Skip to main content

Chief Learning Officer: Salary, Job Description, and How to Become

March 13, 2023

More than ever, school systems are turning to chief learning officers to oversee training and continuing education programs for their teachers and administrators. These professionals can enable educators to stay on top of important issues that impact student learning.

Becoming a chief learning officer starts with education, such as a Doctor of Education (EdD) in Education Policy and Leadership. These programs support current and aspiring educational leaders as they cultivate the skills they need to create professional development programs with vision and purpose.

Chief Learning Officer Job Description

In education, a chief learning officer serves as a senior-level administrator who oversees the training and professional development programs of employees in a school system or district. These programs equip educators with tools and techniques for meeting educational goals. These goals include initiatives to address achievement gaps and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the classroom. 

The chief learning officer job description involves four primary responsibilities: assess the needs of teachers and administrators,  create a professional development strategy, evaluate the efficacy of school-wide initiatives, and adjust and develop improved educational strategies based on data and feedback.

Chief learning officers work with other educational leaders to raise student achievement and support teachers by aligning training programs with educational goals and initiatives. Their primary responsibilities range from creating a professional development strategy to evaluating programs’ effectiveness.

1. Assess Needs

Chief learning officers start by assessing the needs of the teachers and administrators who run schools. Their approach is team-oriented and collaborative, working alongside stakeholders to understand their specific needs and requests for professional development training. 

Each school, and indeed, each classroom may have unique educational and administrative challenges, barriers, and complexities—and effective chief learning officers recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach cannot properly support a team of educational leaders. 

So a large part of a chief learning officer’s role is listening—listening to teachers express their learning goals and classroom needs, listening to administrators explain budget constraints, and listening to feedback from education teams after the implementation of new policies and practices. 

As a part of their needs assessments, chief learning officers often collect, analyze, and synthesize data from teachers and administrators. Next, they use this data to make a plan.

2. Create a Professional Development Strategy

Chief learning officers determine and implement the professional development strategy for their schools. That means they decide what ongoing teacher training topics their educators will invest in, who will lead trainings, and how the efficacy of trainings will be evaluated.

To create a professional development strategy, chief learning officers consider the skills and knowledge educators need to effectively implement new learning standards, such as adjustments to the Common Core, as well as the training teachers require to adjust to online learning platforms or respond to other district learning initiatives.

3. Evaluate Program Effectiveness

Chief learning officers are accountable for the effectiveness of their professional development strategies. They need to evaluate key aspects of any program they implement, including:

  • Employees’ response to the program (i.e., is there teacher buy-in?)
  • The program’s impact on student achievement (i.e., have learning indicators such as test scores or rates of grade promotion shifted?)
  • Educational equity metrics (i.e., student access to academic supports across identity differences such as gender, disability status, race and ethnicity, family income, and English-language fluency)

4. Make Adjustments as Needed                           

Chief learning officers may need to modify parts of a new program, such as one that trains teachers on using trauma-informed strategies in their classrooms. For example, feedback from administrators may encourage them to extend the training to more educators or to provide follow-up sessions to survey teachers about their progress.

Additionally, chief learning officers should continue to adjust established programs based on employee feedback and any emerging needs, information, or objectives. For example, suppose new research points to the effectiveness of a specific training design and the funds available to adopt it. In that case, the chief learning officer will incorporate the design into their professional development strategy.

Chief Learning Officer Salary and Job Outlook 

A chief learning officer’s salary can vary according to location and experience. However, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual median salary for training and development managers in May 2021 was $120,130. The BLS also found that as of May 2021, school administrators earned a median annual salary of $98,420.

The BLS also projects positions in training and development to grow by 7 percent between 2021 and 2031.

How to Become a Chief Learning Officer

As top administrators, chief learning officers make key decisions that affect student achievement. They need advanced education and significant experience to develop the right skills. As such, there are several key steps in how to become a chief learning officer.

Step One: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step toward becoming a chief learning officer is to earn a bachelor’s degree. The degree should focus on education or special education.

Step Two: Earn a Teaching Credential

Chief learning officers usually start their careers as teachers. To earn a state teaching credential, they must complete a teaching program, which entails student teaching and passing a state exam.

Step Three: Gain Teaching Experience

To make key decisions about the professional development of educators, chief learning officers need a comprehensive understanding and firsthand knowledge of teaching strategies, assessment methods, learning standards, and classroom management.

This firsthand teaching experience lends credibility to their efforts. It also provides them with critical insights into what kind of support educators might need to be more successful.

Step Four: Earn an Advanced Degree

Earning a graduate degree, such as a master’s or doctorate in educational policy and leadership, expands and enriches an educator’s knowledge of educational theories and research, which they can apply when implementing professional development programs.

Doctoral programs, in particular, prepare educators to effect systemic change and allow them to build their skills in organizational leadership.

Step Five: Earn a Public School Administrator’s License

Before becoming a senior administrator, a chief learning officer needs years of experience working in administration. Administrators need a public school administrator’s license, which requires completing a master’s degree program and passing a state exam.

Step Six: Gain Administrative Experience

Working in school district administration can be an important step for future chief learning officers. In addition to direct experience in schools and classrooms, successful chief learning officers need an understanding of human resources, talent acquisition, and business administration. Public speaking experience with audiences of teachers and education leaders may be crucial for those hoping to become chief learning officers, since presenting and earning buy-in for new initiatives is a key part of the job. 

Having this experience enables them to make important organizational shifts and execute their strategies. It also provides them with crucial knowledge of a school system’s structure, the relationships between administrations and school boards, and how the two work together to make decisions.

Chief Learning Officer Key Skills

Chief learning officers work to foster unity and cooperation among educators to advance student learning. This role requires creative thinking and a commitment to ongoing learning. Effective chief learning officers have skills in several areas, including leadership and communication, that help them develop and implement successful professional development strategies such as embedding training into educators’ duties or putting into place veteran teacher mentoring programs.

Leadership Skills

Chief learning officers leverage their leadership skills to influence other educators to adopt new teaching methods and technologies, such as customized digital lessons for each student. They also need leadership skills to overcome any reluctance other educators may have to change or implement new teaching strategies.

Communication Skills

Chief learning officers must expertly communicate their analyses and the data that supports their plans. Next, using data and research-filled reports and presentations, they need to effectively explain to school and district administrators how their plans will be implemented.

Throughout the whole process, chief learning officers must listen to feedback, as well as cooperate and coordinate with many other educators, which calls for superior communication skills.

Analytical Skills

Chief learning officers must examine student performance data, conduct needs assessments, and evaluate the effectiveness of their programs. These tasks require strong analytical skills and the ability to solve problems.

Learn More About Careers in Educational Leadership

Helping educators adapt to changes in the educational system takes vision and leadership. Chief learning officers can play an instrumental role, as they can make it easier for schools to adopt emerging strategies and integrate the latest research into their instructional programs.

Aspiring educational leaders can prepare to make a meaningful difference in student achievement by earning an advanced degree. Discover how American University’s online EdD in Education Policy and Leadership program trains educators to develop and implement innovative professional development strategies.