Are You Considering A Career In Human Resources?

Before I started my career in Human Resources, I had a perception that the HR lady sat behind a desk the entire day, listening to people complain about problems at work, pushing a box of tissues across the table to emotional employees and dispensing motherly advice. As a mother and former high school teacher, I figured I had all the requisite skills to be a wonderful Human Resources person. And then I started working in Human Resources…

First of all, the field has become so specialized that anyone considering Human Resources as a career choice should think first about which area interests him or her most. The following is a description of the most common specialties in Human Resources:


The ability to find a great pool of job candidates, conduct preliminary interviews, negotiate the terms of the job offer and avoid employment law pitfalls requires a thorough understanding of the industry and the job function. IT recruiters in particular are in high demand because technology changes so rapidly and understanding the myriad job functions in IT is an esoteric skill.

Since there are federal and state regulations pertaining to how job postings are written as well as what it is or is not legal to ask during a job interview, it is important to be thoroughly educated about both of these critical facets of a career in recruiting. It’s also very important to maintain a large and viable network of contacts.

Employee Benefits

From medical and dental, through disability and equity compensation, an employee benefits specialist must be on top of the laws concerning benefits on the federal and state level. Imagine how Obamacare affected benefits specialists!

The law required a lot of training for even the most seasoned professionals. Benefits specialists not only help employees understand their benefits as well as advocate for them with providers when there are issues, but at many companies, they are tasked with shopping for the best benefit programs on an annual basis.

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While a small percentage of your day as an employee relations specialist will be spent developing team building and other employee morale boosting programs, the most important expertise you will bring to this role is a thorough understanding of employment law. Many senior employee relations professionals are, in fact, attorneys who specialize in employment law. Employment issues can create a legal minefield for employers, so they truly value a competent professional who can help them avoid litigation and keep all the parties in a conflict calm.

In some businesses with labor unions, the employee relations professional must be knowledgeable about labor relations.

Very often, Performance Assessment falls under the aegis of the employee relations professional. In this case, you will work with management to develop a performance assessment tool that best fits the company’s goals, and then manage the review process.

Compensation Analyst

The compensation analyst in a large firm conducts studies on an on-going basis to make certain that the company’s compensation strategy is being followed. This typically means that all salaries must meet or slightly exceed industry benchmarks for the locations in which the company has offices. In smaller companies, the compensation analyst makes certain that salaries are meted out fairly, without gender or racial discrimination, and also manages bonus and salary increases.

HRIS Management

If you love IT and systems, this sub-specialty is for you. Companies with employee populations of over 100 and especially those with global offices need software systems to manage their employee data. The HRIS manager (Human Resources Information Systems) manages the system and the data.

Merger And Acquisitions

It’s a global environment now, and Human Resources has to manage the many mergers and acquisitions that companies undertake, some on a fairly frequent basis. This specialty is typically undertaken by seasoned HR professionals, as it requires expertise in global cultures, laws and benefits, as well as excellent project management skills.


As the term implies, the generalist does a little of all of the above. Typically, the smaller the company, the more it will require the skills of a generalist, whereas larger companies tend to hire specialists to focus on a specific area.

You can prepare for a career in Human Resources by earning a Bachelor’s Degree and then a Master’s in the field, although some programs offer certifications in sub-specialties.

For individuals who are empathetic, yet analytic, highly organized, while highly flexible, Human Resources is an incredibly satisfying career where the practitioner can truly make a difference.