In an increasingly competitive business environment, successful companies know that hiring the right people and developing a productive workforce is more crucial than ever. That’s where human resources (HR) specialists come in. HR specialists help keep businesses profitable through a variety of activities, such as effectively recruiting, hiring and training employees, creating a positive work environment and administering benefits packages.
Human resources specialists tend to focus on certain areas of expertise, including compensation and benefits, recruitment and placement, job analysis, training and development and employee assistance. The need for their expertise is universal, so job opportunities exist in every industry, regardless of the size of the company.
An HR specialist’s job duties will vary, but they are often responsible for helping the organization meet its productivity goals through sound workforce management. It’s likely that no two days are the same for HR specialists, as fast-changing conditions require new tasks to complete.
Specific job duties for human resources specialists include:
- Developing job descriptions.
- Discussing needs and qualifications with employers.
- Recruiting and interviewing candidates, checking references and performing background checks.
- Making hiring decisions.
- Organizing and running orientation sessions.
- Reviewing compensation and benefits packages.
- Assisting with training programs.
- Processing paperwork and maintaining databases.
- Attending job fairs.
Salary Range and Job Outlook for Human Resources Specialists
According to a national survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for human resources specialists was $55,800 in May 2012. The top 10% of earners brought home more than $95,380 annually.
Employment of HR specialists is expected to increase by 8% through 2022, according to the BLS. Job growth will vary by specialty, but will be fueled in part by the increasing trend to outsource human resources activities to professional consulting companies, which hire HR specialists. In addition, as labor and employment laws and healthcare coverage options become more complex, more companies will seek the expertise of HR specialists.
The BLS reports that candidates with a bachelor’s degree and related work experience should have the best prospects for HR specialist positions.
Employment prospects and salary ranges typically vary, based on an individual’s work history and educational qualifications, as well as on regional market conditions.
Required Knowledge and Skills
Human resources specialists play a vital role in their employers’ success by hiring the best candidates and increasing worker productivity. Doing the job well requires the following knowledge and skills:
- Skills related to interpersonal communication: listening, speaking and writing.
- Excellent decision-making skills.
- Critical thinking skills.
- Strong computer skills.
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
- Sound judgment.
- Attention to detail.
- Knowledge of labor and employment law, organizational development and best practices.
In addition, HR specialists must practice confidentiality, empathy, integrity and objectivity.
Required and Recommended Education for Human Resources Specialists
Most HR specialist positions will require at least a bachelor’s degree. Understanding how HR affects the bottom line is essential; therefore, employers often prefer candidates with coursework in business and management, along with human resources. Work experience is highly valued, and many employers expect to see at least an HR internship on your resume.
Earning certification is a great way to boost your credentials and stand out from the competition. In addition, many employers will require certification, such as Professional in Human Resources (PHR). Many human resources professional associations offer training courses and certifications, as well.
Human resources specialists who wish to advance in their careers often enroll in graduate programs in human resource management or organizational psychology. However, experience is often a deciding factor for filling job openings. Many employers value experience as much as advanced degrees.