Before the pandemic hit, a career as an instructional designer was very attractive. After the pandemic hit, an instructional designer became the most in-demand worker in higher education, according to Inside Higher Ed.
I did a comprehensive review of the places you can search find the best instructional designer positions and get freelance work on a project-by-project basis. This information can help you with career advancement as an instructional designer and will encourage you if you are thinking about becoming an instructional designer.
For those studying who need a certificate, be sure to check out my recommendations for the top instructional design certificate programs.
Instructional Designer Job Resources
Here are the job resources organized by freelance systems, general job boards, career databases, systems that focus on educators, and instructional design jobs.
Freelance systems →
1. Fiverr →
2. Freelancer →
3. Upwork →
4. Brybe →
5. Genuine Jobs →
6. Golance →
7. Guru →
8. OnSite →
9. People Per Hour →
10. Work Hoppers →
General Job Boards →
11. FlexJobs →
12. Craigslist →
13. Job.com →
14. Careerbuilder →
15. Glassdoor →
16. Indeed →
17. Monster →
18. The Ladder →
19. The Muse →
20. ZipRecruiter →
Career Databases →
21. eLearning Industry →
22. eLearning Heroes →
Instructional Designer Focused Databases →
23. Instructional Design Central →
24. International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) Jobs →
25. ATD Job Bank →
26. Learning Guild →
27. Higher Ed Jobs →
28. Inside Higher Ed →
Here are the top freelance systems used by the “gig” economy workers to find projects to do in instructional design.
Fiverr is a terrific place to find freelance work and other freelancers if you have a team project. This system was named Fiverr because many simple jobs can be accomplished for the payment of $5 on this system. However, the pay is not limited to such small amounts. Freelancers join this system to advertise their skills and respond to requests for proposals that come from clients who need work done.
A search for “instructional designer” turns up about 300 freelancers who have skills in this general design area and who offer their services on Fiverr. The system considers designing an instructional manual for a product to be in the category of instructional design, so it is a bit off the mark when you want to focus only on eLearning and educational materials for virtual classrooms.
You will find many freelancers from developing countries on this system who offer their services for a very low price. If you are just starting, or while learning about instructional design, you can use this system to pick up some extra money. However, it is not the place to find a career position in
This is a system where those who wish to hire freelancers post a project. The pay offered for the projects may be a fixed price or at a rate per hour of work. The freelancers who use this system make a proposal in response to the projects offered. Members can chat with the clients who posted the project in real-time. The one who posts the project has control over when the payment is released. Payment can be released as project goals are met (milestone payments) or on project completion. This choice is made by the client who posts the project.
Having the client with the sole authority to release payment is problematic if the instructions are confusing or incomplete and the client is difficult to satisfy. If you use this system be careful that you only work on projects with clear instructions and explicitly-defined project deliverables.
Upwork is a competitor to Freelancer. Skilled professionals, who like to work independently, find plenty of work to do on this system. They offer their skills at the hourly-pay rate they choose. Instructional designers on this system charge between $25 and $100 per hour. On this system, you will find professionals with skills in lesson plan writing, curriculum development, eLearning design, training program development, employee onboarding, and learning management systems.
Upwork charges a percentage of the successful projects you win and complete. This is a 20%, 10%, or 5% service fee, depending on the total amount you billed the client. Upwork also offers premium memberships and subscription services with more benefits than standard members receive.
Learn more: You can see some examples of the skills that clients see when hunting for an instructional designer. These freelancers are the ones you will compete with, to win the projects on the Upwork system.
Brybe is a wonderful website to find amazing freelance job opportunities. It is also a great place for businesses and organizations to find some of the best freelancers and influencers to work on a project. Whatever type of work someone is looking to recruit for, Brybe definitely has it! In fact, there are more than 340 categories to choose from, which include music and audio, writing, translating, IT needs, video and animation, beauty influencers, comedy, graphic design, and so much more.
