How To Become An Instructional Designer

Are you wondering how to become an instructional designer? Look no further because we have covered everything in this article, from instructional design theories to skills essential for becoming a successful ID. E-learning is a fast-growing field with a lucrative career and requires several competent instructional designers. 

Some people pursue a career in instructional design right after graduating, whereas others opt for ID as a second career after working in education or another field. Most instructional designers get into this field by pure chance. Irrespective of whether you are beginning or thinking about a mid-career change, we will discuss what you need to do to get on your instructional design path. 

What You Need to Study to Become an Instructional Designer

Although there is a growing number of degree programs and certifications offered in this field, you don’t have to get a specific degree to become a competent instructional designer. When we talk about higher earnings, a master’s degree has nothing to do with instructional design. In fact, there is no link between education level and salaries of IDs. 

So, should you then give up on pursuing a master’s degree in instructional design? Probably not! If you wish to enter this field and haven’t earned a master’s in any other subject, then you should opt for higher education in instructional design to make your resume stand out. As an instructional design student, you can also take advantage of internship opportunities, alumni connections, and other faculty services to enhance your job prospects. 

However, if you do have a degree in any other field, it is not required to go back to school to get one in instructional design. We have seen many instructional designers who had different degrees and careers befo re entering this field. Although a degree in education is common, people also come from many other areas, including: 

  • Journalism
  • French
  • Computer science
  • Psychology           

If you would like to change your career and move into instructional design, a certificate program or micro master’s degree is an affordable and time-effective alternative to a master's degree. 

Who Can Become an Instructional Designer?

It’s important that you invest in your own education first if you want to become an instructional designer and help people learn. In contrast to doctors and lawyers who have to acquire a specific degree to excel in their field, there is no standard roadmap to becoming an instructional designer. However, many instructional designers have at least a bachelor’s or master’s degree. And they don’t stop learning there; instead, IDs keep updating their skills to stay on top of the technological advancement and latest learning theories.

e-learning online education interactive video

Although higher education is vital for instructional designers, not all of them obtain a degree in this field. Many of them first work as educators or trainers. But once they have developed their skills in curriculum design and assessment, they move into instructional design. Educators can also polish or enhance their skills via various online courses. However, if you have little experience as an educator or trainer, then you might consider getting a bachelor’s or master’s degree in instructional design. Generally, these programs consist of tech-based training in areas like web design and education classes on various topics such as curriculum design.  

Things You Must Have to Become an Instructional Designer

A master’s degree is not a necessity to become an instructional designer. Still, you must have a strong understanding of learning theories, skills, and tools important to develop an effective e-learning design. Below mentioned are the essential qualifications for instructional design. 

1. Major Learning Theories  

An aspiring instructional designer needs to be aware of all the underlying frameworks, theories, and principles. These principles help IDs make decisions on a daily basis. Various instructional design models exist; however, the most popular ones are: 

  • ADDIE Model
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy
  • Merril’s Principles of Instructions
  • Gagne’s Nine Events of Instructions

Learn more about instructional design learning theories by reading our in-depth article on Instructional Design Models on Employee Training

In addition to learning instructional design theories, it is crucial to be aware of the cognitive science psychology behind why and how an individual learns. This covers both umbrella theories of behavior like behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism and more focused ones like inquiry-based learning, discovery-based learning, and situated cognition theory. 

2. Important Skills

Instructional design jobs are flexible. One day, IDs are developing courses and curriculums and the other day, they might be researching new initiatives or interviewing experts. Therefore, instructional designers must have all the skills necessary to carry out these tasks efficiently.  

Among some important skills, writing and communication are the most crucial skills to effectively share their thoughts, ideas, and goals. Moreover, problem-solving, organizational, and interpersonal skills are also important as these skills help manage projects, coordinate with experts, and supervise the team. Also, great instructional designers are also creative thinkers and always come up with unique ways to present information. Research skills are also vital for instructional designers. One must know how to carry out in-depth research, what resources to use, and what information to present to the learners.      

Below are some additional essential skills that every instructional designer should have:

  • Graphic designing
  • Coding
  • Adaptability
  • Time management

3. Essential Tools 

E-learning content needs to be interactive. An inspiring course keeps the learners motivated and engaged, giving them an enhanced learning experience. These videos can be developed using specialized instructional design tools. Even if you are an entry-level instructional designer, organizations expect you to be able to design and develop e-learning content using the most common design tools. These tools help IDs create engaging courses that learners love. Some of them are listed below:

  • Cinema8
  • Whatfix
  • Adobe Captivate
  • Lectora Publisher
  • iSpring Suite
  • Robohelp
  • Camtasia

Traditionally, IDs only used images and text to make the content engaging. However, this is not enough to keep your reader motivated. You will need to think creatively and add features that incite learners’ actions. These features include animations, gifs, quizzes, gamification, etc., and can be used using the tools mentioned above. 

