INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGNER: What It Is, Job Description, Salary & How to Become One

Instructional Designer
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The learning process is dynamic and ever-changing. Whenever there is a breakthrough in knowledge or technology, it is imperative that instructional resources be updated accordingly. It’s not as easy as updating textbooks or adding new material to classes. Many people need the entire learning process redesigned before they can absorb and remember what they’ve studied. This is where the expertise of an instructional designer is invaluable. When it comes to education, an instructional designer plays a key role. Training resources, such as teacher and student guides, as well as course modification and development, fall under their purview. In this article, we’ll look at the course requirements, certificate, job standing, and salary range for an instructional designer.

First, we need to define the instructional design and examine its origins before we can begin to understand who an instructional designer is.

Brief History of Instructional Design

When thousands of people needed to learn a new skill quickly during World War II, the groundwork for instructional design was laid. To help soldiers better understand and perform these complicated jobs, they were broken down into their component parts. Later, this idea was expanded upon to form the area of instructional design, which integrates education, psychology, and communications to craft the most successful lesson plans for individual students or groups of students. This is crucial because it ensures that students receive teaching in a form that is effective and meaningful to them, hence increasing their retention of and application of course material.

To put it plainly, instructional design is the process of making educational resources. However, the scope of this discipline extends far beyond the development of course materials; it also involves the investigation of how students learn and the identification of the instructional strategies that will be most successful in bringing about the desired learning outcomes. The principles of instructional design address the development, production, and distribution of educational resources for learners of all ages and backgrounds, from pre-schoolers to senior executives.

Educators and administrators who wish to specialize in instructional design would do well to get a Master of Science in Education (MSEd) with a focus on Learning Design and Technology. Graduates of this program will be prepared to design, implement, and evaluate instructional materials for a wide variety of student populations and learning environments. In order to make the MSEd program more applicable, students are urged to draw from their own professional experiences.

Then, let’s move on to defining this profession.

Who Is an Instructional Designer?

An instructional designer designs and develops material, courses of action, training, and other solutions to promote the acquisition of new knowledge or real-world skills using learning theory and a systems approach.

Also, presentation materials, participant guides, handouts, and job aids or other resources are only some of the instructional materials that an instructional designer creates for a training program. They must also determine whether or not the training was successful in terms of its stated goals and whether or not there was a demonstrable shift in behavior as a result of the training solution.

An instructional designer will undertake a needs assessment before beginning course design and development to find out what the goals of the stakeholders are if the training is actually necessary, and what the requirements of the learning event are. The results of a requirements analysis will tell you:

  • Organizational needs and aims
  • All the stuff you need to know to do your job and get your certifications
  • The knowledge and skills the trainee should have gained from the program.
  • Learner requirements and profile

Furthermore, utilizing Bloom’s Taxonomy is one approach to identifying training requirements and goals. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a framework for describing and differentiating educational tiers. There are three facets to a person’s personality: their mind, their emotions, and their body. The process of developing a course can start once an instructional designer has gathered and analyzed this data and gained an understanding of the learning event’s desired outcomes and objectives. An instructional designer must analyze many methods and choose the best ones to boost students’ learning and retention.

What Does an Instructional Designer Do?

When learning about a new product online, do you think about the people behind the scenes? It’s not just academics and those who work with computers. You can also thank instructional designers for their contributions to the quality and accessibility of the learning resources you

When designing games, tutorials, or articles, an instructional designer seeks out knowledge gaps and devises methods of filling them. Also, to ensure that their pupils are ready for the challenges ahead, they work together with subject-matter specialists to design lessons and administer assessments. Because of their expertise in both technology and education, instructional designers must monitor developments in both sectors.

Furthermore, an instructional designer is employed by institutions of higher education and businesses that have a need to instruct students, faculty, or staff on the proper use of a particular tool or product. Whether they’re employed by a private company or a school, instructional designer devotes much of their time to an office. As a result, an instructional designer needs to be both self-motivated and able to work well in teams, as their job often entails a combination of individual and group efforts.

E-learning and technology consumer interaction in businesses and academic institutions will increase the need for instructional designers. When it comes to educating the public about these innovative tools, an instructional designer is an invaluable resource. Instructional designers can rise through the ranks to managerial or even curricular development roles, depending on their passions and skills. Both full-time employment and part-time work as an independent contractor are options for them.

Is Instructional Designer a Stressful Job?

