Friday, November 02, 2007

Instructional Designers: Do You Have a Degree in ID?

Clive Shepherd posted today about a dinner conversation he had with Cathy Moore.

"Cathy confessed that she is sometimes denied some work opportunities because she does not have a degree in instructional design."

(Now, I can't imagine anyone turning Cathy Moore down for an ID job. Come on, guys!)

In the UK, according to Clive, virtually no one has a degree in Instructional Design. Perhaps that's where I belong. My ID education has been completely on the job and informal.

Although, I've never had trouble finding work as an instructional designer, I have certainly seen many job listings that include a Master's degree as a requirement. I figure my 12 years of experience have to count for something, so I've never let that stop me.

I'm curious what other folks' experiences has been. If you're working as an instructional designer, do you have an advanced degree? If you don't, have you ever been denied a job for the lack of one? What do you think counts more? The degree or the experience?

Clive says, "I must confess I don't really care how someone has acquired their knowledge of the subject, but I do care whether they are constantly striving to do a better job."

So here's a little survey to help us go deeper:

(Click on the link to view the survey.)

Anything else to share about your experience as an instructional designer (or whatever you might call it)? Share in the comments.....

Initial survey results have been posted here.

And the survey numbers keep changing.


Anonymous said...

To clarify, I mainly ran into resistance from an American client that supplied services to other American companies. The client wanted me to rewrite what their degreed instructional designers wrote but would not let me be a designer, because they wanted to be able to tell their clients that only degreed designers designed their stuff.

This was an important marketing point for them, which underscores the weight that an ID degree has in some circles. I've left my relationship with them and now enjoy working with a wide range of companies that don't care about my degree and focus more on my experience and ideas.

The only firms that have asked about my degree have been American, which suggests that this is a local concern. It's a little ironic, because some of my American friends believe that Europeans are too obsessed with degrees and licenses.

Anonymous said...

When I was trying to make the transition into ID, I had one HR person send a nasty-gram to me after I applied to a job. He told me that I had no business applying because my 5 years of education and training experience was totally irrelevant to instructional design. Besides, he told me, I didn't have a degree in ID, so obviously I didn't know anything. Hrmph.

Other than that particular experience, most of the time people recognized that education and corporate training were related fields to instructional design. Even though my degree is in music education, my experience has been more relevant. Now that I have ID experience on my resume, I found job searches to be much easier than when I was first making the transition and had more to prove.

Within the academic environment, people do care more at least about the level of the degree. I remember interviewing someone with 15 years of experience but no bachelor degree, and we had to turn her away in that university environment for the lack of degree. There were positions there that required a masters degree as well, although not for instructional design.

BTW, I completely agree with Cammy--I can't imagine anyone looking at your work and turning you down, Cathy. I do understand their point in that situation, but they were still morons for not hiring you.

Anonymous said...

In my experience, working in higher ed demands more of a formalized degree than other institutions.

I have worked with some people that do not have ID degrees, and generally speaking there are usually large gaps of knowledge-base missing.

I have also worked with individuals that do have ID degrees, and found found gaps in technical knowledge, but not in their theory.


Tracy Parish said...

I'm so happy to see you post this up. I'm struggling with this right now. Not in trying to get a position, but in trying to find a place to get a certificate or diploma in ID or Elearning or Distance Education or whatever you want to call it. I started at one university which has since dropped the certificate, but grandfathered me in to still complete it. My problem however is that they keep dropping courses. How do you finish a program that isn't there?

I'm not on to trying to source another college or university to try out. However, for me most are in the US and I don't have a great deal of knowledge of reps down there and how well they translate here in Canada. Let alone the $ difference for international students.

My last issue that I keep facing is many of the courses I do find are mostly Masters. Do we really all need Masters? Where are the certificates and diplomas? I really see this type of learning deployment as an add on to other pieces of learning design. I would have thought it was easier to search out as a student.

Any advice on a great school/program would be greatly appreciated by myself.

I look forward to your resutls.

Anonymous said...

Tracy, I have no idea about how things would transfer in Canada, but I do know of two certificate programs you might want to check out.

Indiana University in Bloomington has a 15-credit Instructional Systems Technology certificate program. The good news is that everyone qualifies for in-state tuition regardless of where you live, so it's more reasonably priced.

San Diego State University has been advertising with the E-Learning Guild; I think Guild members get a discount on tuition. They have two certificates: instructional technology and "advanced distance education."

Maybe one of those will meet your needs.

Jody Baty said...

I completed an MEd. in instructional design in 2004. Coming from a computer science background, it was a good way to learn about the training field and how to design learning. It also looks good on the resume.

However if I had to do it over again, I would look for a certification rather than a graduate degree. While there were many good courses in the degree, there's always the required ones that aren't very applicable (i.e., research methods, history of education, etc.). The Instructional Design certificate from Clark Training is at the top of my list.

