How to get an Instructional Technology Degree
Not long ago, students were lucky to merely have a computer lab in their schools. Young people now live in a world where adult professionals use computers, tablets, and smartphones as part of their working lives. In order to prepare students for that world, schools are increasingly requiring teachers to learn to use and integrate innovative technology and tools into their coursework.
An instructional technology degree teaches you to leverage technology in learning experiences using devices such as laptops, tablets, and even smartphones. These tools, along with emerging technologies, play an important role in maximizing the learning experience in diverse educational environments. Furthermore, being able to use technology in educational experiences is useful across a wide variety of organizations and purposes, including K-12 and college classrooms, distance learning, government agencies, corporations, non-profit organizations, and more.
Instructional Technology Job Description
Instructional technology, sometimes called educational technology, is a field of education that uses technology to achieve learning objectives. People who work in the field, often with the job title of instructional technology specialists, facilitate the integration of technology into educational settings.
An instructional technology specialist may have many responsibilities. Specific duties may include:
- Providing input and leadership in the development of system-wide programs that enable students to use technology as learning tools
- Training teachers and administrators in the use of technology
- Developing instructional programs that leverage multimedia and new technologies
- Participating in the development of activities that help to integrate technology into curricula
- Aiding in planning and managing budgets
Strong computer knowledge and advanced Internet skills are needed to be effective in this role.
Instructional Technology Salary and Career Outlook
According to Glassdoor.com, the average salary for instructional technology specialists is $59,015 per year and can range from $39,000 to $88,000. O*Net projects this field will grow at a rate of 4% to 6% from 2018-2028, with an estimated 18,600 job openings during that time.
Steps to Becoming an Instructional Technology Specialist
As you research education and career options, you may see the terms “instructional technology” and “educational technology” used interchangeably. Regardless of what the subject is called, these degrees focus on using technology effectively in a classroom or other learning environment. The coursework and learning objectives are similar. However, because multiple terms are in use, make sure you pay careful attention to all the details of any programs you’re considering.
Most jobs for an instructional technology specialist require at least a bachelor’s degree. Employers are looking for candidates with an instructional technology degree or an educational technology degree. Depending on the position, public school employers may also require a teaching certificate and/or technology certification. Many instructional technology specialist jobs at public schools require a master’s degree.
The key steps to getting an instructional technology degree are:
- Research instructional technology or educational technology programs and determine which is right for you.
- Earn a bachelor’s degree, ideally in instructional or educational technology.
- Complete an instructional technology internship.
Meet your state’s requirements for instructional technology specialists, including passing any required tests and, if required by your state, becoming licensed or certified.
Even if it’s not a requirement, a master’s degree in instructional or educational technology can help you get a job, progress in your career, and boost your income.
Bachelor’s Degree in Instructional Technology
A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in instructional technology will teach you how to utilize and integrate technology into classrooms in order to meet learning objectives. Accredited programs are available in-person and online. Bachelor’s degree programs typically require a minimum of 120 college credits, or about 40 classes. After completing a four-year program, students can identify and address an organization’s learning needs using technology. Those who want to work as teachers must meet their state’s additional requirements.
Instructional technology programs include coursework in computer science and education. Courses may also cover:
- Graphic design
- Instructional program design
- Multimedia software
- Simulations and 3D models
Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology
Many people working in instructional technology positions hold a master’s degree in instructional technology or educational technology with undergraduate degrees in math, science, computer science, or education. These specific degrees aren’t required for admission into a certificate or graduate program, but they are common for those who choose to pursue a graduate degree in instructional technology.
