June 17, 2019

Career Column 10: Working in Human Resources

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), job prospects for human resource managers are expected to grow much faster than average, by 22 percent, in the coming years.  Revisions to safety standards, changes in health care regulations, labor relations disputes, and increased training needs due to technological advances are expected to contribute to a healthy demand in the field.   A bachelor’s degree in human resources, industrial-labor relations, or related areas (especially business administration with relevant coursework) along with an internship would be ideal preparation.   A liberal arts degree will need to be supplemented by internship or work experience and a business background.  To advance in the field, a graduate business degree with a concentration in human resources or labor relations, or a master’s degree in human resource management, is essential in some settings. 

To enter the field without a business background or experience, a graduate degree in business or human resources and an internship will be very helpful.   However, counselors could become employee assistance professionals, lawyers could become compliance officers, and accountants could become compensation and benefits analysts without much additional education.  In addition, an employee may be able to transfer into the human resources department of his or her company when there are openings.  

Hiring the right employees, reducing turnover, increasing productivity, and following complex employment laws are challenges for every corporation.  Human resource generalists have a hand in all of these functions in a company and more.  Human resource specialists, usually employed by large corporations, focus on a narrow area such as compensation, benefits, training, development, recruitment, or labor relations.  A third group of human resource professionals work as consultants to firms that outsource their human resource management needs. 

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), an important professional organization in the field, has an excellent website (www.shrm.org).   Among other things, it identifies and describes several disciplines in Human Resource Management, including Leadership, Human Resources Technology, Safety and Security, Compensation, Labor Relations, Benefits, Diversity Management, Ethics and Sustainability (ethics includes a lot of legal and regulatory issues), Employee Relations, and others.  It seems there may be something that interests everyone, making it an exciting field to explore. 

Most human resource positions are a good fit for individuals who are project oriented with an interest in directing, persuading, and helping others and creating and following routines.  Strong oral and written communication skills, good teamwork and leadership capacities, knowledge of human resource functions, a business and finance background, confidence, flexibility, and a high energy level are important for success.   Those who work hard, deal with people well, and show management potential can move up the career ladder.  

Human resource jobs at the management level pay well, about $95,000 annually.  However, they may not pay as well as other, more business oriented, positions in some settings, because they do not generate profits.  Compensation and benefits managers seem to earn a little more than training and development managers. An experienced benefits administrator should earn about $65,000 annually, while an experienced benefits analyst will earn about $95,000.  (A benefits analyst has responsibility for researching and evaluating benefit plans, in addition to administering them.)   Assistants in these fields, who work under managers, earn closer to $50,000 annually.  (All salaries are based on medians in Hartford, Connecticut, as indicated on salary.com). 

SHRM has a helpful brochure that describes the field and how to position oneself to enter it.  It can be found here:  www.shrm.org/Communities/StudentPrograms/Documents/07-0971 Careers HR Book_final.pdf.  A more complex view, for business students, is offered by the University of Michigan School of Business at  www.bus.umich.edu/StudentCareerServices/resources/CP10HRChangeMgmt.pdf

Career  Resource

www.collegeboard.org  is the website for the College Board, a not for profit organization that administers SAT’s and other exams.  The website offers extensive college planning tools for free.  You can search for colleges by location, major, cost, size, setting, and other factors.  You can also find all kinds of information about a specific college, from average SAT scores to sports that are offered and housing options.  Take a look!

Karen Goldfinger, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice in Essex, Connecticut.   She specializes in psychological assessment for clinical, educational, and forensic purposes and has a special interest in career assessment.  She and two partners recently established KSB Career Consultants, LLC to provide on line career consultation for clients in Connecticut and New York.   Contact her with questions,  comments, or suggestions for the column at karengoldfinger@comcast.net

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