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From recruiting strategies and payroll to benefits and the culture of a company, there is only one department that touches it all: human resources. Human resources plays a key part in any organization. Its responsibilities are far-reaching.

The human resource department must meet today’s workplace challenges. Now more than ever, it must also predict future ones. We live in an era of evolving workplaces. They change at a fast pace thanks to new technologies and regulations. Today’s human resource departments must not only accept change, but also advance it.

The Challenges Human Resources Face

A small organization may have just one human resources employee. Larger corporations, on the other hand, may have large human resource departments. These departments are often divided into several key areas. These areas generally include recruiting and employee placement, compensation and benefits, labor relations, and training and development.

Of all the departments within an organization, technology may affect the human resource department the most. About every decade, the workplace enters a new age of technological innovation. Human resources must constantly adapt.

However, adapting to new technology changes is one challenge. Effectively addressing the needs of two separate interests — those of the employee and those of the employer — is another challenge entirely.

An effective human resource department must be able to support employees. Only the employer is able to provide the resources needed. To support employees, the department must work with senior management. Effective human resource professional are able work with both without creating conflict.

Careers in Human Resources: What Do They Look Like?

Many individuals who have successful careers in human resources began as a human resource specialist — also known as a generalist. Human resource generalists must have a broad understanding and a range of skills.

A human resource generalist can have many responsibilities. In many small companies, the generalist may perform a variety of duties. These can include being a recruiter, benefits coordinator, and payroll administrator.

If you’re a human resource generalist in a mid-size company, you may be responsible for:

  • Maintaining and preparing all policy- and procedure-related material.
  • Updating the employee handbook.
  • Assisting with recruiting to add new talent to your company.
  • Coordinating or leading new employee orientation.
  • Monitoring documentation in relation to performance and employee relations.
  • Assisting in resolving employee disputes and mediating between management and personnel.
  • Participating in meetings related to employee development, administration, and company policy and procedure.
  • Assisting with exit interviews and employee surveys.
  • Staying current and in compliance with state and federal employment regulations.
  • Making new policy and procedure recommendations based on company strategy.

If your long-term goal is to become a human resource manager, a position as a generalist is a good place to start. Managers must have the same skills as a generalist while being able to handle greater responsibility.

To get a job in human resource management, you must be able to execute high-level planning. Human resources job descriptions for managers can include:

  • Writing directives that share key information with department managers. This information can include company policy, recruiting goals, employment opportunities, compensation, and benefits.
  • Coordinating management training. Training can include interviewing, hiring, terminations, and employee statistics.
  • Preparing a budget for human resource operations.

The human resource generalist or manager position also requires additional skills. These skills can include budgetary analysis and strategic planning.

Is Human Resources a Good Career?

The human resources field has been around for a long time. All data is showing that human resources will continue to play a key role in organizations. In addition to being important in organizations, the demand for human resource professionals is growing. Data shows a strong growth outlook and competitive salaries.

So exactly what kind of salary can you expect for a career in human resources? Let’s take a look at the different key areas of human resources. We pulled data directly from information available through the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Human Resource Specialist / Labor Relations Specialist (Generalist)

  • 2012 Median Pay: $55,640 per year or $26.75 per hour
  • 2012 – 2022 Job Outlook: 7% growth
  • Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s Degree
  • Work Experience in Related Occupation: None

Training and Development Specialists

  • 2012 Median Pay: $55,930 per year or $26.89 per hour
  • 2012 – 2022 Job Outlook: 15% growth
  • Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s Degree
  • Work Experience in Related Occupation: Less than five years

Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialists

  • 2012 Median Pay: $59,090 per year or $28.41 per hour
  • 2012 – 2022 Job Outlook: 6% growth
  • Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s Degree
  • Work Experience in Related Occupation: None

Human Resource Managers

  • 2012 Median Pay: $99,720 per year or $47.94 per hour
  • 2012 – 2022 Job Outlook: 13% growth
  • Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s Degree
  • Work Experience in Related Occupation: 5 years or more

Training and Development Managers

  • 2012 Median Pay: $95,400 per year or $45.86 per hour
  • 2012 – 2022 Job Outlook: 11% growth
  • Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s Degree
  • Work Experience in Related Occupation: 5 years or more

Human Resource Career Prospects

Human resources has changed over the years. For example, it was once called “personnel”. Its new title shows how the department is responsible for more areas in today’s workplace.

The definition of the human resource department is also changing. Some think we should classify human resources job descriptions differently. They believe human resources professionals should be grouped as people support teams and people analytics teams. The definition and employee classifications may change, but the need for human resource professionals is still strong.

While some companies are trying to do business without one, most modern organizations understand how beneficial a human resources department can be. For example, the restaurant chain Outback Steakhouse had no human resource department before 2008. They created one not long after they were sued. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued them for sex discrimination. By 2009, Outback Steakhouse had added an executive-level HR position. Examples like these prove there is still a need for human resources.

If you’re interested in a career in human resources, you have solid prospects. There is potential for placement and career growth in human resources.

