ID Transition Step 3: How to Upskill for your Future Instructional Design Job

If landing an instructional design job is your career goal, it’s time to start upskilling!


Step three of my instructional design transition plan is all about how to upskill for your dream instructional design job. 



You can’t qualify for an instructional design job without filling in your knowledge gaps. In case you missed it, I shared a foolproof trick for identifying the instructional design skills you need to qualify for a job in step two of the transition plan.


3 Ways to Upskill for an Instructional Design Job


So, once you have that list of skills you’ll learn, what’s next? You need a plan to move forward and work on those skills so you can add them to your resume! There are three main ways you can upskill for an instructional design job. 


I’ll take you through each method and provide you with some pros and cons so that you can choose which is suitable for you.


ID Transition Step 3 How to Upskill for your Instructional Design Job - study


Time Needed: 12 months or more (varies per person)

Average Cost: free (varies per person)


Many aspiring instructional designers choose to self-motivate and teach themselves the skills needed to begin their new careers. There are many options to choose from. This path is highly customizable because you’re seeking training specific to your needs.


Tips for Self-Study

If you think this is the path for you, here are some of my top tips for transitioning to an instructional design job on your own


Self Study Tip #1: Set a Goal Date

You need to stick with a self-study program. Choose a goal date. Say, “I want to work in an instructional design job by X.” Then, work backward from that date.


Self Study Tip #2: Get Plugged In

Another helpful tip for completing your self-study is plugging into different communities. This might be via Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, or a local group. Connect with other career changers and other instructional designers of all levels. 


Trainologist Hangout


Self-study can be lonely. You don’t have a cohort or classmates or a teacher guiding you. So, create your community. Find people who can share your journey and bounce ideas. Ideally, you would find one person who can act as a mentor. In addition, having a few people who can review your work is beneficial. 


Self Study Tip #3: Find Free Events and Training

This next tip goes hand-in-hand with online communities. I encourage you to seek out and attend as many free events as you can. For example, we offer free instructional design training in The Hangout for Aspiring Instructional Designers.


Joining your local chapter of ATD can help you find more free events related to instructional design. Other sites to watch for free training include The Learning Guild and eLearning Industry.


Many local libraries offer free subscriptions to LinkedIn Learning, which houses a wealth of instructional design-related training. Your school district might also have a shared subscription if you’re a teacher!


Finally, YouTube is another easy way to find free training videos. You can subscribe to the Instructional Design Company’s channel by clicking here. We post free instructional design training videos regularly! 


Self Study Tip #4: Learn from Books and Podcasts

Another free way to learn is by downloading instructional design podcasts. My favorite is Instructional Designers in Offices Drinking Coffee. Another good one is The eLearning Coach.


There are also a ton of great instructional design books that I recommend. You can find many of these books for free at your library. 


Design for How People Learn by Julie Dirksen is a favorite among new and experienced instructional designers. This book will equip you with the knowledge to create learning experiences that engage your audience and increase their retention of the concepts they learned. I had the privilege of speaking with the author for the final meeting of the instructional design book club. You can check out a recording of our meetings in this YouTube playlist


Another instructional design book I recommend is Training From the Back of the Room by Sharon L. Bowman. It teaches you the brain science behind good instructional design and gives you concrete examples that you can build into your learning experiences.


You can add to your TBR pile using this list of instructional design books I recommend.


Self Study Tip #5: Practice Makes Perfect

Lastly, as a self-study career changer, you’ve got to find opportunities to practice creating training. You won’t be prepared for an instructional design job if you never apply what you learn. One option is to volunteer to make training materials for a non-profit organization or for your current company. Or, work through projects on your own for your portfolio.


Lean on your peer network and your mentor as you practice. Ensure you have someone you trust to review your work and offer feedback.


ID Transition Step 3 How to Upskill for your Instructional Design Job - certification

Instructional Design Certificate Programs and Academies

Time Needed: 2-9 months

Average Cost: 1k-7k

Instructional design certificate programs are another popular option for upskilling to prepare for an instructional design job. These are typically fast-tracked curriculums that offer an organized path to upskilling. In addition, many career changers are drawn to certificate programs because they guide them in completing a portfolio.


