2024 Best Online Graduate Certificates in Instructional Design

By Kama Offenberger
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on July 4, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
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Explore the best online graduate certificate in instructional design programs for 2023. Enhance your skills in education and teaching, with a specialized focus.

If you have a passion for education or training, a graduate certificate in instructional design could help you improve your skill set and professional qualifications.

 Best Online Graduate Certificates in Instructional Design

Instructional design certificates can often help you advance your current career or transition from another field. Job opportunities related to instructional design are also expected to grow in the coming years.

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The skills you can develop from an instructional design certificate program have a wide range of applications, from coordinating academic materials at a local college to developing training programs for businesses.

Universities Offering Online Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design and Technology Program

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Florida State University

Florida State University offers an online program for a graduate certificate in instructional design and technology. This non-degree program teaches how to develop innovative online instruction in different sectors of employment. The program requires the completion of 3 core courses and 2 or more elective courses. Students may take up to 5 years to complete the program.

The Florida State University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Harvard University

Harvard University offers a graduate certificate in learning design and technology. It is designed for students hoping to advance in an instructional design career. The program requires the completion of 4 courses. To graduate, students must obtain at least a B grade in each course. Students may take up to 3 years to complete the program.

Harvard University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Purdue University

Purdue University offers an online graduate certificate program in instructional design and technology. It is designed for students pursuing interests in the design, development, and evaluation of instructional materials. The program typically takes about 6 months to complete. To graduate, students must complete 20 credits (13 semester credits). Each course is 6 weeks long.

Purdue University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Texas A&M University – Commerce

Texas A&M University—Commerce offers a graduate certificate in instructional design. The program is designed to help students advance in their careers as instructional or training designers.

The curriculum covers how to develop, analyze, implement, and evaluate training programs in different employment sectors. The program is conducted entirely online. Students can typically complete the 12 required credit hours in 6 months to 1 year. No thesis or foreign language component is required.

Texas A&M University-Commerce is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida offers an online instructional design program that utilizes a multidisciplinary approach. It aims to equip educators, instructional designers, and human resources professionals with the knowledge and skills to deal with the dynamics of instructional design. To graduate, students must complete 15 credit hours.

The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Online Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design Programs

Man taking Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design online

When pursuing a graduate certificate in instructional design, you’ll focus on developing the ability to analyze, create, and evaluate educational materials.

You can learn about the best practices to develop strong training materials for a variety of environments, such as schools, government agencies, private businesses, and colleges. Experts in instructional design examine all elements of education, from theories of learning to assessments.

Here are some common career paths for those who study instructional design:

  • Instructional coordinator
  • Training and development specialist
  • Training and development manager
  • Technical writer
  • Career counselor

Instructional coordinators may not only create training materials but also implement them, so some professionals take a front-facing role in education in addition to their work behind the scenes.

As a student in an instructional design program, there are many key subjects that you may encounter, such as:

  • Theories of learning
  • Learning design for people with disabilities
  • Technology in education
  • Curriculum design
  • Strategies for adult and English language learners
  • Developing formal and informal assessments
  • Online course creation
  • Project management and leadership skills
  • Employee training materials

Many certificate programs conclude with a practicum, independent study, or capstone project. A capstone projects gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your in-depth understanding of the material from the curriculum.

This final project also often provides materials that can be used in a professional portfolio, which might help you to find a job or advance in your current position.

Instructional and Curriculum Development Careers & Salaries

Instructional and Curriculum Development Careers & Salaries

An instructional systems design certificate may help you qualify you for a variety of positions related to education and training, including those in schools, government, and other industries.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a graduate certificate in instructional design may help prepare for you for a number of different career paths.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Training and Development Managers $120,130
Instructional Coordinators — Government $78,900
Technical Writers $78,060
Instructional Coordinators — Elementary and Secondary Schools $75,840
Instructional Coordinators — Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools $62,060
Special Education Teachers $61,820
Instructional Coordinators — Educational Support Services $61,580
Training and Development Specialists $61,570
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers $61,350
Preschool and Childcare Center Directors $47,310

While these positions all center around the concept of learning, they are also diverse enough to accommodate different interests and personality types.

Instructional Design Graduate Certificate Curriculum & Courses

Students taking Instructional Design Graduate Certificate

Instructional design graduate certificate programs differ in their course requirements depending on the school you attend. There are some courses, such as those listed below, that frequently appear on the curriculum for a certificate program of this kind:

  • Introduction to Learning Science: This course gives an overview of instructional design and the theories of learning.
  • Instructional Design Method: In this course, you’ll receive an overview of the methods that can be used when developing a system of instruction.
  • Instructional Strategies and Assessment Methods: You’ll learn how to properly collect, organize, and analyze data as part of the needs analysis and evaluation phases of instructional design.
  • Design and Instruction of Online Courses: This course focuses on the knowledge and skills necessary to develop effective online courses, including student engagement and online assessments.
  • Collaborative Learning Design: This course involves the study of formal and informal collaborative learning, particularly in an online environment.
  • Universal Course Design: You’ll study the ways in which course materials can be made accessible to all students, including those with disabilities.
  • Designing Computer-Based Training: This course focuses on how to develop multimedia and self-paced training for computer-based learning.
  • Educational Technology: You’ll study the use of computer hardware and software as a means of facilitating learning.
  • Adult as Learner: In this course, you’ll learn about best practices for designing and implementing adult learning materials.
  • Project Management for Instructional Designers: Instructional designers rarely work alone, so this course reviews the skills necessary to successfully manage a team.

