2022 US Learning and Development Career Path Guide
(Looking for the UK version of this study? You can find that here.)
If you’re a Learning and Development professional, chances are you haven’t worked your entire career in that field. You also probably struggle with your company’s organizational structure, limited career opportunities, and/or a lack of professional development guidance. These are just a few of the findings of our recent Learning and Development survey—and they all point to the need for more resources in the L&D community around career advancement.
And that’s just what we set out to do in our survey: shine some much-needed light on the Learning and Development industry. We want to provide ambitious L&D professionals with all the information they need to better steer their careers in the right direction, in an industry that, paradoxically, often lacks career guidance for its own members. For instance, how many L&D professionals are confident in approaching their managers about a raise?
Indeed, our recent research on the Great Resignation revealed how paramount it is for employees to feel fairly compensated for their work—and to find meaning in their job. Low salary, burnout, and unfulfilling jobs were the three main reasons employees quit:
So, we polled 255 Learning and Development professionals, asking them about their compensation, career aspirations, and professional challenges. We crunched the numbers to identify average salaries, including factors that made it more likely someone would earn a higher wage. We also put our finger on the top challenges facing L&D employees, how many people want to leave the field, the role advanced degrees play in salary satisfaction, and much more.
We polled 255 Learning and Development professionals, asking them about their compensation, career aspirations, and professional challenges.
How to read this guide
We split our survey analysis into several sections, which you’ll find on the left, in the sidebar. You can read this guide from beginning to end, or skip around to a chapter you’re most interested in.
There are several aims of this guide:
- To act as a salary benchmark, so that L&D professionals can assess if they are being paid fairly
- To identify factors that contribute to higher salaries, to help aspiring L&D employees achieve their goals
- To identify common roadblocks to career advancement, and to provide solutions
- To identify the backgrounds of those who might be considering making a move into this field, so they understand if they're the right fit
- To understand at what threshold L&D professionals are satisfied with their salaries, to help employers avoid continued fallout from the Great Resignation due to salary dissatisfaction
- To empower the L&D community with the information and resources needed to prove just how critical L&D is to solving key business challenges, driving growth, and supporting employee engagement and wellbeing.
How to decide if a career in L&D is right for you
As noted above, most (78%) of the L&D professionals we surveyed have not worked their entire career in Learning and Development:
Mortgage broker, General Manager, Video Editor and Producer, Teacher….the majority of those working in L&D at one point transitioned from another profession. You may be wondering yourself if a move into L&D is right for you. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you decide.
Question #1: Do you want to make a business impact?
As we’ve written about elsewhere, if you’re contemplating making the transition into L&D, you’ll want to keep in mind that a key factor for success is to care deeply about your team and organization’s growth. Especially if you want to move into a management role or expand your team, it’s essential to demonstrably make the link between business outcomes and the work the L&D team is doing.
As our own Chief Learning Officer, David James, argues, too many L&D teams set up systems where they act like offshore providers. Instead, David insists, they should be thinking of themselves as internal consultancies; L&D shouldn’t be separate from the business, it is the business.
It’s essential to demonstrably make the link between business outcomes and the work the L&D team is doing.
Question #2: Are you comfortable with proving the link between learning and business impact?
This kind of evidence-based practice means getting your hands dirty with data. For instance, you may need to work with your IT or sales team to understand how your sales enablement training affected win rates or business representatives’ efficiency. Or, you may want to take a look at whether your Customer Success Team is able to close more tickets, faster, after your training on a new software program.
The critical component is being able to make the link between your L&D work and the business metrics your learners are held accountable for. Once you’re able to do that, you’re much more likely to prove your contribution to the wider success of your organization, and advance your career in the process.
The critical component is being able to make the link between your L&D work and the business metrics your learners are held accountable for.
Question #3: Do you like working with people?
Alongside crunching numbers, you’ll also need to work well with people if you want to succeed in Learning and Development. Not only does it help to genuinely care about your colleagues’ growth goals, but many L&D professionals work directly with subject-matter experts in a collaborative learning environment to create, distribute, and iterate on courses.
You’re more likely to thrive in L&D if you enjoy working collaboratively with people to guide them in sharing their own knowledge with their peers.
You’re more likely to thrive in L&D if you enjoy working collaboratively with people
Question #4: Can you support your employer’s company culture?
Alignment with the organization’s overall culture is also critical. The work of learning and development is to support an organization’s growth and development, both at the individual contributor level, as well as the macro level. Especially if you plan to transition laterally into an L&D role at your current place of work, you’ll want to truthfully say you can turn L&D into a true driver for your company’s vision, culture, and goals.
So, whether you’re already working in Learning and Development or are considering making a change, we hope this guide will help you craft the career path that you’ll find rewarding.
If you’re interested in diving deeper into our career development tips, check out our brand new Master Class series, in which our own Chief Learning Officer, David James, explains how to start measuring learning in terms of impact instead of engagement, how to inspire your subject-matter experts to create great learning experiences, and much more.
Audience and methodology
We surveyed 255 L&D professionals based in the US between January and March, 2022, through an online Google form survey. 91% had Training/L&D as their main job function. To allow for people whose main responsibility is training, but who might sit on another team, we also included 6% HR/Training Managers, 1.6% Sales/Business Development, 1.2% Tech/R&D, 0.4% HR, other (recruiting, payroll, and other functions), and 0.4% Marketing/Communications professionals.
We applied a two-tailed significance test (at 5% risk level) to understand the statistical significance of our data. We round up to the nearest whole number for percentages when applicable. We asked respondents to choose their salary from a series of predefined ranges. To find mean (average) salaries from these ranges, we assigned a middling value to each interval, then multiplied by the number of respondents who chose this range and divided by the total number of respondents. We did the same to find averages for salary increases.
We also grouped some answers together from ‘other’ or free response submissions. For example, when people wrote in their job titles, we grouped titles together based on whether they were a ‘specialist’ versus a ‘manager’ or ‘director’. This meant we put an ‘Instructional Designer Specialist’ together with a ‘Learning and Development Specialist’ instead of with a ‘Learning and Development Manager.’
Ready to dive in? Check out the first chapter of this guide, which breaks down average training specialist salaries, outlines how many L&D professionals have an advanced degree, identifies compensation satisfaction, and much more.