Human resources is often cited as one of the most popular fields for prospective students and early-career professionals alike. For example, U.S. News & World Report lists the role of HR specialist as one of the top 20 Best Business Jobs for 2023. And, according to a directory of degree programs compiled by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), around 200 colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degrees in HR that align with the industry organization’s curriculum standards.
Educational institutions offer HR courses in online formats, as well as traditional and blended approaches. This means students today and in the future have more options than ever before when it comes to earning an HR degree and building the knowledge and skills needed to get started with a career in this important facet of the business world.
What Education Do You Need for a Human Resources Career?
A bachelor’s degree is typically the educational requirement for jobs in human resources, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Some employers may also require a master’s degree when looking to fill more advanced positions. Others might take on new hires who only have an associate degree paired with some professional experience. It all depends on the employer and specific role.
A bachelor’s degree in HR will prepare you with a combination of the theoretical concepts and practical skills you’ll need for the workplace. You’ll not only be better prepared to hit the ground running in an entry-level job setting, but you will also be more likely to follow a steady career path in human resources.
What Skills Are Taught in the Human Resources Degree Curriculum?
Throughout your studies, you will learn key business competencies such as professional communication and financial management. You will also learn what it takes to thrive in a human resources department and meet the needs of organizations and employers across industries.
HR-specific coursework will cover key responsibilities such as payroll and benefits administration, employment law, and staffing.
How Much Work Experience Do You Need for Entry-Level HR Jobs?
Many companies hiring for roles in human resources, look for applicants with relevant work experience. Of course, many recent graduates and early-career applicants will not have had previous experience working in human resources full-time. But enrolling in an undergraduate degree program and taking advantage of the university’s resources is a great way to find a suitable internship and start building your HR resume.
Many HR degree programs will help students find internships and volunteer opportunities that provide practical experience helpful to a real career.
Human Resources Jobs for HR Degree Graduates
Within the field of HR, there is a great deal of variety in available roles for graduates. Many entry-level positions as well as roles for more experienced professionals offer opportunities for advancement.
Human Resources Assistant
When you’re beginning a career in HR, you might start at the assistant level. In this role, you’ll support HR specialists and managers in a variety of tasks related to recruiting, onboarding, training, payroll processing, recordkeeping, and administration. The average salary for this role as of July 2023 was $43,469, according to Glassdoor.
Human Resources Specialist
Advancing to the HR specialist position will allow you to take on a more prominent role in the organization. You will conduct applicant interviews and perform background checks, onboard new employees, maintain employee data, and find ways to support employee relations. At this level, you might specialize in one area of HR, such as recruiting or benefits administration, or you may operate as an HR generalist. The median annual compensation for this role was $62,290 in May 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Human Resources Manager
In the role of HR manager, you will lead a human resources team or department and oversee a range of operational activities. You will take on more complex responsibilities, such as advising organizational leadership, coordinating benefits packages, and addressing disciplinary issues and other conflicts. The BLS placed the median annual salary for HR managers at $126,230 in May 2021.
Executive Recruiter or Staffing Specialist
If you enjoy being part of the hiring process, you can build your career around this important responsibility as a recruiter or staffing expert. You will be involved in screening job seekers and helping organizations find and attract top talent. Employment website Indeed reports that recruiters saw average earnings of $46,490 as of July 2023, but professionals in certain industries such as health care can take in six-figure salaries.
Training and Development Specialist
If you’re interested in bringing new hires up to speed and helping experienced employees gain new skills, you might consider working as a training specialist. In this role, you will develop and administer training programs for your own organization or a client’s workforce. As the BLS reports, training and development specialists saw median pay of $61,570 per year in May 2021.
Training and Development Manager
As with the HR career track, you can also reach a management position in training and development. In this more advanced role, you will have the opportunity to align professional development programs with key business goals, oversee training budgets, and teach other instructors and managers how to implement the programs and lessons you and your team create. In May 2021, training and development managers made $120,130 per year, according to the BLS.
Compensation, Benefits and Job Analysis Specialist
Other important specializations in human resources include compensation planning, benefits planning, and position classification. Depending on which of these areas you specialize in, you may help evaluate, plan, and administer the organization’s pay structure or benefits program — or you’ll help create new job descriptions that align with the current labor market. According to BLS data, the median annual pay for compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists was $64,120 in May 2021.