In addition to these courses, students in instructional design graduate certificate programs are often required to complete a practicum or independent study. These experiences can allow you to better focus on a particular area of interest and to develop materials that could be used for a portfolio in the future.

Admissions Requirements

Woman preparing requirements for Instructional Design Graduate Certificate

Although there will be variations between schools, the admissions requirements listed here are common for graduate certificate programs:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Resume or CV

In addition to these requirements, you will likely be required to submit an official application, application fee, and transcript for all previously completed post-secondary coursework. Certificate programs often target professionals looking to enhance their careers, so it is common to be asked to provide your work history. Some universities also prefer candidates to have a degree related to education.

Instructional Design Certificate Programs Accreditation

University offering Instructional Design Graduate Certificate Programs

When enrolling in an online program, whether it’s an online degree program in education or an online graduate certificates in instructional design, it’s essential to consider whether a school’s accreditation status. Regional accreditation is the gold standard for schools.

In order for a school to receive regional accreditation, it must complete a stringent process set forth by an accrediting organization recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). A school’s ability to satisfy these high standards indicates the quality of their educational offerings.

Attending a regionally accredited school can also increase the chances of your credits being transferable. Attending a school that is not accredited can also limit your ability to receive government aid.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Financial Aid for Instructional Design Graduate Certificate

Some certificate programs may not be eligible for financial aid, while others are eligible for the same kinds of aid that are available for degree programs.

Submitting a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) can determine your eligibility for need-based aid. Federal aid typically comes in the form of student loans and work study programs. If you’re currently working, your employer may also offer tuition assistance for relevant coursework.

You can also see whether the school you are attending offers any scholarships based on academic merit or area of study. There may also be outside organizations with opportunities for scholarships.

What Can You Do with an Instructional Design and Technology Certificate?

Man pursuing Instructional Design Graduate Certificate online

An instructional design and technology certificate can open doors to careers in many industries. This type of certificate program is especially relevant if you are passionate about education, as it could help equip you for instructional coordination and curriculum development positions in school settings.

If business or industry is more appealing to you, an instructional design certificate can help you prepare and qualify for positions in training development or management. A number of instructional design professionals also work as teachers in traditional classroom settings.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Instructional Design Certificate Online?

The amount of time that you will spend completing your graduate certificate will depend on several factors. Common factors include whether you have any applicable transfer credits, whether you attend full-time or part-time, and the length of the specific program.

In general, most online learning design and technology certificate programs last from 6 months to 18 months. In some circumstances, the school may allow you to extend the completion period so that you can meet family or career obligations.

At some universities, the credits you earn in a certificate program may transfer to an on-campus or online masters in instructional design degree program.

What’s the Difference Between an Instructional Design Certificate vs. Certification?

Although the names are quite similar, there are important distinctions between an instructional design certification and a certificate.

Academic Certificate Professional Certification
  • Awarded by college or university
  • Does not require professional experience
  • Demonstrates completion of graduate-level courses
  • Credits can transfer to degree program
  • Awarded by industry board
  • Typically requires professional experience
  • Demonstrates mastery of a skill or set of skills
  • Has no connection to seeking a degree

Receiving an instructional trainer certification can reflect that an instructional designer has mastered the knowledge necessary to effectively create and deliver training for a specific sector. A graduate certificate program may help you meet the necessary educational requirements for a role or for industry certification.

What’s the Difference Between a Graduate Certificate vs. Masters in Instructional Design Program?

Both a graduate certificate and a masters degree in instructional design may help advance or transition your career. They also often focus on similar subjects, but there are significant differences between them.

Graduate Certificate Master’s in Instructional Design
  • Non-degree academic program
  • Often more focused on practical skills
  • Typically completed in 1 to 3 semesters
  • Often requires fewer credit hours and less expense
  • Results in an academic degree
  • Often more focused on theory
  • Typically completed in 4 to 6 semesters
  • Often requires additional credit hours and more expense

To determine whether a master’s degree or certificate better suits your needs, it’s helpful to consider what professional skill sets and qualifications you’re hoping to gain. Graduate certificate coursework can often count toward instructional design degree programs.

Is a Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design Worth It?

Two Instructional Coordinators working together

Yes, a graduate certificate in instructional design is worth it for many students. Completing an instructional designer certificate program can help improve your skill sets and job prospects in the field.

As education is a fundamental aspect of society, job growth for instructional design occupations is typically steady. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 10% and 11% job growth for instructional coordinators and training and development specialists, respectively, over the next ten years.

Getting Your Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design and Technology Online

Woman completing Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design online

Earning an online instructional design certificate from an accredited school can be a strategic next step if you are interested in education, learning development, and training.

Instructional designers tend to have a variety of job opportunities, higher-than-average median salaries, and a positive job outlook. Completing an e-learning instructional design certificate online offers the opportunity to broaden your knowledge and enhance your skills without interrupting your current career. It can also be a way to begin working toward a masters degree in instructional design.

If you’re ready to advance your qualifications in the field, you can compare graduate certificate programs in instructional design to see which ones best align with your needs and expectations.

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