HR Generalist Salary: What to Expect & How to Advance to the Salary You Deserve

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Overview

HR Generalist Salary: What to Expect & How to Advance to the Salary You Deserve

Let’s talk about what you can expect from an HR generalist salary. Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!

Job responsibilities in the human resources field have been changing at a lightning pace in recent years, thanks to new technology. However, despite the increasing amount of specialization in human resources because of it, HR generalists are still in demand. 

If you’re thinking about becoming a human resources generalist, you likely have questions. What does an HR generalist do, and what skills do you need? What is the average salary you can expect as an HR generalist, and how does this compare to other careers in human resources? 

In this article, we will answer those questions and provide tips to assist human resources professionals and job seekers in advancing their careers and negotiating the best HR generalist salary.

What Does an HR Generalist Do?

A human resources generalist works on a wide variety of tasks as part of their job. These tasks can include routine administrative responsibilities as well as strategic roles.

Some key responsibilities of an HR generalist include:

  • Managing payroll and benefits
  • Maintaining employee records
  • Onboarding and training of new and current employees
  • Reviewing company policies
  • Recruiting, interviewing, and hiring new staff
  • Addressing employees’ concerns
  • Fostering positive employee engagement

What Skills Does an HR Generalist Need?

When pursuing a career as a human resources generalist, you’ll need to be skilled in many different areas to be effective in your role. 

Skills you should have include:

  • Excellent communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Organized and detail-oriented
  • Computer and software skills

It’s essential for HR employees to have strong written and oral communication and interpersonal skills as you will deal with many different people daily. With these skills, you’ll be able to build robust relationships that will help you work with employees and management and resolve any conflicts that may arise.

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HR generalists also need to be supremely organized and detail-oriented to keep track of a high volume of work related to employee records and other administrative tasks. Additionally, you’ll need to stay current on labor laws and regulations that pertain to the workplace to make sure the company stays compliant.

Finally, with the increased use of computers and specialized software, you’ll need to know how to use the various programs required. Tasks such as payroll, recruiting, or managing benefits often require different systems to address them all.

HR Generalist Salary: How Much Does a Human Resources Generalist Make?

The average salary for a human resources generalist is around $60,000 per year. However, salaries can vary greatly depending on many factors, including:

  • Location 
  • Years of experience 
  • Industry 
  • Level of education 
  • Certifications

For example, entry-level HR generalists may make around $48,000 per year. In contrast, experienced HR generalists can earn $100,000 per year or more. Additionally, human resources generalists in high-cost cities like New York or San Francisco may make significantly more than those in other parts of the country.

Some of these factors may be out of your control, such as the area of the country where you live. 

But you may be able to improve other factors such as your education level or certifications you hold. And as you gain more years of experience, you’ll be able to move up the pay scale.

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How Does HR Generalist Compare to Other Human Resources Careers?

In the human resources field, there are several different career choices for you to consider.

  • HR Assistant or Coordinator – An entry-level position. This role is typically where many people start in HR. It’s a general role in which you assist others with a wide variety of tasks. Education requirements may include an associate or bachelor’s degree in business or human resources. Median salary is $42,000 to $48,000 per year. 
  • HR Generalist – A jack-of-all-trades. This role is great for people who like to have a wide variety in their day-to-day work. You’ll need to be skilled at multitasking and staying on top of your to-do list. Requirements typically include a bachelor’s degree in human resources and some experience. A master’s degree can help advance your career. Median salary is $57,000 per year. 
  • HR Specialist – Someone with specialized knowledge in one area of HR. Often people in a specialist role will focus on areas such as benefits and compensation, labor relations, training and development, diversity and inclusion, or recruiting and staffing — just to name a few. Depending upon the role, five or more years of HR experience are generally required, along with a bachelor’s degree in human resources. Median salary varies with the role, but can range from $53,000 to $100,000 or more per year. 
  • HR Manager – A management role. For either the generalist or the specialist with several years of experience who is ready to advance their career. Depending upon the size of the company, an HR manager may oversee a team of generalists. Or they may stay focused on one department, such as training or recruiting. Requirements may include five to ten years of experience and a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Median salary is $70,000 per year. 
  • HR Director or VP of HR – A leader who oversees all aspects of the HR department. Someone in this role must have knowledge of each area of HR. A master’s degree is generally required with significant HR experience. Median salary is $90,000 per year. 

