What are hiring managers looking for when they hire instructional designers? Which skills are the most important? How do hiring managers evaluate instructional design portfolios? Is AI changing the field?
We created the 2024 ID Hiring Manager Survey to help answer these questions for the industry. Whether you’re a new or experienced instructional designer, check out the results to learn:
Read on to see the full report!
Here are some of the top insights from the data:
Note: You are welcome to discuss these results in your own content, but please link back to this report if you do so.This data has been updated in October 2023 based on data from the 2023-2024 instructional design industry survey. We’ll continue to update the data on this page as we conduct new industry surveys.
Since remote instructional design roles are popular among instructional designers, we asked hiring managers if their organization hires candidates for remote roles, either now or if they plan to in the future.
The results were pretty clear. 62.4% of respondents currently hire remote instructional designers and an additional 12.9% of the hiring managers surveyed have hired for remote roles within the last 12 months.
Even though 24.8% of respondents said that they have not hired remote instructional designers, 48% of that specific group is open to the possibility of hiring for remote roles.
If you’re looking for remote work as an instructional designer, odds are you’ll be able to find a role since the majority of hiring managers are open to this arrangement.
These remote roles are in high demand, but if you keep reading to find out what skills, professional experience, and portfolio content hiring managers are looking for, then you’ll be better suited to land a remote opportunity.
Hiring managers rated the ability to apply ID theory and science as one of the most in-demand skills for instructional designers.
This has changed since our previous 2021 survey, which had eLearning development in the lead. eLearning development skills are still highly sought after, but showing off the ability to apply instructional design theory and science should have an even greater impact on your job search success.
When asked which top three skills the respondents look for when hiring instructional designers, they selected:
The fourth place selection, project management skills, comes in at a much lower 40.6%. The least selected choices include:
Overall, it appears that hiring managers are looking for instructional designers who can communicate well, apply instructional design theory, and develop eLearning in rapid authoring tools.
When asked which in-demand skill is most often lacking when hiring instructional designers, the hiring managers reported:
So, while hiring managers are looking for applicants who apply ID theory and science, that’s also one of the skills that they’re having the hardest time finding. Therefore, building your applied ID knowledge and skills will be one of the best ways to stand out in the market in 2023 and beyond.
Finally, even though project management skills and good business acumen may not be as in-demand as the ability to apply ID theory, these skills are often lacking and hiring managers are noticing. So, if you already have those skills, you’ll definitely want to show them off!
Articulate Storyline topped the charts when it comes to instructional design tools and technologies.
The respondents selected the top three tools and technologies that instructional designers should be familiar with upon hire. The top three choices were:
Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline’s main competitor, trailed behind at 11.9%, a full 10% lower than the responses in 2021. This data makes it appear that there is a much higher demand for people skilled in Articulate Storyline.
And, taking it a step further, it appears that Articulate Storyline is one of the most important skills you can learn if you’re trying to land an instructional design job.
The three least selected tools and technologies include:
Therefore, while technical programming or motion graphics skills can set you apart from other candidates, they are more of a “nice-to-have” than a “need-to-have.”
When asked what the top three instructional design models, theories, and concepts are that candidates should be familiar with upon hire, respondents selected:
As you can see, ADDIE remains the most important instructional design model when it comes to landing a job. Also, compared to past survey data, hiring managers in 2023 are placing a larger emphasis (increase of 3%) on candidates being familiar with Kirkpatrick’s model of evaluation.
You can learn more about all of these theories and concepts in my full guide to becoming an instructional designer.
The least-selected instructional design model was Gagne’s nine events, which was chosen in 13.9% of the responses.
We now know what knowledge and skills hiring managers are looking for, but how do they evaluate an applicant?
As you may expect, the instructional designer’s interview, experience, and portfolio play the biggest role in the decision.
When asked which top three things the respondents consider when hiring an instructional designer for a role, they selected:
When you have experience in the field and can demonstrate your skill set with an interview, portfolio, and / or mock project, then hiring managers are much more confident that you can get up to speed quickly.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these items.
Education does not appear to play a very big role in the hiring decision.
When asked about the minimum education required for a role, hiring managers reported:
And, when asked about the preferred education for a role, hiring managers selected:
As we see from the data, bachelor’s degrees are preferred over master’s degrees for both questions. Only a single respondent preferred an applicant with a PhD, and very few of the respondents require that their applicants have any formal education beyond a bachelor’s degree.
It is unclear why hiring managers prefer bachelor’s degrees over master’s degrees, but it may be because they value practical skills and experience more than theoretical knowledge.
This is ironic because many new instructional designers feel that they need to pursue a certificate program or graduate degree to land a job in the field.
