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How to Become an Instructional Media Designer

Learn how to become an instructional media designer. Research the education requirements, training, licensure information and experience you'll need to start a career as an instructional media designer. View article »

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  • 0:00 Instructional Media Designer
  • 0:37 Career Requirements
  • 1:31 Step 1: Earn a…
  • 2:40 Step 2: Consider a…
  • 4:19 Step 3: Gain Experience
  • 4:57 Step 4: Continuing Education

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Video Transcript

Instructional Media Designer

So you think you might like to become an instructional media designer. . .

Instructional media designers are specialized graphic designers who create and manage online instruction programs, in addition to helping teachers integrate technology into classes on traditional campuses. They often work for educational institutions, but also might find employment with private corporations, health care providers, the government, or any other institution that trains personnel. Travel or telecommuting might be involved in this sometimes stressful and competitive occupation.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; some prefer master's degree
Degree Field(s) Graphic design, instructional media design, educational technology, or a related field
Licensure/Certification Optional certification available through the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD)
Experience 1-5 years related experience
Key Skills Critical thinking and complex problem-solving skills; proficiency in database user interface and query, desktop publishing, graphics, web page creation, and web platform development software
Median Salary* $61,550 (for instructional coordinators)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job postings (August 2015), American Society for Training and Development, O*Net Online.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Most positions in instructional media design require a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related field. Some positions require a master's degree in instructional design and technology, for which the bachelor's degree is a necessary prerequisite. Coursework typically covers principles of instructional design, emerging issues in educational technology, and instructional design for e-learning. Students might also explore theories and practices related to adult learning, in addition to examining the effectiveness of distance education. Instructional design and technology programs generally include a capstone course that allows students to demonstrate what they've learned.

Gain Media Development Expertise

Before seeking work as an instructional media designer, familiarity with video streaming, wireless technologies, and various media design tools in both Windows and Mac OS is necessary. These tools typically include, but are not limited to, HTML, CSS, Flash, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Captivate, and Articulate.

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  • General Instructional Media Design

Step 2: Consider Earning a Master's Degree

Many positions available for instructional media designers either require a master's degree in instructional design and technology, or they allow individuals with a master's degree to be considered with less experience than what might be required from those with a lesser degree. As such, earning a master's degree may make it easier to obtain employment in this field. A degree plan in instructional design and technology typically includes coursework in hypermedia tools, interactive video, animation, technology in teaching, instructional design, and learning theory. Master's candidates may be required to complete a thesis.

Participate in an Internship Program

Most positions as an instructional media designer require experience. One common method of obtaining experience is participating in an internship program. In some cases, the internship may be incorporated into the degree program as a necessary element for graduation. Interns in the instructional design field may design training materials under the guidance of an experienced manager. They may also conduct needs analysis when planning the design of these materials and create documentation supporting the educational products they create.

Create a Portfolio

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that all individuals pursuing a career in graphic design create a portfolio of programs they have developed including classroom assignments and internship projects. Such a portfolio showcases technical skill and is likely to be a crucial element when seeking employment or bidding on projects.

Step 3: Gain Experience

Because many jobs in instructional media design require up to five years of experience, individuals pursuing this field may need to begin their professional paths by taking entry-level positions in graphic design or a related field. Such entry-level positions may offer prospective instructional media designers the opportunity to hone their skills with HTML, CSS, and the various graphic design and illustration software programs used in this field. Entry-level positions also give individuals the opportunity to build a portfolio for future career advancement.

Step 4: Continuing Education

Instructional media design, like all computer-based fields, is constantly changing as new technologies develop. As such, professionals in this field must keep up with the latest technologies in order to remain competitive. Continuing education webinars and other instructional opportunities are available from such organizations as AIGA, the professional association for design. AIGA also has a job board that members can access when seeking opportunities for career advancement.

Obtain a bachelor's degree, consider a master's degree, gain experience in the field, and continue your education are the steps involved in making a great career as an instructional media designer.

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