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How to Become a Learning and Development Specialist

Find out how to become a learning and development specialist. Research the job description and the education requirements and find out how to start a career in learning and development.

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Should I Become a Learning and Development Specialist?

Learning and development specialists, also known as a training and development specialist, design, conduct and organize training programs to improve employee performance and ensure organizational productivity. They help develop and implement new training materials such as manuals, training videos and slide show presentations. Conducting surveys with focus groups, instructors, managers and experts is also part of their responsibilities. Day-to-day work involves frequent contact with people and business travel is sometimes required.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Fields Instructional design, education, business or related field
Licensure and/or Certification Voluntary
Experience 3-5 years of experience
Key Skills Managerial, interpersonal, critical-thinking, decision-making and communication skills, understanding of corporate finance, budgeting and organizational management, proficiency in eLearning, technical writing and project management, in-depth knowledge of various learning management systems (LMS), Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and training software
Salary (2015) $58,210 per year (Median annual wage for training and development specialists)

Sources: Job ads posted on Careerbuilder.com and Monster.com (August 2015), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree in business, instructional design, education or a related field is necessary for careers in field. Numerous schools offer accredited programs in these areas from which students can choose. All of these programs provide various skills applicable to the job duties required of learning and development specialists.

Success Tip:

  • Acquire presentation and teaching skills. Learning and development specialists work with photo imaging and graphics programs to create effective training solutions. Being proficient with the widely-used presentation and training programs in the industry gives students a competitive advantage when entering the workforce. Learning and development specialists also need to be able to teach the training programs they develop to employees within the company.

Step 2: Get Experience

Students generally gain hands-on experience while obtaining their degree by working part-time at entry-level jobs or through internships. Admissions or academic advisors can usually provide assistance in finding these opportunities.

Success Tips:

  • Join a professional organization. Prospective specialists may want to improve their job prospects by acquiring certification or evidence of course completion from a national organization. The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) is a nationally recognized organization in the industry. Membership in this group, and others in the industry, demonstrates an individual's commitment to the profession. Members benefit from getting the latest research, news and trends in the industry. Aspiring learning and developments specialists can also join public-speaking and leadership groups such as Toastmasters to hone their public speaking and presentation skills.
  • Get certified. Many employers look for candidates who are certified in certain skills. Both the ASTD and the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) offer certification opportunities for learning and development professionals. The ASTD offers the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance credential. Candidates with at least three years of experience may apply for the ISPI's Certified Performance Technologist credential.

Step 3: Seek Career Advancement When Available

Learning and development specialists can advance in their careers if they can perform highly specialized training, show efficiency in the job and lead productive teams. Candidates should demonstrate outstanding records of achievement in their current positions before applying for advancement opportunities. Entry-level employees generally require some time to perfect their craft and learn new skills through experience.

Success Tip

  • Consider earning a master's degree. Some employers prefer candidates with master's degrees, and a master's degree may be required for some upper-level management positions. Individuals should consider a master's degree program after researching accredited schools where advanced skills and theories can be learned.
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