How to Advance Your Career as an HR Generalist

Breaking into the human resources field can be exciting. But after a few years in an entry-level position, you may feel you’re ready for more. Here are some tips for advancing your HR career.

Tip #1: Look Into Different HR Responibilies 

As an HR generalist, you likely have a wide variety of responsibilities. You do a little of it all. But for some, that can become stressful and wear on them. If this describes you, consider moving your career in a more fixed direction.  

careers in hr

To bring more predictability to your daily routine, you can look into specialized roles. Perhaps you found that you loved recruiting candidates for new roles. Or that you really enjoyed putting together compensation packages. Whatever your interest, pursuing a more specialized position can renew your love of HR.

Tip #2: Get Certified

Most HR generalist jobs don’t require a certification. But pursuing one can position you for advancement.

By showing your expertise and dedication to professional development and continued learning, you’ll stand out from other HR generalists.

The most popular certifications that HR professionals pursue are the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification from HRCI and the Certified Professional certificate from SHRM. Having one (or both) of them can help you advance up the HR career ladder and boost your pay as well.

Tip #3: Continue Your Education

Many people land in HR without having planned for it. You may have an associate or bachelor’s degree in business or a related field or you have some experience that led you down the HR path. While entry-level roles in HR often do not have specific degree requirements, most other human resources jobs do.

Going back to school for a bachelor’s or master’s in human resources can put you on the track for more advanced roles. If you desire to become an HR manager or are aiming for HR director or VP, then a degree in human resources is what you’ll need to get there.

Tip #4: Focus on an Industry

There are lots of different industries out there. Retail, commerce, manufacturing, technology, and healthcare just to name a few. Many of the HR responsibilities are the same no matter where you work — employee paperwork, payroll, benefits. Others, such as recruiting, may be very different depending upon the industry.

Choosing to focus on an industry that aligns with your interests can send you off in new directions you may never have considered. Perhaps you have a technical or scientific side to you. Recruiting and interviewing engineers and scientists may be the perfect opportunity for you to ask technical questions and advance your own knowledge. 

There are as many industries out there as you can imagine. Finding one to explore is a great way to move your career forward.

How to Get the Salary You Deserve

Advancing your career is also all about making sure you are being fairly compensated.

For many, talking about salary during the interviewing and hiring process makes them uncomfortable. But it’s a necessary step to get you the salary you deserve. You also can renegotiate your salary with your current company if you feel you’re being underpaid. Your success depends on how you go about it.

To avoid missteps with your career and salary, you’ll need to learn how to ask for what you want. Here’s a checklist of things to keep in mind before you start negotiating:

  • Research pay ranges for the role in your area, with your level of experience.
  • Negotiate at the right time and with the right people.
  • Don’t accept the first offer — or at least not right away.
  • Know the value you bring to the table — trust that you’re worth it.
  • When asked during an interview, give a range rather than specifics.

With some forethought and a little practice, you’ll soon be a pro at advancing your salary along with your career.

Ready to Start Looking?

Now that you’re armed with all the information about what a human resources generalist does — and what you can expect for an HR generalist salary — it’s time to start looking. 

Lensa can help you with your job search and match you to HR generalist positions perfectly suited for you. Give us a try!

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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.  When not working, she loves spending time with her husband and three young adult boys. She enjoys knitting with friends, going to the gym, binging the latest new shows, watching romantic comedies, and is a closet gamer.

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