In spite of the fact that every job has its share of stressful events, the work environment in which you work as an instructional designer is one that is relatively serene.

It doesn’t interfere with your personal life and frees up a lot of time for you to explore other hobbies, spend time with your family, or just enjoy life in general. And despite the high earnings potential, many instructional designers opt to pursue careers as independent contractors instead. 

Instructional Designer Course

Instructional Designer ranks first on any ranking of “hottest online jobs.” That’s because instructional design as a discipline influences every other type of work in the workforce. When it comes to designing systems, creating materials, and evaluating their efficacy, an instructional designer does it all. An instructional designer organizes the course materials and instructs students on the abilities they’ll need to complete their assignments. This is why there is such a high demand for information on the top instructional design programs available today. 

What is an Instructional Designer Course?

An instructional designer course is a course that teaches all of the crucial skills that aid instructional designers in developing their professions. Furthermore, it offers a thorough comprehension of the origins and development of instructional design as well as the guiding principles and traits of the creation of instructional materials.

A course in instructional design is set up to help you become more proficient in the practical application of several competencies and skills, including modes and models of instructional design, designing and creating e-learning materials, and other related topics.

 Here is some of the instructional designer course you ought to consider when choosing this profession.

#1. Learning to Teach Online

This free, beginner-level instructional designer course is offered by the University of New South Wales, Sydney, and hosted on Coursera. However, for only $49, participants can earn a certificate that can be included in job applications (financial aid is available for those who need it). The course focuses on educational technology and online teaching strategies to help potential educators learn online teaching.

Also, this instructional designer course may be completed in 18 hours of independent study, making it suitable for professionals who are already committed to their 9-to-5 schedules. Case studies, assignments, and quizzes are offered in each of the five weekly sessions that make up this course.

One learner’s impressions of the class are as follows:

The information and opportunity to network with other educators and trainers have kept me engaged in the course.

#2. Project Management

Time management and effective teamwork are essential in instructional design for meeting deadlines and staying within budget. Project management courses will educate you on how to apply your talents in a systematic way to reach your objectives. Aligning project work with instructional goals and learning objectives; setting a scope of work; producing accurate time and expense estimates; keeping yourself and others on task; communicating project plans with clients and other stakeholders; are all examples of the abilities that make up project management.

The development of project management expertise can be woven into more comprehensive “Introductory” courses, and specialized “Project Management for Instructional Designers” or “Project Management” learning design courses may be available in some schools. Goal alignment, planning, task analysis, and formative and summative assessments will be used to create a learning experience.

#3. Content Curation

Digital content curation necessitates a deliberate strategy that takes into account concerns of accessibility, inclusion, and diversity, but online courses rely on digital resources and reach more students. Open Educational Resources (OER), Creative Commons (CC) licensing, and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) are a few examples of resources and practices that may be discussed in courses addressing these issues.

Learn how to make online courses and use digital content that takes into account current best practices, accessibility legislation, ethical design considerations, and adaptive and assistive technology to better prepare yourself for the learning environment of the future. Examples of suitable coursework include those titled “Inclusive Design” and “Designing for Accessibility.”

#4. Leadership

Leadership courses in instructional design equip students with the theoretical background, hands-on experience, and communicative tools they need to manage projects, deliverables, and stakeholders across functional areas. There are more programs on digital leadership, including how designers may establish new initiatives and improve organizations.

Courses in leadership can cover a wide range of topics, from how to lead effectively from a distance to an examination of the agencies responsible for enforcing accessibility and certification requirements. Some examples of available coursework include “Leading Diverse Teams and Organizations” and “Leadership in Virtual Learning.”

#5. Learning Design Basic: Pedagogy into Practice

This OpenLearning course is likewise free and perfect for novices. The duration is negotiable between 5 and 15 hours. The OpenLearning team teaches the basics of good learning design, which can be applied to any classroom situation.

In this course, you will apply the constructivist approach to education in order to build effective learning strategies. You’ll also work on an instructional design project that can be applied to real-world classroom situations. In addition, a custom certificate can be added for an additional $50.

#6. Gamification

This advanced-level instructional designer course was developed by Coursera with the famous Wharton School and is accessible for free. As a further advantage, it is under the direction of Kevin Werbach, a Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics. Gamification, a tactic that merges elements of digital game design with problems with a social impact, is the primary topic of this training.

