What are the prominent professional organizations for instructional designers? What are some differences in instructional design jobs?
This post is part of a series about instructional design careers. I’ve been asked by a number of people how to get into this field, and these posts are largely collected from my email responses to those questions.
A number of job seekers have asked about professional organizations to help people gain skills and network.
The Learning Guild
I have been a member of the Learning Guild (formerly the eLearning Guild) for many years. They are focused especially on elearning, but also blended learning, emerging technology, and more. The lowest level of membership is free. That free membership gives you access to the Learning Solutions online magazine, webinars, ebooks, and other resources.
Their conferences are great too; I have presented at the Learning Solutions Conference several times. I also found one of my early instructional design jobs through their job board.
Association for Talent Development
The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is another useful organization for professional development, networking, and job searching. , You can use their job boards for free, and some of their resources are open.
Paid memberships in the main organization provide additional premium resources. If your local chapter of ATD is active, it may be worth joining that even if you don’t also join the main organization. (Note that ATD used to be known as ASTD, the American Society for Training and Development.)
Many of the full-time positions are in larger organizations. Businesses need the training and are more likely to have dedicated training departments where instructional designers have a place in the process. Larger companies are also more likely to have a budget to do more extensive elearning. Some positions are a combination of instructional design and classroom training.
Other positions are in higher education. Instructional designer positions in universities are usually full-time, with long-term contracts. These roles have different responsibilities than IDs doing workplace training. They tend to focus on supporting faculty and coaching them to create better courses. IDs in universities are often heavily involved with the LMS, and may support a range of educational technology.
Contract Work, Freelancing, and Consulting
In my personal experience in the U.S., it seems like more instructional design jobs are contract than salaried. Those contracts are often W-2 contracts through a recruiting and placement company. Many instructional designers prefer to do contract work; it gives them flexibility and variety they wouldn’t find in a salaried position. If you’re switching careers, it may be easier to do a short contract or two to gain experience before you can get something more stable.
I have been working as an independent consultant since 2011. I see more people doing the freelance and consultant route now than I did 10 years ago, which seems consistent with trends in the economy overall.
Elearning vendors hire instructional designers, often as subcontractors. Because these vendors often have a team of people working together, they often have more specialized roles. One person might write the storyboard, and another person (or team of people) might build it. Check out jobs with vendors if you’re looking for work focused on one or two aspects of the instructional design process.
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 (current post)
- Is instructional design the right career?
Read all my posts about Instructional Design Careers here.
This post was originally published on 6/14/2007 and last updated 5/25/2021.