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How to Become an Instructional Designer ?

Sanju Kumari
20 Mar 2024
16 min read
How to Become an Instructional Designer ?

Mastering the Path to Instructional Design: A Guide for 2024

Instructional design is a growing field. According to industry forecasts, employment opportunities for instructional designers are expected to grow by 19% by the end of 2024 and are expected to surpass the average growth rate for all occupations. 

Instructional designers are not only in high demand but also get fat paychecks. When it comes to earning potential, entry-level instructional designers can earn anywhere between $40,000 and $60,000 per year. Senior-level instructional designers or those in leadership positions might earn upwards of $90,000 to $120,000 per year or more

Still, thinking about whether to pursue instructional design?

The job prospects for instructional designers in 2024 are promising. There is a strong demand forecasted for skilled professionals in the field. Let's understand in detail how you can become an instructional designer in 2024.

What’s the eligibility?

To become an instructional designer in the United States, you need to meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Educational Background
  • A bachelor's degree in instructional design, education, or a related field is often required.

Note: It must be noted that a few employers prefer candidates with a master's degree in instructional design. This is usually an eligibility criterion for more advanced roles.

To find a good entry-level role, you must meet these eligibility criteria and continuously develop your skills in instructional design.

  • Mandatory Skills and Qualifications
  • In-depth understanding of instructional design models and learning theories
  • Proficiency in course development software
  • Clear and effective curriculum-planning skills
  • Basic understanding of HTML and Flash
  • Strong project management skills
  • Preferred Qualifications (nice to have)
  • Familiarity with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or Dreamweaver
  • Experience teaching in a classroom setting
  • Ability to use instructional materials and resources effectively
  • Critical-thinking skills
  • Concrete verbal and written communication skills

Is a degree in Instructional design necessary?

Not always. While having an instructional degree is advantageous, it's not always a strict requirement. The field quite happily absorbs people who are instructional designers who have acquired their skills through:

  • Practical experience
  • Professional development courses

Is a certificate in Instructional design mandatory?

Again, it’s not mandatory, but you need to validate your acquired skills. An instructional design certification acts as proof of your acquired expertise in instructional design. Let’s see why:

  • Certification verifies that you have acquired the necessary knowledge and skills to perform effectively in the field.
  • Holding a certification enhances your credibility as an instructional designer. 
  • In today's competitive job market, having a certification gives you an edge over other candidates. 
  • Employers often prioritize candidates with relevant certifications. They view them as more qualified and capable.
  • Certification can qualify you for:
  • Higher-level positions
  • Increased responsibilities
  • Potentially higher salaries
  • Pursuing certification allows you to stay updated on current trends, best practices, and emerging technologies.

Are you looking for some of the best certification programs in instructional design? Calibr.ai has compiled a list of the 24 best instructional design certifications to pursue in 2024. Check them out.

What does an Instructional designer do?

The primary role of an instructional designer is to create engaging and effective learning experiences. They do so by designing and developing educational materials and curricula. 

Let’s see in six steps what instructional designers typically do:

Step I: Needs Analysis

  • Instructional designers begin by conducting a thorough analysis of the learning needs and objectives. 
  • They work closely with:
  • Subject matter experts
  • Stakeholders
  • Learners
  • A thorough analysis helps to identify learning goals, target audience characteristics, and performance gaps.

Step II: Design Planning

  • Based on the needs analysis, instructional designers develop a strategic plan for designing the learning experience
  • The design process involves:
  • Identifying the correct instructional approach
  • Selecting the appropriate instructional methods
  • Outlining the structure and sequence of the content

Step III: Content Development

  • Instructional designers create instructional materials and content.
  • This primarily includes:
  • Presentations
  • Multimedia resources
  • Interactive activities
  • Assessments
  • Learning modules

Step IV: Instructional Strategies

  • To design effective instructional strategies, most instructional designers apply:
  • Pedagogical principles
  • Learning theories
  • Preference is given to those instructional methods that promote active engagement and critical thinking skills.