The length of time necessary to finish the race is negotiable at around 17 hours. Subtitles are available for lectures in a number of languages, including Arabic, Ukrainian, Chinese, and others. It costs US$95 to add the certificate to your LinkedIn profile (scholarships are available).

The following is a student’s commentary:

I learned how to swiftly grasp new concepts and put them into practice in the actual world. Today, I am different from the masses of the credentials I have earned.

What Skill Do You Have to Have to Be an Instructional Designer?

There is a growing need for instructional designers since more educators and trainers are turning to digital tools to develop engaging course materials. For the past few years, cloud-based Learning Management Systems have replaced on-premises classrooms as the most common way of delivering education. Knowing the fundamentals of learning theory is no longer “good enough” for anyone seeking a career in Instructional Design. Today’s professionals must learn best practices for using technology tools to create great user content.

Furthermore, if you have a passion for learning and teaching as well as research and multimedia design, becoming an instructional designer could be the perfect career move for you. However, in order to succeed in their jobs, instructional designers need a wide range of skills. It’s possible that anyone, from an aspiring instructional designer to a veteran expert, could benefit from honing their craft. Here are the best skills an instructional designer will need to thrive in this profession.

#1. Proficiency in Learning Model Theory

Many postings for instructional designer positions still list “learning models” as one of the top three requirements. The ADDIE model, Bloom’s taxonomy of learning, and Kirkpatrick’s levels of training evaluations are just a few. It is a common requirement of many Learning and Development jobs that applicants “must be familiar with adult learning methodologies.” Humans benefit from a complete understanding of the optimal methods of learning, including the application of integrative technology.

#2. Acquiring Expertise in Presentation Tools

The creation of learning modules is just one part of an educator’s job; they are sometimes tasked with creating films, live training sessions, webinars, and other forms of content as well. Candidates with strong design and script writing/video production skills, in addition to those who can whiteboard ideas for learning materials and generate presentation slides and handouts, have a good chance of getting hired. Also, read VISUAL DESIGNER: Meaning, What They Do, Salary, Software & Difference.

#3. Desire for Knowledge

Instructional designers should be curious, inquisitive, and enthusiastic learners who can convey that enthusiasm to their students. They need to be able to think beyond the box and be true experts in their industry. In particular, they should push themselves and their peers to improve student results. This enthusiasm is what has led many instructional designers to successful careers as writers, public speakers, and industry pioneers.

#4. Rapid Professional Development

Only by furthering one’s own career can top candidates in learning and design give their all to an organization. This necessitates perpetual improvement through the adoption of new methods. Candidates for positions in Instructional Design should pay attention to the measures by which they judge their own performance.

Also, candidates for positions in learning and design should not limit themselves to the above list; other desirable characteristics include originality, teamwork aptitude, and leadership potential. To become an instructional designer, you must confidently demonstrate most of the following skills from previous and present jobs.

#5. Better-Than-Average Verbal Exchange

Effective communication is essential for any Instructional Designer. Professionals in the field of learning and development are often challenged with simplifying difficult concepts for the benefit of their audience. This encompasses the production and dissemination of media through many channels of interaction.

#6. Artsy and Performer Skills

Almost every advertisement for an eLearning specialist or an Instructional Designer will highlight the use of visual design software like Articulate, Canva, Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, WordPress, and others. Unfortunately, however, not everyone possesses the creative skills necessary to storyboard, visualize ideas, and deliver information in an interesting way.

Instructional Designer Certificate

One of the top careers right now is being an instructional designer. It pays well, has high social status, and appears to provide a good blend of routine and creative work. IDs are in high demand, and as distant learning and telecommuting grow, so will demand.

A profession in instructional design can be rewarding, but it can be difficult to determine which instructional design skills are essential to acquire. Even eLearning experts may not understand what an ID accomplishes daily.

If you want to work as an instructional designer, furthering your education and possibly even having a  certificate in the field is a good idea. Here is the instructional designer certificate you can acquire.

#1. E-Learning Instructional Design and Development Certificate

Professionals contemplating entering or advancing their careers in instructional design can benefit from Oregon State University’s College of Education’s certificate program. To acquire the credential, professionals must complete five separate courses, one of which must be a learning practicum. Effective e-learning methodologies, instructional technologies, and design ideas are covered in the component courses. Once an instructional designer has completed all five courses, they will be awarded a certificate. The college does recommend that professionals with no background in instructional design complete the courses in consecutive order, but attendance is not required.

