By the early 1990s U.S. higher education (according to ASTD) was offering more than 60 undergraduate degree programs, more than 140 master's programs, and almost 60 Ph.D. (doctoral) pro-grams in human resource development. These programs cover very broad areas of knowledge, sometimes overlap in their content, or are based on opposing philosophical/practical points of view. We will begin our review first with the programs that were developed at the master's degree level, then with those developed at the B.A./B.S. level, and finally with the pro-grams developed at the Ph.D. level.
Master's Degree Programs
Universities have begun offering graduate programs at the master's level. A typical program in adult and corporate instructional management is offered by Loyola University of Chicago. This master's program includes courses in: instructional methods, instructional design, human resource development, computer-assisted instruction, program evaluation, a review of past-current-future best training practices/concepts, program administration, adult learning, and research. Students must also have either at least six months of training and development work experience or appropriate internship experience as part of their degree requirement.
Another approach is to combine the above areas with traditional business management topics. An example of this model is the master's program in continuing education and training management at the College of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois. In addition to the education/training courses previously mentioned, students are also required to address core business topics such as: management and organizational behavior, marketing theory and applications, applied research, and financial administration and budgeting.
This interdisciplinary approach seems to address often-heard criticism by businesspeople that trainers are just "educators," that they know "little or nothing about the business process of how a company makes a profit." The truth is that training and development professionals are educators and recognize that adults learn in many ways that are different than children or adolescents. But they are also businesspeople. What will be the outcome of a training program if in preparing teams to solve real-world business problems, the company trainer cannot read a balance sheet or understand how the business makes decisions, conducts its marketing, and addresses competitive industry issues? How can a trainer write and conduct realistic training simulations that help employees improve personal problem-solving/decision-making abilities without knowledge of both applied business systems and education theory/practices?
Another option at the master's degree level is to approach training as part of human resources in a business school's M.B.A. pro-gram. Here the student receives a strong grounding in business concepts and systems and an overall understanding of human resources/workplace training. However, the lack of an educational component in the areas previously described considerably weakens the future trainer's ability to realistically address adult learning issues in the workplace.
A further way is to approach these issues from an organizational development (OD) perspective. Many post secondary institutions are now offering OD programs as part of an M.S. or M.B.A. degree. One such program is taught at Benedictine University in Naperville, a suburban community near Chicago. Its intent is to integrate technical and organization development skills and teach students more effective management styles.
These courses seek to offer students knowledge in both the theory and practice of effective management. OD programs are designed to develop skills in organizational change, assessment, team building, and conflict management, among other potential contemporary managerial issues.
A more technical approach to training and development career preparation is a graduate degree in instructional design. The writing of training programs is a potential major career option. One such degree program is the master's program in human performance and training at Governors State University, University Park, Illinois. This program prepares instructional designers to: analyze training/organizational problems and needs; design, develop, and properly implement training materials; and evaluate training materials and programs.
Larger corporate training departments often retain full-time course designers to write new, customized company courses. The use of computers to aid in the "hard copy" design process of training material is becoming increasingly important. Also, designing computer-based training, or interactive video, and using distance-learning technologies are now an integral part of training design.
A master's level degree in industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology is a narrower career option. Graduates from these pro-grams often find positions in areas of business compensation, data analysis, training, or generalist human resource management.
The educational guidelines suggested by the Society for I/O Psychology, Inc. (a division of the American Psychological Association) for education at the master's level include: the core psychological domains, data collection and analysis skills, core industrial/organizational domains, and additional I/O psychology topics
Bachelor's Degree Programs
Only in the 1990s have colleges and universities begun exploring a bachelor's degree in this field. However, business and education departments have long offered individual courses touching on adult workplace learning. As we have already noted in connection with master's programs, the interdisciplinary nature of the most desirable curriculum has long been a major obstacle to the development of a training major for a bachelor's degree.
The advent of the "corporate university," the "learning organization," and "lifelong learning" concepts have dramatically increased demand for the development of a basic college credential for entry-level positions in corporate training departments and provided legitimate professional standing among the swelling ranks of training consultants. To this end several universities have begun to offer undergraduate programs. The University of Wisconsin (Stout) has developed a specialization in training that is transferable to any business or industry. Another comparable example is the program at the University of Minnesota (St. Paul), also designed at an introductory undergraduate level. By offering these specialized programs, these universities have recognized the interdisciplinary components that are necessary to prepare training professionals. These undergraduate programs offer the promise of greater flexibility in future employment opportunities.
The authors see a growing value to preparing all future work-place adult educators through such core educational programs. For many years the major professional societies in the field-the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), and the Organizational Development Network (ODN)-have debated instituting certification programs. This has proven to be an impossible task because of the great diversity now found in the ranks of training and development professionals. In the mid-1990s, due to a new flood of training consultants, the legitimacy of the field continued to erode both in the eyes of business management and educators. Agreement is needed on a core knowledge base for training. Without recognized college degree programs there has been little hope of moving adult workplace learning beyond its present largely haphazard application throughout most of U.S. business.
The authors believe that the development of a bachelor's degree major in adult workplace education will ultimately become the entry-level requirement desired by most American companies. It will help the business community to recognize that the application of specific knowledge regarding adult workplace learning can have a major impact on the bottom line.
The Ph.D. for careers in training and development is generally meant for those who seek to teach at the college/university level, at least on a part-time basis, and wish to write for publication on adult workplace education issues.
The most common graduate programs are now found in psychology departments as part of educational psychology or industrial/organizational psychology. The science and profession of educational psychology is the branch of psychology that is concerned with the development, evaluation, and application of the theories and principles of human learning, teaching, and training and development. These theory-driven educational applications can then be successfully used to enhance lifelong learning activities in the workplace.
The Ph.D. program in educational psychology at Loyola University, Chicago, allows students to concentrate on adult workforce education issues. It requires students to demonstrate appropriate application of theory to practice for training and industry. In addition to the required core competency courses in educational psychology (i.e., cognition and instruction, motivation, human development, measurement, and research methods, among others), it offers proficiency in adult workplace learning areas such as literacy and issues in professional training. The Ph.D. in I/O psychology offers students more in-depth study in personnel, performance, and assessment issues as previously discussed in the I/O master's degree programs. The major difference is that this advanced degree enables professionals to pursue a university teaching/research career.