5 Reasons to Run from a Career in Instructional Design

As a 50-something HR and training professional, who’s worked as an instructional systems designer for the past 20 years, I love giving career advice.  Actually, I love giving all sorts of advice to people.   I mean, I’ve been around the block a time or two and pretty much have life figured out.  Right.  Whatever.  So, allow me to share what life has taught me about the role of instructional systems design.  You ready?   Wait for it…here it comes…instructional design may not be for you!  Can you believe it?!  What kind of article is this?  Who spends 20 years of their life in a career and then openly writes to tell people that they may want to avoid it?   What kind of kooky logic is that?   I’m not sure, but I do know that you’re going to want to steer clear of the ISD field if you don’t want to…


  1. Learn new things. If someone told me 20 years ago that, as an instructional designer, I’d learn about topics that I hadn’t even heard of, I wouldn’t have believed it.  The breadth of knowledge that instructional designers are exposed to is immense.  Tell me this:  what do electrical power grids, information security, leadership qualities, combustion safety, driveline systems, career path planning have in common?  Nothing, right?  Wrong!  They’re some of the content areas I’ve learned about and created training for over the years.
  2. Meet great people. Instructional designers work with customers to understand their organizational needs and subject matter experts (SMEs) to gather course content.  It’s a most diverse population that instructional designers are introduced to, which makes sense if you consider the multitude of content areas a designer works in.  You’ll have numerous opportunities to enter into worlds that you never knew existed or never dreamed you’d ever learn about.   Case in point:  my project that involved onboard computers used inside semi-trucks.  Or another project about green engineering…or distribution warehouse management…get the picture?  All of these projects allowed me to meet and work with people I ordinarily wouldn’t have met.
  3. Appear smart. Instructional designers need strong communication skills, which means, they need to be able to speak intelligently and effectively.  Effective communication is essential when working with customers and SMEs.  Can you imagine your project deliverable if you didn’t fully understand the customer’s needs or ask the proper questions of your SME?  Instructional design is about creating training solutions that have a positive impact in the lives of an organization’s employees.   Years of developing participant manuals and instructor guides have strengthened my writing –and editing – skills.  All of which enhances the ability to communicate overall.   Not to mention breadth of knowledge.   You’ll find that you’re able to talk a little about a lot of things.
  4. Make a positive impact on others.  Training solutions for employees are intended to improve job performance.  I can’t think of a more value-added activity than creating training that helps a person be a better version of themselves.   You’re not only helping individuals narrow or eliminate performance gaps, you’re also contributing to the greater good of the organization.  Better performing employees will positively impact organizational performance overall.
  5. Enjoy life. A career in instructional design is a good choice.  You can make a better-than-average living and do it in a comfortable environment.   While location does affect salary, according to, the salary range for an instructional designer is approximately $44,000 to $83,000 annually.  Another consideration is that ISD work can be performed on a contract basis – meaning you can easily go into business for yourself.  Who wouldn’t enjoy more flexibility and freedom than what a typical job has to offer?


So there you have it – reasons to avoid the field of ISD.   Or not.  If nothing else, I’ve given you some food for thought.  Tongue-in-cheek aside, the next time you’re contemplating a career choice or a job change, consider the world of instructional design.  You may be surprised at how rewarding and personally fulfilling it is.

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