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Yep, I’ve said it. I do want to state that I’m not knocking the education I’ve received in grad school. What I had learned was good and prepared me for doing Instructional Design work, but I just wish I would have been taught more practical things, or at least prepared for some of it.


1) You are never ever going to come across a project that is straight through every learning model you are taught. You may think so, but really it doesn’t happen.  Here’s a little paint diagram to show you. (yes, it’s bad, I know, but it illustrates the point.)

2) More HTML and some basic knowledge of other programming languages. Yes, I had a class in Dreamweaver, but you can design in a WYSIWYG editor and magically the HTML is created. When using some software, if somethings break, instead of redoing an entire project sometimes with knowledge you can tweak the HTML, Javascript, etc. Even if it was just a couple basic things, that knowledge can go a long way. I mean from some basic HTML I learned in undergrad and some of the web design class, I can read through code somewhat well, and I can sometimes spot some wonky bits, but I can’t fix it.

3) You need to find the time to learn new things in your field. I don’t care if you are working practically 24/7, keep up with the technology, and the methodologies. If you don’t, you get screwed and left in the dust.

4) At what point in your career do you become a Senior Instructional Designer? I was reading somewhere, that an interviewer doesn’t consider anyone Senior, unless they are “experts.” What makes an expert? Do you have to know everything inside out and spout facts until you are blue in the face? Or can you have vast knowledge of different things in your field, but not know every little detail?

Also what does six years experience mean? In recent searches, I’m seeing that 6 years is neither qualified enough or overqualified. What is the norm? I’m seeing plenty of people I graduated with with titles of Senior ID in their job descriptions, and yet here I am just an ID, even though I feel over the years, I’ve proved myself to be Senior ID worthy.

So what is the magic criteria that makes you Senior?

5) Keeping up in the Instructional Design field costs money, not just a little bit of money but like lots of money, that I could easily add up to being a quarter of my salary.  Some basic things I’m learning I should have and I don’t are:

  • Your own laptop, even if you get one from your company. That way you can have all the software required if the company doesn’t want to pony up the $ for items for you to successfully complete your job. And this laptop has to be pretty hefty so that it can run a few programs of the Adobe Creative Suite at the same time.  (rough guess for a laptop anywhere from around $700-2,000)
  • Adobe Creative Suite, and other Adobe products not apart of the suite – A couple grand easily.
  • Other eLearning software (Camtasia, SnagIt, Lectora, Raptivity, etc (only ones I can think of off hand) a few hundred to a few thousand dollars
  • Some audio editing software, either adobe, sony, and if you want to save $ freeware Audacity, but still.
  • Headphones, microphones, etc more $
  • Memberships to lets say ASTD (almost $200 for national, and $100 for local/year), eLearning Guild (anywhere from $100-1700/year), ASTD  CPLP certification $800, if you are an ASTD member $1000 if a non member. I’m assuming this is a perm. certification, I didn’t see anything that said you had to renew this, though somehow it really wouldn’t surprise me, if they would try to get more $ out of you by having you renew this every few years.

For someone starting out, this is kind of daunting, when you research the realities of this business, and now a days, when looking at job requirements, they want memberships and certifications. If you don’t have any of them you are pretty much SOL there.

6) That Masters Degree is a double edge sword. Yes, you have that higher degree that people are looking for, but having that higher degree means you are at a higher salary range, but with the economy where it’s at, companies aren’t willing to pay you what you deserve. They hope that you will sit there and just be happy with what they give you, even if it’s under what you deserve.

7) Don’t ever just expect to do the work. You have to create a Captivate project?  It’s never just captivate. It’s meetings, and phone calls, and writing, and editing, and everything. Even if you aren’t the Project Manager, you are still going to be a project manager to a degree, making spreadsheets and spending more time on the paperwork than the actual content.

And when clients are late in giving you materials, or their end of deliverables, guess what, you don’t get that time back, you have to finish everything in even less time and it’s supposed to look like you had worked on it from that original deadline.

8) Why can’t there be refresher courses, and if there are refresher courses, why do they have to cost an arm and a leg? I mean seriously I will be paying off my student loans until 2026. It’s not feasible to go back to school to get full credits/classes. I just want a couple webinars, or something that go over some new learning techniques, how technology is changing, and somethings we can do in our businesses to try to bring them up to date in new technology.

9) Full time ID jobs are getting harder to find, in my recent searches, Training and Development is always the first to get cut when restructuring and cutting costs happen. As much as contracting might not be for you, the only way to possibly get ahead in this biz is to be a contractor.

It may not seem like it, but I really am glad I have my Masters Degree, in the end I just wish, I had a little more real world practice incorporated into classroom settings. I think some more reality would have lessened my sticker shock and disheartenment when I’m starting to browse around and see what else is out there. Frankly at this moment I’m just sad because I’m either underqualified, or overqualified, not certified, and not wanting to be disposable after 3 months.