The data tells a different story—practical skills and real-world experience will often help you land opportunities much more effectively than formal education.
When hiring managers evaluate an applicant, real-world experience is one of the top considerations.
Hiring managers clearly prefer that you come into the role experienced, but if you don’t have formal experience, don’t worry. Since instructional design is such an interdisciplinary field, you can almost always pull relevant experience from your previous positions.
You can also design learning solutions to solve real-world problems on your own time, and then you can include these projects in your portfolio. The important thing is to develop the right skills so that you can hit the ground running.
The portfolio is another top consideration when it comes to hiring instructional designers.
25.7% of hiring managers require that their applicants have a portfolio, and another 38.6% of respondents state that it plays a significant role in the hiring process. Compared to past survey data, there’s been a 6% increase of hiring managers in 2023 requiring that candidates have a portfolio.
Only 6.9% of respondents do not look at an applicant’s portfolio.
When asked to rank six items in order of importance when evaluating an instructional designer’s portfolio, respondents ranked “Ability to solve real-world problems with instructional design” as a clear forerunner. 43 respondents placed this option in the #1 spot, and its average rating was 2.69.
The second most common choice was “Ease-of-use / user experience design skills,” with an average rating of 3.2.
Therefore, one of the best ways to set your portfolio apart from the competition is to show off projects that solve real-world problems with instructional design.
If you need structured guidance for creating a project like this and designing a portfolio that highlights your ability to solve performance problems, then you should apply to the ID Bootcamp.
Finally, we gave hiring managers the opportunity to share more details about how they evaluate instructional design portfolios. Here are some of the comments that stood out:
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to designing an effective portfolio. If you’re looking to get started, then you can check out this guide to creating an instructional design portfolio.
How will artificial intelligence (AI) change the instructional design industry?
Whether it’s alarm, concern, or excitement, the reaction to artificial intelligence in the world of instructional design has certainly generated a lot of questions.
That’s why we also asked hiring managers how AI factors into their planning, expectations for the future, and candidate searches. Here’s what we found:
But what does that mean for those applying to ID roles in the age of AI? Although no respondents said they prefer that candidates DO NOT use AI tools, only 34.7% of hiring managers said they prefer that applicants DO use artificial intelligence tools.
65% of the hiring managers we surveyed don't currently consider an applicant's familiarity with AI tools in their hiring decisions.
So, while artificial intelligence tools are certainly finding their place in the L&D space, familiarity with AI tools isn’t going to have too much of an impact on landing an ID role (at least not yet!).
If you’re looking to stand out, however, you may consider getting comfortable with AI tools, since it will not hurt your chances of landing a role and may actually better prepare you for working with an ID team who does plan to use artificial intelligence tools.
Since we’ve heard that a lot of aspiring IDs are nervous about artificial intelligence taking the place of instructional designers, we wanted to ask hiring managers how much AI was impacting their team. The results may surprise you!
When asked if AI will impact their learning team or department within the next 12 months,
We also asked if they thought that AI would reduce the size of their learning team or department, and 89.2% selected, “No, AI is unlikely to reduce the size of my learning team or department.”
The verdict is in! Most hiring managers are optimistic about the impact AI will have on their team, so if you’re a candidate applying for an ID role, it may be helpful to build your skills with AI tools.
The respondents include 101 people who claim to play a role in the hiring decision for instructional designers. This is likely not an adequate sample size to represent all of the ID hiring managers worldwide, but it paints a larger picture than that painted by an individual hiring manager.
Over 60% of the respondents are in the corporate space, so responses will be skewed to the corporate ID world.
Furthermore, we generated responses by sharing the survey on LinkedIn, on YouTube, and with our mailing list. We also asked people to share it with their audiences and send it to their hiring managers.
About 75% of our audience is in the United States, so we can expect that a US-skewed global audience that’s active on LinkedIn responded to the survey.
In the current L&D climate, hiring managers are looking for instructional designers that can quickly hit the ground running in eLearning-oriented environments. The ability to apply learning theory and development skills are at the forefront, and hiring managers evaluate applicants based on their experience, interviews, and portfolios.
If you’re trying to become an instructional designer, then your time would probably be best spent on improving your eLearning development skills and applying instructional design theory to real-world projects. Formal education does not appear to play a big role in hiring decisions.
To start on the path of becoming an instructional designer, download the Become an ID checklist.
And remember, this data comes from 101 respondents who self-identified as instructional design hiring managers. We likely need much more data to draw more powerful conclusions about how hiring managers make their decisions.
You’re more than welcome to cite this data in your own write-up, but please link back to this report if you do so.