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How to Become a Human Resources Specialist

By Alyciah Beavers

Published:

Are you ready to unlock the door to a rewarding and dynamic career path? In a world where the backbone of any organization lies in its people, HR specialists play a vital role in shaping a company’s future and ensuring their success. Let’s dive in and discover the path to becoming a Human Resources Specialist like no other!

Career Summary

Human Resources Specialist Salary

Human Resources Specialist Salary

The HR Specialist salary in the US can fluctuate depending on several factors including location, company size, and the industry. Additionally, salary discrepancies can arise based on whether the role is entry-level or more senior. Here is a breakdown of how much an HR specialist earns at each level:

  • Entry Salary (US$49k)
  • Median Salary (US$61k)
  • Executive Salary (US$80k)

For reference, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics states that in 2022, the average annual salary was $61,900. This means that the HR Specialist salary is in line with the average for all occupations.

What does a Human Resources Specialist do?

A human resource specialist ensures the organization’s policies and procedures are effectively implemented. These individuals screen, recruit, and interview all new job applicants within the organization. The HR specialist job description encompasses various responsibilities such as developing and implementing HR policies and procedures, training and development, and worker benefit and compensation programs.

Human Resources Specialist Career Progression

Different factors affect an HR specialist’s career progression, including the company’s size, industry, and individual performance.

However, this is an outline of the career progression in the HR field:

  • HR Assistant: Most HR professionals start their careers as assistants, whose role is supporting the HR department in various administrative tasks such as assisting with recruitment processes.
  • HR Generalist: HR Generalists oversee multiple HR functions, including recruitment, employee relations, performance management, policy development, and compliance.
  • HR Specialist: As an HR Specialist, you will gain expertise in a specific HR function such as recruitment, compensation and benefits, employee relations, and training and development.
  • HR Manager: The role includes managing a team of HR professionals, and developing and implementing HR strategies, thus ensuring the company complies with labor laws and regulations.
  • Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO): It is the highest-ranking HR executive in an organization. These people oversee all HR operations, including talent acquisition, performance management, and organizational development.
Human Resources Specialist Career Progression

Pros:

  • Helps you to impact organizational success
  • Promotes steady career growth
  • Promoting diversity and inclusion
  • A chance to experience different things
  • Create a diverse and equitable workplace

Cons:

  • Dealing with conflicts and employee disputes
  • Balancing competing interests
  • Handling disciplinary issues and terminations
  • Dealing with sensitive and confidential information
  • Managing employee expectations

Useful Skills to Have As a Human Resources Specialist

Working as an HR specialist requires vital skills such as good time management and attention to detail.

Below are six essential skills that are generally important for HR specialists:

  • Communication Skills
  • Adaptability and Flexibility
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Organizational Skills
  • Analytical and Problem-Solving Abilities

Popular Human Resources Specialties

  • Talent Acquisition Specialist
  • Training and Development Specialist
  • Employee Relations Specialist
  • Compensation and Benefits Analyst
  • HR Project Manager

How to become a Human Resources Specialist

Human Resources Specialist 5 Steps to Career

Becoming a Human Resources specialist involves a combination of education, experience, and professional development. While specific requirements differ depending on the organization and location, here are some common steps to becoming an HR specialist.

Obtain a Relevant Education

Earn a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business administration, psychology, or a related field. While not always mandatory, having a degree can provide a solid foundation and increase your chances of getting hired.

Do I Need A Degree To Become A Human Resources Specialist?

While some employers may prefer or require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business administration, or a related field, it is not always a strict requirement. In some cases, relevant work experience and specialized certifications can be valuable assets instead of a degree.

Benefits of Having A Human Resources Degree

While it’s not a strict requirement to become an HR specialist, having a human resource degree is beneficial for several reasons:

  • It provides specialized knowledge and expertise in human resources. It equips HR specialists with a deep understanding of various HR functions, including recruitment, employee relations, compensation and benefits, training and development, organizational behavior, and labor laws.
  • It helps HR specialists understand and navigate complex employment laws, regulations, and compliance requirements. They learn about topics such as equal employment opportunity, workplace safety, labor relations, and privacy laws.
  • It provides insights into strategic HR management, workforce planning, and talent acquisition. Therefore, they help shape and implement HR strategies that enhance employee engagement, productivity, and overall organizational success.
  • Pursuing a human resource degree exposes HR specialists to research, case studies, and practical exercises that enhance their leadership, conflict resolution, negotiation, and communication skills.
  • It enhances the credibility of HR specialists in the eyes of employers, colleagues, and stakeholders. It provides a strong foundation of theoretical concepts and practical skills, signaling that the individual has comprehensively understood HR principles and practices.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Degree In Human Resources?

