What Is the Best Degree Path to Becoming a Human Resources Specialist?

If you pay attention to detail, don’t shy away from making decisions and have great speaking, listening and interpersonal skills, a job in human resources might be right for you. Human resources (HR) specialists are the business professionals who handle matters of employee relations. They interview, hire, train and compensate employees. A college degree is essential to get started in this career. The best degree path includes a bachelor’s degree in either human resources or business.

The Work of an HR Specialist

The precise role of a human resources specialist varies from job to job. Some HR specialists – about 15 percent, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) – work in employment services, like temp agencies and employment placement agencies, to match employers with qualified workers. Employment interviewers and placement specialists fall into this category. Many HR specialists, like recruitment specialists or personnel recruiters, work in-house finding and developing talent to work with their organization. Some HR personnel focus on matters like training and development, compensation and benefits, employee assistance and information systems. Others are generalists who juggle many responsibilities.

An Education in Business and Human Resources

How do you learn all you will need to know to handle the various tasks expected of a human resources specialist? You can start by earning an undergraduate degree. Two popular fields of study are business and, unsurprisingly, human resources. Students in either major should be sure to complete coursework in subjects like human resource management, business, accounting and professional writing, according to the BLS.

During and after earning a degree, completing internships is an excellent way to gain valuable work experience, network with established business professionals and even land a job. Candidates can also enhance their résumés and qualifications by earning designations like the Professional in Human Resources and Senior Professional in Human Resources certifications from professional organizations like the HR Certification Institute.

Not all of the knowledge needed for success in his career comes from a formal education. Through work experience in roles like customer service representative and human resources assistant, candidates receive training and develop skills they will put to work in their HR specialist career.

The Benefits of Working in HR

Human resources specialists earn a median salary of $55,800 per year, the BLS reported – substantially higher than the $34,750 median annual salary for all occupations. There are other advantages to this career path, as well. The work is ideal for candidates who enjoy variety, because HR specialists – and especially generalists – often find that their job duties change from one day to the next, according to U.S. News & World Report. Ambitious human resources specialists have the opportunity to advance to higher-level positions, like human resources manager. In some roles, HR specialists have the freedom to work flexible hours or remotely. Benefits like these prompted U.S. News to rank HR specialist 11th among the best business jobs and 50th on its 100 Best Jobs list.

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