How do I, and should I transition to L&D
January 20, 2010 1:42 PM   Subscribe

How does one transition into a career in Learning and Development?

Considering L&D as a possible career move. Worth while? Is there a demand? Would I need a masters in education? Most recently I was a producer/project manager for the production of e-learning courses, but my job was mostly centered around my media related knowledge and not learning theory or instruction. I don't have an education background. How would I make the leap?
posted by delladlux to Work & Money (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can you be more specific? What part of L & D are you interested in? Are you interested in instructional design? Facilitation? Publishing? Organizational Development and Change? Knowledge Management? Do you want to work in a company serving their specific needs? For a company which provides programs and resources to many companies?
posted by jeanmari at 6:02 AM on January 21, 2010

Are you looking for a career in higher education e-learning, corporate e-learning? Higher education puts a fairly strong emphasis on having some background or coursework in learning theory and/or education. There's some part-time master's online programs available in instructional design (usually through School of Education), so that'd be one way, and you maybe able to get an entry-level position when you've just finished some courses. Corporate e-learning it appears that many of the requirements are more experience-based (usually helpful to have some background in that industry, through education is a plus (I'm in higher education e-learning).
posted by ejaned8 at 7:24 AM on January 21, 2010

Response by poster: jeanmari - I'm intersted in developing training/learning programs - so the instructional design element appeals most.

ejaned8 - thanks! any reputable online masters program that you've heard of specifically? There are so many out there...I'd hate to just throw a dart.
posted by delladlux at 9:13 AM on January 21, 2010

Okay, instructional design. Yes, a Masters Program would serve you well then, not only for the background knowledge needed to research needs and design creatively beyond the whole "make a workbook", "make Powerpoint slides", but also for credibility and--most importantly--access to people who hire instructional designers. However, a big part of instructional design is project management. So, if you really dislike project management, you might not be a fan of instructional design. Other than that, though, I have loved the instructional design component of my career (in corporations, not-for-profit and higher ed) because I love to learn new content, especially technical content. I'm often asked to come in, do a needs analysis of users and interview subject matter experts, read/research a LOT and get up to speed on a subject just enough so I can quickly shape content. It helps to be proficient in as many of these areas as you can be: technical writing, storyboarding, scriptwriting, designing facilitation, event planning, e-learning technologies and software, prototype development, and project management (especially creating timelines and forecasting of workload). I've worked with producers of videos, podcasts, technical writers, desktop publishers, facilitators, trainers, etc.

The market for instructional design jobs is a bit strange right now. In the 90's, it was relatively easy to get a job and there were plenty of jobs. I started out volunteering to do instructional design--for free--for not-for-profits to build my portfolio and got my Masters in Education from NU. Then companies began outsourcing instructional design to India and the market for designers in the U.S. dried up a bit. I was lucky in that I was an L&D generalist working for a well-funded practice in a rather large consulting firm. That helped me to bounce back and forth between KM, change management, instructional design, and facilitation.

I would start by doing informational interviews with instructional designers. Contact people who have jobs that are interesting to you, and ask them questions about their background, what they like about it and don't, what their training is, what their career path will be like, etc.
posted by jeanmari at 9:41 AM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

The ones I'm familiar with are distance programs of universities that also have a ground program. IU Bloomington and SDSU both have programs. When I was looking my criteria was largely affordability. Also research if there's a local program that may have recognition in your area's job market.

jeanmari's correct that some production work is getting outsourced to India, and that the job market is more competitive now. It also seems difficult for people to switch between corporate and higher education. I'd look to see which you are interested in and what areas have more openings in your region.

I do see postings looking for a combination of specialized skills and instructional design knowledge (e.g., nursing/healthcare background and ID knowledge; industrial manufacturing ID knowledge), so I'd also think if you can leverage any of your prior experience.
posted by ejaned8 at 12:08 PM on January 21, 2010

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