Human Resources Careers

HR Careers

Human Resources Careers Overview: Human resources include several categories of specialists involved in areas such as:

  • Recruiting and interviewing potential employees
  • Managing force reductions and layoffs
  • Designing and administering compensation and benefits plans
  • Studying job requirements and setting job descriptions, titles and classifications
  • Developing guidelines for promotions
  • Assisting employees with work/life issues
  • Training employees to enhance their skills
  • Ensuring compliance with labor laws and regulations
  • Advising senior management on employee development and retention policies
  • Advising senior management on workforce integration issues related to mergers and acquisitions

Education: A Bachelor's Degree is expected. Coursework in business, finance or accounting can be helpful, but not required. A high degree of computer literacy is increasingly important, since the data analysis involved in the job is commonly computerized. An MBA can be a useful credential, depending on the firm. Specific coursework in human resources typically is not available below the graduate level. Law degrees and backgrounds in behavioral science or psychology also can be extremely valuable, depending on the position. Those who work in training and development typically have prior experience in teaching.

Certification: Entry-level jobs usually require no special training or certification.

Depending on the firm and the position, holding one or more special certifications, in addition to the educational credentials listed above, can be helpful for advancement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the leading organizations offering certifications in special fields within human resources are the:

  • International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
  • American Society for Training and Development
  • Society for Human Resource Management
  • WorldatWork Society of Certified Professionals

Duties and Responsibilities: Precise duties vary by position. See the sample list in the overview section above. Additionally, depending on the firm, a given individual may have responsibilities that span several categories. This is more likely with smaller firms.

Typical Schedule: The majority of human resources managers work close to a standard 40 hour week, normally from fixed office locations. However, recruiters typically have extensive travel schedules, and trainers may have to offer courses outside normal business hours. Additionally, human resources professionals at companies facing layoffs or major workforce management issues related to mergers and acquisitions can be expected to put in significant amounts of overtime.

What's to Like: As firms become more sensitive to the strategic importance of workforce management and development issues, such as employee retention and turnover reduction, human resources managers are growing in stature. There is a growing trend towards human resources executives thus being utilized as key advisers to senior management and as members of boards of directors.

What's Not to Like: Other companies are not as advanced in their thinking and view human resources as a utility, and not as a strategic function. In such companies, human resources can be a corporate backwater with limited opportunities for advancement elsewhere in the firm. Also, in many companies human resources is a highly bureaucratic function that offers limited range for creativity.

Salary Range: Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are sample median annual earnings and the cutoff for the top 10% of earners across all employers for select categories of human resources managers. The data is as of May 2008:

  • Employment, recruitment and placement specialists: $45,470 and $85,760
  • Compensation and benefits managers: $86,500 and $147,050
  • Compensation, benefits and job analysis specialists: $53,860 and $84,310
  • Training and development managers: $87,700 and $163,220
  • Training and development specialists: $51,450 and $85,160
  • All other human resources managers: $96,130 and $163,200

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