Say you start a new job tomorrow and watch an onboarding video. Then, another day, you attend an all-day CPR training. And over the weekend, you log in to an online French course you’re taking.
What’s the common denominator? Behind the scenes in all of these scenarios, you’ll find instructional designers — the pros who plan, craft and implement learning experiences like these.
A Versatile Role
As an instructional designer you need skills in a variety of areas — from pedagogy to writing, visual design to technology. On a project, your role starts with analyzing course or training objectives and the needs of your learners. Next, you design and develop the learning experience, which can involve interviewing faculty or other subject matter experts, writing content, creating graphics and videos, and even doing some light coding. Your final step is to evaluate whether the course met its objectives.
Common Job Titles
Instructional Designer, E-Learning Developer, Training Specialist, Content Developer
$69,211 in Seattle
All of the above aims to do one thing: Make an impact.
“As an instructional designer, you want to see a change in the learner — to see somebody able to do something they weren’t able to before or do it better or faster. Sell more, save more lives, whatever the case,” explained Shawn Lock, senior program manager in channel readiness at F5 Networks and an advisory board member of the Certificate in E-Learning Design & Development.
Job Opportunities Abound
While this role is far from new, its shift into hot job territory is recent, fueled in part by advances in technology. According to O*Net, demand for instructional designers is expected to grow by 7 percent between 2014 and 2024. In Seattle, job postings for this role doubled between 2010 and 2015, according to job market analytics company Burning Glass. A recent search showed companies like Adobe, Amazon, Liberty Mutual, Microsoft and the University of Washington all on the hunt for instructional designers.
“It’s a great field to be in because it’s still developing,” said Matt Saavedra, associate director of technical services for the UW Division of Enrollment Management and an instructor in the Certificate in E-Learning Design & Development. “People entering the field now are going to define what it ends up being years and decades to come,” he said. “Plus, with the web, video and smartphones, there are a lot of opportunities to deliver content in an exciting way, so it's a very creative time to be in the industry.”
Becoming an Instructional Designer
If you have a knack for organizing information, almost any background can act as a springboard into instructional design, and many people transition from other jobs to this one. Educators, writers, and subject matter experts in areas like technology, health care and business have all been known to make the move.
If you’re coming from another role, the first step to making the switch is to learn best practices and tools of the trade. Self-study is one option. Or you can take a certificate program, like the Certificate in E-Learning Design & Development, which also gives you the opportunity to practice the work and start building a professional portfolio you can show to potential employers.
“I tell people that instructional design is a great job if you’re a good communicator and have some technical aptitude as well as creative aptitude,” Saavedra said. “There’s art, science and technology involved in instructional design, and you’re putting all these things together to do your job well.”