US L&D Salary Benchmark

Training Specialist Salary Breakdown: Compensation Benchmark

What does the average L&D employee earn? 

Training specialist salaries in the United States varied according to a variety of factors. Unsurprisingly, experienced L&D professionals with ‘Head of’ titles working in the private sector, and for larger companies, tend to be paid more.

  • According to our survey, a rough average salary for an L&D professional working in the US is $91,157. Over half are making $80k or more.
training specialist salaries

This encompasses a range of job titles, including ‘L&D Manager’, ‘Instructional Designer,’ ‘Learning Specialist,’ and ‘Chief Learning Officer’.

  • A rough average salary for L&D professionals working in the public sector is $82,209. Almost half (42%) make $69k or below.
  • A rough average salary for L&D professionals working for private sector companies (excluding training organizations, non-profits, and freelancers) is $95,941. Almost half (47%) make $90k or above.

According to our survey, a rough average salary for L&D professionals working in the public sector is $82,209.

By company size

  • A rough average salary for L&D professionals working at small companies (0-49 employees) is $75,606
  • A rough average salary for L&D professionals working at a company of over 1,000 employees is $97,066

By job title

  • Those with the title “L&D Manager” or similar make a rough average salary of $104,242 
  • Those with the title “Instructional Designer” or similar make a rough average salary of $78,182 
  • Those with the title “Head/Chief Learning Officer” or similar make a rough average salary of $115,000 
  • Those with the title “Learning Specialist” or similar make a rough salary of $73,049

By experience

  • A rough average of someone with 0-5 years' experience in L&D is $73,690
  • A rough average salary of someone with 5-15 years' experience in L&D is $91,804
  • A rough average salary of someone with 15+ years' experience in L&D is $110,135

Interestingly, most (78%) respondents have not always worked in L&D. This tells us L&D is an attractive option for people from a diverse range of professional backgrounds. It also means that those who are shaping and driving the L&D professional forward have a rich, multidisciplinary pool of knowledge from which to draw from. This can only be considered an asset in a work world in which adaptability is an essential professional trait.

78% of respondents have not always worked in L&D.

Raises

  • The rough mean salary increase in the last 12 months for L&D professionals is 3.27%.
L&D salary raises
  • The vast majority (80%) have had a raise in the last 24 months.
Frequency of L&D salary raises

Compensation satisfaction thresholds

Those that are paid on the lower end aren’t happy about it. The threshold for being unhappy regarding one’s pay seems to be those making $70k or under: 

training specialist salary satisfaction thresholds

Indeed, those making below $70k had an average satisfaction score of 2.6 (rather unsatisfied), whereas those making between $70-100k were between neutral and satisfied, and those making over $100K were satisfied, with 27% of those that are making over $100k saying they are very satisfied.

training specialist salary satisfaction
training specialist salary satisfaction

In terms of raises, the average size of a raise in the last 12 months for those happy with their current salary was 4.2%. Those who felt neutrally about their salary said they had a raise of 2.8%, and those who were unhappy with their salary only got a raise of 1.9%.

Those who were unhappy with their salary were also more likely to want to leave L&D.

Those who were unhappy with their salary were more likely to want to leave L&D.

A day in the life of an L&D professional

What does the average work-life of a training specialist look like?

Very few L&D professionals work part-time (only 3% of those we surveyed), and most work as part of a team of between 7 and 8 people. Perhaps surprisingly, only about half (52%) say they have a degree in an L&D-related field, such as a Master of Industrial and Organizational Psychology or a Master of Education, Learning, and Technology.

Only about half (52%) of those in L&D say they have a degree in an L&D-related field.

L&D degrees

When it comes to career guidance, only a third of our respondents could say with confidence that they benefited from a mentor.

mentorship in L&D

As for compensation, L&D professionals (training specialists) are reasonably satisfied with their salaries overall. They rated their average satisfaction rate as 3.3 on a scale of 1 (very unsatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied).

training specialist salary satisfaction

However, that still leaves over half (52%) of those in L&D who are either neutral, unsatisfied, or very unsatisfied with their pay. 

While these dissatisfied employees are more likely to feel comfortable asking for a pay hike than their happier peers, on the whole, training specialists don’t feel particularly confident about arguing for a higher salary; only 41% would feel at least ‘somewhat’ comfortable asking for a raise.

How comfortable are L&D professionals in asking for a raise

Clearly, there is a subset of L&D specialists who are ready to advocate for better compensation. But that still leaves just under half (43%) of those unhappy with their compensation who are either unsure if they’d be comfortable asking for a raise, or are sure that they wouldn’t be comfortable.

Nearly half of those who aren’t happy with their salary also don’t feel comfortable asking for a raise.

We also shouldn’t forget that those who are satisfied with their salaries may, too, deserve higher pay according to their market value; many professionals operate on the assumption that they’re being paid fairly, in the absence of salary transparency.

For these professionals looking to advocate for better pay, we’ve created a salary negotiation cheat sheet. In it, you’ll find advice to guide you through the process of arguing for a raise, including who you should talk to, how to broach the subject, and how much to ask for.

salary negotiation cheat sheet

Are you being paid what you're worth?

Download

You can also refer to the last chapter of this guide, “Leveling Up”, for advice and insights for proving the return on investment of L&D programs, and generally proving your impact in the eyes of top management.

Training specialist salary key takeaways  

Today’s Learning and Development specialists come from a wide range of professional backgrounds, and only half have an L&D-related qualification. More experience equals more pay, and those working in the private sector out earn those in the public sector.

When it comes to salary satisfaction, not everyone working in L&D is making what they feel they deserve, and it’s a factor for turnover in the profession. Although a culture of asking for a pay raise does seem to be present, not everyone who is unhappy with their compensation feels empowered to argue for a pay hike. This would suggest that some of those dissatisfied with their salary are either lacking the tools, guidance, or know-how to make the case for better compensation, or that there is a lack of opportunity for career progression within their organization.

In order to feel confident about asking for a raise (and getting it), L&D professionals need to help each other with strategies on how to go from outputs to outcomes that prove their impact on the business’s bottom line. You can learn more about how to do this in the last chapter of this guide, Leveling Up.