But, joining an instructional design certificate program is an investment. So, how do you choose the right one for you? Follow these tips for selecting the right program before you spend money.


Certificate Program Tip #1: Does it have a Rigorous Curriculum? 

The course content is the first thing you need to look for in a program. Next, be sure that the training will prepare you with the skills you need to be successful in an instructional design job. 


There’s not a single solution for all aspiring instructional designers. What worked for others might not be a good fit for you. Grab the list of skills you curated in step 2. Which program will fill those gaps?



Instructional Design Certificate

Certificate Program Tip #2: Is it Affordable?

This is important and personal to you. Once you find a program with a curriculum that matches your goals, look at the cost. 


The range of costs in a certificate program or academy is enormous. Many offer payment plans to help break up that cost, which might influence your decision.


Another thing you should look into is any hidden costs. Popular instructional design academies often advertise their complete curriculum offering. The only problem is that some learning that might entice you to join is only offered as an add-on product. 


Work reviews, coaching, access to course materials past a specific date, and software training are all commonly excluded from the advertised cost of a program.


I have even found programs that upcharge participants for the end-of-program certificate!


These are all business tactics. What’s important is that you know upfront exactly what you’re getting for your money. If you aren’t sure, email the program contact and ask! 


Certificate Program Tip #3: Is it Flexible?

Check whether the program allows you to work at your own pace. Life happens even with a goal date in mind and the best intentions. If you need to take time off the program to deal with life, can you pick back up where you left off? Some programs allow this for an added fee, while others give you lifetime access.


ID Transition Step 3 How to Upskill for your Instructional Design Job - support

Certificate Program Tip #4: What Type of Support is Offered?

Are they working instructional designers or full-time teachers for the program? You can receive the best support from working professionals with real experience.


Instructional design is constantly evolving. It’s hard to guide others when you’re not on the front lines yourself. 


Many programs will also advertise coaching in eLearning, video development, and career development. Often, they use graduates of the program to lead this coaching. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Having support and community might be all that matters to you. But it’s something to consider when you’re weighing your options. 


Certificate Program Tip #5: Are Work Reviews and Feedback Offered?

As you’re working through application exercises in a program, it’s crucial that you receive quality feedback. It’s the only way to grow your skills and improve. So, look for an option that pairs you up with an expert who will give you quality feedback. 


Again, some programs may advertise work reviews, then pass your work to a program graduate. Again, factor this into your decision because feedback from an expert is worth more. 


ID Transition Step 3 How to Upskill for your Instructional Design Job - masters degree

Instructional Design Master’s Degree

Time Needed: 17 months and up

Average Cost: 9k and up


The last method to upskill is getting another degree. You do not need a Master’s degree to get an instructional design job. I got my Master’s for free while working as an instructional designer. Often, a corporate environment will pay or compensate you in some way for higher education.


But, for some, it might be a good path to upskill. If you choose this option, look for a corporate-focused program. Traditional instructional design degrees are heavy on theory and instructional models. Those are essential topics if you do not have an educational background. But, even if you do have teaching experience, there are aspects of adult learning that you should know about. 


Just be sure that you evaluate the kinds of technologies that are covered. Unfortunately, only some instructional design degrees leave students with the skills they need to develop eLearning, instructional videos, or even instructor-led training materials. 


Wrapping it Up

I hope this information helped you decide which path is best for you to upskill for an instructional design job! After that, we’re moving on to our fourth and final step in the instructional design transition plan. Check it out to hear all about how to apply for instructional design jobs you’re qualified for.

The Testimonials are In:


Shola Richards

Working with Shanwtay and Katie at the Instructional Design Company was a dream come true. Their creativity, expertise, and professionalism throughout the entire process was beyond top notch. I engaged them to help turn my first book into a training course, and I could not be happier with how the final product turned out. If you have an instructional design project and you’re considering which company to work with, you can stop your search and thank me later. They are truly the best in the business.

Shola Richards


Graphic Designer

I joined the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program because I struggled to find jobs in instructional design beyond the development phase. I’ve done a couple of training programs with lots of random projects, but I was overwhelmed, not connecting the dots, and not good at structuring my writing to hit learning objectives. I was looking for motivation and direction at beginning a better Instructional Designer.

