If you’ve ever wondered, ‘what you can do with an instructional design degree?’, you might be surprised to learn that instructional design is rampant in today’s society, and not just in elearning. From innovative teaching methods in popular films such as “Freedom Writers” and “Dead Poets Society” to podcasts like “The Lounge Podcast” and “Train Like You Listen,” instructional design harnesses the transformative power of education. As for what you can do in instructional design, your first step is to begin here. Our guide will cover what instructional design is, explore instructional design jobs, and discuss whether instructional design is the right career for you. Get started below.

What Is Instructional Design?

As a discipline, instructional design, per Ardent Learning, is the cross-section of behavioral psychology, education, and communication to create the most effective teaching strategies for a given group of learners. Ardent Learning further explains: “This focus is important because it means that learners receive instruction in a form that’s most impactful and meaningful to them specifically, allowing them to better understand the topics and concepts being taught. While instructional design is the foundation for creating training materials, it’s about more than just writing curriculum. Good instructional design considers how students learn and what materials, methods, and technologies will most effectively change behavior. It considers how learning tools should be designed, developed, and delivered to learners, and is effective in crafting learning experiences.”

Future Learn agrees on this point, highlighting that “the goal of instructional design is to decide on the most suitable methods and materials for teaching that skill or subject.” In doing so, educators will know if their strategies are effective or need to be adjusted for that specific group of learners.

What Is an Example of Instructional Design?

Returning to the previous example of “Dead Poets Society,” the film highlights the importance of fostering a supportive learning environment. In the movie, preparatory school teacher John Keating, played by Robin Williams, employs innovative teaching methods, encouraging students to think critically and express themselves creatively. This aligns with instructional design principles that emphasize learner engagement and active participation in the learning process.

The film also underscores the significance of personalized learning experiences. Keating tailors his teaching to the individual needs and interests of each student, recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach is not effective. This echoes the instructional design concept of designing learning experiences that accommodate diverse learning styles and preferences.

Moreover, “Dead Poets Society” emphasizes the role of inspiration and motivation in education. Keating's passion for literature and his ability to inspire his students to pursue their dreams demonstrate the motivational aspect of instructional design. Effective instructional design often incorporates elements that motivate learners and create a positive and enthusiastic learning atmosphere.

Instructional Design vs. Curriculum Development

Instructional design does, however, differ in many ways from curriculum development, and it is important to note the differences. While instructional design examines how content can be taught, curriculum development uncovers what ought to be taught, Future Learn asserts. Instructional design deals with the detailed planning and creation of specific learning experiences, materials, and assessments, while curriculum development involves the broader and more strategic planning of the entire educational program, encompassing multiple courses and subjects. Both are crucial components of effective education, working in tandem to ensure meaningful and coherent learning experiences for students.

What Are Some Instructional Design Jobs?

Back to the matter at hand–instructional design–and more pertinently, instructional design jobs. As you can see from above, you can apply instructional design to a number of areas, and therefore, you can likely find instruction design jobs in a number of areas including higher education, corporate, government, military, and non-profit sectors. While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact careers in which you may end up after pursuing a degree in instructional design, however we have listed some of the positions you may be able to pursue upon completion of your degree program here.

With a Bachelor of Arts in Instructional Design, six potential instructional design jobs you may be able to consider include:

  • Training and development specialists: Training and development specialists create and implement programs to enhance employee competencies and organizational performance.
  • Corporate trainer: Corporate trainers play a crucial role in upholding organizational standards through training during the onboarding process and during a person’s employment. 
  • E-learning developer: E-Learning developers design and code lessons, creating visually appealing and engaging content for students or users.
  • Management development specialist: Management development specialists assess and address the learning needs of organizational managers by designing customized training programs, collaborating with experts, and evaluating program effectiveness for continuous improvement.
  • Job training specialist: Similar to a training and development specialist role, a job training specialist develops programs to help employees improve their skills and knowledge.
  • Training specialist: A training specialist may work within the human resources department, helping to lead training sessions and assess employee performance.

With a Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology, five potential instructional design jobs you may be able to consider include:

  • Instructional designer: Also referred to as instructional coordinators, instructional designers create educational materials, manage instructional content, and integrate technology into teaching.
  • Learning development specialist: Learning development specialists are tasked with creating employee training plans for companies.
  • Curriculum and instruction director: A curriculum and instruction director collaborates with teachers, IT workers, and curriculum specialists to develop an academic strategy for delivering the necessary curriculum to students.
  • Instructional technologist: Also known as instructional coordinators, instructional technologists are responsible for integrating technology into education, offering guidance to educators on curriculum development and course delivery.
  • Instructional systems specialist: Similar to others in the instructional design field, the role of an instructional systems specialist involves creating instructional materials and coordinating educational content.

For more information on careers in this occupational field, please visit the Department of Labor site here.

Is Instructional Design a Good Career?

It can be difficult to know what career is right for you, and instructional design is no different. Learning experience design consultant Christy Tucker depicts six ways to answer the question “is instructional design a good career for me?” Tucker analyzes these traits and preferences in the following:

  1. Working behind the scenes: Instructional design involves working behind the scenes to create effective learning experiences. Professionals in this field focus on designing instructional materials and strategies, ensuring that the learning process is seamless and engaging for learners. In so doing, instructional designers are not front and center but rather, they build the scenes in which educators and learners will engage.
  2. Working with SMEs: Instructional designers also collaborate closely with subject matter experts (SMEs) to gather relevant content and insights. This collaboration is crucial for creating accurate and impactful learning content, as SMEs provide the expertise necessary to design effective instructional materials.
  3. Learning and using technology: A key aspect of instructional design is the integration of technology into the learning process. Professionals in this field not only need to be comfortable with technology but should also stay updated on the latest tools and trends to enhance the overall learning experience.
  4. More than just authoring tools: While authoring tools are important, instructional design goes beyond simply using them. It involves understanding learning theories, cognitive processes, and effective instructional strategies to design comprehensive and meaningful learning experiences.
  5. Always learning: Continuous learning is a fundamental aspect of a career in instructional design. As educational technologies and methodologies evolve, professionals in this field must stay informed about the latest advancements to adapt and improve their instructional designs.
  6. Helping others learn: At the core of instructional design is the commitment to helping others learn. Professionals in this field derive satisfaction from creating educational content that facilitates effective learning, supporting individuals in acquiring new skills and knowledge.

Overview: What Can You Do with an Instructional Design Degree?

Instructional design goes beyond curriculum development, classroom-based learning, and elearning. It is woven into society, shaping teaching methods in films like “Freedom Writers” and podcasts like “The Lounge Podcast.” Instructional design blends psychology, education, and communication, crafting impactful teaching strategies. “Dead Poets Society” exemplifies personalized learning, aligning with instructional design principles. It's not just about content; it's about creating engaging experiences tailored to students’ unique needs. Distinct from curriculum development, it focuses on specific learning experiences. Careers in instructional design are diverse, and there are many traits for success in this field, including tech integration and a commitment to continuous learning. Instructional design isn't just a career; it's a journey of helping others learn and grow.


Successful completion of the Bachelor of Arts in Instructional Design or the Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology at the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC) does not by itself lead to immediate teacher licensure in any state.

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