Best Online Master’s Degree Programs in Instructional Design

Earning an instructional design master’s degree online can help you uncover the best ways people learn and find technologies and techniques that improve educational outcomes. Explore the best online accredited programs and learn more about what to expect after you enroll.

An online master’s degree in instructional design provides students with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively evaluate how people best learn and how to implement teaching methods and technologies that can maximize learning potential. It can lead to careers involved in the development of online and distance education programs, as well as those employing the latest technologies for teaching workplace skills in healthcare, business, government, and higher education settings.

Many accredited universities offer master’s degrees in instructional design and technology online, so it’s important to have all the information you need to make a smart and confident decision on the right program for you. This guide will familiarize you with some of the top online programs in instructional design available today. It also profiles some of the courses you might take, discusses costs and accreditation, and highlights possible careers for instructional design master’s graduates.

College Spotlights: Top Instructional Design Master’s Programs Online in 2023

The best instructional design master’s online programs are affordable, flexible, and accredited. They teach you technology skills and give you the knowledge about people and how they learn necessary for creating effective training programs and quality curriculums. They also help you build a solid portfolio to show to prospective employers.

The following three instructional design master’s online programs are among the best currently available. They additionally preview our full programs ranking coming later in 2023, so be sure to check back!

The University of Tampa

The University of Tampa has a 36-credit online Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology program that’s highly flexible and allows tailoring your coursework to align with your unique academic and professional needs and interests. The program requires completion 24 credits of core classwork in subjects such as theories of learning and cognition, inquiry and measurement, and trends and issues in instructional design. Students choose the remaining 12 required credits from topics like distance learning, instructional games and simulations, program evaluation, and change management.

The degree culminates in a field internship designed to provide students with hands-on experience in developing instructional design and technology competencies. In some instances, students can complete an advanced instructional design project for a field-based stakeholder coupled with a comprehensive exam in place of an internship.

Admission requires official transcripts and a bachelor’s degree earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA or, alternatively, a previously earned master’s degree. Additional application submittals include two letters of recommendation, a resume or CV, and a personal statement.

Purdue University – Global

Purdue University’s global campus offers a Master in Instructional Design and Technology that requires completion of only requires 10 courses: five foundational courses and five courses that make up the adult concentration. The program is ideal for students looking to work in corporate, military, and nonprofit environments. Online students have access to Purdue’s Graduate Resource Center where they can find information and guidance on professional memberships and clubs, career services, social networking, and more.

Program tuition is $420 per credit, and there are several financial aid options available, including tuition discounts for international students, current military service members, veterans, and employees of Purdue’s partner organizations. Transfer credits and credit for relevant experience can shorten the time it takes to earn the degree, also saving you money.

Walden University

Walden University’s online MS in Instructional Design and Technology is a career-focused program with a general program track and two concentration options: Online Learning and Training and Performance Management. Students are taught using industry-standard software like Adobe Creative Cloud and Captivate, and develop skills to assess, create, and manage learning materials. After the first six courses, students receive a post-baccalaureate certificate of proficiency to add to your credentials.

The program includes a capstone project and virtual student showcase that requires students to identify and help solve a real-world instructional design problem. The project additionally allows students to build their resumes and portfolios to share with prospective employers.

The program requires completion of 30 to 36 credits (based on whether students choose the general program or add a concentration). The current per-credit tuition rate is $680. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree, completed online application, and submittal of online transcripts.

Advantages of Earning a Master’s in Instructional Design and Technology Online

Earning an instructional design master’s degree online comes with many advantages, not the least of which are study convenience and flexibility. Here’s a look at some of the most important:

  1. Industry Skills

    To influence learning through technology, professionals need to stay on top of industry-standard software applications like Adobe Creative Cloud and Captivate. An online master’s degree in instructional design provides the experience and familiarity with these and other software applications to make you more marketable.

