Should an Instructional Designer Have an Advanced Degree?

Should an Instructional Designer Have an Advanced Degree?
Summary: As the field of eLearning continues to grow, so does the demand for instructional designers. If you look at job listings for many corporations, the listing specifies that they are seeking a qualified applicant who has an advanced degree. Is it necessary for someone to have a graduate degree in order to design quality training courses? It's certainly a matter of perspective with more than one opinion.

Both Sides of the Discussion

Some might argue that having an advanced degree in instructional design indicates that a person is qualified to design eLearning content in a manner that is most effective. This person should have a good understanding of how to build eLearning content using a variety of different software options. Furthermore, someone with an advanced degree also should have a good understanding of how and why people learn in the way that they do. Their training gives them the skills to take any type of content and design an appropriate instructional course. This understanding is critical to designing blended learning content.

Others may say that life experience is the best teacher one could ever hope to have. That the best person to design a course is someone who knows the content based on practical application. There's a strong argument that a person with a fancy degree may be too hung up on technicalities and not preparing training that truly reflects how a particular job needs to be done. Many feel that you can't design a course based on content that you are not personally familiar with and that the end result will be a generic course that's not entirely effective.

Other Perspectives

Regardless of which side of this debate you find yourself, the discussion is missing a critical element. What kind of skills does a person have that makes them the best choice for your program? Sometimes the most qualified candidate may come from the most unlikely background. An employee who has a background in education is a good example. While may not an advanced degree, this is a person who has a formal knowledge of how people learn, but also a practical knowledge of the job through experience.

We've all also seen situations where the person who does a terrific job in the office, simply has no skills when it comes to teaching. The same can be said for instructional design. Just because a person is a whiz at the content and has been doing it forever, doesn't necessarily mean that this candidate can pull together a solid design for your course.

Which to Choose?

For lack of a fully convincing argument on either side, it might be best to simply choose the best candidate for the job. An instructional designer should be tech savvy enough be able to design training using the most current technology your business wishes to use. They should also have an understanding of how adults learn and be able to facilitate a design that presents the same concepts in different ways to ensure that it reaches all of your learners.

What's your opinion? Do YOU think an instructional designer should have an advanced degree?