Clive Shepherd and Cammy Bean asked late last week about how many instructional designers have a degree in ID and whether it matters. Cammy also has a survey about degrees, so if you’re an instructional designer and haven’t completed her survey yet, it’s still open as of today.
I’ve worked with people with instructional design degrees, but I think most have come to ID from some other related field (usually education or training). When I worked in a larger team at a previous job, it was interesting to find out how people had actually gotten into the field and what their degrees were actually in. I can’t remember everyone, but here’s what I do recall.
Among the instructional designers (a snapshot of one period in time):
- Masters in Instructional Design, no prior ID experience
- Masters in Organizational Development, prior ID experience
- Masters in Creative Writing, high school teaching background, no prior ID experience
- Bachelor in Recreational Science, training and ID experience
- PhD in Computer Science, lots of technical experience, some college teaching
- M.Div–not sure what her focus was in school, but some of her prior experience was in training, plus teaching during her missionary work
We had 2 other instructional designers at that point in time, but I don’t believe either had ID degrees. That’s 8 instructional designers, only one with an actual degree in ID. None of the managers (including project managers) had ID degrees either, although most had started as instructional designers and were promoted.
Manager degrees & experience:
- Bachelor in information systems, some training experience
- Masters in Math, teaching experience
- Bachelor in IT, training experience
- Masters in Education, HS teaching experience
- Bachelor degree (can’t remember what–international studies?), training experience
- Master in Performance Improvement (this included some ID courses)
- Bachelor of Music Education, teaching and training experience (that’s me–I had no prior ID experience before this job)
This particular team may have been more eclectic than most, but I have seen more IDs who started in some other field and then switched to instructional design. Most people seem to do that route rather than going directly to the instructional design degree.
As Tracy Hamilton pointed out in her comment on Cammy’s post, degrees in ID seem to all be masters degrees (although I’ve seen lots of job posting for “bachelors in instructional design”–where are they finding that?). Tracy asks whether we really all need masters degrees and whether a certificate of some sort might be a better fit. I do think that the academic environment may care more about the degrees than corporate arena. Universities are also more likely to have firm requirements for the level of a degree, especially if it ties to their accreditation.
Clive has a great point about the importance of keeping current in the field and continually learning. I’d rather work with a lifelong learner with no degree than someone who has impeccable academic credentials but isn’t passionate about updating his or her own skills. For that particular team, we were less worried about specific design experience and more about people who could learn quickly and adapt to our expectations.
I’m curious what others out there have experienced. Do you look for ID degrees when you’re hiring, or for anything related to education/training/writing? I’ve also seen some unusual degrees (I admit to being surprised by recreational science myself). Anyone out there have a great story of a unique path to an instructional design career, starting with a non-obvious degree?
Update: Read all my posts about Instructional Design Careers here.