Careers in Training and Development Part 2: A quick study

Suppose you are delivering a  training session (either virtual or face-to-face) and at the end of the session, a participant says, “I think I’d like to have a job like yours one day. It looks interesting. How can I learn more about the field? What should I do to prepare for a career in this field?” As you formulate an answer, you realize there is no one clear path to a career in T & D nor is there one simple or straightforward job description. In fact, even the actual name of our field is up for debate: transitioning from training and development to workplace learning to talent development.

Thankfully, there are specific tools and strategies that you might suggest to help those interested in the field to quickly get a sense of what it’s about and how to begin the process of career development.

For a sense of what our field is about, visit two sites maintained by the U.S. Bureau of labor statistics:
• O-Net:
• Occupational Outlook Handbook:

They provide a quick overview of the field, the job outlook (which is excellent by the way) and key job titles. For a sense of the scope, training is a $90 billion industry that has experienced growth for the past 4 years.

Next, check out two association sites that pertain to training and workplace learning. Below are links to the national sites, but note that local chapters may be much more accessible and offer many free or low-cost opportunities to network and learn:

Association for Talent Development (ATD formerly ASTD): Be sure to check out the ATD Competency Model at which answers the question of what you need to know to prepare for a career in T & D.

International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI)
ISPI is a smaller, more grassroots organization that focuses on the bigger picture of performance, reminding us that there are multiple ways to address performance problems in the workplace besides training. Be sure to see the definition of performance improvement.

Finally, those who consider a new career or career change can research the job market to learn 1) the types of jobs available, 2) the requirements for education and experience that employers seek 3) the various job duties that individuals perform. So visit Indeed, Monster, or the ATD job bank and enter search terms like instructional designer, training and development specialist, e-learning designer, training manager, talent manager, etc. to see current positions. Be sure to evaluate the job postings in terms of the ATD competency model to note how the knowledge, skills, and abilities translate to career requirements.

The final question, “What should I do to prepare for a career in this field?” is a bit more complicated to answer and will depend on the individual’s background and resources for continuing education. For someone with a baccalaureate degree who is interested in pursuing a graduate degree, a Master’s in Training & Development, such as ours, or a degree in a related field like instructional design, or instructional technology can provide both the skills and credentials for career entry or change. When considering graduate programs, make sure the curriculum addresses the specific skill set you need for jobs that interest you. If you already have an advanced degree or lack the time or resources to pursue graduate study, ATD offers a variety of workshops and seminars linked to skill development. Langevin also provides similar workshops. Keep in mind that workshops such as these do not lead to degree completion or college credit and may not be viewed as positively in the job market.

Here are other strategies for self-directed learning:

• Read industry reports and articles. You may use the RU library to research specific topics related to training or use Google or Google Scholar.
• Check out books through the RU Library that pertain to training.
• Attend local or national conferences (see ATD or ISPI).
• Use Lynda to learn virtually. Most local libraries offer members free access to
• Attend free webinars. Just Google “free webinar” and keywords like training, e-learning, or performance improvement and you will find many options.
• Attend local chapters of ATD and ISPI and talk to members. You will find them very welcoming and happy to share their knowledge.

Questions for Discussion
1. What is your training story? Why are you interested in the field? If you are working in the field, how did you prepare?
2. Can you recommend additional resources that would be helpful to those interested in a career in training?


  • Almost everyone that I’ve worked with to date has been an “accidental trainer” and they don’t have the book smarts or leadership abilities to continue growing in a training role. It has been a tricky line to walk when being consulted for feedback or advice for an initiative or project going forward.

  • I though this was a great article and really appreciated the links as I look ahead to transitioning from merchandising into HR OD.

  • Thank you, this is a great article with many great resources! Currently in being in the training field, these resources are something that I can use and appreciate immediately. I have always been drawn to training, and originally got my degree to be a school teacher. I am now in the training field for a manufacturing industry, so my background in teaching has been useful so far.

  • Bookmarking this article. Wow! Thank you for all these resources. In my professional career, I have always been drawn to the training and change process. And have been given many opportunities to train others or provide input on how to improve training in a department or role I was in. I have to admit, I think the most important tool has been the ATD competency models. I didn’t know it existed until this course and I plan on spending a lot of time honing my skills over the next few years.

    Thanks for the additional resources.

  • Thank you for all these resources! As a student who wants to work in the field of HR, it is so useful to be able to look up the responsibilities of jobs and what is typically required. It will help me understand how I need to prepare. I also find it very useful to read about the pay and outlook of a job as I can educate myself on the right options to pursue. This is my favorite blog post so far – I feel well equipped with tools to pursue my career.

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