This is post #2 in a series about the instructional design. Read the first post, What does an instructional designer do?, for the introduction.
As I see it, there are two different ways to move from another field into an instructional design career: the direct way and the indirect way.
The direct way is to get your masters degree in instructional design, educational technology, or something similar. I have hired a people who have those degrees, even ones who have little or no actual work experience. Some of those instructional designers were fabulous right out of the gate. If you have no education or training experience, this is probably the way to go.
The other way is the indirect route. Most of the IDs I have hired and worked with (probably about 75%) came from an education or training background. That’s my background too; I taught public school, then switched to corporate software training before finding ID. The majority of IDs I know didn’t originally set out to enter this field; they started teaching or training or writing technical manuals and found instructional design along the way.
If you are currently working in education or training, you are probably already developing a lot of the skills needed for instructional design. The exception would be if you’re not doing any writing or planning yourself, and you are only teaching things other people have developed. I found that most of my lesson planning and curriculum planning skills from when I taught were very relevant when I moved to instructional design. When I did corporate training, the bulk of what I taught was from published books. I was fortunate to have some flexibility to stray from the published lesson plans at times, but I didn’t do a whole lot of writing while in that position.
If you teach or train somewhere where the lesson plans are provided for you, it’s going to be harder to move into instructional design. Anything you can do to create your own materials as supplements or special lessons will be helpful. I created some short job aids and extra handouts while doing corporate training. Even writing one-page handouts helps you gain experience and gives you something to talk about in an interview (and maybe show in a portfolio).
Teachers and trainers who want to change careers to instructional design have two major areas where their skills may need to be developed further:
- Instructional design
Those skill areas will be later posts in this series.
Update: Other Posts in this Series
- What Does an Instructional Designer Do?
- Getting Into Instructional Design
- Instructional Design Skills
- Technology Skills
- Professional Organizations and Career Options
- Is instructional design the right career?
Update: Read all my posts about Instructional Design Careers here.
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