HR Professionals Manage a Valuable Resource: People

Curious as to what you'll do in an HR career? Here are breakdowns by human resources role.

human resources professional at work

Each company has its own, or multiple expressions of its own, unique culture.

Also called organizational culture, this encompasses the values, visions, ideals, norms, working language, systems and habits of a group who work together. A good human resources employee develops and manages their company’s culture. They recruit new hires, maintain benefits and payroll, mediate conflict and engage in training and development. Their role is at the core of a company’s success.

What does a human resources worker do?

Human resources specialists are responsible for recruiting, screening, interviewing and placing workers. They may also handle employee relations, payroll and benefits and training. Human resources managers plan, direct and coordinate the administrative functions of an organization. They oversee specialists in their duties; consult with executives on strategic planning; and link a company’s management with its employees.

HR specialists tend to focus on a single area, such as recruiting or training. HR generalists handle a number of areas and tasks simultaneously. Small companies will typically have one or two HR generalists on staff, while larger ones may have many devoted to particular areas and services.
 

Some typical daily tasks for an HR worker include:

  • Consult with employers to identify needs and preferred qualifications

  • Interview applicants about their experience, education and skills

  • Contact references and perform background checks

  • Inform applicants about job details such as benefits and conditions

  • Hire or refer qualified candidates

  • Conduct new employee orientations

  • Process paperwork

HR managers will also:

  • Plan and coordinate the workforce to best use employees’ talents
  • Resolve issues between management and employees
  • Advise managers on policies like equal employment opportunity and sexual harassment
  • Coordinate and supervise the work of specialists and staff
  • Oversee recruitment and hiring process
  • Direct disciplinary procedures

What education or certification will I need to work in human resources?

You can begin a career in human resources by earning an associate's degree or a certificate. Graduates with bachelor's degrees may also be eligible for management positions. Those who earn master's degrees in human relations can move on to work in directorial and senior-level management roles. There are two options for earning a master's degree: the Master of Business Administration with a concentration in human resources, and a human resource's master's degree.

HR professionals can choose to seek accreditation from the HR Certification Institute. This designation and others like it show a commitment to excellence and ongoing growth in the field. Learn more about human resources curriculum on What You’ll Study.

What career paths can I take in human resources?

An important choice to ponder as you study toward a career in HR is whether you’d like to be a specialist or a generalist. Fortunately, the skills you’ll use in each capacity overlap, so you can move between these realms until you find the perfect fit. It’s wise to explore all the possibilities.

Those who've earned associate's degrees and certificates in human resources are primed for entry level positions as a human resources clerk, HR assistant, recruiter, training and development coordinator, payroll specialist or HR generalist.

Entering the field with a bachelor's degree gives you access to more options, including working in employee relations, HR information systems, training and development, labor relations or as a compensation or benefit analyst.

Learn about Pay & Job Projections for human resources specialists and human resources managers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook places employment of human resources managers at 13 percent through 2022, about as fast as average for all occupations. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

Love business but want to keep your feet on the ground? Explore similar career options in business administration, finance and accounting.

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Human Resources Career and Degree Guide