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Job profile: Instructional Designer

Today we’re kicking off an in-depth look at some of the most common e-learning jobs out there – what you can expect to do, the skills you’ll need to demonstrate, and where this career path can lead. And we’re starting off with Instructional Design.


Instructional Designers are responsible for designing e-learning products or courses – specifically, designing the learning experience that runs through that product.

There are multiple elements to consider. Narrative structure. Multimedia content. Assessment or testing points. Above all, the Instructional Designer needs to consider the learning objectives of the particular course or product – what the audiences need to finish up understanding, or being able to do.

Instructional Designers work across a huge range of sectors. Perhaps the most obvious e-learning products that spring to mind are the online Learning Management Systems (LMSs) offered by colleges and universities – you may have heard of tools like Moodle or Blackboard.

But many other public – and private – sector organisations have e-learning needs too. Medical training for NHS staff may be provided online. New employees at international cooperations may complete e-learning courses as part of their induction. Even an online tutorial offered by an office software provider is a form of elearning. All of these products require an Instructional Designer.


Since the overall priority of an e-learning product is to help audiences – well – learn – it’s vital that an Instructional Designer has a strong understanding of learning processes and pedagogy. This is, in fact, more important than a knowledge of the particular sector that the designer is working for – and means that a significant proportion of Instructional Designers actually started off as teachers or trainers.

As with any design process, the look and feel of the finished product is important. Some Instructional Designers have graphic design skills and therefore manage these elements as well, but these are not essential – other Instructional Designers look after content and structure only.

What is essential is a collaborative outlook. Instructional Designers sit at the intersection of several different stakeholder groups; it’s their job to take information from subject matter experts and translate it into content that help ends users learn effectively. They need to work to managers’ learning objectives for their teams, and the overall strategy of the organisation they’re working for. Keeping everyone happy demands excellent communication and teamwork abilities.


Junior Instructional Designers might start on £18k-£20k outside of London and up to about £25k in London. Progression can initially be very quick – it might take just two or three years to reach around £35k in the capital. Senior Instructional Designers can command starting salaries of £45k in London, dropping a little outside the city.

Above this level, Instructional Designers need to take on project management responsibilities to increase their earning power further, which might involve further qualifications. With a solid foundation in Instructional Design, there’s the potential to move into roles like Head of E-learning or E-learning Product Manager later on, where salaries can be upwards of £70k.

On a contract basis, clients often want seasoned Instructional Designers who can ‘hit the ground running.’ Therefore, there is not always a great demand for Junior Contract Instructional Designers. TThat said, less experienced Instructional Designers can expect day rates of £200 – £250 per day, rising to £300 – £350 with experience. More Senior Designers and Learning Architects can achieve much higher rates, especially in the traditionally well paid industries (Financial Services, Oil and Gas etc.)

Interested in learning more about a career as an Instructional Designer? Give our specialist e-learning recruitment team a call on 0161 714 0600.