The duration of a degree in human resources varies depending on several factors, including the level of the degree, the educational institution, and whether you’re studying full-time or part-time.

Here are some typical time frames for different levels of degrees:

  • Associate’s Degree: An associate’s degree in Human Resources typically takes about two years to complete if you’re studying full-time. However, if you’re attending part-time, it may take longer.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: A bachelor’s degree in Human Resources usually takes four years for full-time students to complete. This duration may be extended if you take a reduced course load or need to fulfill additional requirements.
  • Master’s Degree: A master’s degree in Human Resources can take 1 to 2 years to complete, depending on whether it’s a full-time or part-time program. Some universities offer accelerated or executive programs that can be completed quickly.
  • Doctorate Degree (Ph.D.): Pursuing a Ph.D. in Human Resources typically takes 4 to 5 years of full-time study beyond completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Doctoral programs often involve coursework, research, and the completion of a dissertation.

These are general estimates, and the actual duration can vary among different institutions and individual circumstances. Check with the specific college or university you plan to attend to get accurate information regarding their program’s duration and requirements.

How Much Does It Cost To Study For A Human Resources Degree At A University?

The cost of studying a human resource degree at a university is $10,197 and $12,628 for in-state students in both undergraduate and graduate courses respectively. However, the tuition fee varies widely depending on several factors. These factors include the location and reputation of the university, whether it is a public or private institution, the duration of the program, and whether you are an international student or a resident of the country where the university is located.

Additionally, you should consider other expenses such as accommodation, textbooks, living costs, and any additional fees charged by the university. The prices vary depending on your location and lifestyle choices as a student.

To get accurate and up-to-date information on the cost of studying a human resource degree at a specific university, visit the university’s official website or contact their admissions or international student office. They can provide you with the most accurate information regarding tuition fees and other expenses associated with the program.

Can I Become A Human Resources Specialist Through Online Education?

Yes, online education makes it possible to become a human resource specialist. Online education has gained significant popularity recently, providing flexible and accessible learning opportunities for individuals in various fields, including human resources.

There are many online platforms, universities, and educational institutions that offer HR-related courses, certifications, and degree programs. Research and choose accredited online programs that offer HR-specific courses.

Gain Practical Experience

Gaining practical experience as an HR specialist is crucial for developing your skills and enhancing your employability.

Here are some strategies to gain practical experience in the field:

  • Seek Internships or Entry-Level HR Positions: Look for internships or entry-level positions in HR departments or related areas to apply your theoretical knowledge and gain hands-on experience in various HR functions.
  • Volunteer for HR-Related Projects: Within your current organization or through volunteer opportunities, offer assistance in HR-related projects. This could involve participating in employee engagement initiatives, organizing training programs, or developing HR policies and procedures. Such involvement will give you practical exposure to different aspects of HR.
  • Network with HR Professionals: Attend networking events, join professional HR associations, and connect with HR professionals on platforms like LinkedIn.
  • Take on HR Projects Independently: Once you have a foundation of HR knowledge and practical experience, look for opportunities to take on HR projects independently. This could involve leading a small-scale recruitment effort, conducting training sessions, or developing HR policies. These experiences will showcase your ability to handle HR responsibilities and demonstrate your initiative.

Remember, practical experience in HR is built over time, so be patient and persistent in your efforts. Each opportunity you pursue will contribute to your development as an HR specialist.

What Are Internship Opportunities For A Human Resources Specialist?

As a human resource specialist, several internship opportunities are available to gain practical experience and enhance your skills. Many organizations offer dedicated HR internship programs, where you can work closely with experienced HR professionals and gain exposure to various HR functions. These programs typically cover recruitment, employee relations, training and development, performance management, and HR administration.

Here are some other opportunities:

  • Compensation and Benefits Internship: This internship focuses on compensation and benefits administration. You may assist in job analysis and evaluation, salary benchmarking, benefits administration, and analyzing compensation trends.
  • HR Information Systems Internship: This internship involves working with HR information systems and technology platforms. You may assist in data entry, reporting, system testing, and supporting HR users.
  • Organizational Development Internship: This internship focuses on organizational development initiatives, such as change management, performance management, culture building, and employee surveys. You may support these initiatives by researching, assisting in implementing programs and analyzing data.
  • Compliance and Employment Law Internship: This internship provides exposure to HR compliance and employment law. You may assist in conducting audits, reviewing policies for legal compliance, researching employment regulations, and supporting legal issues.

Actively search for internship opportunities through job boards, company websites, career fairs, and networking events. Additionally, consider contacting local businesses, non-profit organizations, and government agencies that may have HR internship programs. Tailor your application materials, including your resume and cover letter, to highlight your relevant skills and express your enthusiasm for the HR field.

What Skills Will I Learn as an HR Specialist?

