How to Become a Human Resources Manager

by TBS Staff

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Human resources (HR) departments manage hiring, employee benefits, and training for organizations across every industry.

A human resources manager is responsible for overseeing an HR department, including employee protections and the hiring process. They also work with executives to meet the organization's employment needs through recruitment and retention.

Human resource managers often hold several years of experience and an advanced degree. These managers benefit from above-average salaries and strong growth projections. The average human resources manager salary exceeds $113,000 a year.

Alternate job titles for human resources managers:

What Does a Human Resources Manager Do?

HR managers lead human resources departments. They plan and oversee an organization's administrative functions, including hiring new staff, resolving employee disputes, and training employees. Human resources managers also act as liaisons between employees and management.

Human resources managers also act as liaisons between employees and management.

HR managers oversee employee benefits programs, answering questions and managing open enrollment. They also oversee the recruitment, interview, and hiring process and help resolve workplace disputes. HR managers can specialize in areas like payroll management, recruiting management, and compensation and benefits management. They may also work in training and development management.

While a human resource specialist carries out the goals of a human resources department, an HR manager sets those goals. They hire and manage HR specialists, including specialists in payroll, benefits, and training. HR managers also work with executives to shape the organization's strategic planning, including maximizing employee resources and increasing productivity and retention. They play a central role in employee benefits and compensation while ensuring compliance with labor laws and regulations.

Essential Career Information
Median Annual Salary $113,300
Employment Growth Forecast from 2018-2028 7%
Number of New Jobs from 2018-2028 152,100
Average Entry-Level Education Requirements Bachelor's Degree
Annual Salary of the Highest 10% $201,380
Annual Salary of the Lowest 10% $66,870

Source: BLS

Become a Human Resources Manager

A bachelor's degree represents the entry-level education requirement for human resources managers. During a bachelor's degree, prospective human resources managers should take courses in human resources, labor relations, and business management. Training in information technology, organizational psychology, and conflict management also benefits prospective HR managers.

HR managers generally bring several years of professional experience to the role. Some employers prefer to hire candidates with a master's degree, which provides management and leadership training. HR managers can also pursue a certificate in human resources management or professional certification.

Certificate Programs

Human resources certificate programs offer specialized training for human resources jobs. Prospective human resources professionals without prior experience or education can pursue a general human resources certificate to build foundational skills for careers as a human resources specialist. Many programs also offer human resources management certificate programs for experienced HR professionals seeking career advancement.

During an HR management certificate, learners study management principles, supervision of employee relations, and workforce planning. Some programs offer specialized training in employment law, human resources metrics, and budgeting. An HR management certificate builds key skills in organizational leadership, human resources decision-making, and strategic planning.

Applicants to human resource management certificate programs may need to meet education and experience requirements. Completing a human resource management certificate generally takes around one year, with some programs offering accelerated completion times. HR professionals with an HR management certificate can apply for human resources management jobs.

Associate Degree Programs

An associate degree in human resources provides foundational knowledge for careers as a human resources assistant, human resources specialist, or human resources manager. An associate degree in business administration can also prepare graduates for human resources jobs. Students complete courses in business administration, employment law, and management. They also study employee recruitment, training and development, and compensation and benefits.

In addition to human resources courses, associate degree students complete general education classes in math, English, and communications, which build critical-thinking and analytical skills. Students also build communication and organizational skills during the degree.

An associate degree in human resources generally takes two years of full-time study to complete. After completing an associate degree, graduates can apply to four-year colleges and universities. Incoming students with an associate degree can often earn a bachelor's degree, the minimum education requirement for many HR careers, in two years.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

A bachelor's degree meets the minimum education requirement for most human resources jobs, including human resources manager jobs. Prospective human resources managers benefit from a bachelor's degree in business administration, business management, or human resources.

During a bachelor's program, students complete coursework on topics like employee and labor relations, human resource management, and employee development. Learners may also study compensation and benefits management and recruiting and retention. In addition to business and human resources classes, bachelor's students complete general education classes that strengthen their problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities.

A bachelor's degree typically takes four years for full-time students to complete. Transfer students with prior college credit or an associate degree can earn their bachelor's degree in less time. Graduates can pursue entry-level human resources jobs. With experience, professionals qualify for jobs in human resources management. Graduates can also apply to master's degree programs.

Master's Degree Programs

A master's in human resources management helps human resources professionals advance their careers. The advanced training students receive during a master's degree builds management and leadership skills that prepare graduates for supervisory responsibilities.

Human resources professionals considering a master's degree can choose between a master's in human resources management or an MBA with a concentration in human resources management. Both degrees include coursework in workforce planning, personnel management, and human resource information systems. An MBA also incorporates general business, management, and leadership courses.

Applicants to master's programs often need a bachelor's degree. Some programs may also set professional experience requirements for applicants. Earning a master's degree generally takes two years, though some programs offer accelerated timelines. Working professionals may benefit from the schedule flexibility of online programs. Graduates qualify for managerial and leadership roles, including human resources manager, compensation and benefits manager, and training and development manager.

Doctoral Degree Programs

A doctorate in human resources prepares graduates for the most advanced roles in the field. Certain career paths require a doctorate. For example, tenure-track professors in human resources or business typically hold a doctorate. A doctorate also prepares graduates for top roles like human resources director or vice president of human resources.

Students can pursue a Ph.D. in human resources or a doctorate of business administration with a concentration in human resources management. During a doctoral program, students complete 2-3 years of coursework on topics like business economics, organizational theory, and human resources management. Doctoral students must then typically pass a comprehensive examination before researching, writing, and defending a dissertation.

Many doctoral programs require a master's degree for admission, and some require several years of professional experience. After gaining admission, doctoral students often spend five or more years completing the degree.

Professional Certifications

HR professionals can pursue certification to advance their careers. Some employers either prefer or require professional certification for human resources jobs. Multiple accrediting bodies offer relevant certifications, including the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), WorldatWork, the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans, and the HR Certification Institute (HRCI). Candidates for certification generally must meet the education and experience requirements.

SHRM certification options include the SHRM senior certified professional credential for experienced HR professionals. Candidates for the credential must hold a bachelor's degree and four years of human resources experience or a master's degree and three years of human resources experience.

Similarly, the HRCI senior professional in human resources credential requires at least four years of human resources experience and a master's degree or at least five years of HR experience and a bachelor's degree. Human resources professionals typically must renew their certifications regularly by meeting continuing education requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the careers in human resource management?

Human resources managers can specialize in areas like employee relations, payroll management, or recruitment management. Compensation and benefits managers and training and development managers also work in HR management.

Is human resource management a good career?

Yes; human resources managers enjoy above-average salaries and strong job growth projections. They can also work in a variety of industries depending on their interests.

Do human resources jobs pay well?

Yes; the average human resources specialist salary is over $60,000 a year, while the average human resource manager salary exceeds $113,000.

What qualifications are needed to become a human resource manager?

Typically, human resources managers need at least a bachelor's degree, though some employers prefer candidates with a master's degree.

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