Cinema8 is a highly effective, easy-to-use instructional design tool developed for beginners as well as professionals. You can easily create interactive and easy-to-navigate content through its specialized features. Also, you can find relevant templates to save you time yet still come up with inspiring content.

Best Online Courses for Instructional Designers

As mentioned earlier, you don’t need to take a specific degree to become an instructional designer; however, you must have excellent knowledge of the field. If you just started and want to learn more about instructional design and its tools and practices, take online courses. But, with so many platforms available online, you might get confused about choosing the right one for you. Following is a list of courses with a bit of a review so you can decide which is right for you. Opt for the one that best suits your expertise level. 

1. Become an Instructional Designer - LinkedIn Learning

In this instructional design course, industry experts teach you the basics of instructional design. Each course is professionally developed. Topics are divided into manageable chunks, so you can easily fit them into your busy schedule. Once you have completed all the lectures, you will earn a badge on your LinkedIn profile. The certificate focuses on corporate business settings and practical skills.     

With this course, you will learn: 

  • Neuroscience of learning and adult learners
  • Needs analysis and storyboarding
  • Working with SMEs 
  • Instructional design models
  • Measuring learning effectiveness
  • Creating video training
  • Writing learning objective

You can get it here

2. Online Course Creation: Intro to Instructional Design - Skillshare

This online course offered by Skillshare helps you learn how to create interacting, effective, and professional content. John Hinchliffe, an award-winning instructional designer, teaches the course, which contains 48 microlessons. These lessons consist of all the information you need to become a competent instructional designer, from instructional design explanation to using authoring tools. 

With this course, you will learn: 

  • Mistakes to avoid while developing your course
  • How to use audio and video effectively
  • Where to find free audio, images, and videos to make your course engaging
  • Standardizing your course to improve its efficiency
  • How people learn
  • How to involve students in the learning process

You can get it here.

3. Instructional DesignFoundations - Coursera

This online course focuses on the conceptual and theoretical foundations of instruction design. Through the concepts taught in this course, you will be better prepared to succeed in the instructional design industry. It works best for people who want to learn the theories and concepts of instructional design.

With this course, you will learn: 

  • Key concepts of instructional systems design
  • Developing learning objectives
  • Learning and instructional theories
  • Instructional solutions for performance problems in organizations
  • Instructional design process
  • Instructional design models

You can get it here.

4. Instructional Design Pro Part 1 - Udemy

This class is self-paced, on-demand, and the first of the three-part series of Instructional Design Pro. This section discusses the first steps in instructional design, including how to conduct a needs analysis and understand your audience. It is taught by Rule the Room Train the Trainer's founder and CEO, Jason Teteak. As opposed to using a lot of theories and models, he uses techniques that are simple, universal, and immediately actionable to transfer training skills.

Once you’ve completed this instructional design course, check out his other two courses on course design and curriculum production.

With this course, you will learn:

  • Identifying your audience and learning more about them
  • Understanding what your audience does and organizing it in a way that makes sense
  • Determining what to teach and how to organize the information
  • Determining the initial class structure

Learn more about instructional designers by checking out our blog on What You Need to Know to Become a Master in Instructional Design

Credentials Required from Instructional Designers

Depending on the work environment, an instructional designer may need a different type of credential. Schools and universities mostly require an advanced degree in educational technology or instructional design. Whereas companies looking for instructional designers for employee training, consumer learning, and content marketing places more value on the past experience in the relevant industry.

Therefore, before opting for an instructional design position, think about what type of workplace you will join. Are you willing to work with a large company, developing corporate training or technology tutorials? Do you want to develop online courses for a university? Do you want to help design online classes for a university? Make sure the program you choose is tailored to your long-term goals if you are interested in an instructional design degree. 

Read our blog post on 12-most-common-e-learning-mistakes-you-should-avoid make your content stand out! 


Instructional design is a fast-growing industry, offering you a great career ahead. However, if you want to become a successful instructional designer, you must first be aware of all the necessary information and tools used to develop engaging content. It is the only profession that offers such an exciting career with no degree or certificate. However, it's essential to continuously develop your skills once you become an instructional designer. E-learning tools are constantly evolving, and instructional designers are on the leading edge of these changes.

Cinema8 is an excellent platform for people who have just started with their instructional design career or even are professionals. It offers different templates where you just have to add your content, and you’re done with making the video. Also, if you want a highly personalized course or video, use the features offered by Cinema8 to make exceptionally interactive content for LMS. Add gamification, quizzes, gifs, and a lot more effortlessly!