Instructional design and technology is a field you may have heard of, but has left you scratching your head as to what it means. When I’m asked what instructional design is I’ll usually give the most basic definition I learned when pursuing a degree in this field. This definition is simply that instructional design is the practice of designing, creating, and delivering digital and physical instructional experiences and products for those who need it. The technology part of instructional design and technology often refers to the use of technology to design, develop, and implement the instruction.

Though instructional design and technology has been a booming field for some time, with new careers and studies being added each year, it’s still making a name for itself among programs based on technology and learning. In this blog, I’ll set the record straight on what you can expect to learn in the Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology program—and how you can apply those skills to an instructional design career.

Instructional design focuses on identifying problems that can be solved with an instruction solution. For example, consider a company that’s implementing a new software and they need to train employees on how to use the new software. An instructional designer will help to design and develop this training. In addition, I may use other descriptive terms that are related to instructional design with which people might be familiar. These include terms such as curriculum design, designing courses, or performance improvement. Although you may see many different instructional design models, they’ll all most likely share elements of five key instructional design phases: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. An instructional designer will work within all five of these phases of the instructional design process.

Is Instructional Design a good career?

If you use popular job search engines such as Indeed, ZipRecruiter, or LinkedIn, you’ll come across some of the more common job titles in the field of instructional design and technology. These include Instructional Designer, Senior Instructional Designer, Learning Experience Designer, Learning and Development Specialist, Training Specialist, and Instructional Systems Designer. The University of Arizona Global Campus Master of Science in Instructional Design & Technology also supports similar job titles and supports a healthy career outlook with a projected 5-8% job growth rate predicted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are many career paths to explore. While the field has a variety of career opportunities to pursue for graduates, is it the right career for you? Let’s help you determine if instructional design is a good career fit.

Will you be happy working behind the scenes?

As an instructional design professional, you will be focusing your efforts on creating the curriculum and experiences rather than the one actually instructing the students. Consider this aspect before making your decision as you will be giving up direct interactions with students.

Are you okay not always being the expert?

While you won’t be working directly with students, you will be working closely with those who are experts in the fields that you will be addressing in your education materials. Most organizations have their subject matter experts that you will work closely with when creating and designing the instructional material. Make sure you are comfortable working with other experts when creating the material.

Do you feel comfortable working with technology as well as people?

While you will need to be comfortable working with others, you will also need to be confident in your abilities to work with technology. If you dislike learning new technologies, instructional design might not be a good career fit, as you will be expected to understand the different learning technologies available. 

Are you someone who is always learning?

Are you someone who enjoys learning new things and growing as an expert? There will always be new technologies, new research, and new tactics to consume in the field of instructional design. 

Instructional Design & Technology Careers to Explore

  • Instructional Designer
  • Instructional Designers & Technologist

What responsibilities can you have in Instructional Design & Technology?

There will be roles and responsibilities that are common among each of these positions, while some may focus more heavily on certain aspects of the instructional design process (such as analysis versus implementation). These positions require a level of technology proficiency. At a minimum, you’ll want to be proficient at using Microsoft Office. However, in my experience, many positions are now seeking individuals with the ability to use development tools such as Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, or Camtasia. Some companies may also look for experience using specific learning and content management systems. Take some time to check out skill requirements.

Why Pursue a Master of Science in Instructional Design & Technology?

A degree in instructional design and technology is very versatile. There will be a need for people who can design and develop instruction wherever learning and training occurs. Instructional design is a process, and this process is transferable. Whether it’s business, education, health care, insurance, government, military, for-profit, or not-for-profit, someone with a degree in instructional design and technology can work in any of these settings. As an instructional designer, you don’t necessarily have to be an expert in the subject area in which you’re working. You’ll work with people who are subject matter experts. Your role is to design and develop the instruction around that subject matter.

If you like helping others acquire new knowledge and skills, enjoy designing curriculum and courses, can see yourself involved in teaching and training, and are looking for a career that allows for some flexibility to move between industries, then a degree in instructional design and technology may be for right for you.


Written by Dr. Chris Sorensen, Program Chair for the Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology

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