Pros and Cons of a Career in Instructional Development
Instructional developers create the courses that teachers and trainers present. Consider the pros and cons to see if a career as an instructional developer might be right for you.
|PROS of an Instructional Development Career|
|Expected job growth (13% projected growth between 2012 and 2022)*|
|Rewarding work (direct outcomes of work can be seen)*|
|Wide variety of work environments (public/private sector and education/business)*|
|Very favorable opportunities for specialists in reading, math, science and technology*|
|CONS of an Instructional Development Career|
|Requires extensive education*|
|Can be stressful (due to tight deadlines and high accountability for outcomes)*|
|Often involves a great deal of travel (among school or business locations)*|
|Budget cuts may limit employment and resources (especially in public education)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Job Description, Salary and Career Info
Instructional developers - also known as instructional designers or instructional coordinators - are responsible for training trainers and teaching teachers to more effectively impact the minds of their students. They also assess learning needs, develop or assemble appropriate curricula, implement programs and evaluate effectiveness.
Salary and Career Info
The BLS reported that most instructional coordinator salaries ranged from $47,000-$78,000 as of May 2014 (www.bls.gov). These salaries are for positions that require a master's degree in the field, generally a 1- to 3-year educational investment after you have finished your bachelor's degree.
Having experience in education, a graduate degree and/or training in a high-demand specialty can gain you valuable leverage in your quest to become an instructional developer. Projected job growth in this field likely is the result of increased attention to the quality of public and private education, where the BLS says 70% of instructional coordinators are employed. Instructional developers are also needed in the private sector in business and industry positions, such as corporate training departments and consulting firms.
What Do Employers Look for?
Regardless of your specific career path, you'll need certain key skills to achieve success as an instructional developer. Strong understanding of student needs and educational materials can help you make sound curriculum decisions. Good organization skills and excellent communication abilities are also strong predictors of success in this field.
Most instructional developer positions require a master's degree, but some employers might consider applicants with a bachelor's degree and significant relevant experience. Master's degree programs can be found with specializations in instructional design or education. Look for programs with strong curriculum design components, and take classes that emphasize research skills, instructional techniques and learning theory. Courses that help you gain proficiency in popular software applications like Microsoft Office, Adobe Captivate and Lectora can also be beneficial. If you're interested in working in public education, you may need a teaching or educational administration license.
Job Postings from Real Employers
Instructional developers have flexibility to work in educational or business and industry environments. A graduate degree, relevant experience and strong knowledge of often-used software programs can give you an edge in your job search. Below are some actual job postings from February 2012:
- A Pennsylvania payroll company is looking for an instructional technology designer with excellent communication skills and exceptional knowledge of Microsoft Office programs and authoring software (e.g. Adobe Captivate, Lectora, etc.). This position also requires frequent travel and five years of experience in instructional design. Candidates with master's degrees are preferred.
- A communications company in Georgia seeks an instructional designer to create e-learning programs and other training materials. The ideal candidate will have instructional design and development expertise and strong knowledge of Microsoft Office programs and authoring software.
- A public university in California needs an instructional designer to integrate technology into classes and support staff in the use of new technology. This position requires a bachelor's degree and at least two years of relevant experience.
- An Illinois university requires an instructional designer/computer-assisted instruction specialist with online teaching experience, excellent communication skills and knowledge of course delivery systems. Applicants with master's degrees are preferred for this position.
How to Stand Out in the Field
Job experience in the education field is very attractive to potential employers because it demonstrates your familiarity with students and their needs and aptitudes. Learning to use common authoring and presentation software programs like Adobe Framemaker or Adobe Presenter can also increase your marketability.
Once you have at least three years of experience in instructional development, you can consider applying for special certifications. The International Society for Performance Improvement offers a Certified School Improvement Specialist credential if you have three years of documented school improvement experience and agree to follow set standards and abide by a code of ethics. The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) offers the Certified Professional in Learning & Performance credential for professionals with more than three years of experience who pass a certification test. Earning credentials like these can impress employers and make you more marketable in the instructional development field.
For instructional developers who wish to work in public education, specialization can be the key to finding a well-funded and secure position. The BLS reported that due to increased focus on educational quality and equality, instructional designers with specializations in reading, math and science were expected to be in high demand from 2008-2018. Opportunities are also abundant for instructional designers in technology fields and those with knowledge of lifelong learning, special needs education and English as a second language (ESL). Choosing to specialize and obtain extra training in one of these areas can dramatically increase your marketability as an instructional developer.
Other Careers to Consider
If you dislike the idea of traveling or you'd rather work more with students and less with curricula, you might consider a career in educational administration. Like instructional developers, educational administrators need at least a master's degree and must usually be state-licensed. They work frequently with students and must have strong interpersonal and communication skills. On the downside, many educational administrators work long hours, and the field is growing at an average rate (eight percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the BLS), more slowly than instructional development. Job prospects are favorable for educational administrators, however, and the average annual salary is considerably higher than the average salary for instructional developers, although it varies based on the type and level of school in which they work.
On the other hand, if earning a master's degree or working in education seems daunting, a career as a training specialist, planning programs and leading training classes, might be perfect for you. Training specialists generally work standard 40-hour weeks in the private sector, usually in business or industrial environments. Job growth is similar to instructional development, with 22% growth projected between 2008 and 2018, according to the BLS. A bachelor's degree in education or an interdisciplinary field is standard for training specialists, and additional certification from ASTD could increase marketability. The middle 50% of training specialists earned between $41,000 and $71,000 per year as of May 2010, per the BLS.