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

Find out how to become a human resources (HR) professional. Research the education requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in human resources. View article »

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  • 0:01 Should I Become an HR…
  • 0:37 Career Requirements
  • 1:24 Steps to Become an HR…

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Human Resources Professional?

Human resources (HR) professionals, including HR specialists and managers, act as a bridge between management and employees as they work through problems, questions or other job-related difficulties. Additionally, HR professionals are often responsible for employee training and orientation, as well as administration of policies relating to compensation, benefits and recruitment of staff. The job of peace-maker might be stressful for some individuals. Travel may be required to recruit workers or to attend meetings.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's; some employers prefer a master's or higher
Degree Field(s) Human resources, business administration, or a related field
Certifcation Voluntary but suggested
Experience Work experience may be required in addition to a degree
Key Skills Detail-oriented; decision-making and interpersonal skills; Microsoft Outlook and Excel, customer relationship management (CRM), Enterprise resource planning (ERP), and human resources software
Salary $58,350 (2015 median salary for all human resources specialists).

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ONet Online

Although a high school diploma meets the educational requirement for employment in some entry-level jobs, most human resources positions require at least a bachelor's degree in human resources or business administration. Also, work experience may be required in addition to a degree. These professionals should be detail-oriented as well as have good decision-making and interpersonal skills. They should also have a working knowledge of Microsoft Outlook and Excel, customer relationship management (CRM) software, Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, and human resources software. According to 2015 data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, human resource specialists earn a median salary of $58,350.

Steps to Become an HR Professional

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree is the minimum level of education required for entry into the majority of HR positions. Bachelor's degree programs such as the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Human Resources or B.S. in Human Resources Management, can provide training in business law, human resources management, and organizational theory. Bachelor's degree programs in human resources are commonly available at many colleges and universities in a variety of convenient formats, including online study.

Individuals interested in working as human resources professionals should try to acquire some experience in the field. Some employers will require experience as well as a degree, and those who complete an internship have a competitive edge in the job market.

Step 2: Gain Professional Experience

Professional work experience is a vital component for HR professionals desiring to advance into managerial positions. Most high-level positions require several years of on-the-job experience. In addition to helping develop a portfolio or resume, any experience gained helps sharpen an individual's organizational and communication skills. Additionally, employment in an office environment provides individuals with the opportunity to apply what they have learned, as well as gain real-world skills in business practices and organizational structure.

Step 3: Complete a Master's Degree Program

According to the BLS, employers hiring for HR management positions prefer applicants with a master's degree in human resources, such as the Master of Business Administration in Human Resource Management. Graduate-level study gives experienced HR professionals the opportunity to focus on topics of specific interest, such as labor relations, e-learning, project management, economics, or career coaching. Programs either held online or that utilize flexible scheduling, such as evening and weekends, are available.

Although certification is not required, the BLS notes HR professionals benefit from obtaining professional credentials, such as those offered by the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) and Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Individuals choosing to be certified need a combination of education and professional experience. Once certified, individuals need to complete continuing education credits for certification renewal.

Aspiring HR professionals typically need a bachelor's degree in human resources or business administration, and experience could be vital to securing employment.

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