Skip to content

Instructional Design and Project Management – Are You Certified?

June 27, 2010

The instructional design field is part art – part science (Check out this post on Performance x Design). While you can study Instructional Design as an academic field and complete a degree or certificate program, you can also join the field via on-the-job training. I have worked with people who have come through varying career paths to become talented instructional designers. The work of the instructional designer is application oriented and one becomes more skilled through practice. I think that project managers follow similar paths – some have related degrees while others have learned through the process of managing projects.

Part of the skill set of the instructional designer is project management. The reality of curriculum, education, and training teams in organizations is that the instructional designer often wears both hats. Rarely is there a separate project manager to orchestrate the process of course development and keep things on track and under budget. Having had this experience myself I often refer to myself as a Project Manager, but with the increase in certification in this area I wonder how long I will be able to do that.

Advertisements for Instructional Designer positions almost always include the need for “project management experience”. Recently though I saw an announcement that required project management certification, specifically the Project Management Professional (PMP) designation.

eLearning Pro with PMP…

The Project Management Institute (PMI) offers a globally recognized set of certifications. The two I am most familiar with are the PMP and the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM). The PMP requires an extensive application documenting three years of project management experience, a college degree, and specific coursework in project management. If your application is accepted, you sit for a national exam. Once you pass the exam and are granted the certification, you complete annual continuing education activities. The CAPM also involves an extensive application and exam followed by re-examination every five years.

So, I am considering pursuit of one of these designations. The process is a little daunting and I think to myself, when does it end? When do I have enough acronyms after my name to stay competitive and ensure a potential employer that I am qualified? And there seems to be a fine line there – how many is too many?

Professional certification also seems to be an industry in and of itself. There are application fees, study courses (with fees), test preparation materials to purchase, exam fees… and other costs associated with membership and continuing education. To me, there is a financial investment involved and one that would continue. Do employers assist with these costs or provide additional compensation to those who hold special certifications?

What are your thoughts on professional certification? – particularly where instructional design and project management are concerned. If you have considered pursuing  or have completed certification, please share your advice on the pros and cons. If you are an employer, let us know how you value certification as part of the recruitment/hiring process.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

10 Comments leave one →
  1. usablelearning permalink
    June 27, 2010 12:41 pm

    Interesting question — I used to develop online learning specifically for PMP certification prep classes, and I also worked for an e-Learning consulting company that strongly encouraged its project managers to get certified (paying for both prep classes and test fees).

    One of the challenges with PMP certification for e-Learning professionals is the large project focus. While there’s lots of useful information in PMI’s body of knowledge, as an actual process, it’s intended for large projects (Million+ budget, >6 months) – while there are certainly e-Learning projects with that scope, that’s the exception. I’d like to see PMI deal directly with the question of a process for smaller projects.

    Interesting that you saw an Instructional Designer position asking for PMP certification. I would guess that reflects the emphasis on PMP in that organization (some companies are very firmly PMP shops), rather than an overall trend. At least I hope so — it’s a pretty cumbersome certification for an ID. Project manager positions requiring PMP for e-Learning companies or functions makes a bit more sense.

    • June 27, 2010 5:17 pm

      usablelearning – you were able to answer a lot of questions here. I appreciate the perspective. I hadn’t realized that the PMP had that “large project” focus and intent, and maybe I’m not the only one. Agreed it might be interesting to see something in place with a smaller project focus. Thanks for the information! – Melissa

  2. Tom Branigan permalink
    July 7, 2010 11:48 am

    Melissa, I agree that nowadays there is a important relationship between the role of a Project Manager in the field of instructional design. I believe that project management principles can actually be applied to many careers, thus leading to its increasing popularity. In instructional design, however, it is more crucial to have these skills. Treating each course as a project makes sense. You are developing a distinct product or service and ensuring that that end product meets your stakeholder expectations. I’ve been studying for my PMP certification for months now and while my on the job training in curriculum development and education in general has helped refine my ID skills, my PMP training has helped me pull it all together and better understand the dynamics of the process as a whole. In addition, PMP training teaches you about the importance of communication skills, team motivation, effective planning, managing risks (I could go on and on). This training would greatly benefit all ID’s. I encourage you to pursue this certification. I take my cert exam on 7/19. Wish me luck!

    P.S. It was great speaking with you the other day. I hope I can pick your brain again soon!

    • July 7, 2010 4:58 pm

      Hi Tom – thanks for sharing your perspective here! And congratulations on your PMP progress – no small feat getting to the exam :). Agreed that project management skills are part of the whole instructional design process, and essential for successful completion. I, too, tend to look at each course as a project, just on a smaller scale than others. Best of luck on the exam! Hope to talk to you again soon. Keep me posted.

  3. August 16, 2011 4:02 am

    Hi all
    i want to add something on PMP Certification that, any PMP Aspirants should take some PMP Certification Training Before sitting for PMP Exam. it will help PMP Aspirants a lot. PMP Aspirant should take PMP Certification training from R.E.P of PMI, not from any other place as PMI R.E.P are genuine and provide very good PMP Certification training. for example KnowledgeWoods is PMI’s R.E.P and they offer 100% money back grantee if you don’t pass PMP exam after taking PMP certification training from KnowledgeWoods. PMP Aspirant also get 35 PDU’s certificate which fulfill one of the requirement to sit in PMP Exam. there are so many advantages if you opt for PMI’s R.E.P. if you want to know more advantages then you can check out KnowledgeWoods website

  4. RonM permalink
    July 29, 2013 9:56 am

    I know this is an old post, but did you move forward and invest in PMP certification? I can personally say I’m a believer but I went a different route. I spent 7 years working as an Instructional Designer with a company that provides Project Management and Business Analyist certifications. We were converting all our ILT courses to an e-learning format. I received my MS in Instructional Technology so training was my strong area. One thing about this company was they practiced what they preached so we applied PM processes to nearly all projects. I was able to experience what I was developing and through this I saw such a correlation between the two I was blown away. I went and earned my PMP back in 2010 and have no regrets. What it has done for me is given me the ability to see all projects as similar as the process does not chane, only the specifics of that particular project.

    • July 29, 2013 10:14 am

      Hi Ron,

      Thanks for adding to this conversation! I did not move forward with PMP certification – my job changed and I went in other directions, but it sounds like it not only made sense for you in the context of your work and focus, but also allowed you to approach instructional design from a project-based standpoint, which could have real potential benefits in terms of efficient use of resources, etc.

      Thanks again for sharing your story. I think we’ll see more project manager/instructional design overlap in the future and it will be interesting to see how it all evolves.

  5. johanna johanna permalink
    January 15, 2017 1:40 pm

    Hi all,

    I am wondering whether any of you can give me some suggestion. I am a recent Chemical Engineer graduate with 2 years working experience and I am interested to work on PMP certification; however with the required criteria, I don’t have enough experience yet to apply for PMP, and I am thinking to do CAPM. Do you think CAPM will be as much useful in the workplace as PMP? I want to move my career forward as a project management level from Engineering position. Any advice and suggestion is appreciated. Thank you.

    • January 16, 2017 6:00 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Johanna! It may not be advantageous to complete both the CAPM and PMP. Are you noticing that job announcements in your field ask for applicants with one or the other (or both)? I recommend you talk with a few experienced professionals who could serve as mentors for you in the Engineering field. Another strategy – if you participate in LinkedIn you can search for people in your network who already have these certifications – connect with them and ask for advice. You may also want to post your question in LinkedIn Group discussions. Find a few that focus on Engineering and Project Management topics. There is also a PMI Group that might be helpful.


  1. Top Posts – at least so far « Design Doc

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: