6 Reasons To Be Thankful If You’re an Instructional Designer

Three votive candles with the word "thankful" in front
Since we just celebrated Thanksgiving here in the U.S., I’m writing about reasons to be thankful if you’re an instructional designer.

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Since we just celebrated Thanksgiving here in the U.S. a few days ago, I decided to focus this week’s post on gratitude. I’m writing about reasons to be thankful if you’re an Instructional Designer (ID).

(These reasons also apply for Learning Experience Designers, Instructional Systems Designers, Instructional Developers, and related job titles.)

ID is a growing field.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of Training and Development Specialists is expected to grow 11 percent from 2020 to 2030. This is faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of Instructional Coordinators is expected to grow 10 percent.

The events of the past two years have shone a light on our profession. The pandemic forced many organizations to change their approach to training and education. As face-to-face instruction shifted to virtual learning, these organizations sought help from Instructional Designers. Many organizations are also shifting from lengthy trainings to shorter events and microlearning. This allows more learning to happen in the flow of work. 

And they need us to help them do this.

While I don’t have a crystal ball, I don’t see the demand for IDs decreasing any time soon.

It's rewarding.

If you’re the type of person who loves helping people (and most IDs are), this career offers a great deal of fulfillment. Instructional designers help people achieve personal goals, stay safe, and advance in their careers. You’re also helping organizations achieve their missions.

I look at instructional design as my way to change the world, one learning experience at a time.

Besides intangible rewards, the pay isn’t bad either. According to Devlin Peck’s 2021 Instructional Designer survey, Instructional Designers in the U.S. earn about $85,000 per year on average. This is a 2.8 percent increase over the average salary reported in last year’s survey.

However, the average salary from Devlin’s survey is higher than the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. According to the BLS, the median pay for Training and Development Specialists in 2020 was $62,700 per year. For Instructional Coordinators, it was $66,970 per year.

One reason for this difference could be that 71.4 percent of Devlin’s respondents work in corporate roles, whereas Higher Education roles typically pay less. Another reason could be the smaller sample size. But regardless of which number we look at, it’s quite a bit more than I made as a K-12 teacher.

It's flexible, with good work-life balance.

As an Instructional Designer, you can work in an office, from home, or pretty much anywhere. For example, I recently spent a couple of weeks in Georgia visiting my new grandchild. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I was able to work from the Airbnb (when I wasn’t holding that beautiful baby), with minimal interruption to my projects.

Going back to Devlin’s survey, a whopping 94 percent of respondents were somewhat or very satisfied with their work-life balance. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find many careers with that kind of satisfaction rating!

You can be your own boss.

Instructional design lends itself well to freelancing. So, if you’re the entrepreneurial type, it’s a great career that lets you be your own boss. Approximately 12 percent of the Instructional Designers who responded to Devlin’s survey were self-employed full-time.

It’s also a good side gig, if your employer is okay with you moonlighting. Taking on contract work outside of your regular job is a great way to test the waters to see if you’d like to freelance full-time. And it helps with extra expenses like holiday shopping or home repairs.

You will always be learning new things.

In addition to keeping up with new technologies and development techniques, Instructional Designers must constantly learn new subjects as a part of course development.

Here’s a small sampling of the kind of content I’ve had the opportunity to learn over my career:

  • Suicide prevention
  • Public health grants administration
  • Planning for emergencies at large events
  • Post-disaster damage assessment
  • Hazardous weather preparation
  • Fire behavior
  • Noise attenuation
  • Soil sampling
  • Library research
  • Probabilistic risk-based estimating
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Lung cancer screening
  • Pipeline safety inspections

It’s an eclectic list, and I LOVE that I’m always learning new things in this job.

Help is just a click, message, or call away.

Because this career is full of helpers, you’ll never experience a shortage of help from the instructional design community. From blogs and YouTube videos to social media posts and online communities, there is a plethora of FREE information available to help with just about any problem or question you could have.

Whether you need help getting started in instructional design, building a portfolio, learning various authoring tools, or virtually anything else ID-related, there is probably already content online waiting for you to discover it. And there are loads of L&D professionals willing to answer questions when asked. 

That’s why one of the best things you can do for your career is to build a personal learning network (PLN)—and, wouldn’t you know it?—one of the helpers in this field has already written about exactly how to do that. (Thanks, Nicole!)


To recap, here are my six reasons to thankful if you’re an Instructional Designer:

  1. ID is a growing field.
  2. It’s rewarding.
  3. It’s flexible, with good work-life balance.
  4. You can be your own boss.
  5. You will always be learning new things.
  6. Help is just a click, message, or call away.

What else do you love about this career field? Let me know in the comments!

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