Management & Leadership

How (And Why) to Become a Corporate Trainer

How (And Why) to Become a Corporate Trainer
If you're super-excited about on-demand microlearning and the fact that personalized e-learning experience platforms are taking over employee education, then you may have a bright future in corporate training. Image from Death to Stock Photos
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry January 6, 2020

The value of professional development has never been more apparent. Numerous studies have shown that companies that invest in employee education make more money and have less turnover than those that don't. There's probably never been a better time to consider a career in corporate training.

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Corporate trainers are educators who help employees grow. Sometimes that involves in-person instruction in new skills, strategies, and systems. These days, however, it’s just as likely to involve identifying appropriate online platforms, developing comprehensive training courses and workshops for online delivery, and evaluating the impact of training strategies on both trainees and a company’s bottom line. And what is that impact? According to numerous studies, employee education yields substantial rewards in both greater productivity and lower employee turnover.

When you become a corporate trainer, your main goal will be to support the career development of the people you work with. Thanks to Big Data and advanced analytics, you will likely also be responsible for offering up hard proof that your training is increasing productivity and profits. Fortunately, well-structured training usually does both.

If you enjoy helping people reach and exceed their potential and helping businesses make more money, you may find your niche in corporate training. In this article about how to become a corporate trainer, we’ll cover:

  • Salary and job outlook for corporate trainers
  • Critical responsibilities of corporate trainers
  • What makes an excellent corporate trainer?
  • The education needed to become a corporate trainer
  • Certifications for corporate trainers
  • Career path for a corporate trainer
  • Is corporate trainer the right career for you?

Salary and job outlook for corporate trainers

There will always be a need for corporate trainers because change is the only constant in the professional world. New hires come on; the old guard has to get comfortable using new technologies; best practices change; corporate cultures evolve.

There is always something to learn, and that means there will always be a place for educators in the corporate world. The better-than-average job outlook for corporate trainers isn’t just about need, however. Businesses are starting to understand that corporate training has measurable results.

According to data collected by the Association for Talent Development, companies that offer comprehensive training programs have 218 percent higher income per employee, and they see a 24 percent higher profit-margin overall. Corporate training is an investment with substantial returns, which is why it’s one that organizations in many fields are increasingly willing to make. When you become a corporate trainer, the value of your skills will likely continue to rise—provided you take steps to stay abreast of new developments and technologies in employee learning and development.

Chances are you’ll be well compensated for what you do, now and in the future. The average corporate trainer makes about $60,000 annually. Once you advance to a more senior role, you may earn closer to $120,000 per year, or even more depending on where you live and how many years of experience you bring to the table.

It’s worth noting that corporate trainer is only one name for this job. As you dig deeper into how to become a corporate trainer, you should also look into salaries and prospects for such titles as:

  • Crew trainer
  • Development manager
  • Education and development manager
  • Learning and development specialist
  • Learning consultant
  • Organizational development consultant
  • Staff development specialist
  • Training coordinator
  • Training facilitator


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Critical responsibilities of corporate trainers

It’s tough to put together a master list of what corporate trainers do because the nature of this role is almost entirely driven by employers’ needs. At one company, corporate trainers may be primarily responsible for onboarding new employees. At another, they might oversee a robust employee-development program. At a third company, the in-house corporate trainers might be responsible for finding or even developing learning software and then teaching employees how to use it. The one thing that trainers at all three of those companies have in common: they are educators who work in a corporate setting.

Here are just some of the tasks you may handle when you become a corporate trainer:

  • Assessing the corporate culture
  • Creating employee-development strategies
  • Mapping out budgets
  • Leading training sessions and working one-on-one with trainees
  • Developing training curricula
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of training programs
  • Leading orientation sessions
  • Finding professional development opportunities for employees
  • Designing training materials and training courses
  • Reviewing and selecting training materials
  • Installing and customizing training software
  • Teaching employees how to use training software
  • Developing custom online learning environments
  • Analyzing the measurable impact of training
  • Reporting ROI of training programs to stakeholders

What makes an excellent corporate trainer?

Like teachers in academic environments, the very best corporate trainers are driven by a desire to see others succeed. They’re not terribly interested in personal glory or being in the spotlight because they find fulfillment investing in others. Successful corporate trainers tend to be good listeners. They understand how to bring out the best in people while also meeting business objectives. They’re also flexible and have a knack for identifying how others learn and adjusting materials or approaches to meet their needs.

Finally, the best corporate trainers don’t just know how to teach, but also how to do. They understand the career trajectories of the employees they work with, competency mapping, and the role professional development plays in the overall employee experience and employee engagement. They’re able to see the link between training and key metrics related to performance, and they’re not afraid to look at corporate training with an analytical mind (or with business analytics software). When something isn’t working, they don’t succumb to the sunk-cost fallacy. They refocus on what works.

The education needed to become a corporate trainer

There are a few ways you can approach education when your goal is to become a corporate trainer. You will need a bachelor’s degree to land an entry-level position in corporate training, but determining which bachelor’s can be problematic. That’s because a lot of employers simply ask that job candidates have any bachelor’s degree or a degree in a “relevant field.” If you know the field you want to work in (e.g., business or the energy industry), you can maximize your chances of getting a desirable corporate training gig right out of college by double majoring in education and that field. That way, you have not only an understanding of how to teach, but also what you’ll be teaching.