The goal of this incredible freelance marketplace is to connect freelancers and influencers with buyers in hopes of them building lifelong partnerships. This is one of the only platforms where a buyer can find various talents on one website, which prevents them from going back and forth to multiple websites over time. You can find everything that you could imagine all on Brybe.com.
You can get started on the site by clicking “I’m a buyer” (you would like to order services), “I’m a freelancer” (you would like to sell your services), or “I’m an influencer” (you are interested in doing sponsored promotions). You can also scroll down and see a few of the categories listed in which you may be able to find what you are looking for. If not, click on “see all”, and many user profiles will pop up with a brief description of what they are offering as well as how much their starting rate is. Another way to begin using this platform is to simply publish a request of the service that you are looking for or offering, and you will quickly start getting offers from professionals around the world who are interested in buying or offering your service.
Genuine Jobs specializes in work-from-home, telecommute, freelance, and contract jobs. There is no fee to use this system. There are only about 2,000 job listings in this database. Many of the listings are very old (from 2018 or 2019). It is a waste of time to apply for extremely old listings.
If you don’t mind getting a spam email every day you can get notified of new postings on this system that are not filtered. You may get lucky and find one for an instructional designer; however, the job postings on this system are very few.
Freelancers set up a profile on this system and give their hourly rate. You will see the rates from all over the world. The rates for workers from the developing countries will be very low ($4 per hour), while the freelancers from developed countries like the USA or the UK charge up to $80 per hour for instructional design services.
If you want to work from home and are comfortable with being on the clock, this is a good place to find projects to work on. Be aware that this system tracks your work by constantly spying on you using software that you download and run on your computer. You sign in and the system is constantly taking screenshots of what you are doing to make sure you are working on the client’s project when signed in. To succeed, you need to be focused on doing one job at a time during each work session.
Guru is a popular system with over one million freelancers offering their services. A search for “instructional design” shows over 21,000 results with freelancers charging from $10 to $100 per hour. It also shows the total past earnings of the freelancers so you can see how busy they are and how much money they made this year.
You can work as an individual freelancer on this system or as part of a team freelance group if you are a small business providing the services. One freelance group of eLearning system developers are shown as having earned nearly $300,000 on the Guru system during 2020.
You can find projects on this system that pay well. When starting on this system as a newbie, it is a bit challenging to get the experience and win projects because you are competing against the top experts on Guru. However, if you land some projects, and build up a client base on this system, you will have a steady workflow.
This is a UK-based system. Freelancers and job seekers have to apply to be approved. This is a matching service for job seekers and recruiters. It is the online equivalent of a “head hunter” talent agency. The recruiters pay the system if they hire any of the job seekers that are approved for participation in the system.
Only about 20% of the applicants are invited to join. The membership is free but requires an invitation to join. You get an invitation by giving a link to your online portfolio with examples of your work. The turnaround time for the approval of applicants is 48 hours.
This system is used by freelancers who are available to be hired by the hour or by the project. A search for “instructional design” turns up about 80 freelancers on this system with those skills. The hourly rates range from a low of $8 per hour for a person with basic instructional design skills to $100 per hour for a highly-certified specialist with a Master’s degree.
This system is very popular with clients who post many projects because they pay a one-time fee of $265 to become a member. Then, they can post all the projects that they want. The freelancers pay a 20% commission fee for the first $350 they earn from a single client, then a 7.5% commission fee up to $7,000 from the same client, and thereafter a 3.5% fee on any lifetime earnings from the same client that is over the $7,000 threshold.
The best way to use this system is to find a client that has many projects. Work for the same client until you meet the threshold to lower your commission rate to 3.5%. The result of this strategy is you get a raise for the work you do for that same client thereafter.
This freelance system is free for the freelancers and you set your rate. There is no commission deducted from your pay. You negotiate directly with the client, setting the pay rate by the hour or by the project.
The client pays a monthly advertising fee of $29 for one job listing, $59 per month for three job listings, and $275 per month for the enterprise edition for multiple job listings. As soon as the job is filled, the advertising can be canceled.
