Human Resources Degree and Career Guide

With organizations becoming significantly cognizant of the need to reach and retain excellent prospects to be enrolled within their workforce, the necessity to operate with calculated and careful management of all resources and the increasing intricacies of employment law and employee welfare, proficient HR additions are incessantly being sought after.

A Human Resources career is a fast-growing career field with plenty of lucrative opportunities across all industries for both generalists and specialists. Also, an HR qualification can serve as a doorway beyond Human Resources and into managerial roles. Whether you’re inclined towards specializing, honing your generalist expertise, or seeking a future career in management, an HR qualification is going to be a valuable asset.

What is Human Resources?

The term “Human Resource” was initially coined by the pioneering economist John R. Commons in his book The Distribution of Wealth, published in 1983. However, the term didn’t receive prolific admission previous to the 19th century, when notions such as organizational behavior, selection assessment, and motivation became significant. Further, the attention garnered by the value of labor relations played as a prime mover in the term’s progression.

Human Resources, as defined by the author William R. Tracey in The Human Resources Glossary, is “The people that staff and operate an organization.” Accordingly, the term “Human Resources” is mainly used to refer to all the employees working within an organization.

“Human Resource Management” is a contemporary term that describes the division within a company or an organization responsible for overseeing all matters related to human capital management and development. Therefore, an HRM team’s primary mission is to maximize employee productivity and protect the company from nuisances related to the workforce while addressing and resolving all employee-related complications.
Human Resources Management Tasks:

  • Recruitment and Training
  • Compensation and Benefits
  • Performance Management
  • Labor and Employee Relations
  • Organization Development

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What are the different careers you can pursue with a bachelor’s in human resources?

There’s a broad range of career opportunities for a recent graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources. Some of the most popular career titles within the field include the following.

Chief Human Resources Officer

The chief human resources officer is the spearhead of all human resources systems and policies within a company. As one of the executive management team members, the CHRO reports directly to the company’s CEO and has a major influence on its strategic vision and direction. The CHRO must devise an HR strategy for the company, including its policies, systems, and goals. Also, this executive position oversees all aspects of the human resources department within an organization. The chief human resources officer’s position requires a level of experience that ranges between one or two decades in corporate human resources. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, chief human resources officers should expect a median annual wage of $214 427.

Human Resources Director

A human resources director is the person who’s in charge of all activities related to human resources in a company. These activities include creating and implementing company policies, hiring and retaining employees, pensions, insurance, promotions, employee termination, and benefits. They also help devise programs and benefit plans that attract talent and keep employees motivated while taking the company’s budget. Most HR directors have around a decade of experience within the field of human resources. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, HR directors should expect a median annual wage of $142,860.

Human Resources Manager

A human resources manager is an HR generalist who oversees recruitment, training, benefits, labor relations, compensation, and all other administrative functions of the human resources department. HR managers coordinate and supervise the work of specialists and the department’s support staff, ensuring that all assigned procedures are accurately completed on time and complying with the company’s policies and business laws. HR managers serve as a link between the company’s management and its employees. They consult with top executives and often serve as advisors for other managers regarding HR issues. Most HR managers come from a generalist background with at least five years of experience under their belt. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, HR managers should expect a median annual wage of $110,120.

Human Resources Consultant

Human resources consultants are often contractors that specialize in various fields, including devising policies, employee incentives, benefits issues, employment structures, rewards programs, retirement plans, and outsourcing any HR department functions. The consultant is an independent expert who uses his expertise to assess its situation and offer strategic changes to bring the company closer to its goals. HR consultants have absolute freedom in choosing who they work with and how much they charge. However, such liberty can only be granted if one has proven to be extremely competent and well-rounded across all aspects of the field with numerous years of accumulated experience. According to, HR consultants should expect an average annual wage of $87,000.

Training & Development Manager

A training and development manager’s role is to assist employees and help enhance their overall skill sets. This is achieved by conducting workshops and conferences that focus on honing certain skills. Training and development managers are often in charge of devising effective classes and coursework that include manuals and books. The employer’s content is chosen to emphasize specific aspects that might be missing or need enhancements. Excellent social and people skills are required for this position to capture interest and motivate others. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, training and development managers should expect a median annual wage of $108,250.

Compensation & Benefits Manager

A compensation and benefits manager is in charge of putting the compensation and benefits programs and into effect. These programs are selected based on the manager’s experience with different benefits programs and corporate policies. The compensation and benefits manager reviews these programs once the selection process is done to ensure they comply with the federal guidelines for compensation and benefits packages and make sure they’re competitive enough to attract workers’ desired quality. Generally, this position requires at least five years of experience in the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compensation, and benefits, managers should expect a median annual wage of $62,680.

