Work-at-Home Job Profile: Instructional Designer

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Instructional designers, also known as instructional systems designers, use learning principles to develop educational systems and materials. At the center of instructional designers’ jobs are the responsibilities to develop the appearance, organization and functionality of learning systems. Instructional designers work in business, government, and non-profit settings in the fields of online education, distance learning, e-learning, and training. Within educational settings, college is the most common, but there are also opportunities for instructional designers to work at the K-12, high school, and adult education level.

Normal Job Duties

Instructional design jobs vary greatly in the type of instructional systems used, who the employers are, the learning level of the students, and how the work is done. Many instructional designers work in e-learning, perhaps converting in-person teaching materials into online courses. Others may work in developing training for corporations. Each hiring organization may define instructional designer jobs a little differently.

Some of the tasks an instructional designer might do include:

  • Writing the learning objectives and determining the scope of educational projects
  • Creating the layout of the instructional material
  • Working with subject matter experts to shape the course content and, perhaps, writing that content
  • Developing media (audio, visual, interactive) that aids in learning
  • Planning and creating assessments to measure if learning objects are met

Instructional designers do not typically have contact with students. Instead, the courses they design are usually facilitated by online faculty members.

Types of Positions

Positions for instructional designers may be for regular employment or for independent contractors or consultants and may often be for work-at-home positions. Working from home is common among contract positions, but even regular employment positions in instructional design can easily transition to telecommuting. Keep in mind, however, that work-at-home jobs in instructional design are rarely entry level.

Full-time instructional design jobs are usually salaried positions, but part-time employment and contract positions in the field are most likely paid hourly. However, some independent contractors in instructional design may be paid for an entire project, rather than hourly.

Education and Experience Requirements

The role an instructional designer varies widely, so the path to a career in instruction design is not a singular route. People often come to the instructional design profession after first having been teachers, writers, editors, media specialists, trainers, etc. This is the type of job that many learn by doing; however, others learn it through school.

A bachelor degree is the minimum educational requirement for an instructional designer. If that degree is in a related field, such as education or communication, all the better. However, some employers may look for a master’s in instructional design or instructional technology. Without a master’s degree, experience in teaching, training, writing or web technology is usually expected.

Some skills that are required or helpful for a career in instructional design:

  • Basic understanding of HTML
  • Graphic design experience
  • Experience with learning management systems
  • Knowledge of Dreamweaver, Photoshop, and Microsoft Office software, particularly PowerPoint
  • Audio and video editing skills


Among the factors determining pay for instructional designers are levels of education and experience as well as the position type. Instructional designers working in a business setting may be paid more than those in a government or nonprofit.

The hourly rate for instructional design contractors may range from $20 up to $45 an hour or more. Entry levels salaries for those with a bachelor degree start in the upper $40,000 to lower $50,000 range. With more experience and a master's degree, the job can pay from $60,000 to $90,000 or more.

Where to Find a Job

School systems and other government entities, colleges (both online and brick-and-mortar), educational services companies, and corporations hire or contract with instructional designers. There are numerous resources online for advertising instructional design job openings, including job boards and the website Instructional Design Central, which posts design jobs and links to other sources for job leads in instructional design.