Since this is a free service for the workers, unlike the other freelance systems that charge a commission, I highly recommend you give it a try. However, all the client relations and the responsibility for collecting the invoice due from the client is your duty. Many clients are not good at paying their bills. To use this system effectively, you have to know how to deal with clients effectively with both your project work and also payment collection.
General Job Boards
These general job boards have millions of job listings. They are very useful to compare job offerings for instructional designers in various locations across America. If you can re-locate, you can get a terrific, high-paying job in many places that desperately need instructional designers.
This job listing system requires a paid membership. There is a one-week trial for $6.95. Membership is $14.895 per month or $49.95 per year if you pay for a year in advance (November 2020 prices).
Flex Jobs specializes in flexible jobs, which may include some in-person work mixed with remote work, remote-only work, and work-from-home opportunities. Project work, contract work, part-time jobs, and full-time employment offers are available for consideration. You can search by keywords and location. You can filter the search by the level of remote work you wish to find.
A search for “instructional designer” gave more than 3,500 results from the database of 100,000+ jobs. About 40% of the jobs offered are completely remote work, 10% of the jobs offered are remote during the pandemic, 20% are partially remote work, 25% offer remote work options,
and 5% are on-site work.
If you filter the search by the “Education & Training” category you will be able to drill down to the specific instructional designer positions. When I searched, I found about 300 open positions. Many are interesting including some looking for a professor to teach instructional design.
Craigslist existed since before the Internet was popularized. It started as an online bulletin board system. It has been useful for more than 25 years since its inception. It is a popular free-to-use, online, classified ad system, where you can read the jobs offered and make a “job wanted” posting.
Craigslist does little to remove fraudsters and scammers so be very careful if you use this system. Do not do a lot of project work for clients who you do not know. Ask for milestone payments to limit your risk of not being paid.
Job seekers do not pay to use this system. The recruiters and employers who post job listings on the system pay if they hire you. You must have a resume to be able to use the Job.com system. Job placement is based on an algorithmic analysis of your resume. If you do not already have a superb resume, make sure you do before you register and try to use this system. Hire a professional resume writer, if need be, to help you.
Job.com will give you a 5% signing bonus for every job you get hired for that is found through this system. The signing bonus is paid 90 days after you start work and continue in good standing at your new employer.
Learn more: You can browse the jobs before you register for this system to get a clear idea what is available.
CareerBuilder lives up to its name. I searched for “instructional designer” and found almost 300 exciting positions in the USA that are looking for someone right now. After you register, you set up your profile information in this system with your background information. Many of the advertised positions have an Easy Apply feature. All you have to do is click on it. Registered members can have job search alerts sent to your email address automatically. Registrations for job seekers on this system are free. The job positions are paid for by the recruiters to list them.
This system has a very helpful warning that applies to any online job system. It warns never to give your social security number to a prospective employer, provide a credit card number, give your bank account information, or conduct any sort of monetary transaction. Many scammers use these systems to offer fake jobs just to steal personal information. Verify who you are applying with by calling the company, checking their phone number with the Better Business Bureau, and doing a background check. Conduct any necessary due diligence on them to make sure the company is legitimate.
The uniqueness of this system is that not only do you find wonderful job listings, you also see the feedback about how it is to work at the company. Feedback comes from the people who already work there or used to work there. They can give feedback anonymously. This is helpful. If you are building a career and want to make sure each step is beneficial, having this “insider” information is invaluable.
Stay away from a company that has a poor rating on Glass Door because it will likely be a nightmare to work there. Another nice tool is the salary estimator and comparison tool. Use this tool to see if a salary offered is competitive with other jobs in the same field in a similar area, at the same level of expertise and experience.
Using the Indeed system is encouraging for instructional designers. The search returned over 6,500 job opportunities for instructional designers in the United States. That is truly amazing.
