How to Become a Training and Development Specialist

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learning and development specialist

A Training and Development Specialist is a professional role within an organization responsible for improving employee skills and knowledge.  So, what does a training and development do exactly?  While the job description is robust, a specialist may:

  • develop custom training programs
  • deliver training programs
  • create skill development courses
  • produce training materials or manuals
  • evaluate training programs

These programs often range from a simple new employee orientation that reviews the overall company to a major business process change or health and safety precautions.

Training and development specialists work in a variety of settings including:

  • large corporations
  • financial institutions
  • governmental agencies
  • non-profits

Applicants must have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.  They should have excellent presentation and written and oral communication skills. We discuss how to become a training specialist and the benefits that come with such a position.

Educational Requirements

To become a Training and Development Specialist you must have a bachelor’s degree. The educational backgrounds of specialists vary but must be in:

  • business
  • human resources
  • instructional design
  • social sciences
  • training and development

Some schools offer a bachelor degree in training and development with courses in areas like:

  • Adult Learning Theory
  • Organizational Development
  • Professional Ethics

Many organizations seek candidates with a background in computer science or information technology.  Technology continues to play a major role within the field with the popularity of virtual training and online learning modules.

Work Experience for a Training and Development Specialist

Relevant work experience is critical for training and development specialists.  Many positions require knowledge of:

  • teaching
  • training methods
  • instructional design

Many employers now prefer prior industry work experience to better relay the needs of the company. A combination of knowledge and industry work experience will make you an excellent candidate for the position.

Certifications and Licenses

There are a number of professional human resource associations that provide classes to help improve the skills of their members. Many of these organizations, such as the Association for Talent Development, offer certification in training and development which can offer the candidate credibility. The ATD offers two specific training and development certification options.  They include:

  • Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD)
  • Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD)

Many employers give preference to applicants with a professional training and development specialist certification.

Critical Qualities of Training and Development Specialists

There are four important qualities that a candidate must have to work as a training and development specialist including:

  • Analytical skills
  • Instructional skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Speaking skills

Analytical Skills

A training development specialist must be able to thoroughly analyze information.  They must assess training programs, methods, materials and select those which are best for each situation. Training and development specialists must find the best training program to meet their need.  These programs may be for a:

  • specific software implementation
  • change in procedure
  • new hire orientation
  • a simple class topic or refresher course

It can be an extensive process to ensure the correct information is being provided.

Instructional Skills

In addition to analyzing training programs, training and development specialists must also deliver employee training programs using a number of teaching techniques. In many instances, they must adapt the teaching methods to meet the requirements of specific groups and situations. Therefore, a solid set of instructional skills will allow the specialist to improve the training.  Some of the most important instructional skills include:

  • organization
  • encouragement
  • conflict resolution
  • technology skills
  • planning and time management

Interpersonal Skills

Specialists must also boast strong interpersonal skills to collaborate with other instructors, subject-matter experts and trainees in order to effectively deliver the required information. Much of the work is accomplished through teams.

Interpersonal skills help build strong relationships with coworkers.  Strong interpersonal skills also help build trust which can make training efforts more effective.  Since a training and development specialist typically works as part of a team, these skills are essential for creating meaningful relationships.

Resource: Do You Need Strong People Skills to Work in Human Resources?

Speaking Skills

Finally, exceptional speaking and presentation skills are critical for training and development specialists to effectively conduct presentations. Information must flow and be communicated clearly to foster learning among a diverse audience. Being able to connect with the audience and their different learning styles is critical to the transfer of knowledge between instructor and participant.

How Much Do Training and Development Specialists Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay in 2021 for a training and development specialist was $61,570/year or $29.60/year.  The job outlook is favorable, with 8% growth through 2031.  The top paying industries for training and development specialists are:

  • Professional, scientific, and technical services- $77,280/year
  • Finance and insurance- $63,460/year
  • Educational services; state, local, and private- $62,600/year
  • Healthcare and social assistance- $60,110/year
  • Administrative and support services- $49,210/year

Employment opportunities for training and development specialists also vary by location.  The states with the highest employment level for this role include:

  • Texas- 31,010
  • California- 30,320
  • New York- 22560
  • Florida- 22,280
  • Ohio- 14,970


To work as a training and development specialist, you need the necessary education.  You’ll also need to be proficient in the four primary skills.  Certification in training and development can enhance your resume.  Like in many other fields, the competition for training and development specialist positions is high, so differentiating is the key to success.

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