After taking the Instructional Design & Tech Certificate program and joining my fantastic team for support, I found the structure and approach to be what I need to take my next steps, evening improving my skills in the development stage.

Gayle Bower


Teacher, Future Instructional Designer

I love how this course let’s you work at your own pace. I got great tips and learned many things. The ongoing support for multiple people and groups is what I love the best. You are never alone in this process. I have been able to adjust my resume and began creating a portfolio of work I’ve completed to add when applying for jobs. I use many of the PowerPoint skills in my lessons and trainings. I would highly recommend this for anyone wanting to become an instructional designer.

Laurie Henderson


Teacher, Future Instructional Designer

I have searched for the last few years to find some suitable career change where I wouldn’t have to earn another degree and where I could use the talents and skills I already have as a teacher. When I came across the Instructional Design Accelerator course, I loved the fact that Shawntay was a former teacher and could relate to a teacher’s need to transition from the classroom. This was what sold the course for me. Her experiences are invaluable especially when translating teacher duties to instructional designer duties. I would (and have) recommended this program to other teachers I know who are looking to transition out of the classroom. I do appreciate ALL of her feedback on my projects!

Wendy McMillian


L&D Project Manager

The Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator certificate program is one of the most comprehensive ID programs out there for beginners. If you’re looking to grow your schools in ID and development then I highly recommend this program. Not only will this program give you an overview of theory, but you will receive a thorough walkthrough of how to apply what you have learned. Although I had already secured a position in Learning & Development when I bought this course, it helped me to move up into a new position as a Learning & Development Project Manager!

Gabby Grimaldo


Future Instructional Designer

If you have any interest in ID, sign up for this program NOW! Shawntay and her team are top notch! The course content exceeded my expectations in a big way and the encouragement and support continues to be so valuable. You will not feel alone going through this course, you will learn so much, you’ll have many cheerleaders, and you will have fun!

Shanna Howe


Future Instructional Designer

I am really enjoying this program! It’s prerfect for someone who is thinking about a career shift to Instructional Design and does not have a lot of experience. This is my first real introduction to Instructional Design and it’s been the perfect beginner course to help me get my feet wet. The modules are broken down well and it’s great to go at your own pace and at your own time. The modules themselves are very comprehensive and you learn a lot from all of them. I really like how each one build upon each other and you’re working towards the bigger project of designing your first training course from scratch. I’m learning so much from going through this course! I was provided great feedback from Katie and Shawntay through the process via Trello Boards, comments on the Google documents, and Facebook group. This course has been well worth the time and effort and I appreciate the fact that I will always have the resources available to me after I complete the training (just in case I’m not quite ready to transition yet).

Aviva Berkowitz


Future Instructional Designer

I can’t say enough great things about the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program! The length of the program is perfect; it doesn’t feel rushed and there’s just the right amount of structure to give you the accountability you need. There are so many opportunities to get live answers to any questions you have related to the course content or anything ID-related! This program gave me the support and structure I needed to both feel affirmed in the relevant skills I already had coming in and to fill in the gaps I had as a career-changer going into ID. Shawntay, Katie, and all the coaches are super helpful and supportive. I now feel confident that I have the tools and access to resources I need to apply for ID jobs without wondering if there’s something I’m “missing” in the preparation process. I’d highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to transition into ID or who just wants to brush up on their skills in the field.

Krista Johnson Awomoyi


Freelance Instructional Designer

I’d highly recommend the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program. I’m blown away by how much I learned in just 12 weeks. I had ID experience prior to taking this course and was just looking to get a better understanding of applying adult learning principles. This course well exceeded my expectations! Not only did I gain a clear understanding of adult learning principles, I was also able to apply those principles by creating assets for your portfolio using PowerPoint, Adobe Premiere Pro and Storyline. The hands on support that we received was top notch.

Darlene Dalgleish


Instructional Designer

This program is one of the most robust yet fulfilling L&D programs I’ve seen. I learned so much about the industry and about the limitlessness of my own capabilities. I am so appreciative of Shawntay and all of the trainers who took part in the program. They went above and beyond with not only guiding, but communicating live and working one on one or in small groups. If you are on the fence, I say take the leap and you will not regret it! There’s so much to learn, not only from the trainers, but also the learners in your group. Everyone comes in with their own skills and can be additional support and guidance for you. Thank you for creating this program!

