Want a Human Resources Degree? Here Are 10 Things You Should Know...

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A human resources degree could be your ticket into pretty much any industry that involves humans. That covers a lot of ground. But it’s true. Human resources jobs span the gamut of organizations and business sectors. As an HR professional, you’ll be a part of organizational leadership as well as a critical point of support for personnel. But what does that mean? What do human resources professionals really do? Read on to find out…

Thinking of a degree in human resources? It’s a great choice if you’re interested in a career with a positive growth outlook and higher than average income prospects. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for human resources specialists was $60,880 in 2018 with a projected growth rate of 7% through 2026. For those who reached the level of human resource manager, the median pay in 2018 was a healthy $113,300 with a projected growth rate of 9% through 2026. Not too shabby.

But be assured, you’ll be working for that healthy salary. Human Resources is a demanding field. Your job will bring you face to face with an unpredictable slate of daily challenges. You’ll need a complete understanding of labor law, strong communication skills, and the patience of a saint. You’ll need to hone your talents as a conflict mediator. You’ll need to practice your best poker face, because your ability to remain neutral is central to the job. And perhaps most importantly, you must be prepared always to lead by example. No laughing at dirty jokes, faking sick days, or using the company Reply-All to complain about the sneaky degenerate who’s been eating your lunch out of the break room. As the HR professional, you must remain above the fray.

Fortunately, the rewards are considerable. If you are compassionate, empathetic, and capable of objectivity, you could be a difference-maker in your organization, an essential part of the leadership core, and a critical factor in the cultural outlook and personality makeup of your company. You’ll have the ability to help others acheive workplace satisfaction and be their best selves. If you can navigate the complexity and nuance to become an HR professional, it could put you in the position to achieve excellence and to help others do the same.

If you’re just here because you’re looking for awesome online human resources degrees, jump to any one of the following rankings:

To learn more before you dig in, read on…

10 Things Every Human Resources Major Should Know

1. Must like humans

Interesting fact about human resources — it requires you to interact with human beings. If that’s not something you prefer, this is probably where you get off. It’s important that you feel comfortable with a high level of personal interaction. Human Resources often requires direct engagement with personnel at your organization. Expect employees to bring you personal problems. Expect to mediate conflicts. Expect people to enter your office and exhibit the full spectrum of human emotions. You’ll need empathy, patience, and a demeanor that makes others feel comfortable to speak their minds.

2. Be a legal eagle

Compassion may come naturally to you, but you’ll need to study to master the law. Human resources personnel must be fully versed in the legal parameters surrounding labor and employment as well as legal subjects like non-discrimination policies, handling of sexual harassment claims, union law, whistleblower laws, and an array of other topics too extensive to list here. In other words, you’ll need to do your homework. Being an effective HR professional means fully understanding the regulatory environment in which you’ll be working as well as understanding the procedures for maintenance and enforcement within said environment.

3. Hang in the neutral zone

As the HR professional at your organization, you will be a primary resource for individuals looking to navigate conflict. From personal disputes between co-workers to employee grievances with management, to serious disciplinary matters, you will be tasked with the job of mediation. Regardless of the circumstances and the individuals involved, you will be required to maintain objectivity and neutrality. It is your job to be a moderator, not a participant.

4. Get results

Human Resources plays an absolutely essential role in the functionality of an organization. But it doesn’t make money…not directly, anyway. Of course, that’s not your fault. As an HR professional, it isn’t exactly your job to create revenue. But you must always be aware that HR is a budget item that does not directly translate to profitability. In other words, you have to prove the value of HR by getting results. You may play a part in employee recruitment, hiring, and retention. You may be charged with various oversight responsibilities that relate directly to employee productivity, waste prevention, safety, insulation from legal liability, and a host of other factors that can indeed impact the bottom line. Whatever your domain, stay on top of your responsibilities, run a tight ship, and make your value self-evident.

5. Open door policy

You’ll have plenty of personal interaction, but it’s not exactly networking. In most cases, you are a sounding board, not a connection. This means more than being prepared when personnel approach. It means ensuring that members of the organization see you as somebody they can turn to when the need arises. If you’re considering a job in HR, practice conveying a welcoming and approachable demeanor. People should feel they can open up to you without fear of reprisal or judgement.

6. Consider your area of focus

Human resources jobs come in all shapes and sizes. You’ll have the chance to sharpen your focus as you advance in your degree program. As you do, consider specific areas of HR where you feel you might thrive. Would you be best managing employee relations, navigating issues relating to compensation and benefits, or even working in a more technical area like Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS)? As you pursue your degree in HR, you’ll have a chance to take increasingly focused courses. These should help you hone your area of specialty.

To explore the full range of educational pathways, check out What Can I Do with a Business Degree?

7. Know the degree programs

Just as there are numerous areas of emphasis among HR professionals, there are numerous degree paths that could lead you to a profession in HR, from those that explicitly reference human resources and those that relate to industrial and organizational psychology to those more generally focused on business administration and organizational management. For your purposes, the name of the degree may simply be a function of the school that you choose. In other cases, you may have a clear sense of where you’d like to focus your studies within the field. If so, look for the umbrella degree that most closely reflects your professional goals and try to seek out HR-focused courses within. Below are a few degree paths that might help you get there. Reach out to individual schools on your list to learn more:

8. Seek guidance

As a human resources professional, you are becoming a guidance counselor of sorts. It’s not a bad idea to start by getting your own guidance, preferably from somebody who’s been there. Consider making contact through any number of professional support organizations and associations even as you advance your educational goals. Find a reputable group focused on issues, education, and professional advancement related to the HR profession for access to a strong network of educators, experienced professionals, literature, training, and other resources. Explore the following groups for real-world advice, guidance, and support:

9. Be ready for anything

Human Resources is as unpredictable as humanity itself. There’s no way to know what challenges a day may hold for you. Will you be mediating a heated argument between employees over the Game of Thrones finale? Will an employee offer you an unnecessarily detailed medical explanation for a spate of recent absences? Will a computer glitch disrupt this week’s payroll distribution and turn your entire life upside down? There’s really no way to know, which is definitely a distinguishing feature of most human resources jobs. Expect the unexpected, and be ready to fix it. As a human resource professional, people will always look to you.

10. Get your credentials in order

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that you can earn a job as a human resources specialist with a bachelor’s degree, and that this same degree level can set you on a path toward a position in management. However, HR is a competitive field where additional credentials can have a direct impact on your earning potential and your appeal to prospective employers. Master’s degrees and professional human resources certifications are considered valuable, both from an educational standpoint, and in terms of elevating your candidacy, earning potential, and opportunities for advancement. Check out some of the best graduate degrees and professional certification programs in the field to learn more:

If you think you have the compassion, patience, and versatility for this challenging but rewarding (and potentially very well paying) field, get started by checking out The Best Online Bachelor in Human Resources Degree Programs.

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