Education and Training: College
Salary: Median—$44,570 per year
Employment Outlook: Very good
Definition and Nature of the Work
A software trainer is a type of training specialist who teaches individuals how to use computer applications or programs such as spreadsheets, desktop publishing programs, or computer network systems software. The nature of the job requires knowledge of computer software programs and strong communication skills.
The types of programs trainers must know depends on the setting in which they are teaching. Those who work for a corporation must be familiar with the software the company uses in its day-to-day operations. This may include widely used software such as Microsoft Word or Lotus spreadsheets as well as programs developed by the company to perform functions specific to that business. Trainers who work as consultants or at a school or career counseling center will need to know a broad range of programs that may be used by many different businesses. Because the Internet is being used for business as well as research, a software trainer needs to be knowledgeable about the uses of various browsers such as Netscape or Internet Explorer that allow individuals to access and navigate the World Wide Web.
Software trainers must be able to explain the technical complexities of software effectively. The trainer's audience may include people with a wide range of computer skills and educational levels. The audience may also vary in size from just a few people in a private setting to an entire roomful of people in a professional seminar. Trainers must be able to structure their presentations to fit the circumstances. Like any good teacher, the trainer must also be able to measure how well the students are absorbing the material and to adjust the presentation accordingly.
An important part of good teaching is preparation, which requires strong organizational skills. Good preparation allows a trainer to present the material quickly and efficiently. However, trainers must also be able to change course and adapt to the needs of the students. Trainers must anticipate which areas may be more difficult for students and the types of questions students are likely to ask. A trainer must also be able to address the needs of individual students without slowing down the entire class.
Education and Training Requirements
The education required of a software trainer depends on the setting in which the work is done. Schools or career centers usually require a four-year degree in a computer-related field and possibly a teaching certificate as well. Corporate trainers and consultants may only need experience using the software being taught. Many software trainers are self-taught and rely on the knowledge they have gained working with various programs. Of course, the more software programs a person knows, the better his or her chances of landing a job as a software trainer.
Getting the Job
If already working for a company that uses computers in its business, a person may be able to create his or her own position as an in-house software trainer for company personnel. If individuals have extensive experience using software programs and working with others, they can market their services as consultants to businesses or as instructors for individuals. Computer stores sometimes have openings for instructors to teach their customers how to use the software they purchase. Schools and computer camps are also good places to look for jobs as software trainers. Interested individuals can check Internet job sites and classified ads of newspapers for job openings as well.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Experienced trainers who work in a corporate environment may move on to become the director of training, supervising other trainers. An individual who works as a consultant may expand that business to develop specialized workshops or seminars.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, training and development specialists—the job title befitting software trainers—held 216,000 jobs in 2004. Employment of software trainers and other training and development specialists was expected to grow faster than average for all occupations through 2014. Because computers and the Internet are a key part of both business and education, the prospects for employment as a software trainer should continue to grow. Companies will continue to hire more software trainers to keep their aging workforces up-to-date on increasingly complex software. More jobs will also become available as existing software trainers leave their jobs or get promoted.
Software trainers employed by corporations or schools work in modern offices or classrooms. They work standard business or school hours. Consultants may work at a space in the client's office or in a seminar or conference room at a hotel or other meeting facility. They may also work in an individual client's home. Those who run seminars often schedule them on weekends or evenings when people are not at work or school.
Where to Go for More Information
Earnings and Benefits
The median annual salary for training and development specialists, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was $44,570 in 2004. Specialists with the top 10 percent of salaries made more than $74,650 per year. Benefits for salaried software trainers generally include health and life insurance, paid holidays and vacations, and pension plans.