Studying Instructional Technology: Degrees at a Glance
Programs in instructional technology will teach you about high-tech learning methods. If you earn a Ph.D., you can pursue an academic career, and master's degree holders may use their education to help them gain employment in fields like corporate training and instructional coordination. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment of all human resource specialists, including corporate trainers, will increase by 21% between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of instructional coordinators is expected to grow at a similar pace.
Although earning an instructional technology degree can be an important step in your career, you may need to complete additional requirements in order to get hired for certain positions. For example, you may need professional experience for some corporate training positions, and many instructional coordinator positions require a teaching license and experience.
|Who is this degree for?||Those who want to learn how to use technology to train students or corporate employees||Individuals seeking positions as university professors or administrators|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary)|| - Elementary or middle school teacher ($53,000)* |
- High school teacher ($54,000)*
- Training and development manager ($92,000)*
- Instructional coordinator ($59,000)*
| - College or university professor ($64,000)* |
- Postsecondary administrator ($84,000)*
|Time to Completion||Usually 2 years full-time or 3 years part-time||Typically 4 years full-time, but students with a relevant master's degree may finish in 3 years|
|Common Graduation Requirements|| - Instructional technology and design portfolio |
- Instructional design project
| - Dissertation |
- Teaching assistantship
|Prerequisites||Bachelor's degree in any field||Also a bachelor's degree, although some programs require a relevant master's degree. Professional experience may also be a consideration for admission.|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).
Master's Degree in Instructional Technology
In an instructional technology master's degree program, you'll learn how to incorporate emerging technologies into the design of instructional materials for students or trainees. Coursework focuses on instructional design, e-learning and learning theories. You may be required to take a research course, complete an instructional design project and build a portfolio. Courses in instructional technology programs are rigorous, so some programs suggest that you take 3 credits per term rather than the 12 credits that are usually required to be a full-time student.
Pros and Cons
- A master's degree may help you qualify for positions that aren't open to bachelor's degree holders
- Many programs require you to build a portfolio, which may be helpful when you're applying for jobs
- Because employees in all industries need training, your knowledge can be applied in a wide variety of fields, including business, healthcare and the military
- A master's degree in this field usually won't qualify you for initial teaching licensure
- Master's degree programs in this field can take up to 3 years
- You may be applying for the same jobs as someone with a bachelor's degree
Courses and Requirements
Master's degree programs in instructional technology usually require 30-35 credits worth of classes. A course on educational research is often included, as are seminars and a practicum in which you gain field experience. Examples of courses you might take include:
- Instructional design
- Learning theories
- Education and the Web
- Instructional system evaluation
In addition, you may need to create an instructional portfolio and an applied instructional design project. Some programs allow you to substitute a thesis for the portfolio and project. However, you'll be required to pass an oral exam and defend your thesis.
Online Degree Options
Online master's degree programs in instructional technology are very common, and it's possible to complete all your courses online. The coursework that you'll take online is the same as the coursework that on-campus students take; the only difference is the method of delivery. You may even be taught by the same faculty members that teach the on-campus courses. Typically, online programs are designed for working professionals who need flexible class schedules.
Stand Out With This Degree
If your goal is to work in human resources as a training manager, you could earn optional professional certification to help you stand out in the field. One organization that offers relevant certification is the Society for Human Resource Management. You could earn the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) or Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) credential if you meet a combination of education and experience requirements and pass an examination.
In addition, most fields you could go into after earning your instructional technology degree, including human resources and education, require that you have good communication skills. You could build these skills by taking speech or communications courses.
If you're a K-12 teacher who's looking into getting your master's degree to earn a higher salary, but you're not interested in an instructional coordinator job, you may consider becoming a K-12 principal. In this job, you'll supervise and evaluate staff, discipline students, meet with parents, manage the school's budget and review test scores. This position usually requires a master's degree in education administration or educational leadership, and most states also require you to obtain a school administrator license. However, the BLS reports that elementary and secondary school education administrators earned a median salary of $87,000 in May 2011.
Ph.D. in Instructional Technology
As a Ph.D. student in an instructional technology doctoral program, you'll complete coursework during the first part of your program and work on your dissertation during the last few years. In some programs, you'll also be required to take qualifying exams to determine whether you're fit to continue with the program. In addition to studying instructional technology, you'll take research methods courses to prepare for your dissertation research.
Pros and Cons
- A Ph.D. will qualify you to teach at the college or university level
- You'll learn the necessary skills to conduct original research in the field of instructional technology
- You may have the opportunity to take on a high-paying job in postsecondary administration
- A Ph.D. is unnecessary for most positions in instructional coordination and corporate training
- You'll need to earn a master's degree before enrolling in some Ph.D. programs, which means at least 6 years of post-bachelor's degree education
- Students are often required to attend full-time, which makes it very difficult to maintain a job while earning your degree
Courses and Requirements
In a Ph.D. program in instructional technology, you'll attend seminars in addition to taking traditional coursework. Potential seminar topics include research, computer and information science, teaching methods and grant writing. Required courses may include:
- Cognitive psychology of education
- Teaching and learning
- Research methods
- Courseware design
Depending on your program, you may be required to complete a research internship, an instructional technology internship or a teaching assistantship. Once you've completed the requirements for admission to doctoral candidacy (usually coursework and an exam), you'll conduct original research and prepare your dissertation.
Online Degree Options
Online Ph.D. programs in this field are not readily available; however, very rarely, fully online programs in educational technology may be found. An online educational technology program covers the same concepts learned in an on-campus instructional technology program. Attending seminars and participating in internships may not be a requirement for online programs, but you'll need to complete coursework, a dissertation and a portfolio.
Stand Out With This Degree
To obtain employment as a professor at a 4-year institution, you may need to have teaching experience under your belt. You could gain this experience by working as a teaching assistant while completing your Ph.D., even if this is not required by your program. This could also help you develop the communication skills needed for this line of work. In addition, you may become a member of an instructional technology student association, which can provide you with opportunities to attend professional development workshops and networking events. You can also seek out opportunities to publish your work in scholarly journals, since publications are an important consideration in the academic hiring process.