If you’re considering a career in the human resource industry, you’ll be pleased to know that there are several career opportunities available aside from the hiring and firing duties typically associated with this profession. As the name implies, human resource jobs focus on the management of an organization’s most valuable assets – its employees. Human resource professionals do this through various administrative and strategic duties dealing with items such as the recruitment and selection process, benefits administration and employee relations.
When you are first starting out in the human resource field, you’ll likely begin as an HR assistant. This position supports the human resource department with administrative tasks such as entering new-hire information into the company HR system, inputting employee status changes, posting job vacancies and assisting with screening resumes. While prior relevant experience and college level coursework are not necessarily required to land your first HR assistant job, one or both are strongly preferred by many organizations. If you’ve never officially been employed in an HR capacity, keep in mind that internships and supervisory positions will generally satisfy the minimum experience requirement.
Once you’ve gotten some experience under your belt, you may consider advancing your career by becoming an HR specialist. Recruitment, benefits, training and labor relations are all common areas of specialization within the human resource field. Making the decision to become a specialist allows you to focus on one specific area of HR instead of being responsible for all human resource-related tasks, thus becoming a subject matter expert in that particular function. Although specific requirements vary by employer, you must typically possess a bachelor’s degree in human resources, organizational development or a related field along with prior work HR experience to be eligible for a human resource specialist position. Candidates can further demonstrate their job knowledge by obtaining a professional certification such as the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS) or Professional in Human Resources (PHR).
Instead of specializing in one area of HR, you may decide to pursue the job of human resource generalist. This advancement path allows you to dabble in all facets of HR without having to narrow down your expertise to just one area. In addition to advising employees and managers in areas related to employee relations, benefits, compensation and performance management, some generalists may have supervisory responsibilities over less experienced co-workers such as HR assistants or clerks. Similar to the requirements for an HR specialist role, you generally must possess a bachelor’s degree in HR, business or a related field along with prior human resource work experience. Although it’s not required, industry certification such as the PHR or SPHR offered by the Society for Human Resource Management is strongly preferred by employers.
Once you’ve mastered the HR specialist or generalist role, you may decide to transition into a leadership role such as an HR manager. This position manages other HR personnel such as assistants, specialists and generalists and directly contributes to the business’s overall strategic plan by making recommendations to improve operational efficiency, save money and remain competitive in the job market. HR managers generally must have a combination of a significant amount of relevant work experience and education to assume this role, along with a strong mastery of applicable federal and state employment laws and regulations. Industry certification and a master’s degree in human resources or labor relations are not required but highly desired by employers.