A Career in Human Resources and Why It Might Be Right for You

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HumanResourcesIf you’ve ever been at a job interview for a company of any size, chances are you met with the human resources or labor employment relations manager whose job it is to ensure the business hires the ideal candidate for the advertised role.

On the surface it may seem like a career in human resources is all about the effective management of people, but it’s actually much more involved. HR is a competitive field that directly influences the success of commercial enterprises and not-for profit organizations. As a professional working in the industry, you’ll find a wealth of career advancement opportunities.

If you’re interesting in working with people and are naturally adept at navigating social situations, a career in HR might just be the perfect career for you. In fact, it was ranked 13th on a list of the 200 Best Jobs in 2014 by Career Cast.

What Human Resource Professionals Do

Modern businesses consider human resources an important aspect of their operations. Professionals are expected to manage personnel; engage with clients; and implement employment law, redundancy and relocation packages. They work collaboratively with colleagues and multitask across a broad range of other areas to create a safe and efficient working environment that meet the needs of the company.

In most cases, the job description of labor employment relations professionals remains the same for both large and small businesses. Regardless of whether they have a dedicated HR department, however, there a number of specializations available including consultancy, recruitment, and training and development.

Is Labor-Employment Relations Right for You?        

As ever-changing training demands place greater pressure on businesses to provide additional OSHA support for their employees, HR managers are finding a level of flexibility not present in other industries.

Opportunities now exist in virtually every sector imaginable at a variety of different levels. Fortunately, the skills required are transferable. With the right experience, you’ll be able to take full advantage of what a career in human resources and labor employment relations has to offer.

Important Questions to Ask Yourself

As a HR manager, you’ll be dealing with people on a regular basis. Whether you’re interested in corporate finance or employer/employee relationships, there are a few questions you should ask before reading any further.

  • Are you comfortable working with people and delegating when necessary?
  • Are you able to make tough decisions under time constraints?
  • Is a career that is as challenging as it is rewarding appealing to you?

If you answered yes to any of these questions and possess at least a few of the six essential skills of successful HR managers, you’re likely to enjoy working in this dynamic and exciting field.

Salary Outlook and Earning Potential

The salaries of experienced human resources and labor-employment relations professionals will depend on the size of the business you’re working for and the nature of your specialization.

However, job prospects for graduates are on the rise and growing at a faster than average rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In light of this, many choose to specialize in the following occupations:

  • Human Resources Manager

These managers are expected to coordinate with a team of professionals and oversee the daily operations of the company. Additional responsibilities may include business planning, budget development and implementing HR programs directed at training, retention and improving the well-being of employee relationships.

Average salary: $40,253 – $86,512

Median pay: $60,153

  • Labor Relations Manager

Such managers oversee fact-finding processes and conduct investigations into site grievances and employee disciplinary issues. Labor relations managers track and monitor any problems that form within the workplace and advise management in regard to implementing possible resolutions.

Average salary: $59,987 – $112,004

Median pay: $84,479

  • Recruitment Consultant/Specialist

Consultancy is an interesting specialization within HR, as professionals are offered the greatest amount of flexibility in that they may service several corporate clients at any one time. Recruitment consultants collaborate with companies to attract talent and fill open employment positions by developing tailored recruitment strategies.

Average salary: $29,200 – $75,082

Median pay: $46,264

  • Career and Employment Counselor

By contrast, career and employment counselors apply state laws and regulations to ensure companies are operating fairly and are in compliance with employee rights. Other responsibilities may include working with appropriate agencies, creating job search plans, assisting with goal setting, résumé development and offering employee support services.

Average salary: $29,300 – $51,338

Median pay: $36,216

  • Compensation and Benefits Managers

An average day for a compensation and benefits manager usually involves payroll administration and directing retirement plans and redundancy packages in addition to coordinating health insurance payouts and all other benefits an organization may provide. Theirs is a role geared toward ensuring employee satisfaction and that all rules and regulations are followed.

Average salary: $52,828 – $107,074

Median pay: $78,857

Opportunities and Potential Pathways

In smaller companies and firms, HR professionals embody the broader definition of what it means to be a human resources manager and work in all aspects of the department. In larger, more dynamic corporations, individual roles may be filled by specialists.

Owing to the sheer variety of positions available within the field, graduates are usually spoiled for choice and are able to seek out the career paths that best suit their particular strengths, abilities and interests.

In general, the more skills you can add to your repertoire while preparing for a career in HR, the greater your competitive edge will be when applying. This is where choosing a major becomes a vitally important decision.

College Degrees and Popular Majors

For most positions, a bachelor’s degree is mandatory to be considered. However, some management positions within large HR departments require a master’s degree as competition can be fierce.

Colleges that do not offer specific degrees in human resources or labor-employment relations will almost always offer related courses in business administration, economics, business management and/or business finance to help those pursuing a career in the industry.

Alternatively, as state and federal laws affecting corporate compliance become more difficult to navigate, many business law graduates are finding the opportunity to transfer over to human resources from the legal profession.

Education and Training

Although certification is not strictly necessary, many employers still look for HR personnel who have displayed an interest in the role beyond that of tertiary education and are apt to hire certified applicants. It’s for this reason that professional associations such as the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans and others exist.

The IFEB enhances the career prospects and credibility of those working within the field by offering the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist premier designation in total compensation, considered to be the standard of excellence in the industry.

The CEBS certification requires participants to finish six required courses plus two electives during which you can receive credit for completing the following specialty designations:

  • GBA: The Group Benefits Associate designation focuses on health care and other group benefits.
  • RPA: The Retirement Plans Associate designation focuses on all aspects of retirement plans.
  • CMS:The Compensation Management Specialist designation focuses on compensation and human resources.

While these programs are more relevant to some roles more than others, associations such as World at Work and the HR Certification Institute offer more generalized credentials.

If anything you’ve read in this guide sounds interesting to you and you can’t imagine doing anything else, pursuing a career in human resources or labor-employment relations and undertaking a related field of study will definitely be worth your while.

Hopefully you’ll have a greater understanding of what the job actually involves and will be able to make a more informed decision. So if you’re ready for the next step, take it today.

Exploring careers in business? Be sure to check out the entire series of career exploration posts!

A Career in Real Estate 

A Career in Marketing

A Career in Business Law

A Career in Finance

A Career in Accounting

A Career in Insurance

A Career in Supply Chain

A Career in Human Resources

A Career in Management

A Career in Sales

A Career in Consulting

About the Author

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer, blogger, and aspiring world traveler. Sarah is also the founder of Punched Clocks, a site on which she shares advice for young professionals on navigating the work world, and finding happiness and success at work. For more on all things career follow her @SarahLandrum

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