As an HR specialist, you will develop a wide range of skills that are essential for managing human resources effectively.

These skills include:

  • HR Policies and Compliance: You will become familiar with developing and implementing HR policies and procedures, ensuring compliance with labor laws and regulations, and maintaining employee records.
  • Recruitment and Selection: You will learn how to attract and identify suitable candidates for job vacancies, assess their qualifications and skills, conduct interviews, and make informed hiring decisions.
  • Training and Development: You will acquire skills in identifying training needs, designing and implementing training programs, and evaluating their effectiveness in enhancing employee skills and performance.
  • HR Software and Tools: HR technology plays a significant role in modern HR practices. You’ll learn how to use common HR software and tools, such as applicant tracking systems, HRIS (Human Resource Information Systems), or performance management software.
  • Communication: HR specialists must excel in both written and verbal communication to convey information clearly, listen actively, and facilitate effective dialogue with employees, management, and stakeholders.
  • Interpersonal Skills & Employee Relations: Building positive relationships with employees, colleagues, and stakeholders is essential. You will learn to demonstrate empathy, resolve conflicts, and foster a harmonious work environment.

What Is The Work-Life Balance Of A Human Resources Specialist?

The work-life balance of a human resource specialist can vary depending on several factors. That includes the organization they work for, their level of responsibility, and their individual work habits. However, human resource specialists generally aim to maintain a healthy balance between their professional and personal lives.

There are a couple of aspects to consider regarding work-life balance for human resource specialists such as working hours and flexibility. HR specialists work for around 40 hours per week. However, during busy periods, such as recruitment drives or employee-related issues, they may need to work additional hours or when handling urgent matters outside regular office hours.

Many organizations offer flexible work arrangements to promote work-life balance. Therefore, human resource specialists may be able to work remotely or have flexible hours, allowing them to manage personal commitments and responsibilities better.

Since these employees often deal with employee-related challenges, conflict resolution, and sensitive issues within the workplace, there are stress management techniques to keep them sane. Stress management techniques and effective time management skills can help alleviate work-related pressure.

Finally, the work-life balance experienced by human resource specialists can also depend on the organization’s culture and values. Organizations prioritizing employee well-being and work-life balance are more likely to provide their human resource specialists with the necessary support and resources to maintain a healthy equilibrium. This allows them to perform their duties at their level best.

Pursue HR Certifications

Consider pursuing HR certifications, such as the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) or the Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP). These certifications validate your knowledge and skills as an HR professional and can enhance your job prospects.

Besides earning PHR and SHRM-CP, there are more certificates an HR specialist can get. The majority of these certificates need you to have previous experience in the HR department and related human resource degrees.

Here are five other certificates that are an added advantage to your human resource specialist career:

  • Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR)

It is an ideal certificate for an entry-level HR specialist position. The examination revolves around your understanding of the fundamental knowledge in this sector. After getting your aPHR certificate, you can easily kickstart your career as an HR generalist or assistant.

What makes this certificate an ideal one is the fact that you do not need previous experience in the HR department. Additionally, the exam format is easy to deal with questions on HR operations, recruitment and selection. Finally, this certificate is valid for three years.

  • Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR)

GPHR is ideal for anyone working in an international market. You should have an understanding of the global market and how different countries operate. Before getting this certification, you need at least 2-4 years of working experience in the HR department. Luckily, the GPHR certificate is also valid for three years.

  • Certified Staffing Professional

American Staffing Association (ASA) recommends that anyone working in HR staffing gets this certificate. It has detailed content regarding federal laws such as labor and federal employment. It certifies your experience in working with both employees and clients within federal regulations.

  • Certified Healthcare Staffing Professional

If you are an HR specialist working in a healthcare department, this is the right course for you. It is an ideal certificate if you want to differentiate yourself in this competitive field since it indicates your knowledge of healthcare staffing laws.

  • Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP)

The certificate touches on ten broad areas including knowledge management, learning technologies, change management, and coaching. This certificate shows your potential employer that you can be held professionally accountable for your actions at work.

Stay Updated on HR Trends and Regulations

The field of HR is constantly evolving, with new trends and rules emerging regularly. Stay updated by reading HR publications, attending industry conferences or webinars, and participating in relevant professional associations. This will demonstrate your commitment to continuous learning and help you stay informed about best practices.

Top HR Resources to Stay Up to Date with the HR News & Trends

Staying up to date with HR news and trends is crucial for HR professionals to remain informed and make informed decisions.

