Want to learn about the field of human resources? Discover what different HR professionals do, how much they get paid, and what it takes to pursue an HR career.
Human resources (HR) refers to the department within an organization that handles all employee matters. Its function varies across different industries and businesses, but typically include recruitement, compensation, employee relations, and more. If you’re interested in working in human resources learn more about the departments, the people that run them, the work, and how to get started.
From when employees are recruited until the day they leave an organization, they may have had contact with the human resources department. HR handles the majority of the administrative tasks like employee benefits, and provides support through employee programs. Examples include wage and benefit programs, employee leave programs, and training and development programs.
Read more: What Is Human Resources (HR)? Description, Duties, and Jobs
HR departments have become indispensable to businesses because HR professionals make sure employees in an organization stay happy, healthy, safe, and productive. To learn just how important this field is, consider what professionals in an HR department do.
Effective human resources professionals need to be familiar with the workings of their department. Common areas of focus in HR departments include:
Employee evaluation and discipline
Employee health and safety
Labor laws and compliance
Depending on your job title, you could hire a new employee, conduct a training session, or resolve a manager-employee dispute. To understand this field, here are some common tasks you might have as an HR professional.
The success of any organization starts with its employees, making recruiting and hiring one of the most important duties for HR professionals. To hire the right person for the job, you might work with a specific department leader to determine exactly what they need. Then, you'll be responsible for job postings, candidate screening, interviewing, and hiring.
Finding and hiring the right people is often cited as the number one concern of businesses today. It seems we are all competing for the best and brightest ...
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Read more: Get Started on a Recruiter Career Path: Jobs, Skills, Salaries
As an HR professional, you might be responsible for adding employees to the payroll system after they're hired. You may also be involved in payroll administration, ensuring the process is completed on time.
The human resources department is responsible for creating benefit policies and administering benefits to employees. These include ongoing benefits like health insurance and 401k programs and periodic benefits like bonuses.
According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, organizations need to create and maintain certain employee records as a matter of law . These records might include hiring documents, payroll information, or nondisclosure agreements. Creating and maintaining personnel files falls under the jurisdiction of the HR department.
Training teaches workers new skills, and it boosts employee morale. You may be responsible for finding and booking training sites, doing training setup, recruiting training professionals, or conducting the training yourself.
As a human resources professional, you may be responsible for creating disciplinary policies and possibly implementing them. When employees understand what the company expects in terms of job conduct and the consequences for breaking the rules, it protects organizations from lawsuits.
The HR department creates all kinds of workplace policies, from employee classifications and sick leave policies to emergency procedures. As a member of the HR department, you might also make changes to policies and communicate these changes to employees.
To be a successful HR professional, it helps to have a variety of technical and workplace skills, such as the following:
Technical skills refer to the abilities needed to perform specialized work tasks or use specific workplace tools. Some technical skills that might help you as an HR professional include:
Expertise in various types of HR software
Knowledge of business law
Experience in creating and maintaining budgets
Experience in employee recruitment, interviewing, and hiring
Knowledge of labor law
Workplace skills are the abilities that help humans interact with one another. Some workplace skills that could benefit you in an HR position include:
Knowledge of human resource management
The ability to communicate verbally and in writing
The ability to work with members of a team
Experience with conflict management
When deciding on any career path, knowing about the various available jobs helps.
Organized from low to high in terms of skills and experience, here are some examples of HR jobs you could pursue. The corresponding salaries reflect the average pay before extras like bonuses and profit sharing as of March 2023.
Median annual base salary (US): $43,833 
HR assistant is a good entry-level position to have. As an HR assistant, you might take phone calls, greet visitors, and provide clerical support to the HR manager. This might include answering emails, helping with payroll, and maintaining personnel files.
Bachelor’s in human resource management or business administration
Few years of relevant work experience
Median annual base salary (US): $47,992 
HR coordination involves work tasks centered around new employees. As an HR coordinator, you might assist the HR manager with clerical duties like administering new employee paperwork or conducting orientations. Or, you could help the recruiting officer by posting job notices, setting up interviews, and checking references.
Bachelor's degree in HR management or business administration
2-4 years of related work experience
Read more: What Does a Human Resources Coordinator Do?
