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Career Advice I want to be an instructional designer ... what will my salary be?

As they reach more senior roles instructional designers are often given managerial responsibilities that extend beyond instructional design.

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Job: Instructional designer

The role: To create educational content for corporate training purposes. Instructional designers consult with leading experts to develop slideshow presentations, online videos in-person learning plans and other educational content.

“A typical week will have some sort of deadline on a course, and many instructional designers have a primary project and one or two secondary projects on the go,” said Saul Carliner, professor and director of graduate programs in educational technology at Concordia University in Montreal. “Depending on the nature of the training and the size of the program you could be talking to a subject matter expert, you could be trying out what it is you’re teaching, and then you’ll create your program.”

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Creating an educational program, according to Mr. Carliner, could include storyboarding, recording narration, designing video or slideshow presentations, adding text and reviewing with stakeholders and subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and compliance.

The content of the programs will range depending on the organization’s objective, but can include anything from personal development advice to instructional guides for using new equipment. Mr. Carliner adds that some of the most common content categories are leadership development, technical training and compliance training.

Salary: Will range depending on their employer’s size, location and sector, and whether they work in-house or as part of a consultancy.

“Starting salaries generally tend to start from as low as the high-30s [in thousands of dollars per year], but that's really rare, and they can go up to the mid-60s so there's a huge range,” said Mr. Carliner. “For mid-level, it goes from the mid-50s to the high 90s.”

As they reach more senior roles instructional designers are often given managerial responsibilities that extend beyond instructional design, adds Mr. Carliner.

“These are people with a large span of responsibility, they get bonuses depending on the company, and they're pretty senior-level people,” he says. "Their salary can go well into the six figures. It's feasible to earn a salary in the upper-100s.”

Education: While there are no legally required certifications or educational requirements instructional designers are typically required to hold a Master’s degree in educational technology or training management, as well as an industry recognized certification.

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“In Canada it's the Certified Training and Development Professional certification from the Institute for Performance and Learning,” said Mr. Carliner. “There's also the Certified Human Resources Professional, and some have both. Some may also get the American certification, and that would be the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance from the Association for Talent Development.”

Job prospects: The trend toward online learning is increasing demand for instructional designers in Canada, explains to Mr. Carliner. “We have no trouble getting jobs for internships, and no trouble placing them, so prospects are really good for qualified people,” he said.

Challenges: Instructional designers often have a strong commitment to improving the workforce through education, but their passion doesn’t always match their employer’s objectives and budget. “One of the frustrating things for people in the field is we’re very committed educators, but training, while it’s important to companies, isn’t always it’s number one priority, even when it should be,” said Mr. Carliner.

Why they do it: Assisting with training on the latest industry tools and technologies can be fascinating for those that have a natural sense of curiosity, explains Mr. Carliner, as is the ability to present that learning in a creative manner.

“At the same time we get feedback from our learners and usually we've made a difference in their lives,” he says. “You're making a real difference in someone's employability; you're helping them get skills that will help them keep their job, get a new job or be happier in the job they currently have.”

Misconceptions: Mr. Carliner says many have the false impression that those who teach often don’t understand the subject matter as well as those who work in the field.

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“People don’t realize that in the process of creating a real program you have to learn the subject that you’re teaching, and you develop some really in depth and insightful perspectives on the material and the organization,” he said. “People don’t realize that we do bring that kind of knowledge to our work.”

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