What Is Instructional Design & Technology? | Jobs & Degrees

instructional design and technology

Dr. Chris Sorensen, Program Chair for the Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology, is all too accustomed to the blank stare—the “what’s that?” look he receives when he tells others about his career and his academic area of interest. Though instructional design and technology has been a booming field for some time, with new careers and studies being added each year, it’s still making a name for itself among programs based on technology and learning. Dr. Chris Sorensen sets the record straight on what you can expect to learn in the Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology program—and how you can apply those skills to an instructional design career.

What Is Instructional Design & Technology?

Instructional design and technology is a field you may have heard of but has left you scratching your head as to what it means. When I’m asked what instructional design is, I’ll usually give the most basic definition I learned when pursuing a degree in this field. This definition is simply that instructional design is the systematic process of designing and developing instruction. The technology part of instructional design and technology often refers to the use of technology to design, develop, and implement the instruction.

I may follow this definition by saying that instructional design focuses on identifying problems that can be solved with an instruction solution. For example, consider a company that’s implementing a new software and they need to train employees on how to use the new software. An instructional designer will help to design and develop this training. In addition, I may use other descriptive terms that are related to instructional design with which people might be familiar. These include terms such as curriculum design, designing courses, or performance improvement. Although you may see many different instructional design models, they’ll all most likely share elements of five key instructional design phases: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. An instructional designer will work within all five of these phases of the instructional design process.

Instructional Design & Technology Jobs

If you use popular job search engines such as Indeed, ZipRecruiter, or LinkedIn, you’ll come across some of the more common job titles in the field of instructional design and technology. These include Instructional Designer, Senior Instructional Designer, Learning Experience Designer, Learning and Development Specialist, Training Specialist, and Instructional Systems Designer. Ashford’s Master of Science in Instructional Design & Technology also supports similar job titles, and with a projected 5-8% job growth rate predicted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are many career paths to explore.

Instructional Design & Technology Jobs

  • Instructional Designer
  • Instructional Design Manager
  • Learning & Development Specialist
  • Learning Development Strategist
  • Media Collections Director
  • Technical Services Specialist
  • Training & Development Specialist

Areas of Focus in Instructional Design & Technology

  • Curriculum Development
  • Technology Resources
  • Desktop Publishing
  • Corporate Education Training
  • Human Resources
  • Textbook Development
  • Training and Development
  • Adult Basic Education
  • Career Education

What Responsibilities Can You Have in Instructional Design & Technology?

There will be roles and responsibilities that are common among each of these positions, while some may focus more heavily on certain aspects of the instructional design process (such as analysis versus implementation). These positions require a level of technology proficiency. At a minimum, you’ll want to be proficient at using Microsoft Office. However, in my experience, many positions are now seeking individuals with the ability to use development tools such as Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, or Camtasia. Some companies may also look for experience using specific learning and content management systems. Take some time to check out skill requirements.

Why Pursue a Master of Science in Instructional Design & Technology?

A degree in instructional design and technology is very versatile. There will be a need for people who can design and develop instruction wherever learning and training occurs. Instructional design is a process, and this process is transferable. Whether it’s business, education, health care, insurance, government, military, for-profit, or not-for-profit, someone with a degree in instructional design and technology can work in any of these settings. As an instructional designer, you don’t necessarily have to be an expert in the subject area in which you’re working. You’ll work with people who are subject matter experts. Your role is to design and develop the instruction around that subject matter.

If you like helping others acquire new knowledge and skills, enjoy designing curriculum and courses, can see yourself involved in teaching and training, and are looking for a career that allows for some flexibility to move between industries, then a degree in instructional design and technology may be for right for you.

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Written by Dr. Chris Sorensen, Program Chair for the Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology

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