The first one I saw listed, offers an annual salary of $62,000 with the full benefits of paid vacation time, paid sick leave, and health care insurance. This opposition would be working as an instructional designer for a healthcare training company. The hiring need is listed as urgent. You would win this job today if you have the qualifications. The company only requires you to have a degree with certification in instructional design and have completed two projects in this field that you can show to the employer. And, you can work remotely.
If that does not appeal to you, many projects pay $80 per hour. This rate of $80 per hour is the equivalent of earning $160,000 a year for working 40 hours per week for 50 weeks a year. Are you getting excited about your career of becoming an instructional designer now? You
Learn more: Take a look at the search results for instructional design to see what you can find. Then, upload your résumé to find a nice position to apply for and you will be on your way to success.
Monster is one of the largest job-listing websites with millions of job openings advertised. The search on Monster for instructional designer jobs that I performed, returned more than 2,200 job openings across America for a person with these skills.
It was nice to see positions advertised that are for a junior instructional designer that is certified with a Bachelor’s degree in instructional design but has minimal or no work experience. These entry-level positions pay around $45,000 to $55,000 per year. After three years, you can expect to earn $85,000 to $100,000 annually as a senior Curriculum Instructional Designer.
Feeling pretty excited about your job experience as an instructional designer? Do you have more than three years of experience at a senior level? Why not try to see if you qualify for the positions listed on The Ladders. All the positions on this system pay over $100,000 per year.
If you already have a Facebook or Google account you can search for jobs on the website by using one-click to log in. If you do not have either of those accounts, you can register by using your email address.
The Ladders is a system used by recruiters to fill senior-level executive positions. If you are already employed, you can search the system to see what other positions might be available for a lateral career move that increases your pay.
The search I did on The Muse for “industrial designer” turned up about a hundred terrific positions to choose from that are very attractive. Some examples are Amazon is hiring for locations all over the country and all the big names in technology such as Facebook and Google are hiring instructional designers also.
The abundance of positions offered at the top companies shows how high the demand is for the workers who have these skills and certification(s).
Here are the important qualifications required by Amazon so you can get an idea of what is needed to get the highest-paid positions:
- You must have a Master’s-level degree in instructional design or a related field.
- You must have certification in instructional design, curriculum development, project management, and content-special certifications such as PMP, CPLP, and CPT certifications are required.
- You must have experience with learning management system (LMS) architecture and system deployment.
ZipRecruiter considers an instructional designer as part of the general category of a designer. There are so many designer jobs of various types. The search I performed returned over 60,000 designer jobs in the USA. Then, when I used the filter of job title and selected “instructional designer,” it showed 93 job openings. That is how to drill down in this system to find the job listings you want to see.
The jobs listed in this system are high-level. They include positions offered by universities and scientific companies. There are some nice positions offered in beautiful locations such as Scottsdale, Arizona for an annual salary of $75,000 and Silicon Valley, California for $85,000 per year. These positions require three years of experience.
A search on this eLearning job database produced about 50 excellent choices of positions in instructional design. This is an important system to check for those who have many years of experience in instructional design and want a top-level position. For example, the minimum work experience for the best positions is eight or nine years. Senior-level instructional designers can get paid extremely well and may work from their home office.
This is a good system to check for jobs in non-US locations. Many countries have special work-visa programs for instructional designers due to the lack of a sufficient number of qualified candidates in their countries. Other non-US companies allow working from a remote location, so there is no need to limit your job search to where you live if you are willing to work remotely.
You may find jobs listed here that are not advertised elsewhere. There are not that many listings (less than 40); however, they are from good sources. In addition to being a resource to check when looking for a job, this is a community of your peers in eLearning. You can get excellent career advice and build up a support network of those working in this field. Strike up a conversation by reading and responding to the community posts on the forum.
Learn more: On this system, there is an interesting recent article about the status of the eLearning profession that is helpful. It is entitled 3 Big Reasons Why Now Is a Good Time to Be an E-Learning Pro.
