Conducting a little career path research…

My department might be pursuing a reclassification and I was asked to do a little research to see if I could find out if there was information out there regarding various levels of an instructional designer.

Two years ago, I remember reading an article in TechTrends entitled, Labels Do Matter, which discussed the difficulty of various labels that professionals in our field hold, e.g., Instructional Designer, Instructional Technologist, Educational Technologists, etc. As we know, these are used in job postings, titles of academic programs, etc. While there is a great amount of discussions and disagreements in that area (not for todays post), I am not finding any specific information regarding levels/career paths within those labels. Although, when we visit institutional job posting sites for our “instructional” field, e.g., HigherEdJobs and The Chronicle we find various levels like:

  • Instructional Assistant
  • Instructional Consultant
  • Instructional Designer
  • Instructional Designer II
  • Instructional Designer Senior
  • Instructional Design Specialist
  • Instructional Designer/Facilitator
  • Instructional Designer/Innovator
  • Instructional Specialist
  • Instructional Support Technician
  • Instructional Systems Designer
  • Instructional Technologist
  • Instructional Technology Consultant
  • Instructional Technology Specialist

*Omitted search results with trainer, manager, etc.

SimplyHired lists a summary of these levels, a survey results of their pay scales, and links to various positing’s in both corporate and higher education. The diversification of instructional designer “levels” is even more apparent in job search sites like Monster and LinkedIn (requires authentication cannot link).

IBSTPI Competencies
While this is so, the professional organization, International Board of Standards for Training, Performance and Instruction have developed a set of competencies which I am hoping we as a department could perhaps use to define various levels of the Instructional Designers. Here is a little about their background:

Over 400 organizations worldwide in a wide variety of sectors, including private industry, academia, military, and government, are using our standards to improve both individual performance and organizational results.  We set standards by articulating and promoting the integrity of professional practice through research, development, definition of competencies and education.

The site displays a partial list of organizations that utilize these competencies, 11 of the 50 listed were academic institutions, e.g., Florida State, Penn State, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, etc. As a member of Association for Educational Communication and Technology (AECT) I have access to their NCATE Program Standards which lists IBSTPI as a reference. Their site also lists other professional organizations that utilize their competencies, e.g., ASTD and ISPI (not a member of).

As a member of the ITForum I was able to find a discussion paper which involved many of these universities above and well known instructional designers in our field (see Competencies and Standards for Instructional Design and Educational Technology) discussing the use of the competencies for human resource development.

Competencies and standards can be used to help develop, qualify, distinguish, and/or recognize individual performance and abilities in specific areas. An up-to-date set of competencies can be used by individuals for self-improvement or by personnel departments for skill development by determining whether strengths or deficiencies exist, especially those which might be addressed by training, professional development or changes in policies and procedures. An organization can use competencies to inform and guide hiring practices, for example, as input for job specifications in a position description or job announcement. When applicants have the academic or experiential credentials, they can be further screened against these specific competencies required of the job. Organizations can use these competencies to distinguish between job applicants, especially those with apparently similar academic backgrounds. Using competencies as performance indicators can help managers in organizations conduct substantive, formative assessments, and possibly recognize those individuals who are ready for advancement or who have demonstrated exemplary performance against a standard.

I have made a formal request to IBSTPI to receive a complete list of competencies which include 23 competencies and 127 performance statements. In the interim we can review their Competencies for Instructional Designers (2000) which distinguish between essential and advanced competencies.

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About DaveHallmon

With experience in web, graphic, and instructional design, Dave maintains a balance between what is efficient and effective in every message. He always focuses on the why and how rather than "just doing it" to get the job done. By day he works at a leading university designing online courses that support 9,000 students in 64 countries. He works directly with faculty to brainstorm, design, and develop their online instruction utilizing the Adobe suite. He also teaches for the university as an adjunct faculty member in the area of web design. By night he is a devoted husband, father, freelancer, and adventurer of the outdoors. His other interests include LifeHacker, Science Fiction and Hayao Miyazaki movies, Settlers of Catan, and coffee with friends. He currently lives in St. Louis and has an M.S. in Instructional Design and aspires to pursue a professional degree in content marketing and strategy. Visit the links below for more information about his interests and design work.
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