ID Tips and Tricks

Top 31 Online Instructional Design Certificate Programs

Instructional Design Certificate

If you’re pursuing a career in education or just need advancement in instructional design, a bunch of schools in the US can help you with that. Go through a list of certificate programs, and check out some general advice in this article.

Courses for instructional designers have experienced a boom in the past few years, triggering a plethora of educational programs: on campus and online, Master’s, graduate certificates, and more. Whatever your goals, be it upskilling or merely obtaining relevant credentials, you are sure to delve into the theory and practice of instruction adjusted to the Web 3.0 reality, and modern teaching techniques. There are dozens of schools in the US providing web-based Instructional Design (ID) Certification, which helps you get on the right track in the development of engaging e-Learning courses and curriculums. Specific ID programs may vary by duration, cost, number of credits required (usually between 10 and 18), etc. Most programs give you certain flexibility, so you can absorb material at your own pace. After all, it’s e-Learning about e-Learning, so you can’t go wrong!

For your convenience, I’ve compiled a table of the 31 most promising ID certificate programs. Check out the details below.

Program Chart
Organization Course name Credits Total cost and duration
Best choice:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Online (Coursera)

e-Learning Ecologies: Innovative Approaches to Teaching and Learning for the Digital Age Upon request $29

4 weeks, 12 hours per week

George Mason University
Fairfax, Virginia
E-Learning Graduate Certificate 15 Upon request
UCI Division of Continuing Education
Irvine, California
E-Learning Instructional Design 15 Upon request
Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Learning Design and Technology Certificate 16 $10,200
1.5 years
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington
E-Learning design & development Upon request $4,310
6–8 months
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Instructional Design Certificate Online 12 Upon request
University of Massachusetts Boston
Boston, Massachusetts
Instructional Technology Design 15 Upon request
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Oregon
E-Learning Instructional Design and Development 18 $1,755
Six weeks
University of Georgia
Athens, Georgia
Graduate Certificate eLearning Design 15 $11,000
12 months
Northeastern University
Boston, Massachusetts
Graduate Certificate in eLearning and Instructional Design 16 Upon request
Saint Leo University
Saint Leo, Florida
Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design 15 Upon request
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design and Technology 15 Upon request
University of California
Oakland, California
Teaching Online Certificate 13 $1,705
1–2 months
UHM College of Education
Honolulu, Hawaii
GCERT Learning Design and Technology: Online Learning and Teaching 15 12 months, price upon request
University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, North Carolina ITS/TF Certificate Program 18 Upon request
La Salle University
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Instructional Technology Management 18 Upon request
Boise State University
Boise, Idaho
Workplace Instructional Design 18 $8,100, duration upon request
Colorado State University-Global Campus
Greenwood Village, Colorado
K-12 education technology and instructional design 12 Upon request
Florida State University
Tallahassee, Florida
Online Instructional Development 15 Upon request
The George Washington University
Washington, D.C.
Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design Upon request Upon request
Graduate School of Education and Human Development
Washington, D.C.
Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design 18 Upon request
Indiana University Bloomington
Bloomington, Indiana
Instructional Systems Technology 15 Upon request
University of Wisconsin-Stout
Menomonie, Wisconsin
Online Instructional Design Graduate Certificate Upon request $1,305 per course
8 months
Walden University
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Instructional Design and Technology 12 $7,940, duration upon request
Georgia State University
Atlanta, Georgia
Instructional Design and Technology 12 Upon request
Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania
Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania
eLearning Developer Certificate 12 Upon request
Association for Talent Development
Alexandria, Virginia
E-Learning Instructional Design Certificate Upon request $1,480, duration upon request
American Military University
Charles Town, West Virginia
Instructional Design and Delivery 18 $4,860
1 year
Drexel University Online
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design 27 $24,138
4 months
Saint Joseph’s University
Philadelphia and Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania
Certification for Instructional Design and Technology Specialists Upon request Upon request
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Brownsville, Edinburg, Harlingen, McAllen, Rio Grande City, South Padre Island, Texas
E-Learning Graduate Certificate 15 $8,841 in total
12 months

As you can see, there is no shortage of web-based ID programs, so how can you make the right choice? Here is a piece of advice below.

Make up your mind: Online graduate certificate or a Master’s

Before you actually go for an ID certificate, it makes sense to weigh the pros and cons of this option against the Master’s degree. In most cases, your online program credits can be transferred to the Master’s, so there is no big risk in starting with the more flexible option. Some schools even leverage e-Learning certification programs as a promotional factor with a view of ‘upselling’ the remaining credits. Needless to say, distance learning technology courses are dramatically cheaper and they give you a taste – or even a sufficient abstract – of the complete degree course. If you like how it’s going, feel free to proceed to the Master’s.

