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

Jan 21, 2020

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

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Should I Become a Human Resource Manager?

Human resource (HR) managers ensure employees receive the proper compensation and benefits, oversee workplace safety, direct the maintenance of employee records, and manage overall employee hiring, evaluation and labor relations. They also develop, implement and oversee training programs or procedures. HR managers must stay up-to-date with policies that govern employee rights, such as equal opportunity employment and sexual harassment. These professionals work full-time in an office setting, although travel might be required for meetings or recruiting events.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; master's sometimes required
Degree Field(s) Human resources management, business administration, or a related field
Licensure/Certification Voluntary certification available
Experience Up to 5 years
Key Skills Interpersonal, decision-making, organizational, leadership, and speaking skills; ability to use human resource management software
Median Annual Salary (2018) $113,300

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median salary for all human resource managers in May 2018 was $113,300 per year. To become an HR manager, you would need at least a bachelor's degree; some employers require a master's degree. Degrees are usually in human resources management, business administration or a related field. You may also need up to five years of experience. Certification is available but it is voluntary.

You'll need to develop your interpersonal, decision-making, organizational, leadership and speaking skills, and ensure you have the ability to use human resource management software.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

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

You should try to complete an internship to gain real world experience. An internship might be offered as part of an academic program and can enhance your learning experience by providing practical context for concepts learned in the classroom.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

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

Think about joining a professional organization. Many human resource 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: Apply for a Manager Position

Most manager positions require some experience in the field; usually up to 5 years of work experience as an HR generalist or assistant is necessary. You must have excellent leadership, communication and interpersonal relations skills. You should have a firm grasp of employee and labor laws. Because human resource managers are at the core of hiring employees, you should be able to work within a stated business plan to develop staff for the needs of the business.

Step 4: Consider Certification

While it's typically not necessary to obtain certification, some employers look for certified individuals. A number of certification designations exist, including the Professional of Human Resources (PHR) and Certified Employment Benefits Specialist (CEBS). The PHR exam consists of testing in 5 areas, including employee and labor relations, business management, and talent planning and acquisition. Eligibility requirements also include up to 4 years of experience in the field or a combination of education and experience. The CEBS is an 5-course program that focuses on group benefits, compensation and retirement. You can also opt for a CEBS specialty track, such as Group Benefits Associate or Retirement Plans Associate.

Expert Contributor: Glenn Conley Glenn has an MBA and extensive experience in business management and supply chain logistics. He's managed teams for Fortune 500 and int'l companies.

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