Instructional Design Master's or Graduate Certificate Programs

Aug 27, 2021

Hi everyone!

People reach out to me all the time asking which Master's or graduate degree programs they should enroll in to become an instructional designer. With so many programs out there—and many of them offering virtual options now—it can be hard to choose.

I'd love to hear from those of you who have gone that route so I can point them to some real-life feedback. What program did you do? Did you find it helpful (either from an instructional and/or career perspective)? What did you like and dislike about it?

Looking forward to hearing from you!

73 Replies
Robin Carroll

I also completed the UGA Instructional Design and Development certificate. I already had over 15 years of experience, but I had no formal training. I learned a lot and it was a good item to have on my resume.

I eventually completed an online MS in Instructional Design and Technology from Georgia State University. For those who don't want to invest the time and money in a degree, GSU also offers a five-course certificate program; students take the same courses as those pursuing the MS. At GSU, you can tailor your curriculum to K-12 or adult learning (my field). The curriculum is a good balance between theory and practice. I only had one professor who was less than stellar (she has since retired).

One of the reasons I pursued the MS rather late in my career was that I noticed most job postings stated "master's degree preferred." I was simply not getting as many interviews as I thought my experience warranted. I finally landed an excellent contract position with a Fortune 500 company during my last semester. Since then I've moved on to a full-time role with another large company where I'm doing the sort of job analysis and performance improvement work that I've always wanted to. I'm quite sure I never would have had this opportunity had I not gotten my degree. 

Regarding the time zone problem for international students: I was able to keep up with my synchronous classes while visiting the UK. Other students logged in from India. Check with the program you're interested in to see what time their classes are offered - you may be able to make it work.

Katy Montgomery

I totally agree with what Carissa and Chantel have said about the OPWL program at Boise State.  I'd like to add to their points that there are different graduate learning options depending on your goals and background.  Since I already have a master's degree in another field and have years of experience creating instructional materials in an educational setting, I decided to pursue their graduate certificate in instructional design.  Of all the programs I looked at, this seemed the most efficient and practical way to develop skills in areas such as storyboarding, scenario-based e-learning, and using authoring programs like Articulate.   I love how the courses provide a lot of practical experience combined with theory on best practices.  For example, the course that covered Articulate Rise and Storyline provided a lot of opportunity to delve into multimedia principles, accessibility, and forward-thinking topics like exploring how we can make e-learning more immersive through audio.     

One more thing that really stands out about this program is how much they care about their students.  I applied to one local program as well, and this other institution couldn't answer questions about when the classes I needed to take would be offered.  On the other hand, Boise State sent me a full schedule to consider the timeframe in which I could complete the degree.  Similarly, there is a great focus on helping students in their career searches by developing their portfolios.

It's been a great experience in Boise State's OPWL program.

Lanie Kepler

I highly recommend the Master of Education - Learning Design and Leadership at University of Illinois. Top of the line faculty working with custom LMS that you wont see anywhere else. The program is completely relevant to the ever-changing landscape of ed tech and builds knew pedagogical approaches based off a solid understanding of adult learning theory. It can be completed 100% online as well!


Dave Draper

I completed the M.S. Training and Human Resource Development at UW-Stout! 

A comprehensive Training and Development program. When I completed this program it was all in-person co-hort. It appears they have moved the program to online.

Today I can appreciate the OD components of the program as well as the exposure to wide exposure to human resource development. My co-hort had peers from HR, Talent management, Leadership development, and Technical development. I know we all benefitted from learning about each other's business needs.



Susan Boye-Lynn


The University of New Mexico Organization, Information and Learning Systems (OILS) program is useful for Leadership Development, Organizational Development or Instructional Design students.  The have BA, MA, PhD, and certificate courses.  The organization I work for has found that individuals coming out of that program tend to work well in our organization.  One of the features of that program for many years now, is the emphasis on cultural awareness in the creation of learning objects and curricula.

Michelle King

Hello all,

I am currently finishing my MEd at Arizona State University.  This is a completely online digital program and we have students from all over the world attending the course.  My experience at ASU has been a positive one.  I have been working in L&D for almost 20 years so there were courses in the program that seemed more fundamental to me than some of the other students but I was able to learn something new and interesting in every class.  The class I am taking now is about accessibility and inclusion in instructional design and digital learning.  It's been my favorite course because there is an emphasis on Universal Design for Learning which I often do not see being applied to digital courses.  

I am likely going to apply for an EdD program for Fall of 2022 but haven't quite decided if I will continue at ASU or try another school.

Hope that helps!

Chris Reeves

Hi, I know I am late to this conversation but I figured I would offer some advice. I graduated from Full Sail University with a Bachelor's in Graphic design. At the time they did not have an e-learning design degree. In my 25 + years of experience, I have found that a Design degree was sufficient enough for me to transition into e-learning. With that being said I would also recommend that an e-learning degree would be beneficial and recommended but is not a must. With so many online platforms like LinkedIn Learning (Used to be you can very easily and cost-effective, get certifications in e-learning to go along with a Design degree. I have found that most Design Firms or Companies accept this. I would say that for any design degree Full Sail University ( one of the top five design Universities in the country) and with online platforms for your degree, I would highly recommend this University. 