Human Resources Recruiter

The human resources recruiter is the one responsible for managing the incoming talent pool. A talent pool is an effective long-term strategy that ensures that qualified candidates occupy job vacancies. Many functions within the HR department can be outsourced. Recruiting is one of those functions and is a function that is better carried out by a neutral third party to avoid personal biases. Recruiters can be a part of a recruitment company or work as private employees for an organization or business. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, HR recruiters should expect a median annual wage of $56,110.

Human Resources Assistant

The human resources assistant position is usually the first stepping stone for graduates who are climbing the hierarchy ladder of jobs in the human resources field. HR assistants are involved in minor and major tasks that include creating files and records, processing payrolls, verification operations, and the company’s recruitment and training processes. The human resources assistant position rapidly enhances one’s experience within the field because of its all-rounded nature and its exposure to all aspects of human resources. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, HR assistants should expect a median annual wage of $39,480.

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Human Resources Certifications

A large majority of companies don’t often advertise having HR certifications as essential for applicants. However, an HR certification can rapidly boost your career, granting you higher job positions and salaries. The following reasons will help you further understand the benefits and the setbacks that might accompany the process of obtaining certification within the field of human resources.

Reasons to Pursue an HR Certification

An HR certification is a sure-fire way to secure a promotion and climb your way up to your company’s job hierarchy. It also increases your chances of employment vastly. In a study conducted by the HR Certification Institute, it was found that 96% of HR professionals and employers preferred to hire certified applicants when filtering the results of their job interviews. While most entry-level HR positions don’t often require certification and deem having them optional, having a certification or multiple ones is crucial to advancing towards a senior HR position.

The same study also discovered that employers are increasingly willing to pay higher salaries to their certified employees. It has also been noted that upper management HR-certified professionals earn high salaries, unsurprisingly. Further, another study was commissioned by showed that the annual salaries of HR-certified employees could increase up to $20,000 more than the non-certified ones. Employers correlate certified applicants as a valuable commodity and automatically correlate them with high efficiency and performance, deeming them deserving of a higher pay grade.

Another reason you should have a certification is that the HR field doesn’t require candidates to complete a pre-certification program to prove their competence. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) believes that the eligibility requirements in the field of HR consist of thorough education and sufficient work experience that range between one and seven years. Your education level determines how many years of work experience you’ll need. The higher the level, the fewer the years.

Reasons to Forego an HR Certification

Materials related to HR certification exams aren’t usually distributed for free. Companies that proctor such exams charge certain fees for the application process and for the exam itself. An SHRM exam charges members $300 and $400 to non-members. The HRCI exams vary from one exam to the other, in addition to the application fee that costs $100 for each exam. The PHR exam fee is $395, while the SPHR and the GPHR exam fees are $495 each.

Not needing to acquire an HR certificate might have you fooled into thinking that it’s an easy task. The exams mentioned above are, in fact, tough to pass. The pass rates indicate that almost half of the applicants fail these tests every year. And even seasoned professionals find these exams extremely difficult to go through, which shows that these tests can’t be passed based solely on work experience. Your chances of succeeding increase by dedicating many sleepless nights to studying and practicing similar models of these exams, which is a sacrifice that not everyone can afford to make.

Another factor you want to consider is that earning the above certifications isn’t at all an over and done process. To prove that the knowledge acquired hasn’t dissipated, obtained certifications undergo renewal phases every three years by grossing professional development credits. These credits can be received through various methods, including taking online courses, attending conferences, and partaking in webinars. Of course, the renewal process comes with a fee as well, a recertification application fee. You can also choose if credit collecting seems like a hassle is retaking the exam, which will bring back those sleepless nights of studying and preparation. Also, you run the risk of losing your certificate in the event of failing your exam.

Best Human Resources Certifications

After you’ve considered the positives and negatives of pursuing an HR certification program, you should now have a definite answer to whether you want to acquire one or not. If your choice is to chase after certification, then you should know which ones are worthwhile. The following are the most acclaimed certifications within human resources, as considered by industry experts.

HR Certification Institute (HRCI) – HRCI is one of the oldest and most acclaimed certification associations for HR certifications. HRCI presents both entry-level and advanced certification classifications in the form of eight credentials that vary depending on the level of expertise and work experience. These credentials are aPHR, aPHRi, PHR, PHRca, PHRi, SPHR, SPHRi, and GPHRi.

Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) – SHRM is a member-based organization that offers two major certifications based on competency and work experience. The first certification is the SHRM-CP, geared towards candidates with 4-5 years of experience under their belt. The second one is the SHRM-SCP. This certification is for veteran HR professionals in senior positions who want to enhance their knowledge and qualifications to pursue higher leadership positions.

Talent Management Institute (TMI) – TMI offers three talent management credentials that are designed to help you speed up the growth of your career, which are TMP, STMP, and HTML. The main focus behind these certifications is to enhance your talent management skills and implement them into Human Capital Management systems. TMI is a favored choice by HR professionals aspiring to become qualified leaders.

