Chief learning officer is an emerging position found in corporate and higher education settings. Once referred to as director of training or a similar title, chief learning officer “has earned card-carrying membership into the C-suite along with a nameplate for the door on the corner suite,” according to learning and talent development thought leader Andrew Fayad. The position now carries “an expanded skill set, leadership role, and scope of responsibilities in today’s predominant eLearning environment.”

The following sections explore the responsibilities, salary expectations and requirements for the chief learning officer position.

Chief Learning Officer Responsibilities

The chief learning officer’s primary responsibility is to drive the learning direction, goals and policies of the company or institution. This includes dissemination knowledge and information to the learner through technology, social media and instructors. All of this must be done at or under budget.

Fayad offers some additional job responsibilities and day-to-day tasks:

  • Promote knowledge management
  • Institute effective training strategies
  • Direct large-scale change management
  • Oversee and implement the latest technology
  • Review educational and training modules
  • Ensure that learning is engaging and effective
  • Communicate with C-suite or board on progress
  • Review educational or training methods

A recent trend for the position is its evolution in higher education. “With the sustained prominence of online education, the need for a chief online learning officer (COLO) as part of an institution’s senior leadership team became evident during our research,” according to the journal UNBOUND: Reinventing Higher Education. “Our interviews with current online leaders and analyses of recent literature underscore the need for professionals who possess keen vision about the trends and cultures that define the educational demands of our modern era. Such professional dexterity has increasingly positioned leaders in online learning to serve beyond middle management, offering an institution-wide strategic vision as part of senior administration.”

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Institutions are hiring these chief learning officers to fulfill a senior leadership role not covered by other members. The chief online learning officer is a C-suite-level person who works with the chief financial officer to set budget priorities for the institution and pursue other primary goals, which include student access, online delivery and digital engagement. At some higher education institutions, the chief online learning officer reports directly to the chancellor, serving as an important member of the chancellor’s leadership team.

Chief Learning Officer Salary

Official salary figures are only available for all postsecondary education administrators, and not chief learning officers specifically. The median annual wage for postsecondary education administrators is $90,760, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The median salary for a chief learning officer is $145,845, according to real-time data from PayScale at the time of publication.

Requirements for Chief Learning Officer

Because the chief learning officer position is still being defined in the corporate and higher education world, requirements will vary depending on the industry and at the specific company or institution. According to Fayad — who is speaking to a corporate audience — becoming a chief learning officer requires some combination of the following:

  • 15 years of corporate experience in a relevant field
  • Background in training, HR or learning and development
  • Being a corporate officer
  • Enrollment in a relevant postgraduate school program

In higher education, requirements could parallel other high-level postsecondary administrators like provosts and college deans. “Provosts and deans often must have a Ph.D.,” according to the BLS. “Some provosts and deans begin their careers as professors and later move into administration. These administrators have doctorates in the field in which they taught. Other provosts and deans have a Ph.D. in higher education or a related field.”

Notre Dame of Maryland’s online Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership for Changing Populations prepares graduates for roles such as chief learning officer, chief academic officer, dean, university administrator, education researcher, college professor and nonprofit director. The program provides hands-on experience with education practice and policy to enhance students’ management and organizational experience, developing the skills and knowledge needed to become effective leaders in higher education.

The program takes place 100 percent online, with no residency requirements.