Human Resources Careers – Finding Your Path
People who pursue a career in human resources are often described as highly ethical, motivated, compassionate, and well organized. Finding your path in an HR career depends upon your unique skills, experience, and the level of education you are able to pursue.
Every business enterprise must have a set of highly skilled individuals outside of general management, who have the knowledge of labor laws, motivational psychology, recruiting strategies, and compensation structures.
Human resource workers often find themselves in the role of the trusted advisor for their management counterparts and are relied upon to assist with employee impact on company initiatives or to provide direction with a complex employee issue involving the need for disciplinary action.
When you obtain a job as a human resources professional, the size and scope of your role may vary dramatically depending on the size of the organization you are working for. Be sure to read some of our HR Career Profiles and learn how others got started and grew in the profession. Some large corporations have robust departments designed with the sole purpose of recruiting talent for the organization, while a smaller business may only need one or two individuals who must be highly competent in all of the main functions carried out in a human resources department.
Getting Started in an HR Career
If you are looking for entry-level positions, a human resources associates degree will provide you with the foundational knowledge you will need to work as a human resources generalist, coordinator, or entry level recruiter. For those looking for a specific role or for a more competitive level of education, a bachelors degree is a good option to consider.
A masters degree in human resource management will put you ahead of the pack and make your resume stand apart from the rest. Whether you are augmenting your existing experience or building a strong knowledge base to work with, a masters degree can take your career to greater heights.
The following are some common career paths in human resources
- Human Resources Management
- Human Resources Generalist
- Recruiter & Talent Acquisition
- HR Training & Development
- HR Coordinator
- HR Benefits Specialist
- Dispute Resolution Specialist
Human Resource Career Paths – Professional Profiles
From Regular Management to HR Management – Making the Switch to HR
Jeff has been managing a sales team for a mid size corporation and has natural leadership abilities. Lately, he has noticed that he enjoys certain aspects of his role more than others. His interviewing and talent finding skills are top notch. He enjoys planning and implementing training sessions for the staff, and has a special interest in motivational psychology. He has been on the employee incentive and compensation plan committee for several years. He is described by his peers as a natural leader with high standards for personal and professional integrity.
Over the past few years he has become increasingly aware that his interests and talents may be put to better use for the company in an HR management role. In anticipation of making this change, he enrolled in an online human resource management certificate program which provided him with the knowledge and skills he needed to supplement his existing management experience. He had completed his bachelors degree in communications several years ago and did not take many business courses. The HR certificate allowed him to gain a comprehensive understanding of HR management practices and theory, which also made it possible for him to be properly qualified for the lateral move into his new HR role.
“His new role was more aligned with his interests in employee motivation & workforce dynamics . . . “
While Jeff enjoyed certain aspects of his former sales management job, his new role was more aligned with his interests in employee motivation and workforce dynamics and as a consequence, created a much more satisfying role for him. If you are thinking of making a switch into an HR role, begin by discussing the situation with your HR management team and put together a plan to make you a viable candidate for your new role. Supplementing your existing education with an online Human Resource Management Certificate or HR Degree online is a popular option due the flexibility online learning affords. It will also prepare you for professional HR certification such as the PHR (Professional in Human Resources). So, if you think you might make the switch, take the first step and get information from online HR schools.
Your First Job in Human Resources – Entry into the field of HR
Jody is a junior at the local university and has declared business administration with an HR concentration as her major. Jody is described by her friends as “outgoing” and a “connecter”. She works part time for a retail clothing store after classes and has volunteered to help out at job fairs and act as a representative of the company. She knows that she would be a great fit for a recruiter and assisting companies with talent acquisition.
Her goal is to get her first job out of college as an entry level recruiter and then eventually move into executive talent recruiter roles. She also has a knack for public speaking and was in the debate club in high school. She has been asked to assist with training new employees at her work and has facilitated new student orientation at her university. Jody also has an interest in the collective bargaining process and knows that her great communication and persuasion skills will come in handy in such a role. She feels very confident that a human resources career is the right path for her and she will be leaving her current role to take an internship next fall with the company she currently works for.
“Not everyone needs a bachelor’s degree to get an entry-level HR job . . . “
Not everyone needs to have a bachelor’s degree in human resources to get an entry-level HR job; however, for those who have just graduated from high school and don’t have a long history of professional experience to draw from, a human resource bachelors degree is the most popular option for gaining access to jobs as recruiters and generalists.
Large companies have several distinct HR departments with the need for many employees in administrative and support capacities. For example, a company may have a benefits department, compensation and payroll, retirement, or employee relations. Usually, an associates degree in human resources or equivalent is sufficient to obtain these roles and most companies provide additional on the job training. Some choose to obtain an associates degree, get an initial job in an administrative role, then continue their education by completing an online human resources bachelors degree. Decide what educational path is best for you, and take action.
Promotion Paths in Human Resources Roles
Sarah was an HR Generalist for a large corporation for six years and has recently taken a position as Human Resource Manager of a mid-size, rapidly growing company in the technology industry. The new role brings significantly greater responsibility and she must now manage an HR team. The executive management team of the company must rely on her knowledge and leadership skills; she must be their trusted advisor in all matters pertaining to human capital management for the company.
“She was being denied positions not because of her experience, but because employers felt more comfortable with applicants holding a graduate level HR degree . . . “
While she was a Generalist for her previous employer, Sarah decided that she had to further her education in order to make herself a competitive candidate for HR management roles. Due to the fact that no new HR management positions became available in her old company, she began applying for positions externally and found that she was being denied positions not because of her experience, but because employers felt more comfortable with applicants holding a graduate level HR degree. While Sarah continued gaining valuable experience on the job, she was also pursuing a human resource management masters degree online. She was able to complete her degree in 18 months and was now armed with the credentials she needed to secure her new position as an HR Manager.