Instructional design is a field of study that involves the careful development of educational materials and experiences. It is valuable to the function of schools and classrooms, as well as workplace learning environments. Without instructional designers, we would not have things like instruction manuals, training workshops, online courses, and adaptable curriculums that support a diversity of learners.
If you are seeking a creative career where you can make a difference, instructional design is an incredible contender. Instructional designers use a range of skills to engage, educate, and support the success of learners all around the world. Of course, before diving into the field, you’ll want to know a bit more about the role.
What is an Instructional Designer?
Instructional designers are creative professionals who produce learning materials and experiences for classrooms and companies. Their work is used to teach, train, aid, and engage learners, who can range from elementary school students to newly hired professionals. Depending on where an instructional designer works, they can be found creating custom learning materials like handouts, brochures, and presentations, as well as designing engaging learning experiences like training workshops, webinars, and simulation labs.
Where Do Instructional Designers Work?
As noted above, instructional designers can be employed in both businesses and school systems, but their work is valued across a wide array of industries.
Most instructional designers work in the education space, where they help support curriculum design in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schools. However, instructional designers are also commonly found working in business settings, preparing materials that will be used to train and onboard new hires. They may also develop learning programs and resources for existing employees at a company, ensuring that workers maintain the skills and knowledge needed to succeed on the job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, instructional designers may also be found working in government settings.
No matter where you choose to take your instructional design career, know that the job opportunities are endless. On top of the diverse pathways you can take, you can also expect a bright job outlook. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that instructional designers and coordinators will see about 19,200 job openings each year, nationwide, between 2022 and 2032.
What Do Instructional Designers Do?
Now that we know a bit more about instructional designers, let’s answer your biggest question: What does an instructional designer do for a living?
Instructional designers develop custom learning resources using a range of tools and methods. However, their work goes far beyond curriculum design. Instructional designers also analyze learning needs, collaborate with various teams, organize workflows and experiences, and gather feedback—on top of the actual design and development of learning materials. Here’s a deeper look at what instructional designers do:
- Assess the needs of their audience. Whether developing materials for a classroom or a company’s training program, every instructional designer starts their job with an assessment. They must assess the needs of the learners and/or the learning event. For example, instructional designers must analyze the organizational or classroom goals, the characteristics of the learners, as well as the skills and attitudes needed to learn the materials.
- Collaborate with subject matter experts (SMEs). Instructional designers do not always know everything about a topic, prior to developing educational materials. They need to learn the basics, too! For this reason, instructional designers will research topics in-depth and work closely with SMEs to ensure their learning materials contain accurate and up-to-date information.
- Create multimedia tools for learning. Instructional designers also work with technology experts to develop and enhance learning materials across mediums. For example, these professionals may create graphs, videos, infographics, PDF files, and interactive training experiences that can be accessed easily, on-demand and online.
- Structure courses and training. This may go without saying, but on top of designing materials, instructional designers also organize and make a plan for learning. They ensure that any courses they’re developing, or training programs they are creating, are easy-to-follow and flow in an effective, sensible way.
Job Duties of an Instructional Designer
The above description covers the high-level role of an instructional designer, but what can you expect to do on a day-to-day basis? In summary, instructional designers are responsible for:
- Designing educational materials and instructional experiences
- Evaluating the needs of students, trainees, and learners
- Creating educational content, such as podcasts, videos, and eBooks
- Revamping previously established learning models
- Implementing feedback from students, faculty, and organizational leaders
- Assessing the effectiveness of their materials and programs
- Training others on how to deliver learning materials
- Researching new trends and innovations in instructional design
Instructional designers, in a way, have it all. They get to enjoy a creative, hands-on career that is inspired by evidence, technology, and design. Their work has a meaningful impact on the lives of many students and employees. They can enjoy a behind-the-scenes, research-based role, while also having the benefit of collaboration and teamwork—depending on the day. And, instructional designers can expect a comfortable salary for the hard work they do, earning upwards of $73,000 annually, on average (or $84,000 per year in Connecticut).
Interested in inspiring future learners through the field of instructional design? You can break into this creative career through the Universal Instructional Design Certificate program at Goodwin University. The program is designed for bachelor’s degree holders, and can be completed in just two semesters.