If you are already familiar with instructional design and technology (IDT), there is a solid chance that you’re in the field of education. But, as the many advantages of IDT processes and techniques have become clearer, professionals across a vast range of industries and sectors have grown to benefit from them.

“As recognition of the roles and contributions of Instructional Design and Technology (IDT) professionals has increased, so have the demand for their skills in the workplace, whether in higher education institutions or business entities,” writes independent researcher John Nworie in a 2021 article published in the Contemporary Educational Technology scholarly journal. “However, there remains some ambiguity, especially in higher education, about who IDTs are and what they do. There are also questions about who is hiring them.”

With this in mind, below we detail the instructional design and technology landscape as well as trends, career opportunities and more in this realm.

What Is Instructional Design and Technology (IDT)?

The broad spectrum of careers in instructional design and technology is a testament to the widespread applications of its fundamental methodologies and tools. Briefly yet comprehensively defined, IDT involves the creation, refinement, analysis, evaluation, optimization and general management of learning experiences for students of all kinds. The materials fueling these experiences are typically delivered through traditional and digital media formats. Notably, instructional design and technology (or IDT) is not to be confused with information technology (or IT).

Role of Instructional Designers and Technologists

Instructional design and technology jobs span numerous professional fields and may stress significantly different aspects of IDT work, from psychology to technology to project management. IDT professionals commonly work as part of multidisciplinary teams that might stress specialized roles like subject matter experts or graphic designers. The common goal of IDT professionals is to further the “Magic Triangle” through effective learning objectives, learning activities and learning assessments.

Key Principles and Methodologies Used in IDT

In their presentation “Principles of Interdisciplinary Team (IDT) Working (2021) neuropsychologist Dr. Shai Betteridge and neuro-occupational therapist Alex Heaps present six core principles and methodologies that define most IDT jobs:

  • Non-hierarchical working environment – In IDT, contributions are valued across disciplines and professional roles.
  • Clarity of vision – Direction and common purpose should be clearly defined and holistically formulated according to shared team values.
  • Preparation and time commitment – The complex and interdisciplinary nature of IDT work means that it often requires extra time to properly inform team members and foster both full understanding and meaningful reflection.
  • Frequent communication – Constant collaboration and cross-analysis among IDT team members is a key component of success.
  • Transcendence of individual disciplinary boundaries – A collaborative, team spirit is necessary to embrace the fluidity of roles, which are not fixed and may overlap in areas to meet needs.
  • Adaptability – Adaptability is essential when it comes to fostering creative problem-solving and overcoming the internal and external biases that can inhibit effective learning.

Evolving Landscape of IDT and Its Growing Importance

Using a wide variety of tools and technologies, IDT professionals can craft engaging and effective learning materials that reflect the best theories and practices within a particular area of education or training. Their ability to design optimum learning materials for virtually any education or training program has made them invaluable in an ever-growing number of industries and sectors—no longer confined to only online learning environments but rather holding the potential to expand into effecting organizational change as well.

IDT Job Opportunities in Education and E-Learning

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2024) defines education-sector IDT professionals (often called “instructional coordinators”) as professionals who develop teaching materials, oversee school curricula and establish pedagogical standards. Many types of educators require the expertise of instructional coordinators.

Overview of Instructional Design Roles in Education

Teachers and administrators in all areas of academia and training rely upon instructional coordinators and designers to develop curricula, establish pedagogical procedures and analyze student performance, among other specific functions. While many institutions of learning have IDT professionals on staff, others might secure contract or freelance IDT services.

Opportunities in E-Learning Platforms and Online Education Providers

As people increasingly turn to online learning, the demand for e-learning designers is on the rise. The technical nature of IDT makes it a perfect fit for the distance education environment.

Skills and Qualifications for Education-Focused IDT Roles

The BLS lists analytical skills, communication skills, decision-making skills, interpersonal skills and leadership skills among the most critical areas of development for IDT professionals in academia. They typically need at least a relevant bachelor’s degree or a higher level of education to enter the field.

IDT Careers in Corporate Training and Development

Like institutions of learning, all kinds of professional education and training programs can benefit from IDT optimization. Outside of academia, corporate leaders were among the first to recognize the value of IDT and now hire many such professionals as training specialists, development specialists or development managers.

