How to Become a Human Resources Consultant

Research the requirements to become a human resources consultant. Learn about the job description and duties, and explore the step-by-step process to start a career in human resources consulting. View article »

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Should I Become a Human Resources Consultant?

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; master's degree preferred
Degree Field(s) Human resources, business administration, or industrial relations
Certification Voluntary; can enhance job prospects
Experience 4-5 years' experience in human relations
Key Skills Industry software such as HRIS software, database, word processing, and customer relationship software; understanding of employee recruitment, hiring, and retention procedures; knowledge of labor laws, compensation structures, and employee benefits
Salary $63,710 (2015 average for all human resources specialists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine, Online job postings from October 2012.

Human resources consultants help employers recruit, choose, and hire job applicants who meet their companies' needs. They are also involved in training and evaluating employees, and they may serve as liaisons between workers and employers regarding compensation, benefits, and personnel policies. These duties require the suite of human resources skills such as:

  • Verbal and written communications skills
  • Personability
  • Computer aptitude, including familiarity with:
    • Human resources software
    • Database programs
    • Word processors
    • Customer relationship software
  • Knowledge of:
    • Labor laws
    • Compensation structures
    • Employee benefits
    • Employee recruitment
    • Hiring
    • Retention procedures

HR consultants represent companies at career fairs and other recruiting events. This requires them to travel to events. Many professionals keep full-time schedules and may work overtime, though these career demands vary by industry. Salary also varies by industry; however, the overall average salary for all human resources specialists was $63,710 as of May 2015.

Now that we know more about a career in human resources consulting, let's look at the steps along this career path.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

College is generally the first step towards this career. In fact, most human resources professionals hold bachelor's degrees. Applicable majors include human resources management and business administration with a concentration in human resources management. These 4-year programs generally include coursework in business communications, professional development, marketing, and operations management.

Completing an internship during college with an established human resources manager, allows students to learn by doing. Human resources internship duties may include overseeing job interviews, observing administration of employee benefits, and completing basic administrative tasks, such as entering data, researching information, and answering phone calls.

Step 2: Gain Experience

After graduating from college, human resources specialists gain experience before advancing in the field. In fact, August 2016 job postings revealed that employers prefer to hire human resources consultants with at least two years of experience in the industry. Aspiring consultants can acquire this experience in entry-level human resources positions, such as an HR specialist, associate, assistant, or recruiter.

Step 3: Get Certified

Once employed, human resources professionals may pursue voluntary certification, which demonstrates an additional level of professionalism, skill, and talent to current and prospective employers. The HR Certification Institute offers the Professional in Human Resources and Senior Professional in Human Resources designations, and the certification qualifications include experience requirements and passage of a comprehensive exam.

In addition to certification, membership with an industry organization can provide networking and career advancement opportunities. The Society for Human Resource Management, for example, provides HR consultants with access to a variety of industry resources and tools, such as newsletters, magazines, and reports, as well as conferences and other events that provide networking opportunities.

Step 4: Earn a Master's Degree

Some employers prefer HR consultant candidates with master's degrees in human resources or a related field. These programs generally include courses in advanced labor law, business ethics, collective bargaining, dispute resolution, and performance improvement in addition to a capstone or thesis project. Master's degree programs typically take two years to complete, and online and evening classes are often available.

A career as a human resources consultant requires a bachelor's degree in or closely related to human resources management as well as two years of industry experience.

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