Monthly Archives: September 2017

Instructional Designers: Top 10 Skills

image of books


I’ve often wondered what would happen if my company got taken over.

If I had to re-apply for my job, would I be re-hired or would I get the boot?

Lately, I’ve been looking at job descriptions – not because I’m looking for a new job …I have the best job in the world and I am definitely not looking for a new one! I’m just interested in seeing how I compare to what the industry wants. I’m constantly trying to get better at my job.

After reviewing 24 job descriptions for instructional designers, here are the top 10 most recurring skills that I saw:

  1. Bachelor’s degree – Having a bachelor’s degree, preferably in instructional design or anything else, seems like the starting line. If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree you are hurting …unless you have a killer portfolio.
  2. Good written and verbal communication skills – This goes without saying: if you can’t speak or write English you have some challenges …in the future this will morph to include cross-culture communication …English-only speakers, you have been warned.
  3. Experience with course development software – Lectora, Captivate, Storyline, PowerPoint(!) and Camtasia …yes, PowerPoint was mentioned way more than I expected, nonetheless, experience with one of the big dogs is still a plus.
  4. Instructional design theory – Get a masters degree or start reading …seriously, you need to know this stuff.
  5. Learning management system (LMS) experience – If you don’t already have experience with an LMS where you work take a look at free software and open source solutions like Canvas, Sakai or Moodle.
  6. Project management experience – Instructional design can sometimes be like herding cats. Additionally, it’s really important to be able to break a project into chunks for proper sequencing.
  7. Masters degree – More jobs than I expected had this requirement. While you can get a job without a master’s degree, having one will make you stand out.
  8. Adult learning experience – knowledge of adult learning techniques is definitely a plus in the corporate learning environment
  9. Perform a needs assessment – Entire books have been written on this skill. It is vital to the success of a project – yet, remarkably, a lot of people either don’t do one or they don’t know how to do one.
  10. 5 to 7 years of experience – There’s not much to say about this.

If you have a job, you may consider using this list to focus on your shortcomings. I know I will.

Remember, you never know when your job may go away. Be ready to get a new one if you have to.

By the way, here are the next 5 skills if you’re interested:

  • Instructor-led training – Be able to deliver training – a lot of instructional designers do not have this skill in their wheelhouse. While this skill is not a typical ID skill, some small companies may require instructional designers to pull double-duty as an instructor.
  • HTML – Know how to create web pages and web content for training …become a nerd!
  • SCORM – The sharable content object reference model is the standard for web-based training.
  • Script writing – This is so important for narrated eLearning …remember to say your scripts out loud before you submit them for approval! Also, be sure to write in a conversational tone.
  • Time management – Most instructional designers are working on at least 3 projects at the same time. Without time management skills you won’t get anything done.