How to Become a Human Resources Specialist

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Online Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management

From recruitment and hiring to training and job development, the HR team is responsible for supporting and equipping the workforce — not to mention ensuring that payday comes without any issues.

There are several human resources roles that students and professionals can consider. Today, we’re taking a closer look at the position of human resources specialist, including the degree in human resource management and work experience needed to become one. We’ll also dive into the responsibilities, compensation, and benefits that can potentially come with this opportunity.

People icons on small blue blocks being arranged. by an hr specialist.

What does a human resources specialist do?

Before we get into the required education, training, and certification for human resources specialists, let’s examine the role itself and the typical tasks and projects that these professionals work on.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, human resources specialists are responsible for the recruiting, interviewing, and placement of a company’s employees. This includes screening potential applicants according to the organization’s open job positions, functions, and needs, and onboarding and training these individuals after they’re hired.

As part of these responsibilities, these professionals must ensure that they properly communicate the details of the job to applicants. This process is especially important, as any miscommunication about the employment opportunity, job duties, and working conditions could result in the human resources specialist wasting critical time and resources to recruit, hire, and train someone who may not be a good fit for the job. In this way, human resources specialists must have robust communication skills, and be able to clearly describe to applicants what the organization is expecting.

In addition, the human resources specialist role also requires strong decision-making skills. Not only do HR specialists screen and interview candidates, they also discern details about applicants’ past education and job experience. HR specialists will verify candidate credentials, contact references, and conduct background checks to ensure that individuals will perform well in their role.

Finally, once candidates have been hired, HR specialists help set them up within the company’s compensation and benefits program, managing these aspects to ensure that new workers are properly paid and have access to other employee benefits.

Overall, the human resources specialist goes beyond the typical HR employee. The role is incredibly varied and includes a range of human resources management tasks and responsibilities related to the workforce.

Potential specialization

The BLS notes that under the umbrella of human resources specialist, there are more concentrated roles, including human resources generalist and recruitment specialist.

Generalists manage tasks and projects related to all human resources areas, including initiatives for recruitment, training, establishing HR policies, employee relations, workforce management, compensation and benefits, and more.

Recruitment specialists, on the other hand, are also known as “personal recruiters” or “head hunters.” These professionals focus their efforts around recruitment specifically, including to locate, screen, perform background checks, review employment records, and verify potential job candidates for a company’s open positions. Recruitment specialists may also attend job fairs or visit colleges and publicize job offers to well-suited candidates.

Work environment, job outlook, and compensation

Most human resources specialists typically work in employment services organizations or outside firms that can assist businesses with their recruitment and placement needs. Other HR specialists work in the professional, scientific, and technical services industries. Employment opportunities also exist in the government, healthcare, social assistance, and manufacturing industries, according to the BLS.

In 2018, human resources specialists earned median annual salaries of $60,880, but those working in the professional, scientific, and technical services industries saw higher annual salaries of $68,620.

Overall, the job outlook for human resources specialists is positive, with 5% (about average) growth expected from 2018 to 2028.

Becoming a human resources specialist: What’s required?

Before pursuing this type of human resources work, students and professionals need to build certain skills through higher education and industry certification.

Most employers seeking professionals for HR specialists roles require at least a bachelor’s degree in human resource management or business. notes that degrees in human resources as well as business administration are particularly beneficial for preparing students for this type of role.

An online program like the Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business is an ideal path toward the human resources specialist and other HR-related roles. This program includes human resources management-specific curriculum within its core requirements and builds upon these concepts within the upper level core.

The program covers key HR management topics and concepts, including:

  • Human resource management
  • Compensation administration
  • Employee selection and development
  • Employment law
  • Managing through leadership
  • Information systems
  • Basic marketing
  • Fundamentals of financial management
  • Business communications
  • Operations management

Students also meet a three-credit-hour experiential requirement, which enables them to flex their skills in a real-world human resources setting. The program ends with a Strategic Management Capstone Experience, where students demonstrate the knowledge, experience, and expertise they have built over the course of the program.

After graduation, students are prepared to pursue entry level and management roles in human resources, including human resources specialist. Other possible career paths include human resources manager, training and development manager, job analysis specialist, compensation and benefits manager, and job relations specialist.

Human resources professional certification

In addition to earning at least a bachelor’s degree in human resources, those interested in becoming HR specialists may also consider expanding their expertise through work experience in the field. The BLS points out that professionals often start their careers as human resources assistants or in customer service-related roles to improve their work experience and enhance their qualifications for the HR specialist role.

Some professionals also choose to pursue certifications from established associations. These certification programs usually require professionals to attend courses, complete and pass an exam, as well as the minimum education and work experience requirements.

As the BLS notes, while this type of professional certification is often voluntary, some employers do prioritize candidates who have HR licenses and certifications over those who don’t. In some instances, an employer may include certification within its requirements for the HR specialist role.

The most recognized certification associations include:

  • The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which offers the SHRM-CP (certified professional) and SHRM-SCP (senior certified professional) programs.
  • The HR Certification Institute (HRCI), which provides certification programs for professionals in human resources (PHR), senior professionals in human resources (SPHR), global professionals in human resources (GPHR), human resource management professionals (HRMP), human resource business professionals (HRBP), and California Certification for PHP and SPHR.

Overall, the human resources specialist role can be expansive and varied. Supporting the knowledge and expertise gained through a bachelor’s degree with professional industry-level certification is a smart investment and can benefit professionals in their career search.

UAB Online Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management

The University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business’ Online Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management prepares students for exciting and rewarding careers in human resources.

The completely online degree program also supports flexibility for students and enables them to connect with our highly educated and decorated faculty members. The program’s curriculum is directly aligned with the Society for Human Resource Management guidelines, helping to ensure that students receive all the tools and knowledge they need for future success.

To find out more, connect with one of our helpful enrollment advisors today.

Recommended Reading:

How to become an HR training and development manager

The value of asynchronous learning for busy professionals


UAB Online Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management

BLS – Human Resources Specialists