Here are some reputable platforms and websites to consider:

  • HR Brew will keep you informed about current HR updates, provide evidence-based guidance, and deliver the newest industry reports.
  • Evil HR Lady is a blog by Suzanne Lucas, HR consultant, and leadership expert. Follow her to know what’s new in the HR and business world.
  • HRZone is an online community and resource hub for HR professionals. It features articles, whitepapers, webinars, and discussions on various HR-related topics, including employee engagement, talent management, and HR technology.
  • HR Examiner is dedicated to addressing topics that are of importance to HR leaders. The publication covers relevant issues spanning various domains, ranging from recruitment strategies to the establishment of HR policies.
  • HR.com is a comprehensive HR platform that provides articles, research, webcasts, and tools for HR practitioners. It covers various HR topics and offers access to an active community of HR professionals.
  • HR Exchange Network is an online community and resource hub for HR professionals. It offers articles, webinars, podcasts, and conferences, covering a range of HR topics and providing insights from industry experts.
  • HR Bartender is a popular HR blog that covers various HR topics and offers insights, advice, and resources for HR professionals at all levels. The articles provide practical insights and tips for HR professionals.

What’s the Career Outlook for Human Resources Specialists?

The career outlook for a Human Resource (HR) specialist is quite promising, with numerous opportunities and a positive job growth trend. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of human resources specialists is projected to grow 8 percent from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is primarily driven by the increasing complexity of employment laws and regulations, as well as the growing importance of strategic HR management in organizations.

The demand for HR specialists is expected to remain strong across industries, as organizations recognize the significance of effective HR practices in attracting, retaining, and developing talent.

HR specialists with specialized skills in areas such as talent acquisition, data analytics, and HR technology are likely to have even more promising career prospects. As organizations increasingly leverage technology for HR processes and data-driven decision-making, professionals with expertise in HR systems and analytics will be highly sought after.

Moreover, the globalization of businesses and the rise of remote work arrangements have expanded the scope of HR practices. HR specialists who possess cross-cultural competency, global HR knowledge, and virtual collaboration skills will be well-positioned to excel in this evolving landscape.

Human Resources Specialist Popular Career Specialties

What Are The Job Opportunities Of A Human Resources Specialist?

As a Human Resources (HR) Specialist, you have various job opportunities across different industries and organizations.

Here are some common roles and responsibilities associated with HR Specialists:

  • Recruiter: A recruiter identifies and attracts qualified candidates for job openings within an organization. They assess resumes, conduct interviews, and evaluate skills to match candidates with suitable positions. Recruiters also build relationships with candidates and clients, manage hiring processes, and contribute to the growth and success of an organization’s workforce.
  • HR Information Systems (HRIS) Specialist: HRIS specialists manage and maintain human resources technology platforms, including HRIS software and databases. They ensure accurate and up-to-date employee data, generate reports, streamline HR processes, provide user support, and contribute to strategic decision-making by leveraging data insights for effective workforce management.
  • Compliance Specialist: A compliance specialist ensures adherence to legal and regulatory requirements within an organization. They develop and implement policies, procedures, and training programs to mitigate risks, conduct audits, monitor activities, and provide guidance to maintain ethical standards, data protection, and overall compliance with applicable laws and industry standards.
  • HR Analytics Specialist: An HR analytics specialist utilizes data analysis techniques to extract insights from human resources-related data, such as employee performance, engagement, and recruitment. They interpret the data to inform strategic decision-making, improve workforce planning, optimize talent acquisition, and enhance overall organizational effectiveness while aligning with business objectives.
  • Additionally, you can work independently, as an HR Consultant. They provide expert guidance and support to organizations in managing their human resources. This may include advising on recruitment, employee relations, performance management, training, and compliance with employment laws.

What Type of Companies Hire A Human Resources Specialist?

Many different types of companies hire human resource specialists to manage their personnel and ensure the smooth functioning of their workforce.

Below are some types of companies that commonly hire HR specialists:

  • Large Corporations: Large corporations have complex HR needs, such as managing employee benefits, handling labor relations, and implementing HR policies across multiple locations.
  • Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs): SMEs hire HR specialists to handle various HR functions, including recruitment, onboarding, training, performance management, and employee relations.
  • Government Organizations: Government agencies need HR specialists to handle recruitment and compliance with government regulations.
  • Healthcare Organizations: Hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities require HR specialists to manage healthcare-specific employee benefits and address workforce issues specific to healthcare professionals.

Should I become a Human Resources Specialist?

As an HR specialist, you have the opportunity to shape the heart and soul of an organization by nurturing its most valuable asset: its people. From recruitment and selection to performance management and employee relations, your role is instrumental in fostering a positive work environment and driving the success of both individuals and the entire organization.

It’s a profession that demands both strategic thinking and empathetic communication, challenging you to balance the needs of the organization with the well-being and growth of its employees. So, if you possess a passion for people, an appetite for continuous learning, and a desire to make a tangible difference in the lives of others, take the leap and embrace the exhilarating path of becoming an HR specialist!

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Alyciah Beavers

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