On this page

Back to top

Best Instructional Design Certificate Online Graduate Programs

Do you want to build a career improving the student learning experience? If so, earning an instructional design certificate online is a flexible option that can jumpstart your career. This guide will help you get started by detailing the best online programs for budding instructional designers.

Author: Linsey Knerl

Editor: Staff Editor

Search hundreds of schools for the master’s YOU want……

As students’ educational needs evolve with today’s technology, the instructional design field is growing, too. Whether you’re looking to create more engaging online learning programs or help students overcome educational challenges, earning an instructional design certificate online will prepare you to create the classrooms of the future. At the same time, these flexible online programs allow you to learn anytime, anywhere — without breaking the bank.

Whether you already work full time in education or you want to expand your skills to do more in this growing field, online instructional design certificate programs are a natural next step. Fortunately, we have lots of information on how much the best instructional design online certificate programs cost, what coursework is like, and what schools are leading the way. Keep reading for a detailed overview of the best instructional design certificate programs for online graduates.

College Spotlights: Best Instructional Design Certificate Online Graduate Programs

With so many schools to choose from, it can be hard to narrow down your program choices. Fortunately, we’ve identified some of the top online graduate instructional design certificate programs, featuring a blend of affordability and accommodations for busy professionals.

These best-in-class programs offer experienced instructors, updated course materials, and accreditation to prepare you for the work ahead. If you enjoy this preview, be sure to check back later to see our full list of rankings.

The George Washington University

If you’re looking for a 100% online program, The George Washington University Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design may be for you. This 12-credit-hour program takes 12-18 months to complete. Students take the program to add value to their existing bachelor’s degree or transfer the credits into a relevant graduate program.

What will you learn? In addition to getting the basics of instructional design, students get quality instruction in advanced design and computer interface design. Those who complete the program will be prepared to create instructional materials, lead design teams to make effective educational tools and assess students’ needs.

To apply, prepare your:

  • Application
  • Resume
  • Statement of purpose
  • Transcripts
  • Letter of recommendation

Admissions occur in the spring, summer, and fall. Students can go on to become technical writers, curriculum developers at publishing companies, or instructional designers in K-12 settings.

Texas A&M University-Commerce

Another one of the best online instructional design graduate certificate program is offered by Texas A&M University-Commerce. This 12-hour certificate program requires between six months and a year of study.

Completing the program prepares you to develop study guides or consult with private companies as they create learning materials for their employees and partners.

Courses include:

  • Utilizing Effective Instructional Technologies
  • Introduction to Presentation Design
  • Instructional Design and Development
  • Evaluation

The school offers rolling admissions, so you can apply at any time; all that’s required is your application, application fee, and transcripts. Once admitted, keep your GPA at a 3.0 to remain in the program. No course substitutions are allowed. This instructional design certificate online program can be completed post-bachelor’s or as part of a master’s program.

Arizona State University

The online Instructional Design and Performance Improvement Grad Certificate offered by Arizona State University consists of five classes for 15 credits. Each class lasts 7.5 weeks, allowing for shorter terms that students can complete in less time making it one of the best programs for busy or working students.

The program requires all students to take four foundation courses:

  • Foundations of Learning Design and Technologies
  • Design and Development of Instruction
  • Design of Effective Communication
  • Issues in Online and Distance Education

Finally, students select either Modalities of Learning or Performance Improvement and Leadership for the fifth course. This program has various start times throughout the year. While an essay, transcripts, and CV are required, students don’t need to take the GRE for the online instructional design certificate program.

Top Reasons to Earn an Online Instructional Design Certificate

If you’re already in the education field, a certificate in instructional design is a natural next step to move into more hands-on work creating tools that students and educators rely on. Here are some of the top benefits for students who enroll:

Benefit #1: Flexibility

You’ve probably taken online courses and know how easy they can be to schedule and participate in compared with on-campus classes. For busy professionals and those with family obligations, online classes may be the only way to pursue higher education while still meeting your other commitments.

Benefit #2: Variety

Instructional design as a career field is different from year to year. With technology changing all the time, instructional designers are challenged to create tools for learners to connect them and the world. What you work on today will be much different than the resources you build tomorrow.

There are many jobs you can thrive in as an instructional designer. From corporate America to working with nonprofits, almost every organization teaches something to its students or associates. Knowing the best way to share knowledge within the organization can put you in a prime position to get hired and tackle these challenges.

Benefit #3: Affordability

You may not think about a $5,000 to $8,000 certificate program as affordable, but how many programs can you complete in just one or two years? At this price, you get a full instructional design certificate online in a highly marketable skillset. Many programs are designed for you to take one class at a time, making it easier to pay for courses as you go.

What You’ll Learn in Instructional Design Certificate Programs Online

Courses in the best instructional design certificate program online vary by institution, but all contain some level of training on how to develop multimedia resources to be used in educational environments. Students learn about classroom technology and devices used for an engaging classroom setting, as well as get an opportunity to develop their own learning tools and create reporting from them.

The George Washington University offers the following online instructional design certificate courses, which are similar to those offered at the other schools on our list.

Popular Courses

Foundations in Educational Technology

Technology is becoming a bigger part of learning today, and it changes all the time. Students in this course learn about the theory of educational technology and how it’s used in the real world, including how different types of technology work, when it’s appropriate to use them, and the best ways to apply them.