  2. Flexibility

    Choosing an online program gives you a tremendous amount of study flexibility, usually through asynchronous learning and accessibility. This allows working professionals and those with busy personal lives to obtain a quality degree while studying at their own chosen pace.

  3. Experience

    A master’s degree in instructional design offers advanced learning knowledge and skills via the latest technologies, allowing you to get ahead of the curve in completing your instructional design effort more efficiently and effectively.

What You’ll Learn in an Instructional Design Master’s Online Program

Common topic you’ll cover in your instructional design master’s online program, among many others, include theories of learning and cognition, research methods and application, and design and development tools for eLearning. You gain an understanding of different learning environments allowing you to apply advanced learning techniques in their design resulting in improved human performance in the workplace.

Masters in instructional design and technology programs additionally teach you how to engage in research to identify problem areas and employ the use of industry-standard software to design effective learning curricula. Many programs culminate in the completion of a capstone project that provides students the opportunity to identify and improve a real-world problem which they can add to their portfolios to share with prospective employers.

Popular Courses

  • Theories of Learning and Cognition

    This course teaches various theories of learning, cognition, and instruction in traditional and distance learning settings. These theories are tools for educators, administrators, instructors, counselors, parents, and others to make work and learning more productive and useful. Students are taught the distinctions and concepts necessary to apply these theories in various instructional design contexts. Learning styles, motivation, and engagement are also explored.

  • Research Methods

    This course focuses on the importance of research in education, laying the foundation for the conducting of research that is both effective and ethical. Students learn basic research methodologies and statistical analyses, the characteristics and terminology of research, and how to formulate research problems and questions. Proper APA formatting of citations and references, how to conduct a literature review, how to critique and evaluate research, and various plagiarism issues are also covered.

  • Design and Development Tools

    This course explores a variety of web-based design and development tools and methods used in eLearning. It considers the technical development requirements for online learning delivered through multiple learning channels and the application of social media tools within education. Students design original content using web-based authoring tools and software applications.

  • Design of Learning Environments

    This class focuses on designing learning applications and explores the advantages and disadvantages of multiple learning environments and content delivery technologies. Topics include education and communication theory, course and content delivery methods, asynchronous and synchronous technologies, multimedia design, usability testing, and the integration of multimedia objects within instructional programs and systems.

  • Performance Improvement

    Students in this class survey the research, models, and issues associated with improving human performance in workplace settings. They explore methods and techniques for recognizing and analyzing performance gaps, conducting needs assessments, determining appropriate instructional and performance support interventions, and measuring the results of implemented solutions. Students learn to apply the results of analyses to inform the design of job aids, instruction, and other performance support systems.

Specialization Options

Specializations offer students the opportunity to tailor their studies to gain expertise in a particular area of the greater instructional design field. Some programs offer specific specializations while others offer a wide variety of elective course choices. Below are descriptions of some of the most popular specialization options available from instructional design master’s programs:

  • Adult Education

    This concentration is for students interested in opportunities in corporate, military, and nonprofit environments. It focuses less on the creation of school-like curricula and more on ways to identify performance problems within companies and organizations. Students learn to use research and various software applications to create solutions to these problems.

  • Online Learning

    An online learning concentration focuses on developing and delivering online content for students of all ages and teaches instructional design students to assess learning in online environments. Topics include distance learning, collaborative learning, program evaluation, curriculum creation, and learning motivations.

  • Training and Performance Improvement

    Students opting for this concentration learn to identify performance gaps, conduct needs assessments, and evaluate learning solutions for organizations. The use of media for instruction, the analysis of performance systems, and the management of change are additionally covered.

  • Project Management and Implementation

    This concentration teaches students how to create, manage, and monitor educational and training projects, from conception and proposal through implementation. Students explore leadership concepts and employ industry tools, procedures, and methodologies. They also learn how to effectively address project constraints like time, cost, resource allocation, and scope.

