, as most trainings are scheduled in advance and it is important that the instructional designer delivers on time. To get your foot in the door, take advantage of opportunities to gain experience during graduate school or gain on-the-job experience working on an instructional design team.
All learning experiences are designed with the audience in mind. An instructional designer must understand the needs of her audience. Likewise, she must be able to communicate effectively with management and subject-matter experts to develop learning objectives that meet the organization's needs. Finding the balance between these two, while producing a high-quality product that uses current learning theory and technology can be a challenge. Communication skills, creativity, delegation skills, time management, relationship skills, critical thinking and effective speaking skills are qualities instructional designers need to be successful.
All instructional designers should have some tech-savvy skills. E-learning or online learning continues to grow as companies are moving some of their traditional classroom training online. Having the computer skills, and computer program expertise in learning management systems and instructional tools, will help you stand out in this field. Instructional designers must continually educate themselves on new technology and strategies, as this field rapidly evolves. These skills can be self-taught or learning as professional development.
- Wiley Online Library: The Career Path to Instructional Design Project Management -- An Expert Perspective from the US Professional Services Sector
- ItsMyAscent.com: Instructional Design -- A Lucrative Career
- College Surfing: Instructional Designer Salary & Duties
- Diploma Guide: Becoming an Instructional Developer -- Job Description & Salary
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become an Instructional Coordinator
- Instructional Design Central: What is Instructional Design?
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