How to Become an Instructional Designer (With Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

November 2, 2021

Instructional designers are essential parts of the education sector, as they create compelling and engaging learning experiences. These designers develop courses, handouts, job aids, and presentation materials. Understanding how to become an instructional designer can help you determine if this career path suits your interests and career goals. In this article, we discuss the steps needed to becoming an instructional designer and outline the skills necessary for this role.

How to become an instructional designer

Here are the steps you can take if you are interested in learning how to become an instructional designer:

1. Determine your primary specialty and objective

The first thing you require is understanding the niche you want to specialize in and the primary objective of your career. Choosing your focus early helps you pursue the appropriate training and can help you determine the types of content you may create. It also can help you prepare mentally and set realistic short and mid-term goals.

2. Gain experience in your preferred specialization

Familiarizing yourself with your specialization includes learning about its core ideas, concepts, and principles. It's also necessary to gain experience in instructional design. You can do this by extending your services to local clients for free or at a discount, and encourage their feedback to help you develop your skills. Consider designing eLearning courses based on any of your interests to help build your resume.

3. Study instructional design theories and models

Understanding the theories and models of instructional design can help you develop engaging courses. For instance, studying the cognitive load theory helps ensure that your content is in appropriately sized lessons to increase comprehension. Other theories include Merril, the ADDIE Model, and Gagne and Bloom's Taxonomy. Learning the theory behind instructional design can help you deliver quality content.

Related: A Guide to Computer Science Jobs

4. Learn the instructional design tools, principles, and aids

Instructional designers develop their courses until their final format. Skills with standard industry tools are typically an entry-level requirement in instructional design. This means you have a familiarity with technology and multimedia tools to create these designs. You can opt for online or offline resources to learn how to use and leverage these tools.

5. Develop an instructional design portfolio

Building an impressive design portfolio is an essential step in your career as an instructional designer. Your portfolio is typically the first item reviewed by clients or employers. It demonstrates your past work, influencing an employer's hiring decision. It can also outline explanations of the projects you include, such as the primary goal of the project or your design strategy. Working on projects from your friends or institutions in your neighbourhood can help you build your portfolio.

6. Prepare for interviews and build your resume

A successful interview is vital to securing any job position. It is important to prepare for your interview to help increase your chances of getting hired. You can do this by practising with standard interview questions. Submitting an impressive resume also increases your chances of getting hired. Your resume highlights your most relevant skills, experience, and qualifications. You can tailor your resume to the job you are interested in to demonstrate how you are suitable for the role.

Related: How to Write a Resume

7. Consider certificate programs or training courses

Taking certificate programs or training courses can increase your chances of success in your career, especially if it's a practical program. Several programs and degrees provide an in-depth understanding of instructional design. Ensure you select courses that provide practical experience when you decide the programs to pursue. They can help you learn from other instructional designers and also gain valuable on-the-job training and experience.

8. Consider a postgraduate degree in instructional design

Pursuing an advanced degree can be helpful in your career and leads to more employment opportunities. Postgraduate programs can also enhance your professional learning and development. While a postgraduate degree is rarely a requirement, some employers value formal and advanced academic credentials. There are various master's degree programs in the field, including those on instructional design, instructional systems, educational technology, workplace performance, and learning design.

9. Stay up-to-date with current industry standards

The instructional design field is constantly changing with the development of new theories and technologies. It's important that you stay informed of the changes in the industry to ensure your skills and knowledge remain relevant. You can stay up-to-date by attending various industry-related events, associating with other instructional designers, and subscribing to related newsletters and journals.

10. Network in your field

Networking can help you meet relevant professionals who can help accelerate your professional development. It can also help you develop essential relationships with other professionals who share similar interests. This can help you learn and stay up-to-date in the industry. You can network through various social media platforms or by attending various online and offline industry events.

Related: Guidelines on How to Network

Skills necessary for an instructional designer

Here's a list of some of the necessary skills for an instructional designer:

Background of learning models and theories

A broad understanding of instructional design's learning models and theories is necessary for instructional designers. Employers may include extensive knowledge of these learning models and theories in their employment requirements. Possessing this knowledge is vital for your career as it helps you deliver quality content. It also increases your chances of getting a job offer as an instructional designer. There are several learning models to consider, and the ones you require can depend on your primary goals.

Knowledge of instructional design technology

An instructional design career largely involves designing instructional materials for an audience. This requires you to possess an ability to develop, manipulate, and distribute learning content using various tools. Your career's primary goal can inform the technology you require learning, so it's vital to determine your goals early.

Presentation skills

Instructional designers also create videos, webinars, and live training sessions and create standard learning modules. This requires the ability to create handouts and presentation slides in addition to possessing excellent design, scriptwriting, and video production skills. Several online and offline resources are available to help you develop your presentation skills.

Artistic and visual talents

Various job posting requirements for instructional designers include familiarity with various design tools. Efficient use of these tools requires artistic and visual skills. Skills like this are typically innate, but you can develop them through constant practise.

Project management skills

Instructional designers typically use project management skills to complete their responsibilities. Efficient project management skills are vital to achieving success in an instructional design career, especially as your career matures. You can develop your project management skills by taking on new tasks and projects while using project management software to help.

Related: 22 Essential Project Management Skills

Assessment development

Organizations often prefer assessments to accompany instructional design materials, making the ability to develop these materials an essential component of the role. Organizations use these assessments to determine the success of new courses. Aligning assessments with an organization's objectives is also essential, as it makes it easier to measure the course's success based on the goals of the organization.

Familiarity with virtual reality

Instructional designers continuously use virtual-reality tools to immerse their audience in real-life simulations. This method is popular because of the excellent learning experience it offers its users. The ability to manipulate virtual-reality tools to create courses can give you a competitive edge in the workforce. It also helps you stay relevant in the field as more instructional designers are utilizing it in their work.

Interpersonal skills

Instructional designers typically work with stakeholders in developing various courses. They also head project management aspects of course development. This requires instructional designers to possess strong interpersonal skills. For instance, leaving a good impression on stakeholders while working with them is an excellent way to secure an important client or add them to your professional network.

Communication skills

Communication skills are critical for instructional designers because they require the ability to communicate complex subjects in easily understandable terms. This skill is particularly essential, as one of the determining factors of success of a course is how much it impacts its recipients. Communication skills are also necessary to lead a team of professionals or to participate in a team.

Research skills

An important aspect of creating a successful course is preparing information to include in it. Your research skills are necessary to develop impactful and relevant content. Research is also essential to ensure the accuracy of the information you prepare.

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