Developing Multimedia Materials

Multimedia, whether video, books, or audio, can bring a classroom setting to life. Students in this course learn how to create multimedia tools and resources and how to integrate them into learning. As part of this course, students critique various technologies and create their own unit to demonstrate what they’ve learned.

Instructional Design

Students in this essential course learn how to design and implement different learning strategies while evaluating what works in each setting. They are also taught how to assess various student needs; write learning objectives; evaluate instruction; and select content, curriculum, and technology devices.

Computer Interface Design for Learning

Technology plays a growing role in education, with computers and tablets taking up a bigger space in the toolkit. Students learn how human-computer interactions shape the classroom, both creating and solving issues for educators. This course in the instructional design certificate online program covers general design theories, principles, and guidelines as they relate to how humans interact with computers.

Advanced Instructional Design

Considered the capstone of the online instructional design certificate, students finish this course with an understanding of how to design and prototype an instructional design project, including reporting and how to quickly develop it for the intended learning environment.

What Can You Do with a Graduate Instructional Design Certificate?

Any job in which you create learning materials to help others grow in knowledge is a potential career path for someone with an online instructional design certificate. Common jobs include the following:

  • Curriculum developer for schools
  • Instructional designer
  • Consultant for a distance or blended learning company
  • Instructional technologist
  • Learning management system administrator
  • Online training manager
  • Online learning specialist

Since many of the online instructional design certificate course credits transfer, you may also choose to work in the field while continuing your education in a master’s program for instructional design. Certificate holders may choose to work in a school, corporation, business as an owner or employee, or government. In any place where planned learning takes place, a curriculum or learning environment will need to be designed or managed so students excel. This is where an instructional design certificate online can really make a difference.

Accreditation for Instructional Design Certificate Programs

While there isn’t a widely recognized accreditation specific to instructional designers, each school you look at should have some accreditation. If nothing else, they should be regionally or nationally accredited as higher-ed institutions. This is important because it tells employers you have the skills and training needed in the field, and it opens doors for financial aid and grants that are only available to accredited schools.

There is currently no licensure needed to do instructional design, so the best instructional design certificate programs online demonstrate your proficiency and dedication to the field. Arizona State University, for example, is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission for its online programs.

Costs and Financial Aid for Online Graduate Certificate – Instructional Design

Since the instructional design certificate online program is considered a graduate-level program, you may find that traditional financial aid sources, such as those received from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (better known as the FAFSA), aren’t applicable. This may be true whether you are pursuing the certificate on its own or as part of a master’s degree program. Each school’s page will tell you more about the types of scholarships or funding offered for its online instructional design certificate.

Some schools have grants or aid for each certificate program, while others have school-wide funding that can be applied for these courses. Your employer may even help with tuition as part of its continuing education benefits, so be sure to ask your company, school, or organization what they offer.

Find other possibilities on our financial aid page.

What Your Instructional Design Graduate Certificate Online Program Could Cost

Since each instructional design certificate online program varies in the number of credit hours required, prices vary as well. There may also be a difference in cost between those attending in state (such as Texas A&M-Commerce below) and those attending out of state. Remember, even online schools need to know your state of residency to determine the price. Here are some samples of what you may pay:

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Est. Total Tuition Cost

11.7 (CEU)


$4,990 for the program


$448 in-state; $856 out of state

$5,376 in-state; $10,272 out of state




Frequently Asked Questions About Graduate Instructional Design Certificates Online

What is the Difference Between a Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design and a Master’s Degree?

An online instructional design certificate is not a stand-alone graduate degree but an additional demonstration of learning and skills beyond a degree. You usually need at least a bachelor’s degree to earn the certificate, but some students who already have their master’s degree in another area (such as education) benefit, too.

A certificate may be a good option if you aren’t yet sure you want an instructional design master’s but still want to boost your competency. If you do decide to get a master’s degree down the road, most schools allow you to transfer the credits earned from the online instructional design certificate to count toward your master’s degree.

What Are the Admissions Requirements for Online Graduate Instructional Design Certificate Programs?

Every school has its own requirements, but at a minimum you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in a related area, such as education. From there, you’ll need to provide the following to be considered for the instructional design certificate online program:

  • Transcript from a previous college experience
  • Application
  • Application fee
  • GPA of 3.0 or higher (in some cases)
  • Letter of recommendation (in some cases)
  • Essay or thesis statement (in some cases)

Because the certificate program isn’t a master’s degree program, usually you won’t have to supply a GRE test score. If you do decide to transfer into a master’s program later, you may need to meet additional requirements for the master’s degree.

How Long Will It Take to Finish My Instructional Design Graduate Certificate Online?

Each program varies, usually requiring between 12 and 18 credit hours, so the total time it takes to complete the certificate depends on how many hours you take a semester. Assuming you attend full-time, most online instructional design certificate programs can be completed in one to two years. The program at The George Washington University, for example, takes 18 months. If you’re working or have family obligations and choose to take six credit hours or fewer a semester, plan on the program taking twice as long. Also note that some programs cap the total time allowed to finish, to ensure the coursework doesn’t change between when you enroll and when you complete your classes.

Can I Earn My Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design 100% Online, or Do I Need to Take Classes on Campus?

Most instructional design certificate online programs are 100% virtual, meaning you won’t have to set foot on campus to take courses, attend lectures, or pass exams. Check with each school to ensure that is the case for the entirety of the program. If the program uses the words “100% online” or “fully online,” you can plan on being able to complete your online instructional design certificate from home or wherever you have an Internet connection.