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Instructor vs. Trainer: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

If you’re passionate about helping people improve their skills, you may be interested in a career as an instructor or trainer. Both of these roles involve teaching people how to do something, but there are some key differences between them. In this article, we compare and contrast instructors and trainers, and we provide some helpful tips for those interested in pursuing a career in either field.

What is an Instructor?

Instructors are typically responsible for teaching classes or training employees in a specific subject area. They develop curriculum, create lesson plans and deliver lectures to their students. They may also lead discussions, facilitate laboratory work or supervise fieldwork. Instructors typically work in colleges or universities, but they may also work in corporations, government agencies or non-profit organizations. They often have a specific area of expertise, such as math, science, history or English. Instructors typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in their field, though some jobs may require a master’s degree or higher.

What is a Trainer?

A Trainer is a professional who helps people learn new skills or improve existing ones. Trainers typically work in corporate environments, educational institutions or as part of a professional training company. They design and deliver training programs, workshops and seminars. They may also create training materials, such as manuals, workbooks and online courses. Trainers assess their trainees’ needs and tailor their programs accordingly. They also evaluate the results of training programs to ensure they are meeting the needs of their trainees.

Instructor vs. Trainer

Here are the main differences between an instructor and a trainer.

Job Duties

Instructors and trainers share some job duties, such as creating lesson plans, leading training sessions and evaluating participant performance. However, instructors typically focus on teaching material to participants, while trainers often use the material they teach to guide participants in accomplishing set goals. For example, an instructor may instruct a class on effective communication techniques, while a trainer may have their class practice those communication techniques while also working toward a goal.

Another key difference between instructors and trainers is that instructors usually work with groups of people who are all learning the same material at the same pace. Conversely, trainers often work one-on-one or with small groups and can customize their instruction based on each participant’s needs. Instructors and trainers also fulfill different job duties related to setting goals for participants. Instructors may measure success by how well participants perform during training, while trainers may measure success by how much participants improve certain metrics after completing training.

Job Requirements

Instructors and trainers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in their field of expertise, such as education, human resources or business. Many also have several years of experience working in their chosen field before becoming an instructor or trainer. In some cases, instructors and trainers may need to obtain certification from professional organizations, such as the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) or the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI). These certifications can demonstrate that an instructor or trainer has the necessary skills and knowledge to provide quality training.

Work Environment

Instructors typically work in a classroom or training facility. They may also travel to different locations to teach their courses, depending on the needs of their students and employers. Instructors often spend most of their time teaching, but they may also have other responsibilities related to course development, such as creating lesson plans and grading assignments.

Trainers usually work in an office environment with colleagues who are part of their team. They may travel to meet with clients and attend meetings, but they don’t typically travel for extended periods of time. Trainers may also work independently, without supervision from others.


Both instructors and trainers use communication skills to deliver information to their students or trainees. However, instructors typically focus on academic topics, such as those taught in a classroom setting, while trainers focus on more practical skills, such as those needed for a new job.

Instructors need to be able to break down complex information into smaller, more manageable pieces that their students can understand. They also need to have the ability to assess their students’ understanding of the material and adapt their teaching methods accordingly. Trainers, on the other hand, need to be able to demonstrate tasks or procedures so that their trainees can learn by doing.

Both instructors and trainers benefit from having strong organizational skills. This enables them to plan their lessons or training sessions effectively and keep their students on track. Additionally, both groups need to be able to manage their time well, as they often work with tight deadlines.


The average salary for an instructor is $57,993 per year, while the average salary for a trainer is $58,894 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the type of training you provide, your location and your level of experience.


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