How to Become an HR Generalist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Mar 09, 2020

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

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Become a Human Resources Generalist

Human resources generalists oversee a wide spectrum of human resources responsibilities and activities. Depending on the size of the company, these professionals may manage multiple functions, including recruitment and orientation processes for new employees, benefits administration, employee relations, regulatory compliance, training, and performance management. Travel may be required to recruit new employees.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; some employers prefer a master's
Degree Field Human resources
Licensure/Certification Voluntary but preferred
Key Skills Decision-making, speaking, and interpersonal skills; computer knowledge including human resources information systems software
Salary *$52,139 (2018 median for human resources generalists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, *

A bachelor's degree is required for human resources generalist positions, and some employers prefer a master's degree and professional certification. Individuals need to have decision-making skills, speaking skills, and interpersonal skills, along with the ability to use resources information systems software. Human resources generalists earned a median salary of $52,139 in February 2020, notes

Job Steps to Follow

Here are the steps to follow to become a human resources generalist.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

An individual who wishes to become an HR generalist should complete a bachelor's degree program in human resources management, human resources development, business, or a related field. HR generalists perform in multifaceted roles. In human resources management degree programs, students study a variety of topics, such as accounting principles, employment law, microeconomics and macroeconomics, and HR management. Other topics of study include organizational behavior, compensation and benefits, employee training, business ethics, and interpersonal communications.

To be most successful during this step, you can do a few things:

  • Join a professional association as this can give one access to networking and career development opportunities. There might be a student chapter on one's campus, or one could get an individual membership. Additionally, such associations may have special membership rates for students.
  • You can also take electives that provide training in Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS). Human resources is becoming a more technological field. Knowledge of how to use human resources software may help one stand out when applying for certain positions.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

By taking an entry-level HR position, or possibly an internship, one will have an opportunity to gain work experience while observing the kinds of responsibilities management handles on a daily basis. Working for a smaller company may provide more direct and hands-on experience working with all facets of HR, from payroll and benefits administration to hiring, training, and overseeing employee relations.

Step 3: Earn Certification

Many prospective employers prefer HR certification. Obtaining HR certification can show prospective employers that one has amassed a certain level of work experience and expertise in HR principles. The Society for Human Resources Management offers three types of certification through its HR Certification Institute: Professional in Human Resources (PHR), Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), and Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR). This organization also has a specific certification for HR professionals in California to accommodate that state's intricate employment laws. In addition to passing an exam, those seeking certification must have a minimum amount of professional HR experience, which varies depending on the level of education attained and the type of certification.

Step 4: Pursue Career Advancement Opportunities

HR generalists looking to advance their careers can pursue a master's degree in HR management. This program emphasizes coursework in leadership and ethics, managerial communication, industrial relations, and organizational behavior. Advanced instruction is also offered in accounting practices and financial management. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program with an HR emphasis offers similar curricula while also focusing on company structures and the allocation of finances. Completion of a project may also be required before graduation.

To recap, human resources generalists need a bachelor's degree related to human resources, and employers may prefer professional certification and a master's degree.

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