Compensation and Benefits Manager
As a manager in compensation and benefits, you will supervise staff and liaise with senior management and financial experts at your organization, as well as third parties such as insurance companies and benefits providers. Plus, you will help ensure that pay and benefits plans comply with employment law and applicable regulations. The BLS reports that compensation and benefits managers earned an average of $127,530 in 2021.
Human Resources Consulting
If you’re eager to break out of the HR department and take on a new challenge, you might consider joining a consulting firm. In this role, you will help clients better understand how their financial and human resources are used and offer strategic recommendations that solve key business challenges, support the workforce, and improve the bottom line. The median salary for HR consultants was $86,914 in July 2023, as Glassdoor notes.
What Is the Job Outlook for HR Professionals?
According to the BLS, qualified professionals can expect to see an increase in the available roles for HR managers and HR specialists. These positions are experiencing growth rates of 7% and 8% respectively from 2021 to 2031, which is higher than the 5% expected increase in employment across all occupations. However, HR graduates who wish to follow a different trajectory may find other employment opportunities outside of the field.
Other Jobs Similar To Human Resources
Naturally, many of the career possibilities of a human resources degree are HR-related. However, there are still some jobs that can benefit from the degree, even if they aren’t directly related. If you earn an undergraduate HR degree and later decide you don’t want to work in human resources, your degree can still help to forge a fulfilling career path.
There are plenty of options and opportunities in the workplace, and employers will take notice as you pursue your new interests while drawing upon transferable skills and related experiences from your HR background. If you have a bachelor’s degree in human resources, here are some alternative, similar career options and fields to consider:
Rather than facilitating employee-specific services, a career in administrative management allows you to oversee other aspects of an organization’s operations and help things run efficiently. Responsibilities can include recordkeeping, facilities management, and supervision of administrative staff. According to the BLS, administrative services managers earned a median salary of $99,290 in May 2021.
Becoming a career coach can allow you to help talented professionals find career opportunities they are well-suited for. You can administer aptitude tests, review resumes and other application materials, and help job seekers navigate the labor market and employment process. This can be an especially rewarding field for someone who likes helping others. As of July 2023, career coaches made $63,348 per year on average, according to Glassdoor.
After completing an education in the field of human resources, some professionals go on to teaching roles. While additional academic experience may be required, you can pivot from HR professional to HR professor with the right preparation. In May 2021, postsecondary educators specializing in business earned a median salary of $94,360, according to the BLS.
Medical and Health Services
Although you will need to gain additional skills and experience to enter the medical field, your background in human resources can be valuable in this essential industry. As a medical and health services manager, you will apply your administrative skills and organizational leadership abilities with knowledge of healthcare laws and regulations to help healthcare centers carry out their operations in an efficient and compliant manner. Per the BLS, the median annual wage for this role was $101,340 in May 2021.
Occupational Health and Safety
Having been exposed to the important role of occupational health and safety in the workplace, you might decide to transition from HR into this specialized field. You’ll spend time assessing labor relations and work environments to identify potential hazards and other risks, as well as finding areas for improvement. Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians made a median annual salary of $74,870 in 2021, according to the BLS.
Risk and Compliance Management
As an expert in risk and compliance, you will play a key role in corporate governance at your organization. Focusing on the ethical and regulatory aspects of running a business, you’ll work to ensure that company processes and policies adhere to state and federal regulations and industry standards. As of June 2023, Salary.com reports that the median salary for a corporate compliance director is $182,700.
Social and Community Services
If you like working with people, but you want to transition from supporting the workplace to helping the community, a role in social service might be a good fit. You can help plan and carry out community programs and services, secure funding, and analyze the efficacy of those efforts. Social and community service managers earned median annual wages of $74,000 in 2021, according to the BLS.
Is a Degree in Human Resources Worth It?
A human resources degree can be a valuable asset that expands your skill set and can augment your existing skills and talents. Whether in the field of human resources or performing a more administrative role, the skills and knowledge taught through the degree help to reinforce skills useful in many fields and capacities.