Instructional Designer Focused Databases
This website focuses exclusively on instructional designers. It usually has about 25 to 50 job listings from businesses, non-profits, government agencies, and academia.
Learn more: It is helpful for your professional development to participate in the international community of instructional designers. Here is the resource page that gives the links of how to connect to the Instructional Design Central (IDC) community on various social media.
This system has a few instructional designer jobs (under ten) and occasionally has positions for interns in this field, which can help those who no job history to get some experience while going to school to become certified. If you register for a job seeker account, you can also post your resume on this website to help employers find you.
The ATD Job bank focuses on job openings in the field of training and development. When I searched on the system, there were over 700 job listings for instructional designers. They offer a nice service on how to improve your résumé with a free review.
This system offers education courses that lead to getting your ATD certification using a new Talent Development Capability Model. You can choose to join the community of more than 36,000 professionals in talent development, by paying for a membership that costs $259 per year.
Learn More: Find out about the ATD certification program.
The Learning Guild is a professional association of eLearning professionals. Membership is free. This is a good group to join for personal networking with others in the same field. Networking among professionals in instructional design may allow you to find out about a position that is becoming available, which is not advertised.
Learn More: There are many resources in the library on the subject of instructional design.
A search on this system showed close to 200 open positions for instructional designers. These are job listings for working in higher education such as four-year universities and colleges, and two-year community colleges.
Most of the positions offered on this system require on-site work with only a few allowing remote work. These are brick and mortar educational facilities that are hiring staff to work at their physical locations. The listings are heavily-weighted toward advanced degree programs. To qualify for these jobs, instructional designers should be comfortable and experienced working at a high-level in the educational system with a Master’s degree required for most of these jobs.
Inside Higher Ed is a popular resource for all who are involved in higher education including educators, administrators, and institutions. The website has over 3.5 million monthly readers and offers a subscription service. It has a free, searchable job database to search for positions. Using the keywords of “instructional design” turns up over 6,000 positions listed, which range from leading instructional designer positions to recruiting educators with instructional design skills.
You can set the parameters of where you are looking for a position at the city/state level and give a range of 20 to 100 miles to search from a specific location. After you conduct a free search, you can easily set up email reminders for new job listings that meet your criteria. If you find a position of interest you can apply online through the website or by using the links provided in the job listing.
7 Steps to Find an Instructional Designer Job
If you are qualified, it is extremely easy to get a high-paying position as an instructional designer. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of job openings that need to be filled. There are many more jobs available than there are qualified people to fill them.
Here are the seven steps to take to find an instructional designer job:
1. Get the Correct Degree, Training, and Certifications
There are related degrees that you can get as an educator that along with certifications in instructional design will qualify. If you are focused strictly on becoming an instructional designer, you want to get a Master’s Degree in Instructional Design
You will study learning theory. You will learn how to use the tools to create an online course curriculum and related support materials. You will explore learning system management and various ways to present the materials to students. You will study how to monitor and enable students’ successes. You may be presenting your teaching and training programs to students. You should learn how to use common creative development tools such as Adobe Captivate, Articulate Studio, iSpring Suite, SoftChalk Cloud, and Brainshark.
There are many programs offered by schools. The names of the certificates vary widely. Here are some examples of the type of degree programs offered online and the name of the certificate you receive when completing the program:
- Boise State University: Workplace Instructional Design →
- Florida State University: Certificate in Online Instructional Development →
- George Washington University: Instructional Design Graduate Certificate →
- Indiana University: Instructional Systems Technology Certificate →
- La Salle University: Instructional Technology Management Certificate →
- University of California, Irvine: eLearning Instructional Design Certificate →
- Walden University: Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Instructional Design and Technology →
To see my recommendations for the best courses to consider, read my reviews of the best instructional design courses.
2. Work as an Intern or Assistant to Gain Experience
While in school, or when starting, work as an intern or as a junior instructional design assistant to get some experience.