Jody Baty
my Curriculum Maps - Lead Developer

Cammy Bean said...

Thanks to everyone for all the great comments -- and for responding to the survey. I've had over 15 responses so far (only two or three of whom have advanced degrees in ID or Education).

I'll post a full summary at some point...

In the meantime, the survey is still open.

Karl Kapp said...

Another online degree program of which I am very familiar with is Bloomsburg University's Instructional Technology Program, we offer both Masters Degrees and Certificates. Check us out.

In many cases great instructional designers follow the instructional design process instinctively and the degree simply adds a common language to what they are already doing.

But degrees can help in breaking into the field and in academia, we love our degrees and look down on experience...too real world...go figure (someone actually said that too me as I transitioned out of corporate into academica)

Anonymous said...

The survey has no option for "currently pursuing a degree". While I didn't need a degree to get my position, I need one to get promoted/stay. (I clicked on the link but didn't reply.)

colleen said...

Directing online design projects for a university here in the US, I have to agree with "some penn guy" that talented designers without degrees often have large gaps in their understanding and expertise.
The field is so diverse and so rapidly changing that it's hard to know what constitutes ID and people on my team now include graphic artists, programmers and faculty support staff (trainers) that call themselves instructional designers because they're on the team.

A degree in ID doesn't guarantee that we'll avoid becoming the blind man touching one part of the elephant and assuming the rest, but it's a start.
It doesn't mean that we can't learn by doing (some say it's the only way we can), but building your foundation through others who have thought deeply about what that foundation should look like can only help.

Cammy Bean said...

@ Anonymous...I'm curious about where you work. What market sector (corporate/academic)? Industry?

Comments by some penn guy and cole have me thinking about the difference between the academic (higher ed) and corporate sectors.

Many instructional designers (myself included) work in the corporate market designing (primarily) self-paced eLearning experiences. In the academic field, I presume one is designing both asynchronous and synchronous distance learning experiences. How are the instructional design skills different for these two sectors?

Cammy Bean said...

Tony Karrer has a post on Online Programs that Offer Training in eLearning. You'll find links to Masters and Certificate programs in the comments.

Anonymous said...

I "fell" into ID when I worked in the corporate sector and never had a problem with any clients doubting my abilities or knowledge. I have multiple ID and Adult Education certificates (and a comp. sci diploma), but my undergrad degree is still a work in progress... Grad school is a thing of wishes and dreams.

In the corporate world I learned that reputation, ability (work produced), and ROI counts for a lot more than a piece of paper and knowledge of field specific terminology.

When I left the corporate world and moved into academia I learned very quickly that no one cares if I can do the job - they only care if I have a piece of paper that says I can. Equivalent experience appears to count for very little in this environment.

I no longer get to lead or participate in all stages of ID projects. I fill a support role and bide my time trying to finish a degree I'm not really interested in. All this in order to prove I have the skills, knowledge and ability to fill a role I spent a number of successful years doing in the corporate world for Fortune 500's.

It's important to note that most of the academics I work with don't have specific ID degrees either. They often have Ed. degrees and/or teaching experience (my corporate training experience doesn't appear to be valued). Very few, when hired, have actually led or participated in any design projects.

Together, we could be a very interesting and effective team. It's a shame we don't really get an opportunity to find out what's possible if we were able to mesh education with experience.

What have I learned from this experience? When my contract is up at the college I'm highly unlikely to re-sign.

Anonymous said...

"...bide my time trying to finish a degree I'm not really interested in..."

I should probably clarify this statement. I'm a very independant learner who reads voraciously and has a massive ID/Education/Psych personal library. I "play" with technology and theories, participate in ID and IT mailing lists, and am currently co-writing a few presetations with co-workers.

What I struggle with and have little interest in are structured programs where I have to participate in a specific manner or attend a pre-determined series of courses.

Cammy Bean said...

@She...You don't seem to be alone in your ID experience within the academic world. Come back to Corporate America! (I can't believe I just said that...)

It sounds like you need a Montessori School for Instructional Design. I'd be right there with you!

Anonymous said...

Enjoying the discussion greatly. I am educator looking to move into instructional design without having the certificate. I think that I have some useful skills that I could bring, but worry about lack of certification. I know what it means in academia. I had taught English for 7 years when I applied for a university ESL position. The employer told me that until I had a masters degree my experience didn't count. (I ended up getting the position that he was advertising after his departure). I would also hate to spend time on money on something that I feel I already have. Or if I don't quite have the certificate version, I have other goodies to offer.

P said...

Just read this post Cammy. Very Inspiring. I worked with as an ID for an American MNC in India for more than five years.
Have created learning materials for clients across geographies and also collaborated with our company's learning departments in various countries to design courses and enhance my ID skills. We had extensive training in-house and most of these trainings were by a core team of IDs (best IDs)in our company.
I relocated to the US a couple of years ago and I find that most companies require an advanced degree in ID. I understand there are many people in the US with degrees in ID... if not a degree in ID, companies prefer people with a background in computer science or a someone with a degree in graphic design with no real ID experience.