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Different Levels of Human Resources Degrees

Pursuing a degree in Human Resources will depend on your future aspirations and goals. You can achieve four different degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate. The following will give you an overview of what each degree has to offer.

Associate’s Degree in Human Resources

An associate’s degree in human resources qualifies graduates for entry-level job positions, especially within the generalist field. Those who acquire an HR associate’s degree can also enter into specialized HR roles such as HR clerks, HR assistants, and HR assistant recruiters. A human resources associate’s degree usually requires 60 semester credit hours and is offered by technical schools, junior colleges, and community colleges. High school diploma students who major in human resources can expect to receive degrees such as Associate of Arts (A.A.), Associate of Science (A.S.), or Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.).

Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources

A bachelor’s degree in human resources equips you with the required instruments that will broaden your view of HR principles and qualify you to pick from an extensive range of mid-level HR careers in various business settings. Most HR bachelor’s degrees require 120 semester credit hours within colleges and universities. Students should expect a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree, a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree, or a more broad Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree.

Master’s Degree in Human Resources

A master’s degree in human resources is one to three years worth of advanced studies for holders of a bachelor’s degree. Most masters are presented with plenty of fruitful upper-level job positions within established organizations. A master’s degree offers its students the opportunity to focus on specialized aspects of human resources. Another track you should consider is an MBA in HR. Holders of a Master of Business Administration degree often have a broad set of skills and leadership capabilities that allow them to attain positions such as directors or vice presidents of human resources.

Ph.D. in Human Resources

A doctoral degree is a way to go for those seeking an academic career in a university. It’s often rare to acquire a Ph.D. in human resources. However, several accredited colleges pave the way for their graduates to receive a doctorate in human resources. A Ph.D. in HR takes three to five years of thorough studies and analysis of common workforce complications after the master’s phase.

What do you typically study in a Human Resource program?

Business Communications & Critical Thinking – The main focus of this course is to develop critical thinking and decision-making within a bachelor’s degree student through various forms of written communication such as emails, reports, and business letters. This course also touches on other topics such as cross-cultural communications and personal communication.

Fundamentals of HR Management – This course includes everything a student needs to know about the human capital and how to develop it by retaining and developing talent that lives up to the organization’s standards. This course is crucial for understanding the basics of building a talent pool and the critical implications that surround modern-day businesses.

Management Theory & Practice – This course is geared towards the different aspects of management as a theory and as a practice from a scientific and artistic perspective. This course will grant its student the ability to evaluate and take the correct action when faced with workspace issues.

Organizational Development – This course is primarily focused on studying and analyzing individual behavior in organizational settings, as well as group behavior. Further, students will also learn about workforce diversity, organizational behavior and hone their effective communication skills.

Strategic Human Resource Management and Emerging Issues – This course aims to show students how to integrate the human resources management aspect with business strategies and resolve the issues that a business might face. This course is a strategic approach towards business and an ideal guide to achieving ideal leadership skills.

Prerequisites for a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources

The main prerequisites to begin a human resources management bachelor’s degree program include a high school diploma or GED with an ACT or an SAT score. These programs typically take four years to complete from the day of admission.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean to have an accredited HR degree?

Having an accredited HR degree shows that the program or the institution you enrolled in meets the standards of quality that an accrediting agency sets and is always seeking to enhance the quality of its education and practice. Accreditation is classified into two types, institutional and specialized.

Institutional accreditation is granted by national and regional accrediting bodies of schools and colleges. The Higher Learning Commission is a prime example. Renowned specialized HR accrediting agencies include Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (ACBSP), The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), and International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE).

How long does it take to get an HR degree?

An associate’s degree program usually takes two years, while a bachelor’s degree program takes four years. MBAs and master’s degrees generally take one to two years. Your dedication level also plays an important factor in how long it takes to attain an HR degree.

Should I get my HR degree online?

You should expect the quality of education in an online human resources degree to be of the same caliber as a traditional campus program. The coursework for an online HR program will include general or advanced studies of human resources policies and procedures, depending on your degree level. Some of these courses include compensation and benefits, employee relations, contemporary HR issues, organizational psychology, and legal issues in the workplace. An online HR degree qualifies its students to fill job positions such as compensation or benefits managers, training and development managers, HR generalists, or employee relations managers.

Final Words – There’s a lot to consider when planning to pursue a degree or a certification in human resources, but it’s definitely worth the struggle. Having a clear vision of the accomplishments you want to achieve and the person you aspire to become post-graduation will keep you motivated and help you determine the right program and classes that you need to start your career.

References: Human_Resources_Operations_Manager/Salary Bachelor_of_Business_Administration/Salary 01/07/what-is-human-resources-management/