The human resources department of any company affects workers in all areas of the organization. Employees in finance, marketing or any other department have HR representatives. Company policies only succeed if HR departments carry them out correctly. Essentially, HR isn’t confined to a single focus.
What human resources managers do need are a variety of important soft skills. Pursuing a career in human resources management means getting involved in the work life and culture of a company and its employees, and making real decisions that impact a large number of people. To start this fulfilling career, students begin with an HR-related degree program, where they can learn about a variety of subjects, such as:
- Employee recruitment and selection
- Organizational policy
- Team building
- Conflict resolution
- Employee compensation and benefits
- Labor law
- Training and development
- Maintaining high performance
- Strategic management of human assets
This solid background sets up a range of career possibilities after graduation, especially when combined with internships and other employment experiences.
Here’s a closer look at some of the career paths that people with HR management degrees often follow. (Note that exact duties, titles and pay often vary by organizational factors such as industry and department size.)
1. Human Resources Manager
No single job description for this role exists because an HR manager can wear many hats. At a small company, this professional may coordinate and plan all of the HR department’s activities, from hiring new employees and getting them up to speed to supervising payroll. At a larger company, an HR manager may be responsible for overseeing one particular HR function, such as dispute mediation or performance improvement.
Perhaps the best way to think of an HR manager is as a critical liaison between executives and employees, working to communicate the needs and objectives of both sides in order to achieve maximum satisfaction and effectiveness. For instance, leaders may call upon an HR manager’s team to implement and evaluate a new company-wide policy. Critical to the initiative’s success is making employees aware, answering their questions, and reporting concerns back to management. Strong organizational and interpersonal skills are musts.
Median annual pay: $99,720
Projected employment growth, 2012-2022: 13 percent
2. Training and Development Manager
Every business needs capable, informed employees. A training and development manager oversees a staff devoted to teaching workers what they need to know in order to perform their best. Depending on the business, this may involve finding ways to help others understand company goals, informing workers about new federal safety standards or determining the most cost-effective way to teach a new computer program. Communicating with departmental managers as well as upper-level executives is crucial to ensuring needs and objectives are being met.
Many modern workplaces deal with frequent changes in technology and other advancements. Training and development managers need to keep everyone up-to-date and productive, grasping the attention of younger workers while not alienating employees from other generations. They must evaluate learning methods (such as video presentations, online modules or sending staff members to conferences) for effectiveness while keeping a cautious eye on budgetary constraints. Creativity and a good sense for how people learn are desirable traits.
Median annual pay: $95,400
Projected employment growth, 2012-2022: 11 percent
3. Compensation and Benefits Manager
For organizations and employees alike, money is an important matter. Companies want to be competitive in order to attract and maintain quality workers, yet they need to figure out how to best allocate resources in order to stay within financial limitations. Thus, compensation and benefits managers need to monitor industry trends, comply with federal and state regulations, and evaluate benefit packages. They also, however, serve employees, making sure payment is fair and timely, answering questions about eligibility and policies and assisting with enrollment forms and other paperwork. Both management and workers are expected to increasingly seek the expertise of compensation and benefits managers as healthcare reform continues to bring up a variety of issues. Mathematical ability and respect for confidentiality are necessary.
Median annual pay: $95,250
Projected employment growth: 2012-2022: 3 percent
4. Human Resources Specialist
A person with an interest in a certain area of human resources may choose to be a specialist. For instance, labor relations specialists may be involved in contract talks between workers and management and may investigate grievances. Employee relations specialists may field employee complaints and concerns, clarify company policies and look into charges of discrimination and harassment. Recruiters and interviewers seek out new talent for an organization, evaluate applicants, administer pre-employment tests and do background checks. Some work for individual businesses, while others find and screen candidates for placement agencies or temporary help services.
It is worth noting that the Bureau of Labor Statistics considers HR generalists to be specialists skilled at performing all aspects of human resources work. Ready to fulfill any duty demanded of them, these flexible professionals are the foundation of many HR departments. In fact, the “HR Jobs Pulse Survey Report” released in January 2014 by the Society for Human Resource Management revealed that “HR generalist” was the top answer given by organizations when asked, “What are the top three HR functions your organization is hiring for?” (“Employment/recruitment” and “administrative” were second and third, respectively).
Median annual pay: $55,640
Projected employment growth, 2012-2022: 7 percent
1 U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook: Human Resources Manager. [online] Available at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.htm [Accessed 12 Mar. 2014].
2 U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook: Training and Development Managers. [online] Available at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/training-and-development-managers.htm [Accessed 12 Mar. 2014].
3 U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook: Compensation and Benefits Managers. [online] Available at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/compensation-and-benefits-managers.htm [Accessed 12 Mar. 2014].
4 U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook: Human Resources Specialists and Labor Relations Specialists. [online] Available at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/human-resources-specialists-and-labor-relations-specialists.htm [Accessed 12 Mar. 2014].