Career Path Series: Human Resources

A man interviewing virtually for an HR position

If you thrive by helping people, fostering relationships, and creating connections, a career in human resources might be a good fit for you. HR professionals are a vital part of every organization and can make an impact on its employees in meaningful ways. HR departments are typically responsible for hiring and onboarding new employees, compensation and benefits, and training and development. Your first contact with a new company will likely be with someone from the HR department. 

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of human resources managers is projected to grow 9% from 2020 to 2030. HR departments are constantly evolving to meet the needs of their employees, industry trends, and external forces (i.e., COVID Pandemic) which results in many opportunities for career growth. The Society for Human Resources (SRHM) has defined HR professionals at four career levels. 

Entry-Level HR Professionals

Human Resources Specialists are identified by SHRM as early career human resources professionals within a specific support function or generalists with limited experience. An HR Specialist is responsible for implementing an organization’s recruiting strategy. Sometimes called Talent Acquisition or Recruitment Specialists, they are usually the first point of contact in an interview process. Specialists can review resumes, perform background checks, call references, screen potential candidates, and conduct initial interviews. They are the bridge between a potential new employee and the specific department hiring.  

HR Specialists are usually required to have a bachelor’s degree in business management, human resources, or a related field. 

Mid-Level HR Professionals 

Mid-level HR professionals can also be known as HR Managers or Senior HR Specialists. Their job duties consist of leading and implementing large-scale programs and delegating tasks to entry-level staff. HR Managers are less involved in recruiting new employees and more focused on the retention of existing employees. HR Managers are also responsible for reporting and analyzing data to find trends.

Education requirements include a bachelor’s degree in business management, human resources, or a related field. Candidates are also required to have 2-3 years of professional related work experience. 

Senior-Level HR Professionals

Senior HR Managers or Directors are considered senior-level HR professionals. Directors are expected to have 5-7 years of professional work experience. Responsibilities include big picture thinking, developing business strategies, implementing changes, and mentoring and training. 

Directors and Senior HR Managers typically have a graduate degree, such as an MBA or a specialized master’s in Human Resources or Organizational Leadership.

Executive-Level HR Professionals

Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) or Vice Presidents are the senior most HR positions in an organization. They are responsible for implementing the mission and vision of the company, being compliant in all legal aspects, and driving positive workplace culture.

A master’s degree or law degree is highly preferred for candidates in these positions, as well as 10+ years of work experience and multiple HR Certifications. 

Preferred Education Requirements for HR Positions

Entry-level HR positions usually require a bachelor’s degree in business management, human resources, or a related field. As you grow within the industry, individuals will most likely be required to obtain a graduate level degree. Professionals usually choose between a specialized master’s degree in Human Resources or an MBA. Colleges and universities also offer certificate programs in HR in specialized areas like training and development or diversity and inclusion. 

Here are a few suggestions for schools with academic programs in Human Resource Management. EdAssist Education Network partner University of Maryland Global Campus offers certificates and degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Colorado State University Global Campus, also a member of the EdAssist network, awards both a bachelor’s and master’s in the field. For a cost-effective MBA concentrating in Human Resources, check out Louisiana State University Shreveport.

Certifications are also a great way to add to your HR resume. There are two widely recognized organizations for HR Certifications. 

Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM)

  • SHRM-CP (Certified Professional)
  • SHRM-SCP (Senior Certified Professional)

HR Certification Institute (HRCI)

  • Professional in Human Resources (PHR)
  • Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)
  • Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR)
  • Human Resource Management Professional (HRMP)
  • Human Resource Business Professional (HRBP)
  • California Certification for PHR and SPHR certified professionals

As the landscape of the workforce continues to evolve and human resource jobs steadily increase, there will be opportunities to get into an organization at the entry level. There are multiple career paths in an HR department allowing for growth opportunities. A career in Human Resources allows individuals to use their interpersonal and communication skills to assist, mediate, and engage employees in an organization to achieve workplace satisfaction and retention.

Written by: Stephanie Delanois

December 15, 2021

Stephanie Delanois

Stephanie Delanois headshot

Stephanie joined Bright Horizons EdAssist Solutions in 2018. She previously worked at Merrimack College in the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies advising transfer students and adult learners. Stephanie holds a master’s in Education.