Profile of the Training Field

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No single profile can describe a typical job in the field of training and human resource development. Training and development professionals are a heterogeneous group with varied backgrounds, skills, and responsibilities. Some are employees of the corporations in which they train. Some are external consultants. Many are generalists. Others have any of a wide variety of specialties, including management development, technical training, sales training, organization development, career development, quality or performance improvement, and organization or job design. The tasks they perform include administering, evaluating, and managing HRD programs and services; analyzing learning needs; developing, marketing, or delivering instructional materials; designing programs; and serving as agents for organizational change.

What do they have in common? They all use training, HRD, organizational development, or career development in their efforts to improve the effectiveness of individuals, groups, and organizations. And they are all members of a dynamic, constantly evolving profession that offers many rewards to its practitioners.

Among the most tangible rewards in any field are the financial ones. In the first section of this chapter, we'll look at salaries and other forms of compensation for training specialists in various jobs, organizations, and locations. But money isn't everything. Working conditions can also mean the difference between a career you love and a job you hate. The second section of this chapter will discuss working conditions for trainers in different settings.

Sometimes job satisfaction is based on more subjective elements. Trainers describe a spectrum of personal motivations that attract people to the field and keep them there. The chapter will conclude with a look at the less tangible reasons for choosing a career in training and development.


Salaries and other compensation for training and development professionals vary widely. A recent salary survey, conducted by Training magazine (November 1995), revealed that 57 percent of trainers believe they are underpaid. But a few top earners in the field actually make as much as $250,000 a year, according to a survey by Abbot, Langer & Associates.

Who makes that kind of money? In the May 1995 issue of Training & Development magazine, Rebecca Thomas describes a composite profile, based on the survey results. The typical top earner is a corporate HRD director who manages ten or more professional-level employees and has an advanced degree. According to the survey report, he or she is most likely to work in a manufacturing firm in one of the following industries: aerospace; fabricated metal; food, beverage, or tobacco; and stone, clay, glass, or concrete. Other highly paid training and development professionals work in merchandising firms or utilities with 10,000 or more employees or annual sales of $250 million or more.

The Bottom Line on Training Salaries

Of course, most training and development specialists will never reach the six-figure mark. The average gross annual salary of the 1,802 respondents to the Training magazine survey was quite a bit lower than that, at $50,400. Even those results are not representative of the field as a whole. The Training study included a disproportionate number of higher-level trainers: 80 percent of respondents were managers or one-person training departments. And 24 percent had at least thirteen years of experience in the training field.

The 1994-1995 Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the U.S. Department of Labor, lists a median annual salary of $32,000 for human resource specialists in 1992. It describes a range that starts at $17,000 for the lowest-paid specialists and tops out at $64,000 for the highest-paid managers. Keep in mind that the Occupational Outlook Handbook does not break training out into a separate section but puts it under the human resources umbrella that includes other human resource specialties such as labor relations, personnel, position classification, and affirmative action.

Factors affecting a training specialist's salary, not surprisingly, include education, experience level, performance record, job category, geographic location, and the type and size of the organization. For example, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, starting salaries for bachelor's degree graduates in human resources averaged $22,900 in 1993; for master's degree recipients, the average was $30,500.

The Training survey results don't include starting salaries, but they do break down the data by position and by years of experience in the training field. Classroom instructor was the lowest-paid job title in the study. The average salary for instructors with three or fewer years of experience was $34,993; for those with thirteen or more years of experience, it was $48,366. Compare that to average salaries for executive-level training and HRD managers: $61,278 for those with three or fewer years of experience and $74,465 for the thirteen-plus group.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook lists average salaries for selected job descriptions, using data from the Abbott, Langer & Associates survey. Most of the occupations cited are personnel-related rather than training-related. But the report does include an average annual salary for corporate training directors of $63,900.

Not surprisingly, the largest, most financially secure firms pay their training professionals higher salaries than those paid by smaller firms. In Training's survey, organizations with gross sales or assets of $500 million or more paid respondents, on average, $56,700 a year. Respondents who work for employers with sales or assets between $20 million and $500 million made $50,457. And those whose employers had sales or assets under $20 million averaged $43,363. The highest-paying employers tended to be those in the areas of transportation, communication, and utilities; manufacturing; and the wholesale and retail trades. Geographic region also plays a part in determining levels of compensation. The Northeast, with its relatively high cost of living, led the United States in trainers' salaries, with an average $54,006 a year for respondents to Training's survey. The west central region-roughly, the Rocky Mountain states-came in at the bottom of the list, with an average of $45,900. In general employers on both coasts and in the Great Lakes region paid a little more than those in the central part of the country.
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