Job opportunities in technology-focused instructional design abound in today’s environment of technology-driven culture and business. Even if you are not currently a licensed teacher, earning a master’s degree in instructional design will help advance your current career as well as prepare you for a multitude of new opportunities.
What Is Instructional Design?
Serhat Kurt, editor-in-chief of International Journal of Educational Technology, defines instructional design as a process that consists of “determining the needs of the learners, defining the end goals and objectives of instruction, designing and planning assessment tasks, and devising teaching and learning activities to ensure the quality of instruction.” In other words, it is the holistic development and implementation of a course or learning experience. The process is based on course content, learning outcomes, delivery modality and appropriate instructional methodologies.
The design and implementation of train-the-trainer programs is essential to this process, ensuring high-quality and consistent delivery of instruction. Creating and perfecting the teacher-training curriculum is often part of the role of the instructional coordinator, another profession within the field of instructional design.
Why Is Technology an Important Component of Instructional Design?
Technology underpins many aspects of learning, culture and business in the modern era. To meet the needs of diverse learners and prepare them for life and work in the 21st century, educational technologies have been and will continue to be integrated into classroom instruction. Educational programming has also been moving toward an online model, providing seamless instructional delivery, especially important when times are uncertain, such as in the COVID-19 era.
The majority of business operations in most industries are at least partially based on technologies such as collaborative software, management information systems, business information tools and social media marketing tools. In addition, rapid advancements in technology and the capabilities of cloud-based services will almost certainly continue to push business technology integration.
Whether at school or at the office, the efficacy of technology integration relies on the proficiencies of the teacher and the student or end user, making both training and development in technology necessary for all stakeholders. Therefore, instructional design must incorporate and enrich learning through appropriate technologies. The intersection of instructional design, implementation and technology use will continue to be essential to learning, professional development and business development for the foreseeable future.
What Skills Are Necessary for Instructional Designers?
Instructional design is an interdisciplinary process. Hence, instructional designers need to have an array of skills.
- Professionals in this field must understand the intricacies of both theoretical and practical techniques and methods of instruction and assessment. They must grasp the underlying content and learning goals of a given course, be it for professional development or academic learning.
- Instructional designers and coordinators also need to understand differences in individual learning styles between and within diverse populations. The instructional programs they design should be easy to modify to differentiate learning and accommodate every learner’s needs.
- Instructional designers need to be competent in the technologies involved in content creation and delivery. This requires advanced knowledge of computers and other digital devices, software, user interface design, media and communications technologies.
What Is the Job Outlook for Instructional Designers?
Tech-savvy instructional designers can pursue careers in fields like instructional design and coordination, training and development, e-learning development and technology integration. Professionals prepared for these positions are in high demand and command salaries commensurate to their levels of experience and educational attainment.
Instructional designers with a master’s degree in the field are qualified for leadership roles like coordinator, manager and director. Here are earnings for some of these positions:
- The median annual pay for instructional coordinators in 2019 was $66,290 (S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).
- The average salary of e-learning directors is $80,576 per year (September 2020 data from PayScale).
- The average yearly base pay for instructional design directors was $88,816 (September 2020 data from Glassdoor).
- Median pay for training and development managers in 2019 was $113,350 per year (S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Current job growth data does not accurately reflect future growth in the field due to increases in remote education and work spurred by the pandemic. What is clear is that instructional designers and technologists will be at the forefront of developing a new, more resilient landscape of tech-driven, remote education and business.
St. Thomas University offers an online Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology that is applicable to most any industry. The master’s program prepares you “to design successful learning experiences in both academic and corporate environments.” Since a teaching background is not an admission requirement for this program, this area of study is open to professionals from many different backgrounds.