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.
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
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 hiring, evaluation, and termination
Maintenance of employee records
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
Entry-level HR jobs require different duties. To find a job that fits your interests and skills, it can help to explore some examples.
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
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
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:
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 . 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
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:
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.
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:
Customer service representative
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.
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
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.
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.
Welcome to Hiring Practices. In this course, you will learn how to develop a strategic plan to attract, recruit and retain employees at every level, from ...
7,636 already enrolled
Average time: 1 month(s)
Learn at your own pace
Skills you'll build:
Diversity and Inclusion, Human Resources (HR), Onboarding, Leadership, Recruiting
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.
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.