Median annual base salary (US): $52,026
If you enjoy working with numbers, a position as an HR specialist might be a good fit. Typical tasks for this role include administering payroll, processing payroll deductions, and training others in using the payroll system.
Master’s degree in HR management or a bachelor’s degree combined with payroll-specific certifications
Background in payroll administration software
Median annual base salary (US): $51,885 
Recruiters work to fill vacant positions in companies with the best available candidates. Your job duties as a recruiter might include finding and screening applicants, setting up interviews, and conducting reference checks.
A bachelor’s degree in HR management or business administration
Knowledge of applicant tracking systems
Knowledge of current employment laws and regulations
Median annual base salary (US): $102,586 
As you work your way up the career ladder, you could land a position as the director of HR. In this role, you might be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the HR department. You might also develop employee programs and policies and evaluate them on a regular basis.
Bachelor’s degree in HR management, business, or psychology
Strong program management skills
Background in strategic planning
Median annual base salary (US): $167,037 
As an organization's chief human resource officer (CHRO), you will oversee all employee policies, programs, and services. In this role, you'll need a strong labor law background to make sure your company complies with government rules and regulations.
Bachelor’s degree in HR management or business administration
A master’s degree on a relevant field or labor relations
Read more:What Does A Chief Human Resources Officer Do?
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), human resources is "one of the fastest-growing fields in the United States ." Due to the variety of different positions in HR, you should have many opportunities for career growth and advancement.
If you're interested in pursuing a particular career, it helps to know what steps to take. To land a job in human resources, explore this common career path.
Although a bachelor's degree isn't required for all HR positions, getting one should make you a more marketable job candidate. To complete a bachelor’s degree it typically takes four years. Good fields of study to pursue include:
Human resource management
Getting experience can help you land an entry-level position in an HR department. One way to gain experience is through an internship. Common duties you might have as an HR intern include:
Creating job postings
Setting up interviews
Uploading information into employee databases
Doing setup for employee training sessions and events
Providing clerical support to HR managers
Read more: 10 HR Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
If you have ambitions for a top-level position in HR, you may want to consider getting a master's degree. A master's in human resource management can make you a more competitive candidate for positions like Director of Human Resources or Vice President of Human Resources.
Professional certifications can help you keep up with the latest information and trends in the HR field. The HR Certification Institute (HRCI) offers these popular certifications for HR professionals at many levels:
Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR) for individuals starting out in HR
Professional in Human Resources (PHR) for individuals with at least one to four years of HR experience (depending on an acquired bachelor's or master's degree)
Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) for individuals with at least four to seven years of HR experience (depending on an acquired bachelor's or master's degree)
To get started in HR, you may want to consider taking a class or earning a specialization. You could try a course at a local college or university or take a class online from the comfort of your home. Human Resource Management: HR for People Managers Specialization is offered on Coursera by the University of Minnesota. This six-month specialization offers four courses with valuable information on HR principles, labor law, and best practices for employee hiring, management, and reward. When you finish all four courses, you'll have a shareable certificate of completion.
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U S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. "Recordkeeping Requirements, https://www.eeoc.gov/employers/recordkeeping-requirements." Accessed March 9, 2023.
Glassdoor. "Human Resources Assistant Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/human-resources-assistant-salary-SRCH_KO0,25.htm." Accessed March 9, 2023.
Glassdoor. "Human Resources Coordinator Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/human-resources-coordinator-salary-SRCH_KO0,27.htm." Accessed March 9, 2023.
Glassdoor. "Human Resources Specialist Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/human-resources-specialist-salary-SRCH_KO0,26.htm." Accessed March 9, 2023
Glassdoor. "Recruiter Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/recruiter-salary-SRCH_KO0,9.htm." Accessed March 9, 2023.
Glassdoor. "Director of HR Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/director-of-hr-salary-SRCH_KO0,14.htm." Accessed March 9, 2023.
Glassdoor. Chief Human Resource Officer Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/chief-human-resource-officer-salary-SRCH_KO0,28.htm." Accessed March 9, 2023.
SHRM. "HR Manager is One of the Most Promising Careers, https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/organizational-and-employee-development/pages/hr-manager-is-one-of-the-most-promising-careers.aspx." Accessed March 9, 2023.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.