logo logo

Want Instructional Design Jobs? Start Upgrading Your Skills

Instructional design is an in-demand role, and the right skills can help you stand out. Here are four modern skills you need for instructional design jobs.


If you’re looking for instructional design jobs, it might be time to refresh your skills. Even if you’re already an experienced pro-instructional design is changing fast. Employers are seeking professionals with modern skills and new areas of specialization, who still have traditional instructional design knowledge and abilities.

Learn how you can stand out from the growing crowd to claim your role in the evolving instructional design job market.

What skills do you need to learn or refresh?

Learners and employers alike want instructional designers who can create efficient and attractive courses. They want people who understand user experience, interface, and game design. They need instructional designers who can create a narrative arc and write engaging, accessible content. Learning design strategy and business acumen are also growing in importance.

And to top it off, this should also be packaged in an emotionally intelligent, polished professional manner. This may sound like a tall order, and it is, but there are a few things you can do to stay competitive and stand out.

Table Stakes for Landing an Instructional Designer Job Interview

Before considering how to differentiate yourself, let’s first make sure you have a solid foundation. You’ll need to demonstrate knowledge, skills and abilities in the following areas just to be considered for a role.

  • A relevant degree or work experience – This could include a degree or certificate in Organizational Behavior, Human Resources, Instructional Design, or Instructional Technology or on-the-job experience in training or learning and development.
  • Knowledge of instructional design best practices
  • An ability to walk others through your process, key considerations, and the common challenges
  • Samples of work to showcase your skills and abilities

The list above includes the basics that every Instructional Design candidate needs. Below we look at the skills that can help you stand out from the crowd.

Focus on User Experience

Modern learners demand user-focused learning design, especially in corporate learning. Sometimes called Learning experience design or LXD, this skill set includes human-centered design, content design, and iterative design methodology. Bringing these skills to the table will make you a more compelling candidate.

User experience is about how the learner experiences the training. Employers know that employees are more likely to stick with training that’s fun and engaging. UX design considers both what the learner needs to know and what they need and value to make training that works.

Some colleges offer a bachelor of science degree in UX design. But earning one might require more time and money than you’re able to invest. If you already have a bachelor’s in a learning or technology field, a second degree might not be necessary.

The next best option is a certificate in user experience. From intensive bootcamps to on-demand learning, you can choose from a range of learning modalities to fit your needs. Programs range from a few days to around six months.

Understanding of User Interface

User interface design focuses on the visual elements of the design process, but it’s more than just a surface consideration. UI ensures that every part of a training is easy to access, understand, and use.

Buttons, icons, text formats and images can all support or impede learning. Color choices, page layout, and navigational components also fall under UI Design.

As digital learning becomes more sophisticated and interactive, UI has become even more important. Learners should be able to know what buttons will do before they click them. They should be able to easily find references or other supplementary material, then quickly return to learning.

Many online learning platforms and adult learning programs offer courses or certificates in UI design. Some lump UI in with UX, offering certificates that cover both design disciplines. Ultimately, the two design specialties do overlap.

If you don’t already have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, you might consider getting one in UI or UX design.

Game Design/Gamification

Schools, colleges, and employers are realizing that learning can be fun. In fact, gamification – using elements of game design to structure learning — can help keep learners on track.

Understanding game design fundamentals can help you create more engaging digital learning opportunities. When learning is fun, people are more likely to do it. Unlocking achievements, earning badges, and competing with coworkers on a leaderboard can motivate learners.

Of course, designing gamified learning is different from designing the next blockbuster console game. If you want to add game design to your skill set, look for certificates and programs focused on interactive technology and pedagogy. You could also earn a certificate in basic game design.

Writing Engaging Content

More employers are looking for Instructional Designers who can produce publication ready content. Those with this specialty are in high-demand because learning content is more visible than it used to be and students have more choice than ever before.

Organizations need professionals who can create high-caliber content. They’re looking for strong writers who understand how to create a narrative arc, build interest, and make content that’s both relevant and story-driven.

Many of our strongest candidates have an undergraduate degree in English, Journalism or Communication coupled with a MA in Instructional Design.

Learning Design Strategy & Business Acumen

More businesses are treating their training curriculum as a product, and the need for learning designers with some business acumen is growing. If you can think strategically and plan new learning programs and curriculum with market knowledge, employers will be excited to consider you.

You should understand what cutting-edge programs look like as well as:

• Pricing
• Relationship building
• Marketing
• Program growth

The ability to build a design and production team is also a definite plus. In short, you’ll need a mix of big-picture learning, design, planning, and business skills. If you don’t already have one, getting an MBA can help you build these skills.

Prepare to Search for Your Next Instructional Design Job

Competition for Instructional Designer roles is becoming more robust given the remote nature of most roles. You are competing with applicants not in just your city but across the nation and possibly around the world.

You succeed when you identify and communicate the areas where you shine and bring a modern, valuable skill to the table. The discipline of instructional design includes a wide range of specialties. Some designers specialize by industry, others by function. Knowing where your special skills lie can help you find an instructional design job where you can do your best work and be most valued.

Instructional designers may specialize in:

  • Learning design and strategy
  • Content writing
  • Instructional technology
  • eLearning Development
  • Videography
  • Graphic Design
  • User Experience (UX)
  • User Interface (UI)
  • Training and Facilitation
  • Program or Project Management

Target your resume, portfolio, and other job search documents to reflect your areas of expertise. Employers want someone with broad knowledge, but also value specialization. Be ready to clearly and confidently describe the areas where you excel.

For help finding your next role in Instructional design, check out the Teamed job board or contact us today.

Need to hire learning professionals?

Instructional Designer | Learning Technologist | Multimedia Developer
 Assessment Writer | Project | LMS Administrator | Faculty Trainer | And more!


Teamed Newsletter

Get the latest blogs, job openings, and candidates emailed to you every month.