What Can You Do with a Human Resources Degree?
Understanding the Numbers
When reviewing job growth and salary information, it’s important to remember that actual numbers can vary due to many different factors — like years of experience in the role, industry of employment, geographic location, worker skill and economic conditions. Cited projections do not guarantee actual salary or job growth.
Ask any CEO about the key to a successful business, and you’ll probably hear a lot about people. No company can thrive without skilled, committed employees. But ensuring that a company finds the right people, and gives them the training and support they need to succeed, isn’t easy.
That’s where human resources (HR) professionals come in. To become an HR professional, you'll want to consider earning a human resources degree.
What is a Human Resources Degree?
A degree in human resources, which you can earn at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, introduces you to the ins and outs of the field and allows you to study and develop important skills. Earning a bachelor's degree in human resources can be a good first step to building a career in a growing people-focused field.
Since human resources is broad and an important component of any organization, you can choose from many pathways, focusing on particular areas such as recruiting, workforce development training or compensation and benefits administration. A degree in human resources can help you explore these topics as well as HR fundamentals.
You can also learn the basics of how organizations recruit and retain a skilled workforce, including topics relating to:
- Benefits and compensation
- Employee safety
- Labor relations
- Workforce management
Some HR programs also incorporate scenario-based learning opportunities into their curriculum so you can gain experience in situations you may encounter in the profession.
If you want to learn more about the world of HR without committing to a 4-year program, you might consider earning a certificate in human resources before a degree. A certificate is also a good option if your bachelor's degree is in a different field and you want to gain foundations in human resources.
For the most part, HR jobs require a bachelor’s degree. Some also demand specific certifications — some of which your bachelor's degree program could prepare you to earn. For example, Southern New Hampshire University's (SNHU) new human resources program prepares you to sit for HRCI's Associate Professional in Human Resources® (aPHR®) certification — and offers an exam discount.
A master’s in human resources or a Master of Business Administration could be worth it, too, if you're interested in positions that may require the credential, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
What Can I Use My HR Degree For?
As an HR professional, you may spend hours helping employees navigate the process of choosing an employer-sponsored health insurance package or writing a long-term plan for hiring and career development in a large organization.
You might work for a consulting firm, providing specialized knowledge to many companies. On the other hand, you might find your best fit acting as a “department of one” at a small or mid-size firm. Those positions demand a Jack-of-all-trades who can work with upper management to develop hiring and training programs while also handling day-to-day matters.
Is getting a degree in HR worth it? It can be if broadening your career options through additional skills and knowledge or positioning you for different possible paths is your goal.
Here are some of the job specialties to consider in human resources:
Compensation, Benefits and Job Analysis Specialists
This is a specialty that typically demands some work experience as well as a bachelor’s degree. If you're an HR specialist with a knack for research and data analysis, you may find this work is right up your alley.
The job usually includes learning about and comparing benefit policies and plans, classifying position descriptions to set fair salaries, making sure the company complies with legal requirements and preparing reports on all of this for managers and other HR professionals. BLS reports that median pay in this field was $64,120 in 2021, with a 7% job growth through 2031.
Compensation and Benefits Managers
As a compensation and benefits manager, you might choose and manage benefits vendors, insurance brokers and investment managers, in addition to researching questions around pay and benefits. You could also design compensation plans, including incentive structures and commission rates, and create strategic plans that balance recruitment and retention with a company's budget requirements.
This management job paid a median salary of $127,530 in 2021, according to BLS.
Human Resources Specialists
In this role, you'd represent the front line in a company's recruitment of skilled workers. You might handle all or part of the process of hiring new recruits, from writing and placing job advertisements to interviewing candidates, checking references and bringing new hires on board. Often, HR specialists also deal with a variety of matters for current employees, including managing payroll, answering questions about company benefits and training workers both on job-specific skills and company policy.
HR specialists help employees understand their value at work as well as how their interests align with those of the employer. HR specialists also work on recruitment and develop compensation plans and training programs to give employees the chance to keep learning and growing on the job.
To qualify for this work, applicants usually need a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business or a related field. The median pay for the job was $62,290 in 2021, with a 8% job growth through 2031, according to BLS.
Human Resources Managers
After working in human resources or a related field for a few years, you could move up to a management position. In some cases, making that jump may also require a master’s degree. Human resources managers earn a median salary of $126,230 in 2021, with 7% job growth expected through 2031, according to the BLS.
In this professional role, you'd take on strategic as well as day-to-day responsibilities. You could plan and oversee benefits programs, work with upper management to determine the best ways to use employees’ skills, and take charge of policies for recruitment, dispute mediation and disciplinary measures.
Learn more about how to become a human resources manager.
Labor Relations Specialists
In some fields where there are more unions involved, working as a labor relations specialist can be a good career choice. The median salary for these positions was $77,010 in 2021, BLS reported. You could work alongside union representatives and the organization's management to ensure agreements relating to employee issues such as pay, benefits, pensions and management practices are upheld, according to BLS.
These specialists require the ability to interpret labor contracts and possess decision-making and listening skills, among others.
Training and Development Specialists
One specialization for HR professionals with excellent opportunities for career advancement is training and development. The median salary for this role was $61,570 in 2021, and these positions are expected to grow 8% through 2031 — faster than the average job.
In this role, you'd work with executives, managers and employees to determine what skills workers need and then design, organize and carry out training programs. You might lead team-building exercises, develop course materials or create videos for training. Online and mobile training programs are a particular area of growing demand.
Training and Development Managers
A move into management for training and development specialists can come with a jump in pay, to a median annual salary of $120,130 in 2021 with a 7% job growth through 2031.
Professionals can typically make this leap once they have five or more years of job experience, according to the BLS. In this role, you'd play a strategic part at your firm, planning training programs and helping your team to carry them out.
Is a Career in Human Resources Worth It?
If you have a passion for people and an interest in supporting employees and advancing talent in an organization, a career in human resources could be the perfect fit for you. "The most rewarding reason to pursue a career in human resources is the opportunity to make a difference by helping others to thrive," said Lisa Jammer, an adjunct instructor for business programs at SNHU.
There are several pathways you can take as you build or advance your career in HR, and the field is continuing to evolve to meet the needs of a changing society and current events.
"The role of a human resource professional is more valuable than ever as organizations strive to retain their talent during the Great Resignation, attract top talent, upskill and reskill their workforce, and manage a hybrid work environment while enhancing employee engagement," Jammer said.
Regardless of your particular talents and interests — from running quantitative analyses of salary trends to finding and recruiting talented new employees and ensuring teams are thriving — there’s likely to be a role in HR that’s right for you.
Discover more about SNHU's bachelor's in HR management: Find out what courses you'll take, skills you'll learn and how to request information about the program.
Alexa Gustavsen '21 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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