Learning Scientist: Job Outlook, Education, Salary

Learning Scientist: Job Outlook, Education, Salary
The Editorial Team February 24, 2023

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Learning sciences studies how, why, what, and with whom people learn. Before the development of modern learning sciences, psychological research on the topic involved lab-based studies. Unfortunately, this doesn’t provide an accurate example of how individuals learn in the real world. A learning scientist works to solve the bias problem in these types of studies.

The role of a learning scientist is to study the way people learn, and teach, in-depth. They may sit in on lectures, speak with people about their learning experiences, and conduct experiments on various teaching techniques. Using this information, a learning scientist may develop new teaching methods and studying techniques. They may also write educational essays or case studies on their observations to help further the field of learning sciences. 

At-a-glance: learning scientist

A learning scientist’s research focuses on four primary characteristics:

  • Exploring beyond general teaching or learning principles to focus on important individual concepts
  • Designing new approaches to testing and learning that consider how a person’s ability to learn may be affected, such as social or economic status, location, age, learning disabilities, and technology
  • Studying current learning systems to assess their efficacy and provide expert insight into how to improve these systems
  • Examining the implementation and challenges of learning systems and concepts using science-based principles to improve them

Learning sciences is an interdisciplinary field where some scientists study learning as a whole while others focus on specific areas, concepts, or systems. Learning scientists may be employed in higher education but are often recruited by technological or learning-based commercial businesses. 

Regardless of where you work, as a learning scientist, you possess a strong curiosity and love of learning. To be effective in your position, you’ll also have strong research skills and a keen eye for detail. Most importantly, you want to help others learn in a way that allows them to make the most of their opportunities. 

Learning scientist job description

Learning scientists typically spend most of their time researching learning concepts and systems, both in controlled settings and in the real world. Then, using the information you’ve collected, you’ll conduct further trials and testing (including real-world implementation trials), the results of which you’ll publish in authoritative publications. 

Typical duties of a learning scientist include:

  • Conducting in-depth research on established and new learning methods or protocols
  • Authoring or peer-reviewing company or institution reports, data, protocols, and batch records
  • Designing, executing, and reviewing critical experiments to achieve program goals
  • Creating and publishing reviews, case studies, and other authoritative publications about the research or findings
  • Conducting real-life and lab-based observations on individual learning concepts or systems to provide insight into how to improve them
  • Providing meaningful thought leadership on projects, programs, learning, teaching, and technological support
  • Participating in and overseeing or managing larger projects while collaborating with other industry experts or scientists

Who makes a good learning scientist?

An effective learning scientist is someone who is:

  • Familiar with natural language processing and body language
  • Possesses a keen eye for detail and can effectively communicate these details in the written or verbal form
  • Always seeking to learn and excited to try new approaches to old problems
  • An excellent leader who can effectively collaborate with peers or mentor others
  • Comfortable using a combination of statistics, personal observation, and previous research on a daily basis

Learning scientist in-depth

Education requirements

  • Education: Master’s or doctoral graduate degree
  • Typical time to earn a graduate degree: 3-7 years

Most commonly, a learning scientist needs at least a master’s degree to work in higher education or commercial roles. However, some positions prefer or require a doctoral degree, while a few entry-level jobs are available with a bachelor’s degree. The degree’s discipline can vary but might include education, business, business administration, computer science, or general sciences. The best type of degree to become a learning scientist depends on what niche you hope to work in.

Average salaries for learning scientist

Salary ranges for learning scientists vary drastically based on experience, location, and employment venue. For example, Glassdoor.com reports a salary range of $55,000 to $138,000, with most learning scientists earning between $68,000 and $111,000 annually. 

Learning scientists generally tend to make more money for commercial learning companies than they do in higher education. Some of the best-paying companies for learning scientists include Duolingo, IBM, and Cisco Systems. 

Job outlook for learning scientists

The demand for learning scientists continues to grow, and so does the competition. For this reason, a doctoral degree in your chosen discipline is often recommended to remain competitive. The field of learning sciences now has an international community and its own society. You might find this job called by various names, including learning developer or deep learning specialist. 

Challenges and opportunities for learning scientists


  • Most learning scientist jobs have ample opportunities for promotion and pay increases.
  • Learning scientists are generally provided with good benefits packages, with commercial learning companies tending to give better benefits.
  • Learning scientists can easily find new or additional work as research scientists, as the two careers have many overlapping skills.
  • The environment is intellectually fulfilling, particularly for those with a deep love of learning. 
  • Learning scientists can make positive impacts on learning and teaching. 


  • Learning scientists may not find much schedule flexibility and may have demanding work hours. 
  • Some learning scientist positions pay well below the average, so finding a well-paying job may be difficult.
  • There’s little to no opportunity to work remotely as a learning scientist, which may be a disadvantage for some. 
  • Most learning scientist jobs are found in major cities and population hubs, which may be inconvenient for those living in more rural areas. 
  • Scientific progress may be tedious and slow at times.

Professional development

For many learning scientists, the next step in their career is to become a senior learning scientist, after which the final step is an adjunct learning scientist. Although a learning scientist may occasionally be hired part-time, senior and adjunct professionals are almost always full-time positions with the best salaries and benefits packages. Participating in professional development may give you an advantage in receiving promotions or higher positions. 

Continuing education

Most learning scientists enter the field with advanced degrees, but if you have a bachelor’s degree, you may consider pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree if you hope to advance. Continued experience as a learning scientist is also key to professional development, so beginning work  in the field as early as possible can benefit you. If you’re still in college, you may consider internships or entry-level positions in a related area to gain work experience while working on your degree. 

Professional associations

The modern learning scientist is a relatively new position that’s slowly gaining ground. A few professional associations dedicated solely to supporting the education or careers of learning scientists are:

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