Accreditation for Master’s in Instructional Design and Technology Online Programs

It is critical that the school offering the master’s in instructional design and technology program you pursue is properly accredited. Institutional accreditation ensures that the your school operates with integrity, offers programs that focus on student learning, hires competent faculty that are academically qualified, and provides the resources and support necessary for student success. Online Master in Instructional Design programs do not have a specific accrediting body, but the schools offering them should be accredited regionally by one of several accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

What You Can Do with a Master’s in Instructional Design

A master’s degree in instructional design online prepares you for roles in the military, government, education, and business. Since so much learning today is done online and through various technologies, skills in instructional design are in high demand. Training and development specialist job growth is projected to grow 6% to 9%, and median salaries are projected at $65K.

Though you can get a job in instructional design with just a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree gives in-depth knowledge specific to company and individual goals. It offers the credentials and expertise necessary for higher pay and leadership positions. Some of the most popular for master’s in instructional design and technology degree holders include:

Instructional Coordinators

Instructional coordinators (also known as curriculum specialists) oversee a school’s curriculum and teaching standards. They develop educational materials, work with teachers and principals with materials implementation, and assess their effectiveness. Instructional coordinators observe teachers in the classroom, review student test data, and discuss curriculum with school staff.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile




Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Training and Development Specialists

Training and development specialists create, administer, and deliver customized training programs for businesses and organizations. These programs take place in classrooms and training facilities, and are increasingly delivered through computers, tablets, and other hand-held devices. Training and development specialists are knowledgeable in relevant industry software and training session delivery formats. They know how to monitor instructors, guide employees through media-based programs, and facilitate informal and collaborative learning programs.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile




Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Chief Learning Officer

Chief learning officers (CLO) are responsible for carrying out a company’s vision. They are adept at teaching, are catalysts for change, can read people well, and can identify talent. The CLO works with HR and IT departments to produce training and assessments that help a company’s workforce reach its full potential.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile




Source:, 2021

Professor in Instructional Design

If you have experience in instructional design and love to teach, a master’s in instructional design can open doors for you to teach in higher education and use your passion and skill to help future designers. Professors work with their education institutions to create relevant curriculums that prepare students for careers in all areas of instruction design.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile




Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Educational Consultant

Educational consultants are often self-employed. Businesses hire them to evaluate current policies and testing procedures. They advise both educators and administrators about what is working well and what needs improvement. After the consultation, they often work with the business organization to make needed changes.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile




Source:, 2021

Costs and Financial Aid for Online Master’s Degrees in Instructional Design

Having a financial plan for pursuing your online master’s degree in instructional design and technology is essential. Financial aid opportunities available include private scholarships and employer tuition assistance. Work-study is sometimes available as well. Other options include federal student loans and grants, school scholarships, and fellowships. Contact your school’s financial aid office for more information.

What Your Online Master’s in Instructional Design Could Cost

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Frequently Asked Questions About Earning Your Instructional Design Master’s Online

What are the admissions requirements for an online master’s in instructional design?

Most online instructional design master’s programs require a GRE/GMAT score for admission, but some offers test waivers for students meeting eligibility requirements, like relevant work experience. Other requirements for an online master’s degree in instructional design and technology include:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Official transcripts
  • Personal statement
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0

How long will it take to finish my master’s in instructional design online?

Most students will complete their programs in approximately two years. Some schools allow you to take more than one course at a time, and others are strict on their one class per semester policies. There are also full-time and part-time study options, which affect the time required to complete your degree. Contact the program’s you’re considering for detailed information on program lengths.

Can I earn a master’s in instructional design 100% online or do I need to visit campus?

This degree is often available 100% online. Lectures, assignments, and projects are typically completed through your school’s online learning platform.

Does an online master’s in instructional design prepare you for initial teaching certification?

Though this degree covers many aspects of teaching and curriculum design, it does not qualify you for teacher licensure. If you are interested in a teaching certification, an online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) will be the better choice for you.