Human resources workers are responsible for making sure companies have the right employees with the right training. Their duties may include:
- Recruiting qualified individuals for available positions.
- Interviewing job candidates and making hiring decisions.
- Creating compensation and benefits packages.
- Handling staffing issues and disputes that may arise among employees.
Human Resources Specializations
Many human resources degree programs will prepare students to become generalists in the field. That means, upon graduation, they will be able to complete a wide variety of tasks such as managing employee benefits, administering company policies and issuing payroll. However, some professionals choose to specialize in one of the following fields rather than work as a generalist:
- Recruitment: Recruiting specialists are also known as personnel recruiters or head hunters. These professionals are responsible for finding, screening and interviewing potential employees.
- Staffing: Staffing managers often oversee recruiting specialists. Staffing professionals monitor a company's workforce and identify any gaps that need to be filled.
- Labor relations: Workers who specialize in labor relations or employee relations oversee employment policies. They may help draw up contracts or negotiate with labor unions.
- Payroll: Those who specialize in payroll not only have to ensure workers get their wages, but they may also prepare accounting reports and handle technical problems or discrepancies within the payroll system.
How to Become a Human Resources Professional
You'll need to the have the right education and training if you want to become a human resources assistant, specialist or manager. Here's a list of steps to keep in mind:
- Finish high school or earn a GED or equivalent.
- Complete postsecondary training, whether at the certificate or associate level -- some human resources workers also continue to bachelor's or master's degrees for improved career advancement opportunities.
- Earn human resources certifcation. Though not always mandatory, earning certification can set you apart from competition and show your expertise in the field.
In order to fully prepare students for work in this field, human resources programs may cover the following topics:
- Professional writing
Human Resources Degree Programs
There are traditional and online schools for human resources located throughout the country. Depending on the human resources school you choose, you can earn one of the following:
- Certificate: If you want to enter the workforce quickly, a certificate in human resources can often be earned in less than a year. You'll find many of these human resources programs online, making it a convenient way to get started in the field. Certificates are best for those who want to work in human resources assisting or support roles.
- Associate degree: Like certificates, associate degrees can be useful for entry-level jobs. A two-year degree provides more detailed instruction, and credits from these programs can often be applied toward a bachelor's degree later. You'll find these programs at community colleges and online schools for human resources.
- Bachelor's degree: If you want to move from a support to a specialist or manager position, you'll likely need a four-year degree. However, you don't need to jump directly to this level of education. Some people prefer to start with a certificate or associate degree to see if they like human resources work first. Since there are many human resources programs online, it may be possible to work in an entry-level job during the day and study for a bachelor's degree at night.
You shouldn't have trouble finding a human resources degree program near you. Many community colleges offer associate degrees or postsecondary certificates in human resources management. Bachelor's degrees are available at both public and private colleges and universities.
However, if you don't find the right program at a local school, don't worry. There are plenty of human resources programs online, and they are offered by both public and private institutions. Online human resources schools let you study from the comfort of your own home and on your own schedule, an ideal arrangement for busy adults.
While certification isn't required to work in human resources, obtaining professional credentials can demonstrate your expertise and commitment to the field. Some employers may prefer to hire job applicants who are certified.
The type of certification you pursue may depend on your specialization and level of education. The following are some of the human resources certification programs available:
- SHRM Certified Professional from the Society for Human Resource Management
- SHRM Senior Certified Professional from the Society for Human Resource Management
- Associate Professional in Human Resources from the HR Certification Institute
- Professional in Human Resources from the HR Certification Institute
- Senior Professional in Human Resources from the HR Certification Institute
- Certified Compensation Professional from WorldatWork
- Certified Employee Benefit Specialist from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Requirements for these designations may vary. Some organizations may require applicants take certain classes while others may administer an exam to determine eligibility.
Human Resources Career Advancement
If you earn a certificate or associate degree, you should be able to step into support roles. With experience, you may be able to move into specialist or management positions. Some employers prefer to hire those with a bachelor's degree so additional education may be helpful. However, earning voluntary certifications can be another way to demonstrate expertise.
Financial Aid for Human Resources Programs
Skills and Qualities for Someone Working in Human Resources
Human resources degree programs provide the knowledge needed to work in this field, but the most successful HR professionals also bring to their job the following skills and abilities:
- Active listening: Active listening skills involve more than simply paying attention. Human resources professionals must know how to ask the right questions and listen carefully to responses in order to properly evaluate job applicants or troubleshoot staffing problems.
- Critical thinking: Once human resources workers have the information they need, critical thinking skills will let them formulate different plans of action.
- Judgement and decision making: With proper judgement and decision making skills, a worker can decide which staffing, planning and policy decisions will be best for an organization.
- Oral expression: Human resources workers must communicate regularly with employees and executives. It's imperative they have the ability to express themselves clearly.
- Oral comprehension: It's just as important for HR workers to be able to understand the point others are trying to make during work conversations.
Career Outlook and Salary Information for Human Resources
Before enrolling in a human resources school, you'll undoubtedly want to know what sort of salary and job opportunities you'll have after graduation. The reality is that the answer depends on a number of factors. Your geographic location, specialization and professional certifications can all affect your income and employment potential.
In general, here's an idea of the type of salary and job outlook human resources workers might expect, using data from the BLS:
Projected Job Growth
|Human Resources Managers||143,580||$126,700||7.1%|
|Human Resources Specialists||593,790||$66,790||5.3%|
|Human Resources Assistants, Except Payroll and Timekeeping||124,600||$41,620||-4.1%|
Professional Resources for Human Resources Workers
Whether you want to learn more about human resources certification programs, find out how to connect with other professionals in your area or read more about the field itself, here are some HR organizations worth knowing:
- Society for Human Resources Management - With 300,000 members in more than 165 countries, SHRM is the largest HR professional organization in the world.
- National Human Resources Association - Established in 1951, NHRA is focused on promoting career development and leadership among human resources professionals.
- Academy of Human Resource Development - The AHRD was founded in 1993 with a commitment to the scholarly study of the human resources field.