ASTD was founded in 1944. The organization began in New Orleans during a training committee meeting of the American Petroleum Institute in 1942. The following year, a group of 15 "training men" met for the first board meeting of the American Society of Training Directors in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
They became the governing body of the association, which convened ASTD's membership in Chicago in 1945. Other local, regional, and industry-specific training groups gradually aligned with ASTD. At the 1946 convention, ASTD adopted a constitution with the goals of: raising awareness on the standards and prestige of the industrial training profession and furthering the professional's education and development.
ASTD retained these points as their official mission, even as the profession evolved and the business world changed. In 1964, the association changed its name to the American Society for Training & Development. ASTD eventually widened its focus to connect learning and performance with business results. In 2000, the organization chose to refer to itself just by the letters ASTD, to underscore that it wanted to broaden its scope as a professional organization. It adopted the tagline, "create a world that works better."
ASTD conducts several research projects each year on the workplace and investment in learning.