Role of Instructional Designers in Corporate Training and HR

The human resources (HR) and training divisions of large companies rely upon IDT professionals to develop educational programs both in the classroom and on the internet. They also provide direct guidance to instructors teaching curricula of relevance in a broad range of corporate sectors and industries.

Opportunities in Designing and Delivering Training

As more businesses are discovering the benefits of incorporating an IDT focus into their training and continuing education endeavors, the opportunities for corporate IDT professionals are expanding rapidly, occurring both within and across corporate markets and fields.

Competencies and Experiences Sought by Corporate Employers

As in the academic setting, most employers in the corporate realm expect entry-level IDT applicants to have specialized educational training at the college level. Compared to academic employers, however, corporate employers may require a more pronounced emphasis on technology-based and performance-driven learning methodologies.

Healthcare, Government and Nonprofit Sectors: IDT Applications and Careers

Today, the employment prospects for an educated IDT professional extend well beyond the academic and corporate arenas. Read on for brief examinations of the role of IDT in healthcare, government and nonprofit.

Unique Opportunities for IDT in Healthcare Settings

The stakes involved with ensuring adequate professional training are particularly high in the world of healthcare. After all, final patient outcomes depend on it, and thus, it should come as little surprise that healthcare leaders are increasingly turning to IDT professionals for state-of-the-art training program enhancement. IDT measures are also dramatically improving health literacy among patients.

IDT Roles in Government Agencies and Nonprofit Organizations

Government agencies commonly turn to IDT professionals to help ensure their team members have training that complies with relevant regulations and standards. In addition, they employ IDT initiatives in their public outreach and civic engagement efforts. In the nonprofit sector, organizations are using IDT to further their fundraising and service activities. IDT has proven effective at boosting nonprofit stakeholder engagement at all levels.

Technology Industry: IDT Roles in Tech Companies and Startups

Due to its pronounced focus on digital technology, tech giants and startups alike have embraced IDT to help them train skilled employees and share critical information with external stakeholders, from investors to customers.

The Intersection of Instructional Design and Technology in Tech

As previously discussed, IDT professionals routinely use advanced technology in both the design and delivery of their strategically honed educational materials, curricula and teaching methods. However, it is crucial for IDT professionals to keep their primary focus on effective instruction rather than the various high-tech tools used to enhance that instruction.

IDT Roles in Software Development and Other Tech Organizations

One primary growth area for IDT employment in the tech sector, software development offers ample opportunities in capacities that range from web design to user experience (UX) optimization. IDT professionals assist technology companies of all types in areas such as multimedia development, training documentation and software/hardware support.

Technical Skills and Industry Knowledge for Tech-Oriented IDT Careers

General proficiency with digital technology is a key component of any careers in instructional design and technology, but IDT professionals who want to specialize in the tech industry must typically possess highly specialized tech proficiency. Depending on your chosen career path, specific tools to master might include e-learning authoring tools like Adobe Captivate, data analytics tools like Google Analytics or learning management systems like Moodle.

Finance, Retail and Other Industries: Emerging Trends in IDT

Although it is worth focusing on schools, corporations and tech companies as the leading employers of IDT professionals, the employment prospects in IDT certainly do not stop there. Below is a glance at IDT in non-traditional industries and the future of the field overall.

Opportunities for Instructional Designers in Non-Traditional Industries

One of the up-and-coming areas of instructional design and technology jobs is finance. In particular, banking and lending institutions like Wells Fargo and Capital One rely upon IDT to drive optimization in areas that range from risk management to regulatory compliance. The learning development platform provider Raven 360 presents IDT solutions to retailers who ask, “How can we offer highly tailored learning experiences using instructional materials that make our prospects want to become customers … and our customers want to stick around?”

Emerging Trends

IDT professionals must stay abreast of the latest technological and methodological developments in their field if they want to remain relevant. Gamification (the incorporation of elements from video games), virtual reality (the creation of immersive learning environments) and microlearning (digesting learning materials in small doses) are some of the most significant IDT trends today.

Learn More About Instructional Design and Technology

If you want to take a deep dive into the IDT world and explore related careers in the future, take a close look at the Education Specialist (EdS) in Instructional Design and Technology and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Instructional Design and Technology degree programs offered at Keiser University. For further information about either of these degrees, contact a Keiser graduate admissions counselor today.