There are many people interested in getting into elearning today, but want to learn a bit more about the industry and what to expect from a salary perspective.
First, much of this information is already available and can be found with Google search. However, this may lead to the misconception that you have to study instructional design in a university setting in order to break into the field. Nothing can be further from the truth.
Most of the people I know who are involved in the elearning industry never formally studied it in college. Sure, now they take courses on the subject through associations, but many were involved in other disciplines and “fell” into instructional design.
Which brings me to the point.
The best place to learn about elearning, from beginning to end, is on-the-job. You can learn the basics for free from online courses, or perhaps pay for a couple, but you will learn the most by doing.
If this is the direction you want to go in, the best way to gain exposure to elearning tools and projects today is through consulting.
There are many firms out there that specialize in landing contracts and then staff those projects with their personnel. Spend some time coming up-to-speed with instructional design basics, but I would suggest putting most of your time and energy into finding a firm that is hiring. In my opinion, the best site you can use for open positions is Indeed.com.
Without going into too much detail, you can apply many filters on Indeed, and it will search across all job sites to give you all matching results (make sure to use the Advanced Search in order to have access to these filters).
If you aren’t in a position to switch careers to a consulting firm, see what is available internally at your organization. Even if you cannot formally switch departments, there is always a need for people to assist in keeping training documentation and courses up-to-date.
Finally, you always have the option to do projects pro bono. Be careful though as many of these seemingly small projects can turn into huge time commitments. You may end up burning out before you even get started! If you go the pro bono route for your first exposure to elearning creation and deployment, it’s probably best to start as an assistant so you can learn the basics, and also to avoid getting too overwhelmed.
Studying elearning and instructional design in school certainly won’t hurt anything, but nothing beats hands-on exposure. Wherever possible try to get involved in the creation and launch of an elearning project. You will learn so much more from the mistakes you make in the field than in the chapters of a book.