HR Entry-Level Job Guide: Jobs, Salaries, and Strategies to Get Hired

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Read this guide to learn what it takes to break into the field of human resources. Find examples of entry-level HR jobs, explore strategies for getting jobs, and discover the different pathways to HR careers.

[Featured Image] A woman in a green sweater holding her laptop interviews a man wearing a white shirt and tie for an entry-level HR job.

Human resources is a field that’s growing about as quickly as other occupations, so entry-level positions are plentiful. In this guide, learn more about entry-level HR jobs, salaries, job-hunting strategies, and the different pathways to this career. 

*All salary data sourced from Glassdoor as of May 2022

What is HR?

Human resources, or HR, is the department within an organization that deals with all employee matters. When you work in HR, you'll handle tasks like:

  • Employee recruitment

  • Employee retention

  • Employee hiring, evaluation, and termination

  • Disciplinary actions

  • Maintenance of employee records

  • Payroll administration 

  • Delivery of employee benefits

  • Development of employee policies and procedures

As the name suggests, an HR department also provides resources to humans, in this case, employees. As someone working in HR, you might provide these types of resources to fellow employees:

  • Guidance for advancing within the company

  • Work-related training and education

  • Work schedule flexibility if offered

  • Guidance with work-related concerns, personal issues, and medical problems

Examples of entry-level HR jobs

Entry-level HR jobs require different duties. To find a job that fits your interests and skills, it can help to explore some examples. 

Human resources assistant

As an assistant to the human resources manager, you'll have an opportunity to learn a lot about HR. Some skills necessary for this job include confidentiality and being organized and communicating well. Job duties you might have include:

  • Assisting with employee recruitment (posting job openings, pre-screening job applicants, and setting up interviews)

  • Managing HR emails and other communications

  • Maintaining personnel files

  • Collecting paperwork from new employees

  • Informing new employees about benefits

  • Tracking changes to benefits plans

This position typically requires at least an associate degree in human resource management, but a bachelor's degree may be preferred. Companies might accept related degrees in personnel management or business administration. If you stay in this job for a few years, it's possible to advance to senior human resources assistant and maybe even human resources manager

Average annual salary (US): $61,778

Staffing coordinator

As a staffing coordinator in an HR department, you'll attend to personnel needs. Skills that help in this job include organizational skills and the ability to communicate well orally and in writing. Your job duties might include:

  • Helping out with staff hiring, training, and orientation

  • Explaining work duties and responsibilities to new employees

  • Documenting work performance

  • Preparing disciplinary reports

  • Developing and monitoring work schedules

  • Managing requests for time off

Most companies require that staffing coordinators have at least a bachelor's degree in human resources or a related field. Career advancements you might make within HR from a staffing coordinator position include becoming a recruiter and eventually a senior recruiter. 

Average annual salary (US): $62,434

Payroll administrator

As suggested by the name, the duties of a payroll administrator focus on employee compensation. Skills that might help you land a job as a payroll administrator include an ability to work with numbers and experience with payroll software. In this position, your tasks typically include:

  • Timecard processing

  • Payroll management

  • Maintaining hourly wage or salary information

  • Tracking employee leave

  • Managing payroll tax returns and deposits

  • Entering data into employee databases and timekeeping systems

To get a job as a payroll administrator, it's a good idea to get an associate degree in accounting or finance at a minimum. With just a few years in this role, it may be possible to advance to a payroll specialist position. 

Average annual salary (US): $74,980

Training assistant

A training assistant works under the training manager. This job requires excellent organizational skills and the ability to work well under pressure. If you're hired as a training assistant, you would likely handle much of the prep work for employee training like:

  • Creating training schedules and timetables

  • Finding and securing locations

  • Booking guest speakers

  • Making travel arrangements

  • Setting up rooms

  • Preparing and distributing training materials

Although many companies require at least an associate degree for training assistant positions, you don't necessarily need one in human resources. Other acceptable fields might include education, business, or social sciences. If you have a goal for advancing from this position, possible jobs you might look to include training manager or training specialist.  

Average annual salary (US): $73,378

Strategies for gaining an entry-level HR position

It’s helpful to have a plan to get an HR entry-level position. Take a look at some strategies for getting your foot in the door. 

Get experience.

