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Certified Instructional Designer: Education Requirements & Career Info

Sep 19, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an instructional designer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about education, training, and job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

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Learning programs and curricula don't magically appear out of nowhere and end up in your high school or college classroom. Instructional designers help to plan and create them, and this career requires either a bachelor's or master's degree or a graduate certificate. If you want to work in a public school, you may also need to become licensed.

Essential Information

Instructional designers, also known as instructional systems designers, are specialized instructional coordinators who study and discover the methods by which teachers, students, and employees instruct and learn most efficiently. They develop, analyze, and enhance learning materials and teaching methods, and they may also instruct teachers, government employees, or other members of the workforce. Instructional designers usually need a bachelor's or master's degree. Some schools offer a graduate certificate in instructional design.

Required Education Bachelor's degree, master's degree, or graduate certificate
License/Certification Teacher or educational administrator license may be required in public school settings
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 6% increase for instructional coordinators*
Median Salary (September 2019) $62,171 annually for instructional designers (training and development)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Education Requirements

Educational options for students interested in instructional design vary greatly. Certificate program requirements vary by school, and certificates may be pursued while attaining either a bachelor's or a master's degree or prior to earning a master's degree. Various universities offer both on-campus and online instructional design degree and certificate programs.

A typical degree or advanced certificate program in instructional design might cover the following topics:

  • Training implementation
  • Leadership roles
  • Effective communication with graphics
  • Training interventions
  • Training needs analysis
  • Course design and development

Continuing Education Information

Bachelor's degrees in instructional design are available via some universities, and master's degrees, while not mandatory, may be preferred by employers. Graduate-level instructional design students may decide to earn a Master of Education (M.Ed.), a Master of Science (M.S.), or a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Instructional Design in addition to attaining a certificate. Some certificate programs for instructional design may be geared toward those who prefer to work in the business sector, or toward those who wish to specialize in online learning, or e-learning.

In many cases, one must possess either a teaching or educational administrator license in order to become an instructional designer. There are no required certifications needed for this position; however, instructional designers who wish to obtain a professional designation can look to organizations such as the Association for Talent Development (formerly the American Society for Training and Development). This organization offers the Certified Professional in Learning & Performance credential.

Career Information

Instructional designers may find employment as curriculum developers or administrators in public or private academic institutions. In these settings, they may design instructional materials, provide guidelines for teachers, and instruct faculty in utilizing or integrating various teaching technologies. They may also be employed as trainers in the business sector, developing more efficient teaching and learning strategies and creating online or on-site training programs and educational courses for corporate, healthcare, and government employees.

According to PayScale.com, most annual salaries for instructional designers working in training and development as of September 2019 range from approximately $46,000 to $85,000. In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that job growth for instructional coordinators was average and was expected to increase by 6% between 2018 and 2028, with growth driven by an emphasis on improving curricula and increasing the effectiveness of teaching staff (www.bls.gov).

At some schools you can earn a bachelor's degree in instructional design, or you can earn your degree in another field and then pursue a master's degree in instructional design; either degree may be earned concurrently with or followed by a graduate certificate in instructional design. Jobs in this field can be found at educational institutions where you will develop curricula, or in the public or private sector where you create training and continuing education programs for employees. A license may be required to work in public schools, and optional certifications are available for those who work in the business sector.

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