How to Become a Human Resource Manager: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a human resources manager. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in human resources.

Do I Want to Be a Human Resource Manager?

Human resource (HR) managers maintain employee records, ensure proper compensation and work safety, and manage overall employee hiring, evaluation and labor relations. They also develop, implement and oversee training programs or procedures. Travel might be required for meetings or recruiting.

Job Requirements

The minimum educational requirement for human resources managers is typically a bachelor's degree; several years of experience and a master's degree may also be required. The following table contains the basic requirements for human resources managers:

Common Requirements
Degree Level A bachelor's degree is required; a master's degree may be necessary for some high-level positions*
Degree Field Human resources managers typically study human resources or business administration; other fields of study may be appropriate as long as they include some human resources coursework*
Certification Certification is not mandatory, but some employers prefer to hire certified individuals*
Experience Up to five years of experience may be required*
Key Skills Strong interpersonal skills are essential; managerial, decision-making and organizational skills are also useful in this profession*
Computer Skills Human resources managers may use payroll and time-tracking, spreadsheet and human resources management system software**
Additional Requirements Some positions require travel to other office locations*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Typically, bachelor's programs in human resources are available through a college or university's business school or management department. Common degrees include the Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resources and the Bachelor of Science in Human Resources. Students learn about labor management, compensation, employment law and employee development. They also might take core classes in accounting, statistics and information technology.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship. During a bachelor's degree program, students should consider finding an internship to gain real-world experience. An internship might be offered as part of an academic program and can enhance a student's learning experience by providing practical context for concepts learned in the classroom.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Graduates of human resource bachelor's programs generally are prepared for entry-level positions, such as HR assistant or HR specialist. Responsibilities and tasks of these jobs might include assisting in keeping records of employee benefits, compensation, safety and relations. Entry-level human resource workers also might assist in employee orientation, training and development.

Success Tip:

  • Join a professional organization. Many human resources professionals choose to join organizations devoted to their occupations. One such organization is the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). Membership benefits include educational opportunities, such as access to certification preparation materials, seminars and conferences, and community forums where HR professionals can interact and form networking connections.

Step 3: Consider Certification

While it's typically not necessary to obtain certification to work in the human resource field, some employers look for certified individuals. A number of certification designations exist, including Professional of Human Resources (PHR) and Certified Employment Benefits Specialist (CEBS). The PHR exam consists of testing in six areas, including employee and labor relations, risk management, and workforce planning and employment. Eligibility requirements also include up to four years of experience in the field or a combination of education and experience. The CEBS is an 8-course program that focuses on group benefits, compensation and retirement. Individuals can also opt for a CEBS specialty track, such as Group Benefits Associate, Retirement Plans Associate or Compensation Management Specialist.

Step 4: Apply for a Manager Position

Most manager positions require some experience in the field; commonly, up to five years of work experience as an HR generalist or assistant is necessary. Prospective human resource managers must have excellent leadership, communication and interpersonal relations skills. They should have a firm grasp of employee and labor laws. Because human resource managers are at the core of hiring employees, they should be able to work within a stated business plan to develop staff for the needs of the business.

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