An internship can give you basic hands-on experience that might help you be a more attractive HR job candidate. You might land a job at the company you're interning for or gain a few valuable contacts. Internships can be paid or unpaid. You can either be a student, looking for a job or someone currently working on getting one. Check with your college or university, visit your local job service, or scan job ads to find an HR internship. 

Learn about business.

As an HR employee, it's important for you to know about how companies are structured and how financial systems work. This knowledge will help you look more legitimate to your employer and fellow employees, and it may help you move up the ladder in HR. To become more familiar with the business side of human resources:

  • Read books and articles about general business management.

  • Take classes in accounting, finance, or business statistics. 

  • Get an accounting, finance, or marketing internship.

Network.

Networking is the process of developing professional relationships and contacts. Through networking, you can get leads on jobs and job recommendations, which can help you land an entry-level HR position. 

To start networking, check professional social media platforms for possible connections, and make sure your social media page looks as professional as possible. Other ways to network include:

  • Attending professional events

  • Participating in workshops

  • Joining a professional HR association

  • Visiting the alumni department at your college or university

Read more: How to Use LinkedIn: A Guide to Online Networking

Take a course. 

Taking an online HR-related course or one through a local college or university could help improve your chances of getting an entry-level job and give you an opportunity to network with other professionals. Examples of course topics include HR analytics, hiring practices, and human resource management. While these courses are beginner courses, others may require qualifications like completion of prior courses or a certain amount of college credits. 

The different pathways to a career in HR

There are a few different pathways to HR positions at the entry level. You can get an HR degree, a degree in a related subject, or use past job experience to try to land an HR job. 

A bachelor's degree in HR

Many companies expect candidates to have a bachelor's degree in HR as part of their hiring requirements or at least an associate degree. You can find colleges and universities worldwide that offer HR degrees in person and online, or you can get a business degree with an HR emphasis. If you get an online bachelor's degree, the full cost of tuition will likely fall between $43,000 and $64,000 [1]. Examples of HR degrees you can get and the average completion time include:

  • Associate degree in human resource management: two years to earn

  • Bachelor's degree in human resource management: four years to earn

  • Master's degree in human resource management: 16 to 24 months to earn after earning a bachelor's degree

A degree in a related subject

Sometimes, you don't need a degree in HR to get an entry-level position. Degrees in related subjects can offer knowledge and skills that might help you in an HR position like:

  • Leadership skills

  • Knowledge of employee management

  • Ability to communicate orally and in writing

  • Experience working with numbers

Examples of related degrees include: 

Related degrees offer different strengths for HR positions. For instance, a finance degree might help you get a job as a payroll administrator. In contrast, a communications or public relations degree might be valuable when applying for an HR assistant position.  

Industry experience

Past work experience in non-HR areas might transfer nicely to an HR job. For example, you could be considered for an entry-level HR job if you have experience as a:

  • Team leader

  • Shift manager

  • Customer service representative

  • Administrative assistant

  • Salesperson

Top this experience with a good work record and excellent references, and you might be one of a company's leading candidates. 

It also helps to let your superiors know if you're interested in getting an HR position within your company. Typically, supervisors want employees to be happy. So, they'll often keep you informed when HR positions pop up and point you toward available training opportunities. Volunteering your time in the HR department is another valuable way to gain work experience. 

Qualifications to further your HR career

To improve your chances for advancement within the ranks of an HR department, you can complete one of several HR certifications. For example, HRCI (HR Certification Institute) offers certifications for:

  • People just starting out in HR

  • HR managers

  • Senior HR managers

  • Global HR managers

Some examples of its certifications include:

  • aPHR (Associate Professional in Human Resources)

  • PHR (Professional in Human Resources)

  • SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources)

  • GPHR (Global Professional in Human Resources)

You can also get certifications from Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and various other companies, colleges, and universities. To stay on top of the most current practices in HR, it's a good idea to complete certifications throughout your career. 

Deciding on a career in HR is your first step toward meeting your job goals. Now that you've learned what HR is, examples of HR jobs available at the entry-level, and strategies for gaining an entry-level position, you have essential information about this career path. 

Get started

To gain even more knowledge about HR, it might help to take a few courses. Find interesting HR courses for beginners on Coursera, like Hiring Practices from the University of California, Irvine. This course offers information about employee selection, recruitment, and retention with specific awareness of diversity and inclusion. 

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Article sources

1. US News. "Online Bachelors Degree in Human Resource Management, https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/human-resource-management-bachelors-degree#." Accessed May 26, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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