There are many good reasons to earn a master’s degree. A master’s degree in instructional technology will help you:
- Strengthen your skills and knowledge in an increasingly important area
- Increase your salary
- Improve opportunities for advancement
- Expand employment opportunities
- Broaden prospects for consulting projects
Master’s Program Entrance Requirements
Requirements for admission into a master’s program for instructional technology are similar to those for other master’s degree programs. They typically include:
- Transcripts and a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
- Your GRE score
- Letters of recommendation from individuals who can speak to your current work and your likelihood of success in graduate school
- A personal statement
- Your Curriculum Vitae or resume
Some institutions may also ask you to submit a portfolio of work, which is a chance for you to demonstrate your skills and professionalism. Use the opportunity to highlight your best work and demonstrate how you want to improve educational experiences by using instructional technology.
Curriculum for a Master’s in Instructional Technology
A master’s degree typically requires completion of 30-45 semester credit hours and takes an average of one to three years to complete. Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or program, often with a minimum GPA of 2.5, if not higher.
A master’s degree in instructional technology prepares you to support the day-to-day use and integration of technology in teaching and troubleshoot problems that may arise. You’ll gain skills such as the design of learning management systems, implementation of technology-enhanced learning, implementation, and critical analysis of educational and training programs.
Master’s-level classes may include courses such as:
- Designing Interactive eLearning
- Foundations of Technology in Teaching and Learning
- Instructional Theories and Models in Technology Education
- Leadership and Coaching
- Social and Legal Issues in Technology Education
Licensure and Certification
Instructional technology certifications can be earned either as you work toward a degree or during your career. Some states require instructional technology specialists to hold a teaching license/certificate.
Instructional technology certificate programs may require a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or a teaching qualification. If a student doesn’t have a teaching certificate prior to enrollment, they may need to complete additional courses.
Certificate programs demonstrate to an employer that you understand technology and how to use it in the classroom. Certification provides evidence of professional development and training for effective implementation and use of technology in the classroom. It can serve as a pathway for continued study, increased responsibility, increases in pay, or pursuing a higher degree.
Certificate and licensing requirements vary from state to state, so be sure to check your state’s requirements.
Online Instructional Technology Programs
With the growing importance of technology in the classroom, online programs in instructional technology have developed to accommodate current educators and those who aspire to enter the field. Depending on your degree type, institution, and state requirements, the structures of programs may vary. Many culminate in a capstone project and/or internship. By planning early and effectively, students can translate their program experiences into work opportunities.
Online degree programs are best for students who can work independently with minimal guidance. Those who need the structure and discipline of traditional classes may wish to take on-campus courses instead.
Online Instructional Technology Degree Options
Before choosing a degree or certification program, it is important to make sure the coursework meets your unique goals and lifestyle. Potential choices for online programs in instructional technology or educational technology include Drexel University, the University of New Mexico, and Lamar University. However, don’t be afraid to research other options to discover your perfect fit.
Drexel University Online offers an instructional technology specialist certificate. This program is designed for certified teachers in Pennsylvania; if you don’t have that qualification, you may be allowed entrance and expected to take additional classes.
This program is completely online, meaning you can work at your own pace as your schedule allows. It is less expensive to attend Drexel Online for this certification than it would be in their brick-and-mortar school, with classes costing $978 per credit (compared to $1303) for the 2019-2020 school year.
The University of New Mexico allows you to complete a B.S. in Technology & Training as part of their “2 + 2 Transfer Program.” In this program, students complete two years of schooling through a community college, then transfer to UNM’s Organization, Information & Learning Sciences (OILS) department for their final two years.
This program is 100% online, costing the same as on-campus courses would. NM residents attending full-time can expect to pay $2,793 per semester for the 2019-2020 school year, while non-residents will pay $10,857.74.
Lamar University offers a Master of Education in educational technology leadership. To be accepted, you need at least two years of teaching experience and a valid teaching certificate. The M.Ed. teaches its students to use their knowledge of how people learn in order to design technology-based programming and materials.
This program takes as little as 18 months and costs a total of $9,900 as of the 2019-2020 school year.
A variety of resources are available that future instructional technology specialists may find useful. Here are a few:
- Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT)
- International Society of the Learning Sciences (ISLS)
- Online Learning Consortium (OLC)
- Instructional Technology Council
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