The Pros and Cons of Being an Instructional Technology Specialist
Also known as instructional coordinators (IC), instructional technology specialists are trained to integrate today's computerized software and hardware into educational programs for primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges, corporations, organizations and government agencies. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons associated with this career.
|Pros of Being an Instructional Technology Specialist|
|Steady projected job growth (13% for instructional coordinators, a similar position, between 2012 and 2022)*|
|Higher-than-average pay (median salary of $48,565 in 2015)**|
|Spur the advances in and growth of innovative educational programs across all ages, grades, and occupations*|
|Ability to have an impact on educational progress throughout the world***|
|Cons of Being an Instructional Technology Specialist|
|Must work year-round without summer breaks*|
|Graduate-level education often required (98% have a master's degree)***|
|Work can be stressful because of long hours, continual accountability, deadline pressure and frequent travel to different schools.*|
|Creativity and innovation can be stifled by administrative issues such as limited resources.*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **Payscale.com, ***International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), ****O*NET OnLine.
Instructional technology specialists (ITS) develop instructional and educational material by combining the latest technological programs and equipment and integrating them into the curricula or training programs for primary and secondary schools, colleges, corporations, organizations and government agencies. Also referred to as instructional coordinators (IC), these specialists also work with educators in areas such as online course development, advanced placement, learning disabilities, and English as a Second Language.
Instructional technology specialists evaluate school curricula, research teaching methods, recommend the most effective and appropriate technological hardware and software, and coordinate the purchase and implementation of the various technological innovations. They also provide suggestions and recommendations for improved educational techniques and strategies by meeting with faculty and educational advisers to discuss teacher training, student needs and career preparation.
These professionals can be subject to long hours and, in school systems, they don't enjoy the same summer vacations that teachers do. In some cases, the physical labor of moving equipment and running cables are requirements. Instructional technology specialists can also run into frustrations over budget constraints, administrative hurdles and conflicts with teachers and trainers.
Career Prospects and Salary
Strong job growth for instructional technology specialists is expected due to increased enrollment in traditional and online schools as well as the demand for more effective and innovative educational programs. This is true of corporations, professional organizations and government agencies as well. Salary ranges are wide, depending on education, industry and experience. For instructional coordinators, the closest match to this occupation, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth of 13% from 2012 to 2022. In March 2015, PayScale.com reported a median annual wage of $49,328 for this profession. For some positions, salaries can exceed $70,000, depending on a candidate's experience and education.
Career Skills and Requirements
What are the Requirements?
A review of job postings reveals some trends in the instructional technology field. Some employers will accept candidates with a bachelor's degree as well as teaching or related business experience. Most, however, are looking for candidates with master's degrees in curriculum development, education or instructional technology. For primary and secondary schools, state licensing in teaching or administration is required. Here are a few actual listings from April and May 2012, which demonstrate what employers are looking for:
Job Postings from Real Employers
- A Massachusetts day school seeks an instructional technology specialist to integrate technology into the academic program, plan curriculum, identify resources and lead professional development trainings. A bachelor's degree is required, and advanced degrees are preferred.
- A Minnesota middle school is looking for an ITS to support the staff and students in the use of multimedia technologies. Working with the teachers and students, the ITS will design instructional methods for acquiring new information, while demonstrating an understanding of new technologies. A teaching license is required, and candidates with technology certificates are preferred.
- A Pennsylvania university has an opening for an instructional technologist to work closely with other designers to train and support faculty in the use of e-learning applications and emerging technologies. The employee will be responsible for supporting faculty and students in using the university Learning Management System (LMS). A minimum of a bachelor's degree is required, and a master's degree in instructional technology/instructional systems design is preferred. Experience in instructional technology, LMS, course evaluation and online delivery is also required.
- A New York university wants an instructional technology specialist to operate its Advanced Technology Training & Information Networking (ATTAIN) technology initiative. Candidate would be responsible for the computer lab and would provide academic, technological and vocational training and support to community residents. A bachelor's degree in education or related discipline is required.
How to Stand Out
Become an expert in your field by keeping up with cutting-edge tools and techniques that will not only allow your performance to stand out, but may also bring attention to other business skills, such as cost-cutting strategies. Some employers expect ITSs to attend workshops to stay current, but even if yours doesn't, it's a great thing to do in your line of work, since technologies are in a constant state of change. Many universities offer free or reduced rate webinars, courses, workshops, tools and presentations on skills related to instructional technology.
There are many and varied instructional technology degree and certificate programs, so depending on the environment in which you'd like to use your skills, you should have a great deal to choose from. Many of these programs are available online, so deciding on a specialty and becoming credentialed is a smart way to stay familiar with the latest technologies and those that are being used with the greatest success. The Association for Educational Communication and Technology (AECT), the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) are excellent sources of information on design, development, multimedia, tools, systematic changes, teacher education, student motivation, training, professional development and job banks.
Other Career Paths
Instructional Designer and Technologist
If you find that you're drawn to the design end of the online programs and systems that you're using, you might want to consider a career in instructional design and technology. Designers are responsible for developing instructional materials and products for technology-based educational programs. Typically, a master's degree would be required for this profession. O*NET OnLine projected that instructional designers would experience a faster-than-average job growth of 20% to 28% from 2010 to 2020. The median wage for this profession is $59,000.
Certified Performance Technologist
If you're more attracted to the training end of instructional technology, you may want to consider working as a performance technologist. This might be a particularly good fit if you've already begun to acquire experience implementing performance improvement in your work with educators and other professionals. As a performance technologist, you would work with an educator or training professional on his or her credentials and experience, and - using a standardized measurement - develop the means to certify those assets. The Certificate in Performance (CPT) is offered by the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), and is recognized worldwide. Falling into the job category of training and development specialists, these professionals earned a median annual wage of $55,000 in 2011, according to O*NET OnLine.