You Don’t Need a Degree in Instructional Design to Get a Job

By: Dr. Greg Williams, Program Director, UMBC ISD Graduate Program

This blog article might get me fired!

ISD JobIn my position as the director of a graduate program in instructional design (OK there’s my full disclosure), I often get the question “Will this degree get me a job?” My answer is no. That response may be heresy for a college professor.

In reality, I am not sure that ANY degree guarantees you a job these days. If people truly think that a degree alone will get them a job, then they are wasting their time and their money.

Employers look at a number of things besides your education. That may include your work experience, your skills and competencies (as documented by a professional portfolio), how well you work in groups, how you solve problems, your creativity and much more. You should never overlook the importance of career tools and such as your resume, your references, your relationships within the professional community, how well they interview, etc. They too play a part in getting a job.

My academic colleagues may not like this, but everyone doesn’t need a college degree.

If people really wanted to they could get comparable knowledge on their own. They could do this by:

  • Reading and studying and practicing on their own
  • Taking appropriate professional development courses
  • Getting feedback and coaching from professional colleagues
  • Working with a mentor
  • And much more!

This might give them similar benefits that may compare to the content of a college degree. Are there exceptions to this? Of course there are! The truth is that most people don’t have the self-discipline to do this.

The older you get, your degree becomes less critical in getting a job.

As you gain experience, employers look more at your accomplishments and your body of professional work, far more than your degrees. There are some employers who use the degree as a screening tool to eliminate candidates from a large pile of applicants. However, in some workplace environments degrees are very important (higher education), while in others they are not (e.g. sales).

It is very possible that you may not need a degree at all. There are a number of people in our field (instructional design & eLearning) who are very accomplished and don’t have a degree. The difference is they have accomplishments and a body of work that showcases their skills.

As with many questions in life, the answer to this question often is “it depends”. Before you spend a lot of time and money on a degree, think about what you will put into it (time and money) compared to what you will get out of it (raise, new job, skills). In the end, you are in charge of your own career, so weigh the pros and cons carefully.

Speaking of careers, I wonder if I still have a job?

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISDNow

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