I got a good question via Ask a Question yesterday and would like to hear some other opinions on this issue:
I’m very seriously considering a career change into ID. (I’ve spent 20 years in various business assignments with the last 8 in IT.) I’m involved in teaching extra-curricular activities to kids and adults in my community. I very fulfilled when I’m teaching and I’ve come to the conclusion that I want to follow this as a career path. Having said this, I’m exploring a master’s degree in ID.
I was hoping you would give me your opinion on the topic of graduate certificate vs MS degree. I’ve narrowed my search down to 2 schools. 1 school offers a grad cert along the way to getting an MS degree while the other is the MS degree on its own.
So the question is… would employers have value someone who has a lot of business experience (including facilitation skills) and only the grad cert or is the MS degree the minimum requirement. What is your opinion? (I realize this is going to depend on the company.)
My answer is that you should do the one where you think you will learn more. A certificate from a great program is probably more valuable than a masters degree from a mediocre program (although I expect your choice isn’t as black and white as that). Which program looks more interesting and personally motivating for you?
My other suggestion would be to go with the certificate program because it still gives you the flexibility of continuing on for the masters. Not knowing exactly which programs you’re looking at, I know that Indiana’s Instructional Systems Technology certificate counts as credit towards a masters. So, if you do the certificate and you really feel like you’re learning a lot and would continue to learn more, you could do the second half of the program and do the masters too. If it’s a program like that, you can do the work but still keep your options open.
With universities and other academic institutions, a masters degree might be a requirement. With companies, it’s possible it will open a few doors, but I expect that the certificate would do about the same. Cammy Bean’s small-scale survey shows only about a third of IDs having advanced degrees actually in instructional design. If two-thirds of us (including myself) don’t have a degree, I think it’s hard to argue that the masters is a firm requirement. I don’t think you should focus on the credentials part of the decision as much as looking at what’s going to be the most valuable learning experience and give you the best skills.
So that’s my perspective, as someone without either a certificate or a masters. What do you think? Would you look at a certificate differently from a masters when hiring? Would you push for the masters as the better learning experience?