How to Become a Human Resource Manager

Although artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies are rapidly changing the workplace, there are no resources as critical as the people who keep the economic world turning. It takes skilled, dedicated professionals to oversee these vital human resources, from the time they are candidates seeking employment and all throughout their tenure with an employer. Acting as a bridge between employers and current and prospective employees, the human resource manager is responsible for supervising the HR department and its important functions.

Let’s discuss the role in detail, explore how to become a human resource manager, and discover how prospective HR professionals can kickstart their career with an online BS in Human Resource Management.

About the Human Resource Manager Role

Human resource managers serve a critical function in organizations of all sizes. These skilled HR professionals oversee the administrative workings of a company’s human resource department and directly manage HR support staff. A business needs to attract and retain top talent in the workforce, so it relies on the HR department to handle a variety of related activities that support business management and its employees. This includes everything from recruiting and onboarding to introducing training and development programs and employee benefits programs.

Professionals working in HR management will participate in high-level strategic planning. Responsibilities include the development and implementation of long-term goals related to recruitment strategy, company growth, and employee retention. They will plan, direct, and coordinate activities of human resources specialists who may be responsible for specific HR activities. Furthermore, HR managers will advise management and staff on important HR matters and company policies, such as harassment, diversity in the workplace, and employee rights. They are also responsible for ensuring compliance with employment laws and regulations in all business activities.

A human resource manager will also oversee a company’s compensation and benefits program, creating a competitive package that not only attracts top talent and discourages turnover, but is also economically efficient for the organization. They will supervise all steps of the hiring process, including recruitment, interviews, candidate selection, and new employee onboarding. The onboarding process may require issuing employment contracts and tax documentation, distributing the employee handbook and other company policies, and leading training sessions. HR managers are also often involved in employee reviews. Moreover, they will work to maintain positive labor relations with unions and union workers.

Finally, an emerging professional wondering how to become a human resource manager should know that there are some more challenging responsibilities associated with the role. HR managers will handle various issues that face the human resources department, such as firings, layoffs, disputes, and complaints. If disciplinary action is required, HR managers will be involved in administering related procedures. However, all of these activities are part of the HR manager’s goal of protecting the interests and well-being of employees as well as employers.

A human resource manager takes notes during an interview.

How to Become a Human Resource Manager

Now that we have discussed the job of the HR manager in detail, continue on to find out how to become a human resource manager — from what major to pursue to the work experience and professional credentials the role calls for.


The first step toward a career in human resources is typically a bachelor’s degree in human resources or a related field, such as business administration, finance, or information technology. Prospective students who are specifically interested in the HR manager role should consider an online BS in Human Resource Management. This human resource program, available through the University of Alabama at Birmingham, gives students the skills and knowledge needed to begin a rewarding career in HR.

While master’s degrees in business or HR are typically the highest level of education an employer may seek for the HR manager role, a bachelor’s degree in a related field is often all that is required from an educational standpoint. The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) reported that 74% of HR managers hold a bachelor’s degree, whereas only 9% have a master’s degree. However, education is not the only factor when considering how to become a human resource manager.

Work Experience

To become eligible for this management-level position, an emerging professional will need to gain a sufficient amount of work experience. They can start with an entry-level position in a human resources department. As an HR specialist, coordinator, or assistant, they will serve an important support role and directly report to the company’s HR manager. This early-career experience can be seen as a valuable opportunity for HR professionals to become familiar with the inner workings of an HR department, gain specialized knowledge about the industry they are a part of, and begin to demonstrate leadership abilities and decision-making skills.

With about five or more years of experience, an HR specialist may have access to promotion opportunities within their own organization, or they might advance to a managerial position at another company.


A professional certification, such as the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) designation, can also help candidates stand out on the job market. Additionally, participation in professional membership organizations like the Society for Human Resource Management can help HR professionals expand their network, stay up to date on the latest industry news and best practices, and deepen their knowledge and skills.

While not required, these types of credentials demonstrate a dedication to the field of human resources and a commitment to continuing education and industry involvement. They can also directly impact an HR professional’s career growth. PayScale has reported that 70% of PHR-certified HR assistants were promoted within five years, compared to just 33% of their uncertified peers. Moreover, 29% of HR managers hold a PHR or SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) certification. According to Payscale, this enables them to earn at least $10,000 more per year than their uncertified counterparts.

Average Earnings for Human Resource Managers

The median annual salary for HR managers was $116,720 in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This rate is nearly three times the median annual pay across all occupations, making it a highly rewarding career choice for professionals with a bachelor’s degree and an interest in HR.

Actual pay rates will vary based on geographic location, level of experience, and industry. As reported by PayScale, entry-level HR managers may see earnings closer to $50,000 to $70,000; six-figure salaries are often reserved for mid- to late-career professionals. The BLS noted that HR managers in the technical, scientific, and professional services sectors have the highest earning potential. And the high salaries can come with long working hours. An O*NET survey revealed that 92% of human resource managers work more than 40 hours per week.

Job Outlook for Human Resource Management

Prospective HR managers might wonder how hard it is to become a human resource manager. The job market can be competitive, but it is expected to grow over the next few years. According to the BLS, the job market for HR managers is growing at a rate of 7%, which is slightly higher than the 5% average across all occupations. This will result in about 10,800 new jobs by 2028. As a result, O*NET classifies the human resource manager role as having a “Bright Outlook.”

An ability to demonstrate the right combination of skills will help prospective HR managers secure employment. O*NET identifies certain software programs as being “hot technologies” frequently listed as requirements in job descriptions. These include:

  • Accounting programs
  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools
  • Human resources systems
  • Document management programs
  • Time accounting software

In addition to familiarity with these technologies, professionals will need strong communication and interpersonal skills to thrive in HR management. Human resource managers spend much of the workday communicating over the phone, through email, and via in-person meetings. Therefore, they must be good listeners and excellent written and verbal communicators with a knack for problem solving and critical thinking. Decision-making skills are essential when it comes to responsibilities like choosing the right candidate for a job and selecting a suitable health insurance plan for their company’s benefits package.

Earn a Bachelor of Science in HR Management Online Through UAB

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s online BS in Human Resource Management prepares students for the demands of an exciting career in HR. Courses cover essential HR topics including:

  • Employment law
  • Organizational behavior
  • Compensation administration
  • Organizational staffing
  • Employee development
  • Management and leadership
  • Diversity in the workplace
  • HR technologies

Online students have the opportunity to study at their own pace while boosting their professional network through the Collat School of Business. Students can leverage internship experiences, mentorship programs, projects with real-world relevance, and UAB’s Career & Professional Development Services as they begin a career in human resources.

To learn more about how to become a human resource manager, or to find out more about the online BS in Human Resource Management and the other online bachelor’s degree programs available through UAB’s Collat School of Business, get in touch with an enrollment advisor today.


Recommended Readings:

Online BS Degree in Human Resource Management | UAB Online Degrees

How to Become an HR Training and Development Manager

Explore the Career of an HR Specialist



BLS — Human Resources Managers

O*NET — Human Resources Managers

PayScale — Average Entry-Level Human Resources Manager Salary

PayScale — The Value of the PHR and SPHR

SHRM — About