If, however, you know you want to become a corporate trainer, but you’re not sure what industry you want to work in—or if you want career flexibility—you have three options in pursuing a bachelor’s degree:

Major in education

A Bachelor of Science in Education program covers topics like student assessment, curriculum design, teaching strategies, learning styles, and communication. You can combine this with a business minor to learn more about HR and professional development. Majoring in education is a good option if you’re interested in teaching, but you’re not sure whether your future is in corporate training or K-12 education. When you graduate, you’ll have the qualifications necessary to pursue either career.

Major in HR training and development

Bachelor’s in Human Resource Training and Development programs are relatively rare (Indiana State University and Limestone College offer this major) but if you’re sure you want to join the ranks of development managers, you can’t go wrong with this degree. Programs cover topics like professional development, performance management, organizational behavior, business communication, and workplace diversity.

Major in business

If your goal is to rise through the ranks in corporate training, having a business degree can help you ascend faster. A general Bachelor of Science in Business can get you into an entry-level corporate training position. Still, it’s a good idea to look for programs with relevant tracks like the one at Fort Hays State University. There, students can major in business education and concentrate their studies in areas like talent development.

You don’t need a master’s degree to work in corporate training—a bachelor’s degree is the highest level of education required in most job listings. That said, you’ll probably make more money with one, and you may have access to more interesting, higher-level positions. There are many master’s degrees you should check out if your goal is to advance in corporate training, such as:

You should also look into master’s in e-learning programs. Traditional degree programs aimed at corporate trainers may not cover emerging trends in corporate training, most of which involve technology. Master’s in e-learning programs, on the other hand, are focused on technology-mediated learning environments and tech tools for teaching. Given how much modern corporate training relies on technology, a master’s in e-learning may end up being more valuable than a master’s in human resource development.

Certifications for corporate trainers

A quick readthrough of corporate trainer job listings suggests that it’s unusual for employers to limit their candidate searches to certified professional trainers, or even to specify any specialty certifications. That said, there are two professional associations for training and development specialists: the Association for Talent Development and the International Society for Performance Improvement. Becoming a certified professional trainer, or getting one or more specialty certifications, can help you stand out from a crowd of similarly qualified applicants when you’re looking for work.

Career paths for corporate trainers

There are three ways to break into corporate training:

  • Get a degree in education or HR development and apply for corporate trainer jobs right after graduation
  • Get a degree in business and spend a few years working in HR or organizational development before transitioning into a training role
  • Get a degree in a field you’re passionate about, gain experience in that field, and then leverage that experience to find work in corporate training

Which pathway you ultimately choose will depend on why you’re thinking about becoming a corporate trainer in the first place. Some people are motivated to go into corporate training because they love sharing knowledge and helping others succeed. If that sounds like you, then you may be happiest going directly into an entry-level corporate training position and growing your career from there. However, if you’re looking to become a corporate trainer because you hope to land a job related to HR, or because you’re particularly interested in a specific industry, racking up a couple of years of work experience in your field of interest isn’t a bad idea.

These days, there isn’t a typical career path for corporate trainers. While you might advance to the position of training and development manager or director of employee development, your career trajectory may also involve stepping into positions like:

  • Blended learning designer
  • Curriculum architect
  • Human performance analyst
  • Strategy and learning specialist
  • Professional trainer
  • Instructional design specialist
  • Learning and development curator
  • Competence development specialist
  • Learning experience designer
  • Strategic capabilities partner

Climbing to the top of the corporate training ladder means becoming chief learning officer. These executives don’t just create development opportunities for employees. They’re also responsible for showing real and measurable results when it comes to employee engagement and retention.

Is corporate trainer the right career for you?

The answer to this question may just depend on how tech-savvy you are because the days of in-person, off-site instructor-led training are probably numbered. Today’s corporate training is more likely to be not just online, but also virtual, gamified, analytics-driven, and geofenced. If some or all of those descriptors left you scratching your head (or your mental image of corporate training still involves a classroom), it might be time to take a second look at your career goals. There are still traditional positions open for corporate trainers, but you will eventually have to get comfortable using new education technologies and fulfilling executive expectations that are almost entirely data-driven. It won’t be enough to say you taught your students X, Y, and Z. You’ll have to prove they learned it.

On the other hand, if you’re super-excited about on-demand microlearning and the fact that personalized e-learning experience platforms are taking over employee education, then you may have a bright future in corporate training. You’ll probably still spend some time in front of groups when you become a corporate trainer, lecturing and flipping through PowerPoint slides, but it’s essential to acknowledge that this really isn’t a teaching gig anymore. Corporate trainers are facilitators, and you’ll probably spend a lot more of your time in this role studying your company’s learning culture and finding the online learning environments and tools that will best support employee growth. Does that sound rewarding? Then this might just be the right career for you.

(Updated on January 18, 2024)

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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