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ATD Blog

Teachers Interested in Leaving K-12 Should Consider a Career in Training

Monday, March 18, 2019

*This Insights post has been updated from the original in 2019 with new statistics and information on teacher exit rates and reasons.

Mounting pressures and workloads are causing teachers to leave the profession. Thousands of teachers across the country are retiring, quitting, or taking a leave of absence, the Associated Press reported. With the added work of preparing curriculum and presentations, learning new software, engaging students, and assessing what was learned for in-person and online classrooms, many teachers are overwhelmed and burned out.

One in five teachers in May 2020 responded to a USA Today/Ipsos poll saying they felt unsafe returning to the classroom because of the coronavirus. With numbers of infections rising across the country to record-breaking levels, many school districts are returning to at least a hybrid instruction for students. In some areas of the country, like Indiana, Florida and Alaska, teachers are expected to be back in-person full-time.

As a result, many teachers are looking to leave the profession. One transition for teachers that could come with a higher salary and lower cost for benefits is the talent development profession.

The talent development profession is set to grow by 10 percent year over year—a rate much higher than the national average job growth rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the 2017 ATD salary report, the average talent development professional makes between $80,000 and $89,000. And teachers are skilled in many of the same areas as trainers, talent development managers, and instructional designers.


Instructional designers are tasked with analyzing and understanding what their audience needs to learn; creating and designing that coursework, along with developing instructional materials, handouts, and job aids; then assessing what the audience has learned. While the models may sound different and the audience may be a bit taller and have more facial hair than what K–12 teachers are used to, the fundamental skills are based on the same components.

Moving from the classroom to the talent development space can seem daunting for some; but for many, the love of teaching is the main reason why they make the switch—and find themselves so good at their new jobs.


“After feeling like such a failure in the public school sector, this job (teaching adults technology) really helped me gain back my confidence in my own teaching abilities. I also found that I was actually a very good teacher!” said Hillarie Hunt, learning and development director at the Northwest Evaluation Association and a former high school teacher.

Of course, teachers experience many challenges when transferring to the training space. And to be honest, teaching a roomful of adults a concept as dry as compliance is not going to give you the same fulfillment as teaching a child how to read or helping them discover that space and time is continuous. For all the pluses of the talent development field, there are certainly a few drawbacks as well—and many feel similar to those in the K–12 environment.

No organization or role is without its problems or downfalls, but for those considering leaving teaching K–12, a natural next step in your education career might be moving to the adult education space and the talent development profession.

About the Author

Formerly the senior content manager at ATD for career development and host of the Accidental Trainer podcast, Lisa Spinelli writes about career development and pathways. She is the editor and main author of Teachers to Trainers (ATD Press) and is working toward her ACC accreditation with the International Coaching Federation as a career and transition coach. Currently, she is director of content strategy at Degreed. Spinelli also volunteers her time outside of work coaching and assisting transitioning military service members and spouses as well as disabled entrepreneurs in their new career paths.

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I transitioned from a 20 year teaching and coaching career to corporate training two years ago. It can be done (not sure about the 80-89k average salary though).
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Thank you all for helping these teachers and for reading this blog post! I hope we can encourage more teachers who already want to leave the profession to explore this great career opportunity!
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I resonate so much with this article! Getting my Masters Degree in Training Development (M.Ed) was the best thing I could have done for myself, professionally. I was able to find a field where I wasn't so out of touch with my teaching skill-set and I was also taught the theory of learning and education. For me, it was important to leave the classroom with a transferable skill set. There is intentionality behind wanting to impact learners-training and development fills that gap!
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