Instructional Design Degrees: Bachelor, Associate & Online Course Info

About this article
Bachelor's and associate degrees in instructional design can lead to careers as an instructional designer. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
View available schools

Instructional Design Degrees at a Glance

The field of instructional design focuses on the theoretical and technical requirements for the design and deployment of educational materials. Current degrees in instructional design often focus on the dissemination of educational materials through technological means, such as web-based training. Though it is most common for people working in the instructional design field to hold a master's degree, there are some programs available at the associate and bachelor's levels, and some indication that the need for training in these areas is growing. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field will grow faster than average in the years 2010-2020.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals beginning their training in the field of instructional design People seeking training as an instructional designer
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) Most positions in this field require at least a bachelor's degree. Many require a master's degree. - Training and development manager ($92,000)*
- Human resource specialist ($54,000)*
- Human resource manager ($99,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 24-32 associate-level courses
- Possible capstone project
- Approximately 64 bachelor-level courses
- Possible capstone project
Prerequisites High school diploma High school diploma
Online Availability Yes None found at this time

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate Degree in Instructional Design

An associate degree in instructional design or a similar program may be used as a first step in developing a career in designing and delivering instructional materials. Most positions in this field require a master's degree, though some may require only a bachelor's degree and work experience may substitute for some educational requirements. On the other hand, for those already working in related fields, the coursework and skills of this field may be used in seeking to attain career goals.

Pros and Cons


  • Instructional design is a growing field that addresses the need for organizational training.
  • Instructional design training programs can familiarize students with a wide range of information technology as well as educational design skills.
  • Broad-scope programs at the associate level may prepare students to focus in on specific areas for continued training.


  • In most cases, associate degree programs alone will not prepare students for positions in this industry.
  • Instructional coordinator positions in school districts require a state-granted license. Earning this license generally requires a master's degree and/or teaching experience.
  • Associate degree programs may focus specifically on eLearning technologies and methodologies, limiting program applicability.

Courses and Requirements

Coursework in instructional design programs at the associate level combine computing knowledge with the educational theory for delivering quality educational products to diverse audiences and the business skills necessary for leadership positions. Courses may include such topics as:

  • Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop for computer graphics
  • Business leadership and management
  • Computer publishing and design
  • Computer-based animation
  • Cultural diversity and communication
  • Digital media technology for instruction
  • Software for managing projects
  • Using PowerPoint
  • Web development and Dreamweaver
  • Web platforms for teaching

Online Degree Options

Online programs in the instructional design field are available at the associate level. Some of these programs may have an internship requirement, and therefore may not be available in all states. Students researching these programs should follow up on these requirements before committing to a program of study.

Stand Out with This Degree

These programs may have both capstone projects and internships as requirements. Capstone projects can be opportunities to develop student portfolios, and so a student's project should be selected keeping the requirements and interests of future employers in mind. Internships provide opportunities for developing both contacts with and recommendations from people already established in the job market, and students may benefit from finding mentors who have already established their professional reputations.

Bachelor's Degree in Instructional Design

While a bachelor's degree in instructional design is offered at a handful of colleges or universities across the country, the entry-level degree for curriculum specialists is most often a master's degree. Therefore, most students who pursue a bachelor's degree in instructional design decide to continue their education in pursuit of the required degree. Those who decide not to pursue an additional degree may find employment in industries that require training capabilities but do not have the stringent licensing of school districts.

Pros and Cons


  • For students interested in using technology in delivering training, these bachelor's-level programs offer a way to begin developing relevant skills directly after high school.
  • While public school systems may require a master's degree, businesses may seek trainers and program designers without the same state licensing requirements.
  • Bachelor's degree programs may be flexible enough to allow a double-major with instructional design and another pre-professional program.


  • Instructional coordinator positions in school districts are generally only open to state-certified applicants who have completed master's-level programs.
  • Promotion to leadership positions in instructional design may be challenging for those who do not continue their education beyond the bachelor level.
  • While these programs may provide competency in training approaches, they do not necessarily also provide the background in specific areas of knowledge that may be necessary for training. Trainers may need to either gain this knowledge through work experience or further education.

Courses and Requirements

In addition to similar coursework as the associate degree program above, the more extensive bachelor's degree programs may offer more in-depth topics for developing career skills, including such coursework as:

  • Instructional technologies and techniques
  • Instructional management
  • Instructional resource development
  • Curriculum design and evaluation
  • Work-based training and education
  • Interactive instruction, technology and multimedia
  • Curriculum development
  • Instructional design principals
  • Interactive simulation and gaming
  • Distance learning theory

Online Degree Options

At this time, online bachelor's degree programs are not available instructional design. For those interested in pursuing these program options online, an associate-level program may be an option to consider. Students should communicate with both school's registrars to see what courses would be available for transfer.

Stand Out with This Degree

Competition for instructional design positions is commonly among those with at least master's degrees. Those seeking to launch their careers with education at the bachelor's level may choose to specialize in a specific area that both shows growth and avoids the state-licensing requirement of most public schools. Experience in a specific industry, whether through internship or previous employment, will help to create both professional connections and reputation.

Popular Schools

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • BS in Early Childhood Administration

Which subject are you interested in?

Wilmington University

National University

Lesley University

Drury University

Cameron University