The essential responsibility of a human resources professional is to help a firm identify, hire and retain the best employees. There is, of course, a lot more to it than that.

In addition to recruiting, screening, interviewing and training workers, HR professionals also might oversee employee relations, compensation, benefits and more. They might work for (or own) a job placement agency that helps connect workers with companies, or work in-house for a firm.

Start with Job Potential

If you are considering a career in human resources, where do you start?

First, research the growth potential for the HR industry.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for HR specialists in coming years is on par with job growth across all industries. The potential outlook for HR managers in the next decade is faster than average for all occupations.

Naturally, you’ll want to find out what to expect in terms of potential salary. The BLS placed the 2015 average annual salary for HR specialists at $63,710. The 2015 average annual salary for experienced HR managers was significantly more: $117,080.

Consider Different Job Titles

Next, consider the different roles a human resources professional can fill:

  • HR Assistant – Helps with specific daily tasks, such as event planning, clerical work or data entry.
  • HR Coordinator – Plans and implements benefits, training, recruiting and other HR functions.
  • HR Developer – Plans and conducts training sessions, workshops, conferences and seminars to help employees with career development.
  • HR Specialist – Deals with a specific area of the HR function, such as compensation, training, recruiting, benefits, employee relations and more.
  • HR Manager– A senior-level position that oversees all functions of the HR department and serves as a liaison between the department, employees and company executives.
  • HR Executive – An owner or high-level officer of a recruiting agency, an HR development (software) company or a corporate training firm.

    Determine Education and Experience Required

    You also will need to learn what kind of professional experience, education and qualities are important for a career in HR.

    Senior positions usually require a Bachelor's Degree in Human Resources and often a related advanced degree (MA, MS, MBA), as well as multiple years of proven achievement in HR-related positions. Mid-level positions typically require a four-year degree in an HR- or business-related course of study, and several years of HR or business experience. Entry-level positions are often open to those who want to transition into the field despite limited or no experience, and at least a two-year college degree.

    As for professional and personal qualities, in general HR pros are good at decision-making, are detail-oriented, and possess outstanding interpersonal, listening and speaking skills.

    Chart Your Path

    Finally, you will want to chart your career path. How do you get your foot in the door in HR? Here are a few tips:

  • Build relevant experience by volunteering to perform HR duties for a non-profit group or charitable organization.
  • If you are a student, apply for internships or part-time positions with an HR firm.
  • If you already are employed, inquire about open HR positions within your company. Express interest in learning the intricacies of the HR field, and ask to shadow co-workers in the HR department to learn the ropes.
  • Learn about the professional organizations that cater to HR professionals, such as the Society for Human Resource Management and the National Human Resources Association.
  • Pursue a four-year or advanced degree in human resources, business management or a related field.
  • Attend human resources networking events in your area as well as conferences and trade shows.
  • Reach out to friends and acquaintances who have experience in the HR field. Ask them why they chose HR, how they got started, how they landed their current position and if they can recommend the next step you should take.

  • Take the Next Steps

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