Bianca Woods

Hi Chris,

I'm always so excited to encounter another Full Sail graduate! I took their Instructional Design & Technology master of science degree program way back when it was still called Education Media Design and Technology. I loved the courses I took and found that Full Sail did a stellar job of understanding what a great online learning experience could be like.

Chris Reeves

I love it when I meet fellow Full Sail Grads. I have always thought about going back and adding it to my degree. I started out as a traditional designer with no real special field. I did all and everything I could get my hands on. Anything from movies, wine label design, print design, web design, and well you get the picture. I gravitated to Learning Design about 10 years ago and have been there ever since. Absolutely love it.

Zachary Trower

I am enrolled in a Instructional Design MA group of courses through the Orginization, Information & Learning Sciences (OILS) program and University of New Mexico. 100% Online and the classes are relatively cheap, and courses aren't too bad. I wish I would have known about the Boise State program earlier in my current field of work (Engineering) I think the Masters of Science would carry a little more weight than the Masters of Arts I am enrolled in.

Kerri Crowley


I am furthering my education at Harvard University Extension School. It started with me pursuing the Graduate Certificate in Learning Design and Technology. I loved the program so much that I ultimately chose to pursue a second Master's Degree - ALM in Digital Media Design. I adore the program for so many reasons, but especially because I have skills in so many areas now: film production/editing, web design, UI/UX, graphic design, instructional design, emerging technologies, app development, VR, programming... and so many more! By the time I'm finished in May 2023, I will also have earned a second Graduate Certificate in Front End Web Development. I stay abreast of current technologies, approaches, and research.

Feel free to reach out with any questions you have. The Harvard name didn't hurt either when I finally made the jump from K-12 education to my dream job as a full time Instructional Designer.

James  Bennett

Great idea for a thread, and it's interesting to read about other people's experience in higher/further education.

Not quite an instructional designer course but I'm currently enrolled on the Digital Education MSc Programme at The University of Edinburgh. It's been a great course that's exposed me to the approaches that universities take to educating adults (where as all my professional experience is in the corporate world). 

Amanda McCrary

I received a Master's Degree in Industrial/Organizational Behavior Management from Western Michigan University in the US. There are several courses in the program that are dedicated to Training and Development, Computer-Based Instruction and Instructional Design.

WMU's I/OBM program is a 10/10 and has prepared me excellently for the workforce.

The faculty that run the program are intellectual giants and very talented instructors themselves. The courses are all rooted in the science of behavior, so you do not walk out of there with bad ID/Training practices.

Scott Taylor

It's not quite a degree, but in the UK I'm doing a Digital Learning Design diploma through the Digital Learning Institute. We have a couple people from Nigeria and Europe joining in too so it's not just available for UK. I'm currently up to Module 3 and still learning quite a bit despite having been creating eLearn courses for 2+ years

Barb Jacobson

After being an elementary classroom teacher with a Master's Degree in education, and not being able to land a stable teaching position, I transitioned to E-Learning and Online Teaching, through the University of WI, Stout.  Great online program.  Learned a lot!  Thought I'd use it to teach but there weren't many full-time teaching opportunities for me.  Wish I'd done the ID route instead.  I'm almost positive Stout offers that as well. 

I currently work for the State of MN in the Department of Agriculture and we are just now beginning to create online trainings for our inspectors utilizing Articulate. 


Shea Walters

Has anyone completed the master's program in Instructional Design at Virginia Tech? I'm considering that program since it's near where I live, but I'm also interested in starting out with a graduate certificate from a university like Purdue that would count towards a master's if I wanted to commit to that later. I already have a masters in English which I fortunately received full funding for, but I discovered ID while in the program and decided that's what I want to pursue.

Isolde Schroder

I decided to go the route of a Master's Certification in Instructional Design from ATD, rather than traditional universities or colleges.  This was mainly because I wasn't interested in investing in a Bachelors or Masters research showed me that the return on that learning investment wouldn't pay off with today's job market in this line of work.  I really liked the ATD certification program!  I enjoyed the structure, meeting like-minds from around the globe, and sharing knowledge and experience.  I also liked that the return on that investment would pay off quickly.  Here's a link!

Amanda Whisen

Hello, I've been working in HR for almost a year now and I'm really interested in transitioning my career into instructional design, as I'm very passionate about teaching and inspiring others. Ideally, I would like to be a corporate trainer, and eventually work freelance. I'm thinking of enrolling in a certificate program at a school that also has a masters program that I could potentially enroll in after. Does anyone have recommendations??

The cert. program I'm primarily interested in right now is Boise State, as their admissions process does not require letters of recommendation (I have been out of school for about 2 years now and my current employer does not know about my interest in transitioning out of general HR work, so I'm hesitant to ask her for a rec). I'm located in San Diego and was looking at SDSU and CSU Fullerton, but they both only offer Fall entry dates (I'm looking to start ASAP). Any suggestions other than Boise?

Also, can anyone tell me the difference between ID and e-Learning? I have seen certificate programs for both at the same institution, but the descriptions sound very similar? birdman

Leila Rao

Hi, all. University of Baltimore County, Maryland (UMBC) has a great graduate program MA, Learning Performance Technology as well as a Graduate Certificate program in ISD:

Chuck Hodell, was a professor at UMBC and he has written many books that universities use to teach their students instructional design.