Shawnice Edge


Instructional Designer Training Facilitator

Shawntay is an amazing individual. She is very knowledgeable in all aspects of ID and eLearning. She is also very compassionate and loves to help and see everyone around her grow and prosper. Shawntay has been a great mentor to me and she has helped me mature as an instructional designer and eLearning developer. She has provided me with opportunities when others have overlooked me. I am very grateful to have met and built a lifelong relationship with Shawntay.

I recently got hired into my first instructional design / training position and Shawntay was one of the first people to congratulate me!

Brian Hightower


Freelance Instructional Designer

My teacher-to-instructional-designer journey began two years ago when I left my teaching comfort zone and started my first freelance ID job. Now, I’m stepping out of the classroom and taking my freelance work full-time, so I’m thrilled to be joining the Tech Accelerator program. Adding technologies like Articulate 360 and Adobe Premiere Pro to my qualifications will help me take my courses to the next level and attract more clients!

Sarah Smith


Teacher Transitioning into Instructional Design

I am genuinely grateful for this course. I wanted a real-world perspective and feel like I got it. I’m teaching now, but nearing retirement age but can see myself working as an instructional designer well into my retirement years. My other goal is to take as many courses in statistics as possible in hopes of bringing some mathematical precision to the ROI question. Like you say, getting accurate metrics to measure ROI can be a challenge, but I intend to work on that part. That’s unimportant right now, what is important is the fact that I feel like this course was well worth every penny I spent and I would to it again in a heartbeat. I have too much going on right now, but as soon as I get some time freed up I intend to take your course in project management.

Lee R


Turns Your Written Thoughts Into a Masterpiece!

Shawntay Skjoldager can turn your written thoughts into a masterpiece. She is great to work with and the most organized person I know!

Sheryl Rhoades
President and CEO, The Creative Entreprenuer


Shawntay has been incredible!

Shawntay has been incredible and her team is responsive and effective in translating my training programs into professional presentations. Don’t hesitate to contact her for your project.

President and Principal of HRM Consulting, Inc.


IDC is My Secret Weapon to Soar Above My Competition!

The IDC team has been my secret and special weapon of success. They have delivered above and beyond with every single project out in front of them. They have met and beat timelines. They have been Uber responsive every step of the way. I keep them on speed dial and have and continue to recommend them to friends and clients. If you are in need of instructional design and plenty more, this is THE ALL-STAR team that will more than deliver and help make you and your project soar above the competition.

LT. COL. Jason O. Harris
U.S. Air Force Officer, Special Operations Pilot, U.S.A.F. Academy Instructor, Motivational Speaker


A Tremendous Asset to the Project Team!

Working with Shawntay and the Instructional Design Company has allowed our university to meet the growing demands of our programs. Shawntay’s expertise allowed for the course development to be completed on time and met all of the university requirements. Shawntay’s project management skills were phenomenal and allowed my team to work on other areas while she completed this project for us. Her work is of high quality and her professionalism and willingness to help made her a tremendous asset to the project team.

Amanda Buckley
Academic Quality Assurance Specialist, Abilene Christian University


Creative & Highly Talented!

Shawntay is a creative and highly talented instructional designer.  She brought a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and leadership that enabled her to own the design and creation of a full scale facilitator curriculum and train-the-trainer program.  It was a pleasure to partner with Shawntay, her project management and communication skills ensured the project was on time and on budget.

Susan Gatti
President, IMMIXID


Breaks Down Mammoth Projects

“Shawntay is quick study and carefully synthesizes information for presentations that are clear, concise and captivating. Her personality draws the audience in and her content mastery is excellent. A team player and organizer, Shawntay has the ability to break down mammoth projects, keep everybody on time and on task.”

Rick Miller
Author, Speaker, Strengths Coach


eLearning Development

“I have had many opportunities to work with Shawntay—mainly in the support of implementing new eLearning initiatives. I have been very impressed by her ability to quickly learn how to use rapid eLearning development tools and effectively use them to create multiple courses within a short timeframe. Shawntay’s enthusiastic nature, attention to detail, and dedication to her work make her a pleasure to work with and a great asset to both Texas A&M University-Commerce and the broader training community within the Texas A&M University System.”

