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May 23, 2022
Human Resources (HR) Specialist Job Duties & Career Paths
What Is an HR Specialist?
A human resources specialist plays a vital role in various HR functions, including applicant recruitment, employee guidance, and policy clarification. They provide assistance with human resources procedures, address employee inquiries, and administer benefits and payroll. With their expertise, they ensure smooth HR operations and support an organization's workforce.
A human resources specialist is generally an entry-level position that is far more common in large companies and consulting firms than in small ones where there may be more hybrid positions. Companies with HR specialists typically have multiple specialists, each with their own area of responsibility.
HR Specialist Job Description
Depending on your education, experience, and your employer's needs, you may have the opportunity to work as a human resources specialist immediately after graduation or after spending time as a human resources generalist. While HR specialists focus on one or two areas, a generalist handles tasks that may change from day to day, depending on HR's most immediate needs.
In any HR position, your responsibilities and authority will vary based on your education and experience. If your goal is to work as a human resources specialist, a position as a generalist can be a good starting point. Generalist roles can give you the chance to consider the scope of HR management before you decide which area you want to pursue.
While the work of HR specialists varies by employer and industry, here are five common specialties.
Human Resources Specialist Career Path
Whether you start as a human resources specialist or move into the position after working as a generalist, specialist roles are usually considered early-career positions. However, as with any HR role, the right experience and education can prepare you for managerial positions.
Recognizing that the need for education doesn't stop when you earn your degree is key to accomplishing your career goals. Lifelong learning, whether through advanced degrees, professional certifications, or continuing education, is critical if your goal is to into an HR management role with more responsibility and a higher salary.
Recognizing that the need for education doesn't stop when you earn your degree is key to accomplishing your career goals.
"After college, new human resource professionals—and old ones alike—will need to continue their education, because HR is such a dynamic, ever-changing, all-encompassing field," says Rue Dooley, SHRM-SCP, HR knowledge advisor with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). "New laws, frequent changes, shifts in workplace landscapes, and more all conspire to force human resource professionals like no other professional to make quick adaptations based on shifts in legislation and other dynamics."
Here are some common career pathways for a human resources specialist.
Types of Roles
- Director of employee benefits
- Employee relations director
- Director of human resources development
- Master's degree
- Experience in midlevel management
- Postgraduate specialty training