Are you wondering whether or not a career in training & development is for you? Maybe you’re in a job that you dislike, but you’ve developed some training programs and really enjoyed it. Perhaps you’re a college student wondering what type of career fits your skills, or a teacher who would rather teach adults. Or, maybe you are a trainer but unsure if it’s the right fit. If any of these descriptions sound like you, read on.
To be sure, a career in training and development can be satisfying. But in order to enjoy and excel at it, you should have at least some of the following skills and personality traits.
The Necessary Skills
- Communication Skills: Excellent oral and written communication skills are critical for anyone entering the field of learning and development. You’ll need to be able to speak in front of large and small groups as well as write effectively for a wide range of audiences.
- Interpersonal Skills: Training professionals must have good “people skills.” Superb listening skills are required to successfully identify the needs of your audience. It’s also important to be socially perceptive—so that you’re aware of others' reactions and can adjust your message and approach as needed. Because most trainers act as consultants within their own organizations, it’s important to be able to develop constructive working relationships with others.
- Creative Thinking: Training and development professionals need to be able to think creatively to design new programs and approaches to get their information across.
- Planning and Attention to Detail: Training and development professionals must be capable of putting together detailed plans and materials to support their educational programs.
- Technology Skills: It’s increasingly important for training and development professionals to be technologically savvy. All trainers need to know how to use technology in the classroom, as well as how to effectively use learning management systems and online meeting platforms.
The Most Effective Personality Traits
- Extroverted: Most of the training and development professionals I know are more extroverted than introverted, especially if they are engaged in training delivery. However, if you love teaching people but don’t like getting up in front of big groups, don’t cross this field off your list. There are many opportunities for people who enjoy teaching smaller groups or using online platforms. So, if you’re an introvert, you might enjoy instructional design or training of a more technical nature. Finally, many introverts do enjoy training large groups, just be aware of your tolerance for time with people versus your need for "alone time" when considering this career path.
- Idea Person: If you think of yourself as an “idea person,” developing new programs and ways to present concepts should come naturally to you. If you’ve ever taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), you were probably identified as having a preference for Intuition and you would have an “N” in your Myers-Brigg type.
- Flexibility: While trainers must be able to plan and pay attention to detail, they also must be able to “think on their feet” and adjust quickly when something unexpected comes up.
Because the field is so diverse, there truly are opportunities for every personality type. The key will be to make sure that your personality matches the type of training and corporate culture of the company for which you will be working. So, for example, if you enjoy technical subjects and structured environments, you might gravitate towards a larger company that needs technical trainers. On the other hand, if you love unstructured environments and can deal with uncertainty, you might enjoy a tech start-up.
The Potential Job Outlook and Salaries
According to O*NET Online, job growth for training and development specialists is projected to be about 5-8% percent in the next 10 years which is about average. An area where demand is quite strong is Instructional Design where projected growth is about the same but the supply of people with the requisite skills is more limited.
In fact, the Bersin by Deloitte 2015 Corporate Learning Factbook reports that U.S. spending on corporate training grew by 10 percent last year (the fifth consecutive yearly increase) to well over $70 Billion. At the same time, instructor-led training dropped by 9% highlighting the trend toward e-learning and other forms of employee development.
Meanwhile, the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds the median salaries for training and development specialists were $ 58,210 in 2015, with more experienced professionals earning up to $90,000 per year. Salaries for instructional designers were $62,270 and training and development managers were paid an average of $102,640 in 2015.
The Most Prospective Industries
All types of companies hire training and development professionals. The industries that hire the most learning professionals are:
- health care
- professional, scientific, and technical services
- educational services
- financial and insurance.
So, it doesn’t hurt to have experience in these fields if you want to go into training and development. However, because all industries hire training professionals, consider the types of things you’d like to teach people to do.
- Do you like hands-on or more concrete subjects?
- Do you prefer more theoretical subjects like leadership development or customer service?
- Are you good with technology and do you enjoy showing people how to use technology?
Let your interests be your guide when considering the type of industry in which you will ply your training skills.
How to Pursue a Career in Training & Development
O*NET OnLine’s Summary Report for Training & Development Specialists reports that almost all training and development professionals have college degrees, and nearly 20 percent have masters’ degrees. Another 11 percent have a post-baccalaureate certificate.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that many training and development professionals have a bachelor’s degree in human resources, education, or instructional design because there are few training and development degrees at the undergraduate level. Other common backgrounds include business or the social sciences, such as educational or organizational psychology. As technology continues to play a larger role in training and development, organizations are beginning to seek candidates who have a background in information technology or computer science.
So, if this sounds like the right field for you, an excellent first step would be to join the Association for Talent Development (ATD) to gain access to member-only content and discounts on training programs. If you are a student or young professional, there is a special rate for you to make it more affordable. You should also consider joining the ATD chapter in your region so you can network with professionals in the field.