Ashley Christian
Director of Learning Strategy, Caveo Learning


Top Notch Professional

Working with Shawntay has been an immense pleasure. She is atop notch professional who brings enthusiasm and extensiveexpertise to professional curriculum development and execution. Her knowledge of tried and true techniques to maximize the effectiveness of presentations is invaluable.

Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Vice President of Research, CEIR - Center for Exhibition Industry Research


Fortunate to Find Shawntay!

“I was fortunate to find Shawntay when our organization was looking to expand and update our educational offerings. Shawntay proved herself to be an educational and personal development expert who immediately made an impact with our clients throughout Europe. Everyone who came into contact with Shawntay was immediately impressed by her level of expertise and willingness to share her knowledge with those around her. I would not hesitate to recommend Shawntay to anyone looking for an education subject matter expert.”

Jonathan Burt
Director of Qualifications and NSD Services, Mary Kay Inc.


Short Turn Around. On Time. Under Budget!

“We hired Shawntay to develop a training facilitator’s guide and PowerPoint slide deck for an operations manual heavy with technical content. The project was made more challenging by a very short turn around, 5 business days, and the fact that the operations manual wasn’t complete and was being updated simultaneously with the facilitator’s guide and slide deck. Despite these challenges, Shawntay delivered as promised. On time and under budget.”

Dave Beeman, CPP
Vice President, Andy Frain Services


Need an Expert Who Consistently Delivers?

“Working with Shawntay you will immediately notice her professional presence and poise, but over time her tenacious pursuit of excellence and her skills in instructional development and adult learning will really impress you. I worked with her at Mary Kay, and was able to experience firsthand her great rapport with regional partners in Europe, understanding their unique sales force training needs. In addition, Shawntay consistently exhibited grace under pressure, made executive decisions to move business forward. If you are looking for an expert who consistently delivers and goes the extra mile to get things done, contact Shawntay!”

Mellora Moore
Marketing Director, Academic Partnerships


Quality Products & Solutions!

“I had had the pleasure of knowing and working with Shawntay on more than a few occasions. I found her to be a very good business partner and very committed to delivering a quality product or solution in a timely manner. I have always had a positive experience in partnering with Shawntay and would recommend that you consider leveraging her talent.”

Judy Owen, CPC
Transformational Leadership Coach


“Invest in yourself and take your skills to the next NEXT level!”

Get yourself signed up for Shawntay Skjoldager’s Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program today and be on your way to success! Within the first week of taking her course, you will experience growth! Be sure to plug into her Facebook Q&A sessions for personalized help, too. This is THE course to take if you are new to instructional design or have landed on the training team and need help getting started.

Patrick Hodges
Managing Partner, PHiG


“Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!”

Shawntay has exceptional knowledge and experience with all aspects of creating and implementing effective, performance based training for adults. She is exceptional at needs analysis – identifying target audiences and collaborating with business owners to keep training focused on business needs. And she is great to work with – always providing great support to get projects done on-time and on-target. She is always on the look-out for new and more effective ways to engage learners. Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!

Mike Stubblefield
eLearning Developer/Instructional Designer, Vivos Therapeutics


“Spot on”

I have known and worked with Shawntay  as a education program director and use the expertise of ShawntayMichelle for the development of my presentations.  The service has always been “spot on” with professionalism, care and attention.  Shawntay’s recommendations to my ideas make me look good to my clients.

Owner, Certified Consulting Services


“Shawntay Skjoldager reached in and made my training life so much easier!”

I am new to the training design and development world and I was SO excited to get in there, but I really lacked the real-world knowledge that would set me apart from my peers. And, then Shawntay Skjoldager walked into my life with an outstretched hand and a seemingly endless list of ways to knock every training out of the park. From the Training Analysis Form to the Tay Tay tips, this course made my life so much easier and even ironed out the review process that I had been struggling with for months.

Take time to invest in your own learning and make sure to put Shawntay Michelle at the top of your personal development list!


Katie Carter
Training Specialist, LegalShield

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