Thinking About a Career in Human Resources? Everything You Need to Know

career in human resources workplace


Thinking About a Career in Human Resources? Everything You Need to Know

Let’s talk about landing a career in human resources. Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!

Thinking about starting a career in human resources? HR is one of the fastest-growing fields right now. It also opens up many different paths for career advancement.

HR offers lots of different options for the type of work you can do, from managing other people to focusing on specific areas such as recruiting, benefits management, or compliance.

If you want a career in human resources, it will be helpful to understand what HR does, the various specialty areas that exist within HR, as well as the educational requirements and job outlook for different HR roles. 

This article will provide you with all the information you need to get started on your new career path.

What Does a Human Resources Professional Do?

The human resources department is responsible for hiring, onboarding, and retaining great employees.

HR professionals are interested in many aspects of employee life, from career progression to benefits, work-life balance, and more.

The employee lifecycle is what governs the day-to-day activities of a human resources professional. When someone begins working for a company, that’s called onboarding.

HR oversees all the necessary paperwork, training programs, and information sessions that new employees need.

career in human resources

When employees are looking to move up or advance their careers, or simply need a change in their jobs, HR can play a huge role in finding them a new position within the company.

HR professionals also oversee employee termination, pensions, benefits, and retirement plans, as well as handle any crises or issues that arise within the company.

Job Options for a Career in Human Resources

When first starting out in HR, there are a few common job roles that you may take on before moving into a more specialized one.

Becoming a specialist is not a requirement for career advancement. Many people find a niche they like and want to do more of. Others like the variety that comes with being a generalist. 

Here are some of the job roles you may encounter in HR. While far from a complete list, it will give you plenty to consider.

Human Resources Assistant

An HR assistant job is an entry-level position. People in these positions provide administrative support and assist with the day-to-day tasks of the human resources department. They often update records in the employee database and maintain attendance records of employees. An HR assistant may help with scheduling interviews or training for new employees.


The recruiter position in HR is one that is focused on attracting qualified and talented individuals for a company. They collaborate with managers and other individuals to write job descriptions and assess staffing needs. Some recruiters handle all aspects of the hiring process, including interviewing, hiring, and managing paperwork. Other recruiters act as a go-between, finding and pre-screening suitable candidates before passing their names along to other members of the HR team.

Human Resources Coordinator 

An HR coordinator is also an entry-level position, but one that comes with more responsibility than that of an HR assistant. HR coordinator responsibilities often focus on new employees: assisting with recruiting, hiring, onboarding, benefits, and new employee paperwork and data. 

Human Resources Generalist

A human resources generalist performs a wide range of tasks in the course of their job. Often in a small company, there may be only one or two generalists handling all the HR needs of the employees. 

If you like variety and want to gain experience in all areas of HR, this might be the right job for you. It can be the first position for someone fresh out of college, starting as a junior-level or entry-level generalist. A generalist role also has great potential for advancement in larger organizations, with many generalists moving up to an HR manager role.

career in human resources

Other generalists may choose to specialize in one particular area of HR.

Staffing Coordinator or Specialist 

A staffing coordinator’s responsibilities include making sure the company has enough employees. Some of their duties are similar to a recruiter, interviewing and onboarding new employees. Other tasks they are responsible for include analyzing staffing needs, creating employee work schedules, tracking and filling vacancies, and coordinating employee details with other HR departments such as payroll or benefits.

Human Resources Specialist

An HR specialist is just what its name implies: an HR professional who has chosen to specialize in one or two areas of human resources. These positions are more often found in larger companies where there is a need for more HR professionals to handle a large employee population. 

Some specialist roles include:

Human Resources Manager 

An HR manager is a step up in the career path for human resources. They are responsible for overseeing the HR department and managing employees. In larger companies, there may be several human resources managers—overseeing different areas such as compensation and benefits, employee relations, training, or recruitment. In small companies, there may only be one human resources manager to oversee all activities of the HR team.

