Training and Development Career Path

Oct 16, 2015

Hi all!


I have been an instructional designer, training coordinator, and trainer for about 5 years now. In addition, I have a M.S. in Training and Development as well. I absolutely love what I do!


However, I have been itching for a different opportunity lately and want to start looking for something new! I am struggling to find a true Training and Development career guide online. Everything seems to fall into a handful of titles with very similar job responsibilities: Instructional Designer, Training Specialist, Training Manager, Learning Consultant...


I was hoping to reach out to you experts to see if you guys had a more detailed and definitive description of the different titles.  Furthermore, is there a more general career path?


Thanks all!!

2 Replies
Bob S

Hi Opti,

Change is good! But I apologize that I'm not exactly sure what you are asking about....

Yes there are a bunch of different titles out there for our role(s), as this is still one of those "squishy" career fields.  Accordingly, we L&D folks run the gamut from jack-of-all-trades types working in small shops or freelancers, to highly specialized roles that focus just on multi-media production, flash coding, LMS sys admin, instructional system designers, and more.

I guess my point is, rather than looking for a common career path, perhaps a better approach might be to think about what pieces of our field do you love, what pieces do you loathe, and how much do you want to balance between them?    Because no matter where you land on that scale, there is a path for you.  

Not sure if that answers what you were looking for, but if you want to re-direct I bet some of the amazing heroes here will have some words of wisdom for you. Good luck!

Christy Tucker

James Tyer has collected a list of over 60 titles in L&D. It's an interesting look at the range of ways we describe ourselves.

I agree with Bob. The reason you can't find definitive descriptions is that they don't really exist. There's a lot of overlap, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach.

In her book The Accidental Instructional Designer, Cammy Bean says we fit a T-shaped skill model.

"We need broad skills and understanding (the top of the T), with potentially one area of deep expertise (the vertical bar of the T). The horizontal bar enables you to communicate and collaborate with experts across a wide range of disciplines, making you a versatile generalist with a well rounded point of view. The deep vertical bar makes you a specialist."

Rather than thinking about a linear career path, think about what Bob said. What do you love? Where do you have a "deep vertical bar" in the T-shaped model? What is your niche?

There are a few general trajectories. Career paths can be into management. I've seen people move to training manager or course development director positions, then into VP or CLO roles. If you like people management, that's an option. If you like project management, there are leadership roles for that.

If you'd rather say an individual contributor, you'll probably create your own path. That gets back to the T-shaped model. Maybe that career path ultimately means you become a consultant or start your own business, or maybe it means you're the star in a organization who mentors all the new hires. Any of those paths can be fantastic for the right person.

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