Step V: Technology Integration

  • Most instructional designers are technologically advanced
  • To enhance the learning experience, they commonly use:
  • Modern instructional technology tools
  • Learning management systems

Step VI: Evaluation and Revision

  • Lastly, instructional designers conduct formative and summative evaluations to assess the effectiveness of the learning materials by:
  • Collecting feedback from learners
  • Analyzing learning outcomes
  • Making necessary revisions to improve the quality

For an enhanced understanding and an exciting perspective, take a glimpse at a simple example showcasing the creation of a course using the widely celebrated instructional design model, ADDIE!

Note: For a comprehensive exploration of the ADDIE model, be sure to check out this fantastic learning resource.

Who is a corporate Instructional designer?

A corporate instructional designer specializes in designing learning experiences that specifically meet the training needs of corporate employees. Their primary focus is on creating training materials that address the company's learning objectives and performance goals.

Let’s see the typical workday of a professional corporate instructional designer, Sarah, in her office:

  • Sarah arrives at the office and settles into her workstation. 
  • Sarah has a meeting with the training manager to discuss the upcoming onboarding program for new hires. They review:
  • Learning objectives
  • Timeline
  • Project budget 
  • Sarah begins conducting a needs analysis for the onboarding program. She reviews the company's policies and procedures.
  • Sarah meets with a subject matter expert from the sales department to gather content for a new product training course. They discuss:
  • The key features of the product
  • Common customer questions
  • Selling strategies that need to be included in the training materials.
  • Post-lunch, Sarah begins working on the instructional design for the new product training course, and:
  • Creates a detailed course outline
  • Select appropriate instructional methods
  • Designs interactive activities to engage learners 
  • Sarah collaborates with the graphic designer to develop visual assets for the training course. They review mockups of:
  • Slides
  • Infographics
  • Illustrations
  • Sarah meets with the training manager to provide an update on the progress.
  • The workday comes to a close, and Sarah prepares a to-do list for tomorrow.

As a corporate instructional designer, throughout her day, Sarah performed the following functions:

  • Conducted needs analysis
  • Collaborated with stakeholders
  • Designed engaging training

The Three Common Learning Experiences Prepared by a Corporate Instructional Designer

1. Orientation Programs: Corporate instructional designers develop onboarding materials such as:

  • Welcome videos
  • Employee handbooks
  • Interactive e-learning modules
  • Compliance Training
  • Performance Support

2. Compliance Training: In corporate environments, instructional designers develop compliance training programs by designing training materials that:

  • Address legal and regulatory requirements
  • Promote ethical behavior
  • Improve workplace safety

3. Performance Support: Corporate instructional designers develop performance support resources to help employees apply their learning on the job. This commonly includes:

  • Job aids
  • Checklists
  • Tutorials

What Are Some Necessary Prerequisites?

The primary role of an instructional designer is to create high-quality learning experiences. They must meet the needs of learners and drive positive outcomes. To do so, instructional designers must possess these necessary skills:

  • Strong knowledge of instructional design principles and learning theories
  • Excellent writing skills and an ability to communicate complex concepts clearly and concisely
  • Familiarity with:
  • E-learning authoring tools
  • Multimedia software
  • Virtual classroom platforms
  • Basic graphic design skills 
  • Strong project management skills
  • Analytical thinking and problem-solving skills 

Is Instructional design a good career?

Yes, instructional design is a rewarding career choice with good job prospects and competitive salaries.

High Demand: Instructional designers are in high demand across various industries, such as:

  • Education
  • Government
  • Business
  • Manufacturing
  • Healthcare
  • Banking
  • Consulting services

High Salary: The median salary range for high-paying roles in this field is $93,500-$143,000 per year.

If you enjoy creating educational materials and have a passion for L&D, instructional design can be a good career choice for you. 

What Tools Do Instructional Designers Use?

The workflow of an instructional designer is comprehensive. They require different tools at different stages of the process. Read the table below to take a look at some of the most popular tools:

Category & Popular Tools

Authoring Tools:  Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, Camtasia, Lectora, and Calibr.ai

Learning Management Systems (LMS): Calibr.ai, Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas, and Schoology.

Graphic Design Software: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Canva

Video Editing Software: Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and Camtasia

Screen Recording Software: Camtasia, Snagit, OBS Studio, and Screencast-O-Matic.

Virtual Classroom Tools: Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting, and Adobe Connect          

Project Management Tools: Trello, Asana, Basecamp, and Microsoft Project

To delve deeply into popular authoring tools, explore this exceptional learning resource(Authoring Tool).

