The State of Instructional Designer Salaries 2020: 150+ IDs Tell Us What They Earn
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Instructional Design
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The State of Instructional Designer Salaries 2020: 150+ IDs Tell Us What They Earn

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If we were to ask you what makes a good salary, you might say $100,000. But by what standard? Good for a retail employee? Undoubtedly. Good for the CEO of that same retail company? Probably not.

By the same token, a good salary for an instructional designer depends on context.

For years, demands for IDs has increased as more educational institutions and private companies have awakened to the need for this unique skill set. But is that being reflected in instructional designer salaries? What's a good, or even average, salary for an ID in 2020?

To find out, we polled more than 150 instructional designers around the world about their positions and salaries.

What we found was that the average instructional designer salary varied based on education level, experience level, and industry. This blog post shows the highlights of our findings, you can read everything in our full report.

To get your copy of the full report, sign up to our newsletter and fill out our survey with your own salary information - your information will be included in our next report! 

Major Influences on Instructional Designer Salary

Considering the wide variety of applications for instructional design, it’s not surprising that the average salary can vary considerably. Participants in our survey reported salaries ranging from less than $40,000 USD a year to more than $100,000. These were the common variables that impacted average salary:

Level of Education

While instructional design master’s programs are very much in style right now, our research found they may not boost earning potential. We found no strong correlation between education level and salary level, even for those with a dedicated degree in instructional design. In fact, respondents who had a master’s degree in another subject made more on average than those with a dedicated degree.

That said, 90% of participants reported having at least a bachelor’s degree, and 71% had a master’s degree or PhD. This suggests that, for many positions, higher education is a minimum requirement.

Years of Experience

We found that years in the field had a greater overall impact on salary than education.

While those who had been in the industry longer than two years saw a modest salary increase — on average, around $5000 — our study found that the tipping point where experience led to greater salary gains was around the five-year mark. Those who had been working as IDs for five years or more made $15,000 more, on average, than those who had been working only three to five years.


One of the biggest differentiators in salary was the industry in which the individual was employed. Salaries for nonprofit and university jobs were lower, on average, than for-profit or government positions.

Of the 16 participants who reported making over $100k, 11 worked in the for-profit sector, 2 in the non-profit sphere, and none worked in higher education.


Roughly 75% of our survey respondents were from the United States. They made significantly more than their non-U.S. counterparts. In fact, the median salary among non-U.S. respondents was only 55% of the median U.S. salary.

How Much Does Gender Matter?

The pay gap between men and women is a serious concern across industries, so we wanted to find out  if there is a wage disparity in the  instructional designer field.  

We asked participants to identify as male, female, or other. At first glance, it appeared that male participants made 4% more than female respondents, but once we cross-referenced the data by industry, a different pattern emerged. Women were more likely to work in universities than men, who were more likely to take higher-paying for-profit positions. It’s difficult to know what factors contributed to this phenomenon, but it played a prominent role in any wage differential.

Perhaps a better way to look for a disparity is to control for industry. In universities, women made more than men, on average, while in the for-profit sphere, men made more, on average.

Contribute to our Research and Download the Full Report

We have a lot of great data, but we’re just getting started. Take our survey to add your own salary and experience to our dataset. As we collect more information we will have an even more accurate and granular view of exactly how much money instructional designers are making in today’s world.

See the full report to learn:

  • The average mean and median instructional designer salaries for entry-level and more experienced instructional designers
  • The average instructional designer salary, broken down by industry, education, and experience level
  • The job titles of participants who reported making over $100,000 a year
  • A deeper analysis of the gender-based pay gap

Go here to take the survey and sign up to our newsletter to receive your copy of the full report

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