The 21st Century Shift in Human Resource Careers

New technologies continue to change the workplace. There are plenty of new ideas for the human resources field:

Globalization: The world marketplace is becoming more connected. As a result, the needs of the company are spread out. A new challenge of human resources is bringing people together, especially as companies manage employees remotely.
Generational Diversity: The younger generations are entering the workforce. They bring with them new ideas on the future of companies. In addition, the older generation is reaching retirement. This creates a new set of challenges, specifically with benefits coordination and hiring.
Sustainability: The green revolution is here. Human resource professionals are often very involved in earth-friendly practices. They must plan and implement green solutions. They must also prepare their businesses for the needs of future generations. Sustainability doesn’t just refer to how the business interacts with nature — it also includes how companies interact with their own employees. They must help their employees develop their sustainability over the long term.
Social Media: Social media can greatly affect employees and companies. Understanding how to take advantage of social media is crucial. Human resource professionals are using the medium for marketing, customer retention, and to engage with employees. Many organizations are increasingly using internal social media networks. These networks help them manage employee engagement. The newest generation of human resource professionals must understand how these networks affect employees.
Personal Technology: Today’s devices are smaller. They continue to decrease in size. They are also getting smarter. Human resource professionals need to understand how these devices affect the workplace so they can effectively manage their use. This means establishing and enforcing policies and procedures.
Mass Customization: Many companies — especially technology companies — are placing more importance on employee happiness. They have unique ways of making work fun and more productive. They are also developing less strict policies. Today’s human resource professionals must be able to protect the company while giving employees more freedom.
Big Data: Companies are continuing to grow larger by the day. They are shifting their reach to new markets around the globe. Human resource departments handle massive amounts of documentation, so storing and analyzing these documents is a significant challenge. Knowing how to interpret data is also key. Perhaps most importantly, security is now more significant than ever. Recent data breaches have cost companies millions of dollars.

New Work Environments Bring New Changes for Human Resource Professionals

The millennial generation — those between 21 and 32 years old — is gaining importance in the workplace. They expect a work environment that is much different than that of their parents. Human resource departments must be flexible enough to keep up with these changes. If they don’t, they won’t be able to effectively recruit employees or retain them.

Online retail company Zappos.com has led the way in new employee relation strategies. For example, the company now offers new employees $4,000 to quit. This allows the company to retain only those new employees who are dedicated to their jobs and the company. Zappos.com has also eliminated the manager role and offer free food in the lunch room.

With these progressive changes must come progressive policies. These policies must meet the needs of both the employee and employer. In the case of Zappos.com, they needed to create new policies regarding promotions now that they no longer had managers.

Human resource jobs in progressive companies can be good for your career prospects. They can also be a fun and rewarding experience as well. The most exciting companies to work for include:

  • Google — Google may be responsible for creating this new workplace environment. It has gone to great lengths to become an attractive employer. Google employees benefit from a range of free perks: food, massages, fitness classes, gym access, and doggy day-care.
    Perhaps one of the most controversial is offering their employee’s free egg freezing. Now female employees can focus on their careers later in life than they thought possible, changing how employees plan for their future family. It has also gained significant media attention — another perk of being a progressive employer.
  • Yahoo! — Yahoo! offers a dynamic working atmosphere. As a Yahoo! employee, you could enjoy basketball and volleyball courts, live concerts, and lively barbeques.
  • Scripps Health — Scripps Health is not as well-known as Yahoo! or Google but it’s following in the big companies’ steps. Tuition reimbursement, concierge services, pet insurance — you can enjoy it all for free if you’re a Scripps Health employee.

Human Resource Education: What You Need for a Human Resources Career

What kind of education do you need to get a job in human resources? Most HR jobs require a Bachelor’s Degree. An Associate’s Degree or Certification is often the first step to completing your Bachelor’s Degree. It can also provide you with a knowledge foundation for the rest of your human resources education. It will prepare you for the type of classes and work you must complete for a Bachelor’s Degree.

There are many different specialties within human resources. The educational requirements are broad. People who want to have a career in human resources should generally take courses in business, social sciences, and finance. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook specifically recommends:

“Most prospective human resources specialists should take courses in compensation, recruitment, training and development, and performance appraisal, as well as courses in principles of management, organizational structure, and industrial psychology. Other relevant courses include business administration, public administration, psychology, sociology, political science, economics, and statistics. Courses in labor law, collective bargaining, labor economics, labor history, and industrial psychology also provide a valuable background for the prospective labor relations specialist.”

It makes sense that educational requirements are diverse. Human resource professionals must be able to perform many varying tasks. For example, you must be able to manage budgets. You must also be able to resolve any employee disputes and understand labor relations.

Human resource certifications are generally not required to work as a human resource professional. Having one, in addition to any formal degree or work experience, can help your career prospects.

Today, more organizations require new hires to have a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) or Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification. The Society for Human Resources Management provides these certifications. There are also additional certifications you can attain in specific areas. These areas include compensation and benefits.

Human Resources at Vista College

At Vista College, you can get the training you need to prepare for a human resources career. You will learn a variety of skills in a range of areas. These areas include accounting, business law, and economics. As a Vista College alumni, you can also benefit from our career services assistance. We can help you improve your interviewing skills and write an effective resume.

A career in human resources can be challenging and rewarding. If you’re interested in human resources, get started on your career with a Vista College’s Human Resource Associate Degree program.

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