HR Specialist Salary Information (2022)

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Find out the skills, education, and experience necessary to be an HR specialist. Learn about entry-level pay or how to boost your HR specialist salary.

[Featured image] A male HR specialist, wearing a sports jacket and white shirt leading a meeting with his team in the conference room.

If you're hoping to become a human resources (HR) specialist or you currently are one, it's helpful to have up-to-date salary information. The HR field focuses on employees, which are the lifeblood of any company. HR specialists handle specific areas of human resources like:

  • Compensation and benefits

  • Health and safety

  • Labor relations

  • Recruitment

  • Risk management

  • Training and development

Understanding salary information can help you decide if you want to pursue a job as an HR specialist or in a similar area. If you're already working as an HR specialist, knowing how you can boost your current income is beneficial. 

How much does an HR specialist make in the US?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), American HR specialists made a median annual salary of $62,290 as of May 2021 [1]. 

Factors that affect salary

Several different factors can affect your HR specialist salary. These include your education, experience, location, industry, and company size.   

Education level

Across all fields, education matters when it comes to an annual salary. If you have a bachelor's degree, chances are you'll earn a higher salary than an HR specialist without one, and a master's degree may boost your salary even higher. Getting Professional Certificates specific to HR may also help raise your annual salary. 

Read more: Master’s in Management vs. MBA: Which Is Better?

Years of experience in HR or a related field

Your earnings also depend on your work experience. For instance, if you've been working as an HR specialist for five years, you'll likely have a higher salary than someone who just started. This is typically because you have more knowledge of the role, which makes you a more productive employee. 

Location

In some parts of the country, HR specialist jobs pay more than in other places. An important factor that affects wages from one location is the cost of living. For instance, in some states or cities, housing, groceries, education, taxes, and entertainment costs are higher than in other places, which your salary often reflects. 

Industry

As an HR specialist, the industry you work in can affect your annual salary. Factors that can differ from one sector to another include:

  • Customers or clients

  • Training requirements

  • Working conditions

  • Work setting

Here are the median wages for human resources specialists across different industries as of May 2021, according to the BLS [2]:

  • Government: $74,150

  • Health care or social services: $57,720

  • Manufacturing: $72,370

  • Scientific, technical, or professional services: $76,920

  • Employment Services: $48,440

Size of the company and how many people you manage

Generally, larger companies have more resources available for employee salaries and benefits than smaller companies. Your annual salary may also likely be higher if you manage 100 employees instead of 20. If you work for a large company, you might also have more chances for advancement than if you were working for a smaller company. 

Salaries of other jobs in HR 

Whether you're currently working as an HR specialist or hoping to, it can be helpful to have ideas for possible career paths. Check out these three examples of jobs and salaries you may want to aim for in the future:

1. HR manager

As an HR manager, you would have a broader range of duties than an HR specialist. You'd be responsible for overseeing a variety of HR programs involving employees like:

  • Compensation and benefits

  • Employee relations

  • Employee performance

  • Health and safety

  • Recruitment and hiring 

  • Training and development

Ideally, you would hold a master's in human resources or a related subject to be an HR manager. Special skills for this position include communicating well with others, quick decision-making, and good organizational skills. 

HR managers across the US made a median annual wage of $126,230 as of May of 2021 [3]. 

2. Training and development manager

As a training and development manager, you would be in charge of training programs, training staff, and the training budget for an HR department. Some of your daily tasks might include:

  • Consulting with department managers to identify training needs

  • Developing and implementing training from start to finish

  • Choosing training venues and materials

  • Collaborating with training experts and mentors

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of training programs

  • Updating training programs and manuals if needed

To be a training and development manager, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in human resources, business management, secondary education, or organizational psychology. Special skills you might need for this job include leadership, comfort speaking to large audiences, problem-solving abilities, and a knack for working well under pressure. 

As of May 2021, training and development specialists made a median annual wage of $120,130 [4]. 

3. Compensation and benefits manager

As a compensation and benefits manager, you would be responsible for all employee payroll and benefits programs. Some of your day-to-day duties might include:

  • Overseeing the administration of payroll

  • Supervising the administration of employee benefits, including wellness programs, insurance, retirement, and leave

  • Tracking data to ensure pay rates and benefit packages are competitive with similar companies in the same area

  • Monitoring government regulations regarding pay and benefits programs

To become a compensation and benefits manager, you'll need a bachelor's degree in human resources, business, finance, or labor relations and, ideally, a few years of experience working in payroll or benefits administration. Special skills that can help you in this job include knowledge of computer spreadsheet software, attention to detail, and good communication skills. 

As of May 2021, compensation and benefits managers made a median annual salary of $127,530 [5]. 

Ways to increase salary as a human resources specialist

While your HR specialist job description might call for certain levels of education and experience, you have many ways to boost your salary once you're working.

Get an HR certification.

HR certifications help build on the knowledge and skills you need to perform your job or advance the career ladder. You can find certifications for people just starting in the field, mid-level professionals, and HR managers working in multinational companies. For 45 years, HRCI (HR Certification Institute) has provided certifications like:

While the aPHR certification requires no specific degree or work experience, the other certifications require more education and work experience. 

Consider a master's degree.

If you're aiming for a top-level HR position like HR director or vice president of HR, a master's degree can help you outshine other candidates. It can also help you earn a higher salary in a mid-level HR position. To land your dream job or boost your salary, consider a master's degree in one of these fields of study:

  • Human resource management

  • Business administration

  • Economics

  • Finance

  • Marketing 

  • Organizational psychology

Many master's programs offer online courses so you can work and get your degree simultaneously. Depending on your circumstances, you can expect to spend one to three years getting a master's degree. 

Read more: Master’s in Management vs. MBA: Which Is Better?

Improve your skill set.

Across all careers, more skills generally mean more money. To improve your skill set in HR, take a class online or through a community college or university. Consider building your human skills with a corporate coaching or employee engagement class. 

Brush up on your technical skills with a class in structured query language (SQL). This language is used to build and maintain databases, which is essential to many HR departments. 

If you find a class that may help you become a more valuable employee, consider asking your employer to pay for it. Your company may even decide to sponsor a group of employees.  

Ask for more responsibility.

One way to learn new skills is to ask for more responsibility at work. Not only will you gain more HR-related knowledge, but you may increase your salary. You'll be a more marketable employee and may get noticed by your company.

Research similar positions in your area or industry. 

If you're looking to raise your salary, do some research. Check local job boards or use a Google search to show you comparable jobs in your area and how much industries are paying. You may find that your pay is competitive or be able to use the new information to negotiate a raise. Hiring and training employees cost money, so it's likely your employer won't want to let you go. 

Next steps

If you're considering a career as an HR specialist, you might want to take an online class like Hiring Practices, offered by the University of California, Irvine on Coursera. This class will give you an idea of what to expect working in an HR department. Suppose you're an HR specialist aiming for more money or a promotion. In that case, you might want to pursue a Master of Business Administration offered on Coursera by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. 

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Article sources:

  1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Human Resources Specialists, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/human-resources-specialists.htm#tab-5." Accessed April 22, 2022.

  2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Human Resources Specialists, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/human-resources-specialists.htm#tab-5." Accessed April 22, 2022.

  3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Human Resources Managers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.htm#tab-5." Accessed April 22, 2022.

  4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Training and Development Managers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/training-and-development-managers.htm#tab-5." Accessed April 22, 2022.

  5. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Compensation and Benefits Managers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/compensation-and-benefits-managers.htm#tab-5." Accessed April 22, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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.

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