Choosing a Degree

What Can You Do With an Instructional Design Degree?

During World War II, the U.S. military had an obvious need to train large numbers of troops for the war effort.

Enter instructional design

What is commonly thought of as a modern-day field actually started in the 1940s. It continued thereafter with business, industry and education adapting the “en masse” training model for their purposes.

Since then, instructional design theorists have emerged to literally transform the model into a full-blown discipline.

And now with our current digital and mobile age, there’s even more need for instructional design expertise as everyone from students to employees rely on technology-based learning, training and development.

Curriculum, content (and the strategy behind it) must come from someone – and that someone is the instructional design professional.

Search the keywords “instructional design job” on any job-related web site or career aggregator, and literally thousands upon thousands of results come up.

That’s because the field of instructional design and technology is exploding with opportunity.

In fact, labor market data research firm Economic Model Specialists International (EMSI) estimates that the instructional design profession will increase 14 percent overall through the year 2025. That’s the same growth across all occupations through 2022, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It’s a well-paying field, too, as evidenced by average annual salaries for a variety of career opportunities.’s salary index showed in mid-2016 that the average annual salary for the profession was $63,000that’s 10 percent higher than average salaries for all job postings nationwide.

Yet for learning design leaders, the Association for Talent Development (ATD) says executives can easily expect six-figure remuneration, thanks to top-level experience, performance, tenure, industry and education.

Other exciting aspects of this career field are the types of jobs and industries available for qualified professionals.

Types of jobs include:

• Adjunct Faculty
• Chair of Department of Instructional Design
• Chief Academic Officer
• Chief Learning Officer
• Clinical Professor
• Consultant
• Course Design Manager
• Curriculum Developer
• Dean of Regional Campus
• Director of Center for Teaching & Learning
• Director of Instructional Design Librarian
• Director of Instructional Technology
• Director of Learning & Performance
• Director of Learning Design Operations
• Director of Training & Development
• Distance Education Specialist
• EdTech Curriculum Developer
• Education Program Manager
• Educator
• Employee Trainer
• Human Performance Specialist
• Instructional Design Coordinator
• Instructional Technology Director
• Lead or Senior Instructional Designer
• Learning Development Manager
• Professor
• Senior Researcher & Designer
• Teaching Faculty Within the Field (Instructional Design, Instructional Technology, e-learning, Adult Education, Curriculum & Instruction)
• Technology Innovation Specialist
• Training Manager

Instructional design professionals are needed across all types of industries. Here’s a list of the hottest right now:

• Academia
• Banking & Financial Services
• Biotech
• Consulting Services
• Creative Arts
• Education
• Medical
• Technology & Software

Not surprisingly, higher education may be one of the fastest growing fields for learning design leaders.

According to a 2016 Intentional Futures report in connection with the Next Generation Courseware Challenge from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, there were 5.5 million students enrolled in distance education courses at degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the fall of 2013.

The same report also says that instructional designers in higher education number approximately 13,000 in the U.S. alone, with 87% of survey respondents holding masters’ degrees and 32% with doctoral degrees.

Regardless of industry, rigorous online learning experiences are more in demand than ever. As such, employers are demanding extremely high skill levels from their instructional design executives, consultants and professionals, including:

• Data Analysis
• Instructional Design Models
• Learning Science/Theory
• New Technologies
• Project Management
• Research
• Strategic Planning
• Teaching
• Writing for Publication

“From Microsoft to Amazon to just about any organization that provides training for its employees needs instructional design leaders,” says Yi Yang, Ph.D., program director for Franklin University’s DPS program.

“It takes more than being able to put together curriculum,” she says. “Advanced research, problem-solving and communication skills are critical, too. Doctoral-level training can help you look at the whole picture systematically to determine the best method of training to lead your organization to a better position.”

And that, says Dr. Yang, is where leadership preparation comes into play.

“It’s never been more important to have key leadership skills, such as how to think strategically of training needs and how to align them with organizational goals,” she says. “Also important is knowing how to evaluate ROI to determine what kind of return your organization will get from an investment in training and talent development.”

The leadership component, says Dr. Yang, acquired through a terminal degree, is what makes all the difference.

“Instructional design degrees in the field are focused only on the field. Earning a doctor of professional studies in instructional design can help you look beyond a single piece of training to ways in which to improve the talent pool ecosystem.”

Bottom line?

Doctorally trained instructional design leaders are likely better able to find and fill talent gaps to the benefit of organizations and their employees.