This is the third installment in a three-part series on what it takes to become a trainer. In Part 1 , “So you want to be an IT trainer,” we discussed how to decide if training is the right career for you. Part2 , “What to pack for your new IT training career,” explained what skills you need to excel as a trainer. Now it’s time to haul out that road map and decide which path you want to follow.
Your backpack is loaded with the skills, knowledge, and experience you need to set off on your new training career—but what direction should you take? Let’s look at some of the options.

Be a trainer for a company that only does training
Training companies often pay the least but usually have solid job security. You’ll be teaching pretty much nonstop, and the teaching facilities will normally be designed for teaching. If you have neither a teaching nor a technical background, you can often get on at one of these companies as a beginner, albeit at a low salary. These are great places for people getting started in the field to pay their dues.

Be a trainer for a company that does technical work as well as training
Some companies deliver training in addition to offering other technical services. They may or may not have decent training facilities, and if the training work drops off, you’ll be expected to plug into other work. In fact, some of these firms expect their trainers to teach only about 50 percent of the time, with the rest of their time spent in the field. These firms usually expect you to come in the door with some sort of experience and/or certification. If you’re a beginner, they often won’t talk to you at all. Pay is usually better than at the straight training shops, but the pressure may also be greater.

Be an independent trainer
For some, working as an independent trainer is the Holy Grail. If you become a high-demand commodity, you can often make a six-figure income while only working five weeks out of eight. The flip side: Certifications are a must (the minimum would be MCSE/MCT, for instance), as well as experience. You need to know a wide range of products. Travel is almost always obligatory. If you have a family, they’ll see you only on weekends. And if you don’t stay ahead of the market, the work can dry up as fast as it came in, leaving you with no income at all. Oh, and did I mention that the income you do have will be extremely volatile? You may make $10,000 one month and nothing for the next six weeks.

How do you choose?
If you’re just starting out and have no certification, bury your salary expectations and get on with a training center. Spend a few years there getting your experience and your certifications, and your options will expand accordingly.

If you have a few certifications and would like to try the training thing, see if you can get on with a company that will let you do some training in between assignments. Be sure you have the training opportunity in writing; otherwise it may never be “convenient” for them to let you move into the training field. And be sure to take advantage of any MCT or similar training they make available.

If you have your training and technical certifications, you’ve paid lots of dues, and you’re ready to go out on your own, start by putting together a resume and shopping it around to some training brokers. You’ll find out quickly just what the market thinks of you and your resume. If you know a training director who hires independents, show it to him or her and see what reaction you get. Find out what sort of rates your certifications and experience will bring, and don’t forget to find out how often they need abilities like yours. If you know only one product and it’s taught only once a year, you’ll be in trouble in a hurry.

Many career advisors will tell you to map out your entire career and try to follow that map. If you can do it, more power to you. My experience, though, is that the best you can do is to try to map the next two or three steps, and then take the first one and see where it leads. In any event, think through what you’re doing, make your plans, then jump in and have fun. Teaching, after all, should be enjoyable. If it’s not, either you shouldn’t be teaching, or you shouldn’t be doing it where you’re doing it. Bon voyage!
If so, why did you decide on this new career, and what was (or is) your plan for getting to where you want to be? Are you working on—or already have—certifications? We’d like to hear your story. To comment on this article or share your story, please post your comments at the bottom of the page or writeto Bruce .

Bruce Maples is a writer, trainer, and consultant living in Louisville, KY.