Bachelor's in Human Resource Management

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How to Become a Human Resources Specialist

The human resources (HR) department plays a large role in a company’s overall success. The HR department helps select employees and manages their needs and expectations to encourage them to stay with the company and contribute. For leaders who want to use their advanced communication, research, and organizational skills to improve workplaces and help employees, a career as an HR specialist could be a perfect fit.

Read on to learn how to become an HR specialist.

An HR professional shakes hands with a job applicant in an office with a view of the city.

What Does a Human Resources Specialist Do?

HR specialists’ responsibilities can vary based on factors such as the company’s recruiting and onboarding policies or the specialist’s level of seniority. Typical responsibilities include:

  • Managing recruitment efforts
  • Overseeing the legality of employment contracts
  • Ensuring that occupational health and safety standards are met
  • Onboarding new hires
  • Conducting exit interviews

Human resource specialists may also plan and oversee new employee orientations, conduct negotiations with unions, and give new and current employees information about benefits and payroll. They often play a role in ensuring a company’s compliance with federal, state, and local employment regulations.

HR specialists may assist with external and internal communications — including crisis communications. If a misstep occurs at a company, a competent HR specialist can work with the public relations team to save the company’s reputation and relationships with customers and partners. As an HR specialist gains experience, they may move into more senior positions, such as an HR manager or director.

Steps to Become a Human Resources Specialist

If you decide to seek a career as an HR specialist, you may tailor your academic and professional path to your own goals and interests. Earning a college degree, gaining relevant work experience, and attaining optional professional certifications are the typical steps to become an HR specialist.

Human Resource Specialist Degree

Companies usually require the HR specialists they hire to have at least an undergraduate degree. Earning a degree, such as an online Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management, can help candidates become more qualified for this competitive, in-demand role.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that aspiring HR specialists often study business, human resource management, psychology, communications, and other related fields. After completing a bachelor’s degree program, some professionals choose to pursue a master’s degree, such as an online Master of Business Administration in Human Resources Management. Earning a graduate degree can help develop the advanced skills and knowledge to provide an extra edge when aspiring to become a human resource specialist.

Professional Experience

Gaining professional experience can also help you qualify for a role as a human resource specialist. Working in people-focused positions with similar responsibilities, such as customer service or management, can help candidates stand out to employers.

Professional Certifications (Optional)

HR specialists can also obtain professional certifications, such as the Certified Professional and Senior Certified Professional credentials from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The HR Certification Institute also offers several types of certifications designed for HR specialists with varying levels of expertise and experience. Although these certifications are optional, earning them demonstrates knowledge and professional competence.

Human Resource Specialist Skills

Human resource specialists balance the needs and concerns of individual employees with the ongoing success of their organization or company. From employee compensation and benefits to performance management and reporting, human resource specialists play a vital role in keeping both sides of an employment arrangement satisfied and productive. The following competencies are essential for human resource specialist roles:

  • Conflict management — In the case of disagreements about labor, staff schedules, and compensation between employees and employers, human resource professionals use their conflict management skills to find resolutions. Additional competencies to resolve conflicts include empathy, negotiation skills, and the ability to facilitate group discussions.
  • Communication — Human resource specialists often conduct phone, video, or in-person interviews. They also interact with business executives, providing updates on HR-related matters. These activities require exceptional communication skills, including listening and speaking.
  • Decision making — Human resource specialists often make tough decisions. They work with hiring managers to determine which candidates will receive job offers. They are also often involved in decisions involving disputes, layoffs, and disciplinary actions.
  • Interpersonal skills — Given they interact regularly with managers at different levels and with diverse candidates, human resource specialists need exceptional interpersonal skills. A personable demeanor and kind disposition can go a long way in gaining the trust of both employees and employers.
  • Organization and detail-orientation — Tracking employee records is central to the role of human resource specialists. They must be detail-oriented and organized to maintain accurate files, both print and digital. Attention to detail is also vital for background checks and employee grievance reviews to comply with labor laws.
  • High ethics — Human resource specialists handle important business matters. This calls for honesty, forthrightness, and high ethical standards to protect employee privacy rights and maintain confidentiality.

Human Resource Specialist Salaries

The HR field becomes increasingly important as our economy grows and worker demand in key areas skyrockets. HR specialists are often in charge of finding, screening, hiring, and retaining talented workers. According to 2019 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for HR specialists was $61,920. The highest 10% averaged over $105,930, and the bottom 10% under $37,180.

Salaries for HR professionals often vary based on industry, location, experience, and education levels. HR specialists working in professional, scientific, and technical services industries tend to earn more than those in healthcare and social assistance fields, for instance.

Future Growth Outlook for Human Resource Specialists

More companies see the need to have an HR specialist oversee talent management, which can involve recruiting candidates, onboarding new employees, and retaining high-performing employees. Employers also need HR specialists to create personnel management strategies, processes, and procedures that improve employee working conditions. The BLS reports there were approximately 625,700 HR specialists in the U.S. as of 2018, and that number is projected to grow to 658,700 by 2028.

Pursue a Human Resource Specialist Degree

HR specialists are business leaders who help their organizations succeed by hiring the right people, and keeping them happy and productive. To become a human resource specialist, individuals should possess analytical skills, business acumen, and a talent for building interpersonal relationships.

The Maryville University online Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management program can help prepare you for a career in this dynamic, people-focused field.

If you’re already an HR professional and are looking to further your career in HR management, consider the online Master of Business Administration in Human Resources Management program from Maryville University.

Recommended Readings:
Check Out Our New Online Degree Programs Coming This Fall

Business Management vs. Human Resource Management: Comparing Two Career Paths

How to Become a Compensation and Benefits Manager

Sources:
CNBC, “21 of the Most In-Demand Jobs in the US — and How Much They’ll Pay”

HR Certification Institute, Our Certifications

Society for Human Resource Management, Certification

The Balance Careers, “Important Human Resources Skills for Resumes & Cover Letters”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Human Resources Specialists