Is Instructional design a part of L&D?

Yes, instructional design is a part of Learning and Development (L&D) as it involves designing learning experiences to support corporate employees.

Instructional designers create training programs and materials that address the learning needs and objectives of employees. While doing so, they collaborate with subject matter experts, stakeholders, and other L&D professionals to identify learning goals.

Is remote work possible for Instructional designers?

Yes, you can work remotely. There is a strong demand for remote instructional designers in the job market. As per a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for training and development specialists, which includes instructional designers, is positive. The field is expected to grow by 11% from 2020 to 2030

Further, as per Talent.com, the average salary for a remote instructional designer in the USA in 2024 will be $68,000 per year.

Are a UX designer and an Instructional designer similar professions?

No, both UX (user experience) designers and instructional designers significantly differ in their roles and responsibilities. Let’s understand better through a comparison of the two professions:

UX Designer

  • Focus
  • UX designers primarily focus on designing digital products and interfaces, such as:
  • Websites
  • Mobile apps
  • Software applications
  • They aim to create intuitive and seamless user experiences.
  • User Research
  • UX designers research to understand the needs, behaviors, and preferences of users. 
  • They gather insights through methods such as interviews, surveys, and usability testing.
  • Visual Design
  • UX designers collaborate with visual designers to create visually appealing interfaces.
  • They consider factors such as typography, color, and layout.

Instructional Designer

  • Focus
  • Instructional designers focus on designing learning experiences.
  • They facilitate knowledge transfer and skill acquisition. 
  • They create:
  • Training programs
  • Courses
  • Learning materials 
  • Learning Theory
  • While creating learning materials, instructional designers apply the principles of:
  • Learning theory
  • Instructional design models
  • Pedagogical best practices 
  • They consider learners' needs to create engaging learning materials.
  • Content Development
  • Instructional designers develop instructional content, which includes:
  • Presentations
  • E-learning modules
  • Training manuals
  • Assessments
  • They use multimedia elements and modern tools to enhance the learning experience.

Both UX designers and instructional designers share a common goal of creating positive user experiences. However, their focus, skills, and responsibilities are distinct and require a different skill set.

How Can You Become an Instructional Designer?

Refer to this step-by-step guide to becoming an instructional designer in 2024:

Step I: Learn Instructional Design Skills

  • Develop a strong foundation in instructional design principles and strategies
  • You can start by taking online courses

Step II: Master E-learning Development Tools

  • Familiarize yourself with authoring tools like:
  • Articulate Storyline
  • Adobe Captivate 
  • Lectora
  • Calibr.ai (Calibr)

Step III: Expand Your Knowledge of Learning Science

  • Deepen your understanding of cognitive psychology
  • Learn instructional theories to design evidence-based educational programs

Step IV: Join Instructional Design Communities

  • Engage with online forums and social media groups
  • You can also join professional associations like the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT).
  • This will help you to exchange ideas and stay updated on industry trends

Step V: Practice Reflective Design Thinking

  • Regularly reflect on your design process and outcomes
  • Try to identify areas for improvement
  • Keep innovating and updating your instructional materials

Step VI: Gain Practical Experience

  • Look for opportunities where you can apply your skills and gain real-world experience.
  • Seek internships, freelance projects, or volunteering ventures.

Step VII: Consider Advanced Degrees or Certifications

  • Pursue a master's degree or doctorate in instructional design or related fields.
  • You can consider obtaining certifications like the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) to enhance your credentials.

Step VIII: Collaborate With Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

  • Work closely with SMEs to ensure content accuracy and relevance
  • Such a collaboration will also enhance your domain knowledge and keep you abreast of all the latest technological advances.

How does Calibr.AI assist in course development?

Powered by artificial intelligence, Calibr.ai can let you create microlearning courses in just minutes! Try our easy-to-use authoring tool today and create impactful learning experiences.

Contact us to explore our highly affordable plans. 

Sanju Kumari

Sanju has a wealth of experience and expertise in instructional design, bringing innovative ideas and a fresh perspective to e-learning content development. She is passionate about merging technology and creativity for dynamic e-learning. Her passion for creating engaging and effective learning experiences aligns perfectly with Calibr's commitment to excellence. She also enjoys writing about e-learning trends in the corporate world.