3. Prepare an Outstanding Résumé
If you do not already know how to create a résumé that makes people want to hire you, then check out 7 easy steps for writing it.
Often, the keywords your résumé contains are analyzed by a computer algorithm before any human eyes read it. Be sure you put your best current information on your professional-looking résumé to increase your chances of landing the job you most want.
4. Create a Portfolio of Successful Work Examples Online
Showing your successful projects is the best way to get more work or a new job. You can password protect your online portfolio. This instructional design portfolio is for job recruiters and clients to review. You give them the password to use if they are interested.
5. Apply for an Open Position on Job Websites
After you choose the job listings system (s) you like and upload your résumé, it is very easy to apply to jobs. Just search for them and apply online.
6. Join the Industry Associations
Moreover, the University of Central Florida offers an extensive list of industry associations for instructional designers. Read the details about the associations on the webpage list or simply try the links below to see what they offer.
Here are the associations they recommend:
- Association for Educational Communications & Technology (AECT) →
The AECT has thousands of members who are educators interested in improving education by using technology.
- Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE) →
AACE produces major conference events (even virtual conferences) that include E-Learn World Conference and EdMedia World Conference.
- EDUCAUSE →
EDUCAUSE is a group of professionals and technologists who are dedicated to improving higher education.
- International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) →
The goals of the iNACOL are to improve the K-12 educational policies and practices to increase personalized, learner-focused experiences.
- International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation & Learning (INACSL) →
This group works to improve patient care by using simulation testing in the healthcare industry.
- International Society for Performance Improvement
The ISPI focuses on improving performance through research and development of best practices.
- International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) →
The ISTE sets the recognized standards for education while advocating for improved policies in teaching methods.
- International Technology & Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) →
The ITEEA is for technologists, educators, and software engineers.
- Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education (SITE) →
SITE promotes using technology to improve educational experiences and the development of faculty and staff.
- State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA)→
SETDA supports using emerging technology for learning experiences, teaching excellence, and better-run educational organizations.
- Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME) →
FAME works on a state, regional, and national level to provide support to school librarians and empower successful library programs.
7. Network with Industry Professionals
Besides making contacts through industry associations, you can make contacts using LinkedIn, which is the social media system used by professionals.
By following these seven steps you will have a great chance to build a wonderful career as an instructional designer.
If you already have a degree in instructional design, at least three years of experience, and are willing to relocate, just go online and get immediately hired for any of the job listings that advertise an urgent hiring need. Alternatively, you can work as a freelance instructional designer on a project basis and charge from $25 to $100 per hour for your services depending on your skill level and past project success, which you can demonstrate and show clients examples in an online portfolio of what you achieved.
Learn more: Here are more excellent suggestions if you only want to work in a position that allows telecommuting.
Get Rich (maybe) Working for a Startup
If you are starting your career and are not afraid of taking a bit of a risk, then, consider working for a startup. Here are some wonderful ideas of how to find a job if you want to work for a startup and how to get a job at a startup.
Working for a startup may be extremely challenging; however, you may also get founders’ or early employees’ shares or liberal stock options. If the startup is successful, these shares and stock options can make you very wealthy. Many startups fail but the lucky ones can succeed beyond everyone’s wildest dreams.
Amazon was an online bookseller when it started. It took twenty years to make a profit but look at it now. The earliest employees all became multimillionaires. The founder, Jeff Bezos, is the richest man in America with a net worth of over $183 billion. If you plan on working for a startup, look for the “Amazon” of eLearning, learning system management software, and online virtual classrooms. If you choose a startup wisely, you may go on a wild ride to success. Many new companies entered this field because the demand for remote learning exploded due to the pandemic.
As I said in the beginning, the field of instructional design is growing exponentially. Many amazing jobs remain unfilled because of the excessive demand for instructional designers. Get your degree certificate and learn how to use the common tools. Be sure to review my list of the best instructional design courses. Create a stunning online portfolio and a professional résumé and we look forward to seeing your career success.