Practice reveals that in most cases ID course attendees seek a deeper understanding of the subject and specific guidelines rather than certification as an end in itself. Given the overall positive feedback on the quality of existing web-based ID programs, instructors are happy to rely on another source of knowledge. If this also helps you get a more fulfilling job, so much the better!

Apparently, a Master’s is more of a ‘brand’; it’s something you can throw into a grant application, a brief resume or a proposal degree and expect to reap more benefits. Many experts believe a Master’s degree unlocks superior career opportunities for instructional designers, especially in academia. Somehow, business is deemed to be more pragmatic on the issue, discarding formal paid studies as optional and giving more weight to tangible skills and experience.

Define your goals and inclinations

Online programs are all different – some of them teach you how to deliver courses in secondary education, some target college education, others have a research slant, still others focus on creating nice-looking and logical courses. Alternative parameters may include business/corporate vs academic, process management vs authoring, etc. Figure out your type of instructional design degree and find the right balance between theory and practice. Administrators, e-Learning strategists, subject matter experts, college teachers – all instructors can discover the program of their dreams with a little digging and asking.

Discern what ID methodology the program builds on

A crucial factor in studying instructional design is the theory behind it. Is this a brick-and-mortar content-driven way of building courses, or an e-Learning 4.0 concept that provides valuable insights into the future? Does this particular design methodology factor in performance and personal pattern assessment, and does it keep the student in mind? Go through the list of courses above and try to figure this out for yourself. Sometimes you can read in between the lines, and sometimes it pays off to ask direct questions or review the faculty’s experience and footprint on the web. After all, these guys must’ve made some courses themselves. Be curious, but don’t get carried away with minor details.

Check out their cloud/software infrastructure

A seemingly irrelevant point, the tech organization of the process may turn into a pitfall once you get started. Does your college provide the necessary infrastructure and software (if necessary), how can you share feedback and interact with the instructor, and how can you evaluate your personal progress? Get these issues straight before jumping on board.

Last but not least: consider the bang for the buck

Program cost might not always be a determining factor, but it does influence your decision-making. Is the quote you were provided all-inclusive? Are there any extra fees associated with the program? Software plugins, books, extra materials that you’d need to acquire on your own? Define your budget and sign up for the best value program.

In conclusion

In my opinion, neither employers nor fellow trainers will judge you by your grades or certificates in e-Learning design and development. It’s the experience, attitude and portfolio that matter. Make sure you read prominent alumni reviews, follow their trajectories, and see if they are more or less on the same scale as your personal roadmap. Is the knowledge obtained from your ID program applicable in the real world? That’s the pivotal question, and the answer is up to you.

Update! I’d like to thank Christy Tucker for pointing out an honest mistake I first made in the posting. I had the impression that most schools didn’t actually label the degree in question as ‘Master’s in instructional design’ or the like. As a matter of fact, they do. You can often come across ‘Master of Science in Instructional Technology’ or ‘Master of Education in Instructional Design’.


Getting back to a point raised above, I’d like to ask for your opinion on the instructional design certificate vs. Master’s degree question. Please vote:

Many thanks! Stay tuned for more e-Learning content!

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (6 votes, average: 4.77 out of 5)


  • ADT would be the best choice for me. I already have my Masters degree and I’ve been building and running online courses since 2005. But as I try to break in to a career in Instructional Design, I’m up against others with a printed certificate and I don’t have one.

    My question is, do you think the ATD e-learning certificate is recognized as a professional certificate equal to those obtained through accredited colleges?

    Thank you in advance for your advice.

    • Vallarie, in my opinion, ATD is doing the right thing. From what I heard, their courses leverage the best practices in Instructional Design, including Michael Allen’s work. Plus, it’s a quick and cost-efficient way to earn an e-Learning certificate. When it comes to recognition, I have mixed feeling about this. I’ve seen people frown upon ATD and give priority to college certificate holders. On the other hand, I’ve also seen fair assessment of candidates’ skills regardless of credentials. If you are pursuing a specific position, make sure to learn about their preferences/policies in advance. Market-wise, nothing is written in stone.

  • I am new to discovering the career choice of ID. I have my my Master’s in Elementary Education, and have experience in instructor led applications training. I am in my 40s and so I don’t want 4 years of college again. What would be recommended ? I would like to design instruction for either the education setting or maybe non-profit sector? Not sure about the corporate setting?

  • I have a JD and a Master’s in Teaching in Elementary and a Middle School Endorsement in the Language Arts. I would like to do Instructional Design for the corporate world?
    How do you recommend I go about doing that?

  • Great Post! I really appreciate your blog. You share useful content regarding instructional design process Keep up the good work!

Leave a Comment