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
Nichole Heck

I recently received my M.Ed in Learning and Technology from Western Governs University. They also have an Instructional Design program. Both courses have ID courses. The difference is L&T includes technology courses while ID includes measurement and evaluation courses.

HIGHLY recommend WGU. I had a wonderful experience and finished in about 10 months (this is a competency based program), many people finish in 1 term (6 months).

This degree aided me in obtaining my current position as an Instructional Designer. Myself and the other ID are both WGU alum.

Andrew Egbert

Hi Allison,

I completed a Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design and an MS in Education at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. The program is delivered entirely online. The ID certificate leads directly into their MS Ed program, but you'll end up with two valuable credentials. I currently work as an instructional designer on the strength of the portfolios and experience gained from both programs.

I've been part of the interview team for several instructional design candidates. The first thing to note is that candidates MUST have an excellent portfolio. You should make sure to include Storyline projects, which will almost certainly impress your interviewers. It will demonstrate that you are a cutting-edge candidate.

My program was superb and gave considerable attention to building several beautiful instructional design and education portfolios. These are closely tied to action research, stats, interactive learning projects, and project planning for ID.

I am confident that the coursework and self-promotional items in both programs led directly to my current position. UW Stout is very serious, with pragmatic intent, about finding ways to improve your job hunting/advancement prospects.

Check out both of the programs. Enroll. Succeed. It really works.

Commit to actually doing it.

UW Stout Instructional Design Certificate

UW Stout Master of Science in Education

James Lane

I completed the M.S. program at Indiana University. Our class also had many PhD students who are now professors at a variety of universities. It was a positive experience. Most of the projects were completed in groups, which is realistic, as it's rare to design something without the involvement of stakeholders, SMEs, and reviewers. 

Instructional Systems Technology: Academics: School of Education: Indiana University Bloomington


Like Maria, I went to Boise State. Their program is titled Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning.  It is in the College of Engineering not Education. They feel that solving organizational problems using multi-disciplinary and evidence-based investigation and solutions are less expensive than creating full-blown training programs when they not be necessary. You do get plenty of learning psychology and instructional design theory. I have an BFA in Graphic Design and I felt this class was extremely rigorous (graduated with a 3.6 with no prior educational training except for a couple of interactive CDs). While the MSc is not specifically ID-based, it provides an exceptionally strong analytical base. You can take additional ID classes to strengthen your skills. Everything you learn totally contributes to ID practice.  Highly rigorous and recommended.

Larry Turner

I graduated with an undergrad double major in 2000 and then stubbornly sat on my laurels (while working in Higher Education) until 2014. I (finally) took the advice of my wife who reminded me that when working among luminaries, they often respond more favorably to those with some skin in the game, and with credentials. I chose DeVry University as there were considerably fewer choices then. Admittedly, it was a dry program with boring LMS interaction (Ellucian/PowerCampus) so every course looked exactly the same. However, we had some stellar instructors and they drove a hard line for communication and discussions in each course.

I can be candid and honest with my review about DeVry as they no longer offer an MSET (Master of Science in Educational Technology). In my opinion, they had the scope and consistent-format concept right, but the execution and LMS suffered for interest sake. The good part was that there was little confusion about expectations, as every course was exactly the same layout with the same weekly format of due dates for discussions, etc.

As I have also been asked many times by friends and colleagues about an EdTech degree, I challenge them to do as much research on the program as possible. Also, the recruiters are not a good example of how communicative your professors will be. This is a nice concept for navigating through the enrollment process and matriculating, but don't get those wires crossed. If I can see a lot of information about the program on the school's website, and if I can communicate with the professors, access a course syllabus, then I can start to determine what the course pattern is going to be.

I find myself at the crossroads again as I'm considering an EdD in Education/Learning although the "technology" portion doesn't appeal to me as much. I've spent over twenty years banging the drum of how technology can assist in active teaching and learning. While I believe that to be true, I believe more emphasis needs to be placed on understanding simple online interaction techniques and leson-planning, as you can never be assured that mastering one LMS or any learning platform is going to be what you have access to in your next position. I often have to re-train professors who know Blackboard so well that they can't figure out Canvas...for example.

If a program challenges you to understand and challenge the difficulties that various schools and school systems/districts are facing, then you can realistically expect that you will gain good exposure to some of the challenges that you may face in the real world of Academic/Instructional Technology. If a program states that they can train you to train professors in a wide variety of modalities and Best Practices, then you are off to a good start.

Susan Boye-Lynn

The University of New Mexico’s OILS program has a really solid instructional and curriculum design track with emphasis on understanding how culture affects learning and teaching.

I currently work for a healthcare organization, and we have consistently found that people coming out of the OILS program are incredibly adept and well adapted to instructional system design, organizational development, and leadership development (depending on their track and interests).

Susan Boye-Lynn MA, Instructional Designer (she, her)
Talent Development
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Cynthia Gautreau

I love this forum! This is a great way to find out more about the various master's and certificate programs. Thanks for asking this question. There are many programs available and each provides a different emphasis. There is a great list on the website about many of the programs available. Thanks for asking this question! 

johnl oose
Carole Marshall

I'm currently pursuing my M. Ed. in Educational Technology and Design at the University of Saskatchewan, entirely online. I'm finding the program content to be of great practical relevance to my work in educational program development and ID.

Great to see your stuff, Could you also let me know what is the scope of M.ED ? I need some information. Thanks

Cynthia Gautreau

Hi All,

My name is Dr. Gautreau and I direct a master's program at CSU Fullerton. It is online and run as a cohort model. Our students are primarily from California, although we do have out of state and international students from time to time. I've had some time to evaluate other master's programs and we seem to offer similar courses and outcomes, which is great for students. I think that students should take the time to review each program, and specifically the learning outcomes to determine which program best meets their needs. Most programs are over 2 years, so that is a time commitment and requires much endurance and dedication to complete. 

