Beyond Corporate America: Non-traditional career paths for training and development graduates

Kathleen Iverson, Roosevelt University Training and Development Department Chair

careerpathIf you visit the RU Training job board, you’ll find many opportunities for instructional designers and e-learning specialists. In fact, instructional design was listed as No. 38 in
2012 in Money Magazine’s list of best jobs. Many MATD grads work for major organizations in Chicago and nationally including Allstate, Hewitt & Associates, Grainger, United Airlines, ADP, Ritz-Carlton, Hilton, and McDonald’s Hamburger University, to name just a few. Historically, opportunities in large, multi-national organizations are the bread and butter career paths for learning and development. Big companies have lots of employees to train and have the financial resources to support corporate-wide training and performance initiatives. But what about those who are interested in putting their T&D skills to work in the non-profit sector, academia, or even in another field or career entirely? Although it may take a bit more time and effort to uncover opportunities, the jobs are there. Start by reading a previous article, “Training and Development for Non-Profits” for specific examples of our grads who are currently working in this sector.

Find your place
Where to look for those non-traditional gems of opportunity for T & D grads:

Academia: Due to the explosion of online learning in higher education, most universities have a staff of instructional designers and instructional technologists who take existing curriculum and redesign it for online delivery, much like the rush in the corporate arena to redesign traditional training for e-learning delivery. Opportunity for online teachers has also grown rapidly. If you are considering a career in higher education, check out HigherEdJobs for career opportunities in online teaching and instructional design.

Association Management: Chicago and other major cities including New York and Washington D.C. are home to large, successful associations that provide education and certification to professions. Several recent graduates have been drawn to career opportunities in association management, enjoying the opportunity to design and deliver curriculum in very specialized fields including medicine, law, and actuarial science. For career opportunities specific to this field check the job board at the ASAE. 

Community-Based Organizations: From grassroots organizations to churches to social service agencies, many graduates have pursued careers focused on service to others. Opportunities for instructional design and delivery are prevalent as the basis for much work in social service organizations lies in education and performance improvement. For opportunities in non-profit organizations you might check

Right, where you are: Other grads have built careers in finance, teaching, career development, coaching, consulting, even, fashion design, and have shared with us that the skills they developed in our curriculum have helped them to become better managers, leaders, supervisors, and planners. After all, good design is good design, regardless of the purpose.

Share your story
If you are a current or past student and working in or pursuing a “non-traditional” ISD, training or organization development career path, please share your story with us—what led you to this career? How do you apply what you are learning or have learned in our program to your job?



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  • Although an older article I still found the content valuable as I look to build my career within the training field as related to social justice.

  • This is good to know. As someone who is not in the field yet, I’ve naturally wondered how to go about looking into non-traditional opportunities. This blog always seems to be right on target. Thanks!

  • As a MaOD candidate, I feel like I have an opportunity to sell my degree and background to fit into any organization. There remains alot of mystery around just what the degree is/means to business. Working in academia, I look forward to staying in education and using my expertise to create better student programming and impacting culture for staff. I encourage us all to continue to think beyond the traditional avenues of employment. Thanks for posting.

  • Thank you for this great article! I have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and have always enjoyed working with technology and training other healthcare professionals on the use of complex medical equipment. I have also worked in the education department of a hospital and have participated in the design and delivery of multi-part curriculum for on-boarding new nurses. In fact, the exposure I had there, working closely with the organization’s corporate university is what ultimately led me to pursue a degree in Training and Development. I had briefly considered a MS in Nursing Education however that felt much too limiting to me. With a MATD and a concentration in Organization Development, I am very hopeful that many new career paths will be available to me. I am especially aware that many hospitals and healthcare organizations are employing internal OD consultants and have departments dedicated to Organizational or Operational Excellence. This gives me great hope that I will be able to combine my rich experience in nursing and healthcare with my new found skills in T&D and OD either as an employee of an organization or as a consultant.

    • I think that you have great potential for new opportunities as training and OD both are very important in health care at this time and likely to be even more important in the future. Thank you for taking the time to post your thoughts.

  • Thank you for this post! With a background in education and the non-profit world, I always figured that getting into training and development would mean a job in corporate America. Since starting my master’s degree, I am finding out that that is not necessarily the case. There are a wide variety of factors that will drive my career choices, but it’s nice to know there are options in all kinds of sectors!

  • As I was reviewing this article it made me think back to my prior educational experience and where I have landed in my career. I have an associates degree in Business Administration and Accounting a Bachelors degree in Elementary education and ended up in the business world training and developing for my organization.
    I waited for years to go back for my Masters degree because I just was not able to find the right path. I am so excited to hear and see others paths to where they are today. Also I really enjoy seeing how the educational opportunities have changed over the years to online learning.
    I look forward to continuing to learn of the opportunities for my career growth.

  • Reading this excites me for future opportunities I haven’t even considered yet. Beyond that, it validates the work I am doing now witih the HandsOn Suburban Chicago group, using what I am learning in my Org D studies and applying it to improving my community one project at a time. A mentor gave me advice similar to what is in this article in my quest to gain experience in the field – she is the one who suggested I offer my professional skills to a non profit. The professional experience is invaluable, and the personal reward even more priceless. As the organization continues to develop, I will have more opportunities to apply what we are learning, especially in regards to project management, consulting, coaching, and communication.

  • It’s good to know that advancements are available within the non-profit sector in the T&D field.

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  • When I read this I became so excited about the possible companies and fields that I can enter into with my degree. The possibilities are endless. It was a giddy feeling( I have no other word to describe how I felt) knowing that I can go anywhere and work with any company!

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