How to Become a Human Resources (HR) Specialist

TBS Staff Writers
Updated November 8, 2023
Human resources professionals work in all industries, including healthcare, business, finance, government, and manufacturing. The career also requires strong

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A human resources (HR) specialist is responsible for recruiting, screening, and interviewing workers for an organization.

They also manage areas like compensation, benefits, employee relations, and training. Every industry relies on HR professionals.

The average human resources specialist salary exceeds $64,000, and a bachelor’s degree represents the entry-level education requirement. This page explains how to become a human resources specialist, including degree requirements and career advancement opportunities.

Alternate job titles for human resources specialists:

  • Corporate Recruiter
  • Credentialing Coordinator
  • Employee Placement Specialist
  • Human Resources Generalist
  • Job Placement Officer
  • Job Placement Specialist
  • Job Recruiter
  • Personnel Coordinator
  • Personnel Officer
  • Personnel Recruiter
  • Personnel Specialist
  • Staffing Coordinator

What Does a Human Resources Specialist Do?

Human resources specialists help organizations in every sector. They manage the hiring process, compensation and benefits, and employee training.

Human resources job duties include:

  • Interviewing job applicants
  • Performing background checks on job applicants and contacting references
  • Conducting new employee orientations
  • Answering employee questions on policies
  • Administering employee benefits
  • Recruiting employees

Human resources specialists work in all industries, including healthcare, business, finance, government, and manufacturing. They usually work in offices, though some HR specialists may travel to meet with job applicants or attend job fairs. HR specialists can focus their careers on one area. For example, recruitment specialists focus on identifying and recruiting qualified applicants for job openings.

HR specialists need strong communication and interpersonal skills to communicate with job applicants and employees. The career also requires strong decision-making skills to resolve employee disputes and recommend job applicants. A detail-oriented outlook helps human resources specialists in hiring, resolving employment disputes, and complying with labor standards.

Essential Career Information
Median Annual Salary$64,240
Employment Growth Forecast from 2022-20326%
Number of New Jobs from 2022-2032874,500
Average Entry-Level Education RequirementsBachelor’s Degree
Annual Salary of the Highest 10%$116,060
Annual Salary of the Lowest 10%$39,340

Source: BLS

Become a Human Resources Specialist

Human resources specialists often hold a bachelor’s degree and professional experience. A background in customer service can help professionals pursue human resources jobs. During a bachelor’s degree in human resources, students complete courses on topics like business, psychology, organizational management, and human resources management.

After gaining several years of experience as a human resources specialist, HR professionals can advance their career by becoming an HR manager. Some employers prefer to hire HR managers with a master’s degree in human resources or an MBA with a concentration in human resources management.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs

A bachelor’s degree represents the entry-level education requirement for most human resources jobs. While some colleges and universities offer majors in human resources, other majors can also lead to careers in human resources, such as business administration or business management.

During a bachelor’s degree, prospective human resources professionals should take coursework in human resource management, workforce planning, and training and development. In addition to human resources classes, coursework in management, leadership, and organizational behavior help prospective HR specialists build the business skills required for the career.

A bachelor’s degree also incorporates general education classes in mathematics, English, and communication. These courses build critical thinking and problem-solving skills that benefit HR professionals.

Earning a bachelor’s degree generally takes four years for full-time students, though transfer students with an associate degree or prior college credit can earn a degree in less time. Graduates can pursue entry-level human resources jobs, including human resources generalist, human resources specialist, or human resources assistant.

Master’s Degree Programs

A master’s degree in human resources helps HR professionals stand out in the job market and pursue career advancement. Some employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree for leadership roles like HR manager.

During a master’s in human resources, students take advanced classes on topics like strategic human resources management, corporate communications, and human resources information systems. The degree builds strong data analysis, decision-making, and organizational leadership skills.

In lieu of a master’s in human resources, HR professionals can advance their careers by pursuing an MBA with a concentration in human resources management. An MBA offers focused business and management coursework. The human resources management concentration incorporates courses on training and development, compensation and benefits management, and international human resources.

Earning a master’s degree generally takes two years for full-time students. Some programs offer an accelerated route to the degree, while online programs prioritize flexibility for working professionals. Graduates with a master’s degree in human resources or an MBA can pursue HR manager roles.

Certificate Programs

Human resources certificates can prepare professionals without HR experience for entry-level human resources jobs or help experienced HR professionals advance their careers. For example, a general HR certificate offers foundational human resources training for students new to the field, while a certificate in human resources management can help HR specialists qualify for HR manager jobs.

General HR certificate programs may include classes on topics like hiring and interviewing, workplace behavior, and bias in the workplace. Human resources management certificate programs offer advanced training in labor relations, staffing decisions, and employee training and development.

Additionally, some colleges and universities offer specialized HR certificates in areas like conflict resolution or recruitment. The focused training of a specialized HR certificate can help HR specialists move into a subfield of human resources.

Earning a human resources certificate typically takes around one year. Most certificate programs do not set admission requirements.

Professional Certifications

Many HR specialists pursue certifications to demonstrate their expertise and advance their careers. Some employers prefer to hire candidates with HR certification, while others require certification. Several professional organizations offer certifications, including the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the HR Certification Institute (HRCI).

SHRM offers the SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) and SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) credentials. Candidates must meet the education and experience requirements. A bachelor’s degree in human resources and one year of human resources experience meets the SHRM-CP eligibility requirement, while a bachelor’s in human resources and four years of experience qualifies candidates for the SHRM-SCP credential. Candidates for both credentials must pass an exam.

The HRCI offers the professional in human resources credential for candidates with at least one year of HR experience and a master’s degree or at least two years of experience and a bachelor’s degree. Eligible candidates must pass a three-hour exam to earn the credential. Professionals must typically renew their credentials regularly by meeting continuing education requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions About HR Specialists