Human Resources Director or Vice-President of HR 

Large companies have a need for more senior positions in human resources. Some steps up the career path include human resources director and vice president of human resources. Both of these positions are leadership roles and have duties that involve planning and shaping the direction of the human resources department, employee policies, and overseeing company-wide staffing needs.

What Is the Outlook for Jobs in Human Resources? 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in human resources will continue to grow slightly faster than the average growth rate for all jobs (8%) between now and 2030.

With a job growth rate between 9% and 10%, human resources generalist, specialist, and manager positions will continue to be available in the upcoming years.

An especially fast-growing area in human resources is training and development. Continuing education is becoming required for more employees in a wider range of occupations. The need for both specialists and managers to plan, administer, and oversee training programs is expected to grow 11% by 2030. 

Human resources professionals also can expect to earn a good salary compared to the average. The median annual salary across all workers is $45,760. For generalist or specialist jobs in human resources, the median pay is $62,290. The median pay for HR managers is nearly double at $126,230.

The Path to a Career in Human Resources

The path to becoming a human resources professional is varied since there’s no single degree that you must have. If you’re interested in a career in HR, you can start by doing research on the field and the different areas you might be interested in, such as recruiting, payroll, or employee relations. Once you have a better idea of what the job is like, you can start to explore possible paths that will lead you there.

Here are some ways to get started in human resources:

  • Get a degree in HR or a related field
  • Get a different degree, but take HR-related classes
  • Get a certification

Human Resources Degree Requirements

Most HR professionals have a bachelor’s degree. While some entry-level positions will accept an associate degree in human resources, to advance your career, you’ll need to advance your education.

You can get a bachelor’s degree in human resources or another field that focuses on business and management. A bachelor’s is the most common degree that HR professionals hold.

You can also get a master’s in business administration (MBA) with a human resources specialization, or even go for a Ph.D.

hr professional

If you don’t want to commit to a degree that’s focused solely on HR, you can instead get a different degree, but take several HR-related classes. This will help you build up your knowledge of HR without committing you to one direction. Some degrees that transition successfully to HR include psychology, social work, political science, and education.

For those that have a degree in a related field, like business, or work experience in administrative or other roles, a way to get into human resources is to first get a certification. A knowledge-based certification such as the Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR) can help get your career started.

HR Certification

One of the best ways to increase your employability—as well as your salary—as an HR professional is to get certified.

There are many different HR certifications available, and you can often get certified without graduating with a specific degree in human resources. Becoming certified will show employers that you’re dedicated to growing and improving your skill set, which is always helpful for getting a job.

Some of the most common HR certifications include:

  • The Professional in Human Resources (PHR)
  • SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP)
  • ASA Certified Staffing Professional (CSP)

Some more specialized HR certifications include:

  • Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS)
  • Certified Personnel Specialist (CPS)
  • Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP)
  • Certified Payroll Professional (CPP)

Other Ways to Jump Start Your Career in Human Resources

If you want to break into human resources, one of the best things you can do is network with people in the field.

Get to know people who are already working in HR and see if they might have any advice for you or might be able to introduce you to someone who can help you get your foot in the door.

You can also get involved in organizations related to HR. Get a job as a volunteer or intern at an HR organization and use that experience to make connections and show you’re committed to the field.

Get involved in the community and find ways to help people.

career in human resources

Working with nonprofit organizations or volunteering can be great ways to build your experience and show that you are interested in helping people.

If you already have a job at a large company, investigate what it might take to make a move into the human resources department. While it might mean a lateral move or even a move to a more entry-level position, the skills you use in your current role may be compatible with those needed in HR.

Wrapping Up

A career in human resources provides many opportunities for you to find what you’re good at and to shine. Whether you’re just starting out in your career, or looking for a career change, there are lots of options and roles for you to consider.

Let Lensa help you build your career in human resources today.

Emily Jagos
Emily Jagos
Emily Jagos is a Connecticut-based freelance content writer and copyeditor. A former career teacher with nearly 20 years of experience, she is a lifelong learner and loves to research and discover new things. Emily writes about a variety of topics, including education, the workplace, family, and healthy living.

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