#2. Instructional Designer Certificate

Those looking to advance their careers in instructional design and course development can benefit from the Online Learning Consortium’s certification program. The program consists of four 16-week courses that an instructional designer can take to get the certification. The courses are comprehensive in their approach to instructional design, including such issues as course quality review, professional foundations, and the creation of new courses, among others. Those who take all four courses and score 90% or above on the final test will receive the certificate. In addition, certificate candidates must have worked in the field of online course development for at least a year before applying to the organization.

#3. Instructional Design Models Certificate

Earning a certificate from the International Society for Educational Technology in instructional design can assist professionals develop their skills in designing effective online courses. An instructional designer seeking this credential is required to complete a course covering both the theory and practice of instructional design. It’s a self-paced online course with 10 modules professionals may work through whenever they have time. Online education’s origins and development, as well as conventional instructional design paradigms, are also covered in these segments. All that’s required to acquire the certificate is for the instructional designer to go through the modules.

#4. Certified Instructional Trainer

Instructional designers who work in corporate health and safety might consider earning this credential from the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP). This credential attests to the holder’s expertise in the field of safety, health, and environmental training. The certification is available to instructional designers who successfully complete a 100-question examination. To become a BCSP, you need to have taught or trained in the fields of health, safety, or the environment for at least 135 hours. In addition, after five years in a field, professionals must recertify.

#5. Certified Professional in Talent Development

Professionals who are involved in talent development—which includes training employees in new skills to increase productivity and engagement—can earn this certification from the Association for Talent Development (ATD). Gaining this certification demonstrates to employers that you understand how to use talent development approaches to better your workforce. However,  the certification is earned by demonstrating proficiency in both technical skills, such as training delivery and coaching, and soft skills, such as business acumen and change management. They want their employees to have at least five years of experience in the field of talent development and to have participated in at least 60 hours of professional development activities in the past year.

Salary for Instructional Designer reports that the national average salary of an instructional designer in the United States is $61,000 per year. However, this varies considerably depending on where you are. According to pay reports on, an instructional designer’s salary in San Francisco can make anywhere from $60,000 to $103,000 annually. In addition, the average compensation for this position is $79,248.

What Is the Difference Between a Teacher and an Instructional Designer?

The job description may sound like that of a teacher or instructional designer, but there are important differences to be made. 

Whether in-person or digitally, teachers train an audience in real-time. Conversely, instructional designers are unseen professionals. They develop course materials but rarely present them in front of a live audience.

The construction industry is often used to illustrate this distinction. As an instructional designer, you play the role of an architect in this scenario. You do research into the location, user requirements, and other relevant elements. After that is done, you can begin working on the house’s specifications and detailed drawings.

Teachers, meanwhile, are like the contractors that carry out your design according to your standards. The next step is to assess the situation and make any necessary changes based on your findings. 

You wouldn’t begin construction on a house without a blueprint, and neither should you begin a training program without first adhering to accepted standards of instructional design. A teacher should have a strategy, activities, and resources prepared before focusing on training hundreds of employees. 

How to Become an Instructional Designer

Once you’ve identified that working in instructional design is a good fit for your interests and abilities, you can begin to take steps toward finding a rewarding position in the field.

How to get a job as an instructional designer:

  1. Study the principles of instructional design.
  2. Acquire the Know-How of e-Learning Development
  3. Master the art of visual composition and design.
  4. Create a portfolio of your instructional design work.
  5. Communicate with other course developers
  6. Get your resume in instructional design in order.
  7. Success in an Interview for an Instructional Designer


Careers in instructional design are extremely bright and plentiful. Instructional designers will be essential to sustaining a competent labor force in an era of rising automation, widespread use of remote work, and technologically-driven industry shifts.

However, if you have the correct background, goals, and expectations, a career as an instructional designer can be highly fulfilling and satisfying. Instructional design is a great field to enter if you’re looking to leave the classroom and have a passion for helping others learn in positive and rewarding ways.

Instructional Designer FAQs

Is It Hard to Get Into Instructional Design?

Without relevant experience or credentials, finding your first job as an instructional designer can be challenging. But if you put in the effort to learn and develop your abilities, it is entirely possible.

How can you get an instructional design job with no experience?

Even without experience, you can get a position in instructional design by understanding the technologies and creating a portfolio. You can also volunteer at a local charity or offer your services as a learning consultant to your firm.

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