Our program consists of 10 courses, and is completed over 5 semesters. Most students take 2 courses a semester which makes it manageable while working full time. Cost is always a concern, for California students it's about $11,000 total, and we offer a payment plan.  Out of state students pay additional costs. Although I noticed many employers pay for their employees to complete the program. Nice!  One more note, our students graduate with 2 instructional design certificates and a master's degree. This seems to help our students to enhance their resume and search for employment while completing their degree.

We have many student and alumni stories posted on our LinkedIn page. Please take a look if you are interested in learning more. Personally, I think hearing from students who have graduated from the program is a true testimony to the quality of education.


mahmoud yassin

Hi, all!

I am from Cairo Egypt. I have been working as an instructional designer for at least two years. At the beginning, there was no clear course or certificate to work in this field, according to the requirements of the labor market, despite my bachelor’s degree in educational technology. But what I recommend to those who want to enter this field is to learn (Storyline - Motion Graphics - 2D Animation). This set of skills and programs helped me a lot in producing integrated educational courses, and my most specialized field was teaching science, technology and history to kindergarten children

Alison  L.

I ASKED: How about PhDs and Edd's and their ilk?

I think I was a little vague when I said:

I was looking at the learning analytics EEd , as opposed to a “policy and leadership” which most advanced (Phd etc) degrees are.

I didn't mean JUST learning analytics (eg. UPenn's). I DID mean !(not)-Leadership and or Policy stuff. Although "Organizational Development" probably counts.

Susan Boye-Lynn

I stand with the OILS program at UNM. Both MA degrees and doctorates.


Susan Boye-Lynn, MA² - Senior Instructional Designer
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Himani Chugh

Hi everyone!

I am based in Sydney, Australia (moved here an year ago). I have a decade of experience in instructional design in India. I was wondering if there are any certifications/courses I could do in Australia to give me a sense of the workplace skills or to get a learning design perspective of Australia?

Alison  L.

I gotta say it sounds like BOISE STATE has really UP'd their game! In 2009 I thought I was going after their MS in IT & PT. I took Foundational Instructional Technology and Performance Technology.

I kid you not. It was a Lotus Notes Discussion board. You got a .swf of the lesson to watch, and then were expected to perform an activity/exercise based on it. It felt really detached from itself. I felt no sense of community. Just "watch-this, do-this, review-these-3-peoples' work", one week at a time. (eg. Here's Learning Objectives. And here's how you do it with the ABCD method. Now YOU write 3 learning objectives based on ABCD method. And NEXT!)

I wound up doing a blended M.Ed program at Penn State (at the Great Valley Graduate School). And I think I turned out. Ok. :)

Although I've started looking around at post-Masters educational opportunities. Like, if I have a MEd in Instructional Systems Design, and the non-profit that employed me nuked their entire learning department, what's the NEXT thing to do? Are Graduate Certificates worth it? Or are those for Bachelor degree people who don't want to do a whole Grad school stint?



The University of Central Florida offers an MA in the Instructional Systems track in the Instructional Design and Technology program. However, international students who are in the U.S. and maintain a U.S. Student Visa are not eligible for this track.

The degree requires a minimum of 36 credit hours beyond the bachelor's degree. The curriculum includes 12 credit hours of instructional technology core courses, 12 credit hours of professional specialization, 9 credit hours of electives, three credit hours of practicum, and a comprehensive exam taken during the last semester of coursework. 

Instructional Design and Technology, Instructional Systems (MA) may be completed fully online, although not all elective options or program prerequisites may be offered online. 

Mehmet Acar

I'm in an Instructional Design Graduate program at the Touro College in New York.  They offer Graduate Certificate programs in three focuses, Training and Development, K-12 Education, and Online Education. It's 100% distance learning and I'm very impressed with the coursework and instruction. After I graduated from there, I started working for Education company and I design online courses across USA for over 100 schools and NYT best speaker, Nick Vujicic for 4 years. I am so grateful for working the same company for the last 4 years.

Fiona Ronquest-Ross

I did an intensive Master's level course in Instructional Design through The University of Witwatersrand, offered remotely by GetSmarter. It had peer learning, small group work, individual work-based projects and the latest in learning design. I learnt so much and was able to apply the learning straight away.  Excellent 12 week programme.

donky hote
Carissa Schaffer

Hi, all!

Like Chantel, I'm currently enrolled in Boise State University's Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning (OPWL) program. I'm currently pursuing my M.S. in OPWL and certificates in Workplace E-Learning Design and Development and Workplace Instructional DesignCar Games The program is fully online, which not only makes it possible for me to learn from my home base of Houston, TX, but also provides great insight into what it's like to be an online learner and to practice collaborating with peers remotely. 

I found my way into the program when I decided I wanted to shift from being a training facilitator at a Fortune 500 FinTech to an instructional designer. I was considering several programs, but when the VP of our division told me he "would never hesitate to hire someone with an OPWL degree from BSU," I was sold. The program has definitely lived up to its accolades. It is incredibly well-designed with professors who are excellent online learning facilitators. It also includes a great mix of theory, practical tool knowledge, networking, learning application through projects with real clients, personal portfolio development, and opportunities for additional research and practice. As an added bonus, the community of professors and learners is impressively strong for a distance learning program: I have had an incredible amount of support at all points in my journey. This experience and the OPWL community have boosted my experience, my confidence, and my credibility in the field. (I've now been an instructional designer at the same Fortune 500 company for 2 years.)

In short: I highly recommend Boise State's OPWL program - especially if you hope to work with online and distance learning. 

wow. I found it quite meaningful and shared it with a few friends and thanks for all.