Instructional Designers' Survey: What We Think About our Industry, Jobs, and Future Goals.

Summary: Is there a glut of eLearning instructional designers? Are rates and salaries dropping? Are the projects getting less creative? Or, are there merely “pockets of discontent” in certain industries and among certain demographics, while IDs in other areas thrive?

How do instructional designers really feel about their jobs, job prospects, and what they want in the future?

As the owner of an eLearning agency, I get a lot of eLearning instructional designers who contact me through my website asking if I have any openings. That’s not unusual, and I love connecting with these professionals; it’s such fun to chat and share experiences! E-Learning IDs rock!

But over the past four months, I’ve been getting a different – both perplexing and disconcerting --type of email from eLearning instructional designers (eIDs). First, I got just one. Then, a few weeks later, I received two more. And now, over the course of the past four months, I have had 24 emails arrive in my in-box from IDs wanting advice on how to survive in this industry.

Huh? Are we okay?  

What’s on the minds of eLearning instructional designers?

One such email came from Laura, an ID who has been in the field just one year.“I’m not writing to you for a job; I’m writing to you for advice. I’m new to instructional design and have tried everything I know how to do and I still can’t find any work in my field. What would you recommend to secure a full-time position—or, at this point, even an interview? I have a portfolio, have networked constantly and have sent out resumes for every open position, yet work still eludes me. I am unable to find full time, part time or freelance work. I keep hearing that this is such a hot industry, yet I can’t find anything. Am I doing something wrong? Or, are there just so many instructional designers with so much more experience that it’s going to be impossible for me to compete for open jobs? Any advice would be appreciated.

Another email came from Jennifer:“Please let me know if you have any openings for eLearning instructional designers. I have attached my resume for your review[…] If you have no openings, could you please direct me to sources that may have a need for experienced instructional designers? Pardon the unsolicited resume, but it’s getting rough out here.”When I received Jennifer’s email and resume, I decided to give her a call. She had a good portfolio and a strong resume. Although I have no openings, I wanted to learn why an experienced eID found the field “rough.”

I have several friends who are freelance eLearning IDs and, like me, all of them are so busy they can barely keep their heads above water. (Knock wood.) The freelancers I have working for me seem to like their projects. I also know many full-time instructional designers who are employed full time by a company and are happy as clams. (Again, knock wood.)When I got Jennifer on the phone, she seemed so relieved to be able to talk to someone about her plight.

She told me that she has, for the past several years, chased jobs at staffing agencies and no longer wants to “run on that hamster wheel.” (Those are her words.) As she put it: “They just have cattle call interviews for each opening, talk to dozens of IDs, then hire the cheapest one. There is just a glut of freelance IDs and I have seen rates drop 10 to 20 percent over the past few years. I’m simply no longer willing or able to work for such low rates. Besides, the work you get is just gap-filling, page-turner work; it’s not the creative work I used to get.

I don’t know if Jennifer’s experience with staffing agencies is typical or not, as I have all direct (my own) clients. But she was clearly despondent. My heart really went out to her.Comments from other instructional designers who reached out to me ranged from the I-can’t-find-work theme to the gigs are boring theme.  A few echoed Jennifer’s the-rates-are-low sentiments. Most seemed to think that budgets are so tight that eLearning for many companies has been downgraded to little more than level one page-turners.Again: that has not been my experience at all. Nor that of my close friends who are freelance or full time IDs. They are all working on wildly creative (gamification, simulation and story-based) projects, making above-market rates, or receive good full-time salaries. (Oh, sure, there are a few companies that are more interested in fast turnaround than creative, instructionally-sound programs. But I never got the feeling that was the norm.) Am I delusional? Out of touch? How do instructional designers really feel about their jobs, job prospects, and what they want in the future?

What’s on YOUR mind? Take the survey.

The sheer volume of disparaging emails and "calls for help" I have received made me wonder what the reality is for the bulk of eIDs. Are these emails from frustrated IDs part of a trend in eLearning? Or, are there 'pockets of discontent’ in certain industries, or among newer IDs who find it difficult to compete against more experienced folks?Inquiring minds want to know!So, the former reporter in me decided to attempt to get some (albeit unscientific) results. That's where you come in.If you would be so kind as to take a few minutes to answer the nine questions in the survey, I'd appreciate it.  (Don’t worry: You won’t be asked to give your name or email.  I’m not interested in your contact information; I’m interested only in your honest feedback and thoughts.

)Because I am not collecting emails, if you want to know the results of the survey, we will post the full results (whitepaper or article) at eLearning Industry, so all you have to do is come back here! Results will also be on The survey will be open until April 4th. After that I’ll tabulate results and send out the whitepaper/article.Click here to take survey or

And thank you for your time investment to those of you who take the survey. Your input is truly invaluable!

Update: Check the result of the Instructional Designers' Survey at eLearning Job Market Research Report.