Cammy Bean said...

Hi P -- thanks for commenting. In my world, it's always been more about one's writing skills than technical. I suppose it depends on the types of positions you're applying for. The term "instructional designer" seems to cover a really broad spectrum. Are you working with SMEs, writing content, conceptualizing the interaction or are you actually building the experience? To me, these are different things requiring really different skills, but to some it's all instructional design.

Laurel Silk said...

Hi, as an instructional designer myself and an employer, I have to say that we only higher ID's with a degree in the field. Why? Our largest clients are in education publishing and higher education and require that designers and content writers have at least a bachelor's degree. I have hired one ID that had no degree and had to limit her assignments which was an inconvenience but I was OK with that at first. However, her work (at least with us) was lacking in theory and she lacked the ability to take constructive criticism (more of a personal issue than an educational one). We decided that having a degree in a related field was a good weeding tool and I have never regretted that decision. With that said I would not turn away someone who had an ID certificate b/c I don't think everyone can afford college and I do think that taking certificates and trying to get education in your field shows superb dedication and commitment. People who work at educating others should be modeling "lifelong learning" which includes practical, theoretical, informal, and formal education experiences. Just my 2 cents!

Cammy Bean said...

Hi Laurel -- Thanks for taking the time to comment. Sounds like you got a bit burned by an underqualified employee -- as you said perhaps more personality than degrees.

So how widely do you define "in the field" or "related field"? If you're doing a lot of writing as an ID, is English a related field? (Looking at the survey results, it would seem to be!)

Michael Litant said...

I’ve been an online Instructional Designer for almost ten years. Professionally, I see myself as a combination teacher, information gatherer, technical writer, creative writer, and advocate for the learner. This also comes in handy for explaining what I do after I tell someone that I’m an Instructional Designer (or Learning Designer) and see a blank look.

I have no Instructional Design degree; however, I do have a Community College Instructor Credential, completed the coursework in an MA program in Adult Education (I wanted to start teaching, not write an academic paper about teaching), and spent seven years prior to becoming an ID in teaching and corporate training.

My Adult Education courses gave me the principles for developing training. My teaching and training experience (including one-on-one tutoring) lets me “see” the learner in front of the computer taking my training and reminds me that I have to keep him/her both engaged and convinced that their time is being well-spent.

I admit I’m biased because of my own background, but I’d be a lot more interested in asking someone:

- if they’ve ever taught a class of adults;
- how they go about turning learning topics and content into a sequence of classes;
- if they have the curiosity to track down answers to their own questions; and
- how well they can explain complex material clearly and simply

than in whether they have a particular advanced degree.

Kelly said...

Masters of Education from Southern Illinois University - Carbondale. In addition, I completed about 60 hours of additional graduate hours in instructional design from the University of Texas Health Science Center (Program: Biomedical Communications/Instructional Design)

Mhd. Afzal said...

i have around 3 years of Experience in Training Industry and really designated as Consultant. am really confused as where my future holds and how to take it further.

Would like to know -
1. Does doing a professional course helps, and wht are they courses which would help me out in the training Feild.

2. Career guidence

Friendly regards,
Mhd. Afzal

Dairyshark said...

I have been prohibited from the hiring process because my degree is not a masters level. Having over 6 years experience working for some of the top companies in the U.S. is not good enough if you do not have the right "documentation" saying that you can do what you have demonstrated for years.

Having an undergrad ISD degree, thereby, lacking having an advanced ISD degree rates with many as not having any degree. I always try to rate the person on skills they demonstrate. Odd how we as instructional designers place such value informal education and learning experiences, yet HR for some companies and institutions fail to give it any weight whatsoever.

I think it has more to do with not having a controlling association such as a CPA. Everyone has an idea of what a CPA can accomplish, but with Instructional Design job titles are so varied throughout corporate America that there is a real lack of understanding of our skill set. I have seen people doing ISD work with job titles such as project manager, program manager, training specialist, learning designer, learning specialist, learning coordinator, etc. Also, various organizations assign diffing levels of skill. i.e. level 1 being a beginner for one company where level 3 would be a beginner for another. I think the title Senior Instructional Designer says a lot and I am happy to see it taking real hold in industry. Certifications such HPT or CPT help, but only to those who are educated to their meaning.

As will all things, time will help shape our profession. However, we need to lead this change and provide HR with a clear understanding of what an Instructional Designer can accomplish.

Doug Edwards said...

I have a Masters Degree in ID, however, I can imagine that people could be very good IDs without a degree, however, many employers require a degree because I believe it gives them a sense of certainty - however ill found that certainty may be. Seems to me that a good working website with various examples should be far better than a degree.