Recruiting, hiring and retaining qualified employees are the human resources (HR) director’s areas of expertise. Talented personnel are a company’s most valuable asset, and the best HR directors know how to create an environment that meets employees’ needs and enables them to excel. Human resources directors with an understanding of workplace psychology are able to enhance employee productivity and job performance, foster teamwork and collaboration, promote professional development, increase job satisfaction and reduce turnover. Enrolling in a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology program with a concentration in organizational psychology can be the first step to a successful career as a human resources director.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment for human resources, training and labor relations managers is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations in coming years. Job growth will occur due to an increased demand for expertise on wages, healthcare, retirement, family leave and how to avoid litigation. HR directors with advanced education or certifications will enjoy the best career opportunities.

Human Resources Director Job Duties

Human resources directors manage an organization’s human resources department. All functions related to employees are administered under their supervision. These may include managing payroll, advising on policy matters, creating employee handbooks and coordinating employee training, in addition to recruiting, interviewing and hiring job applicants.

Other job duties of human resources directors include supervising HR staff, analyzing compensation and benefits packages, and disciplining and terminating employees. They often create organizational policies concerning equal employment opportunity, sexual harassment and drug use.

Human resources directors are often called on to resolve disputes between employees or a manager and employee; successful dispute resolution is important to companies seeking to avoid litigation. To protect employers, HR directors must keep meticulous notes and document most of their activities.

Clean, comfortable offices are the typical work environment for human resources directors. Travel to conferences or training classes is often part of the job, and a 40-hour work week is customary.

Salary Potential

According to the BLS, the median salary for human resources managers was $96,550 in May 2009. The middle 50% earned between $74,480 and $127,270. Salaries for the lowest 10% were around $58,490, while the highest 10% brought in roughly $164,270. Human resources directors have earnings at the higher end of that range. National salary data on Salary.com indicated that the median annual income for HR directors was $146,571 as of November 2009, with the middle 50% earning between $124,461 and $178,053.

Recent bachelor’s degree program graduates will typically start out in entry-level HR positions at the low end of the salary scale, but can move up in salary with experience, advanced education and industry certification.

Education and Training

Education requirements for human resources directors vary. Most entry-level HR positions require a bachelor’s degree. Many employers prefer to hire candidates with previous work experience and industry certification, such as the Professional in Human Resources (PHR®), Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR®) or Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR®) designations granted by the HR Certification Institute.

An in-depth understanding of human behavior and workplace dynamics is vital to succeed in a human resources director role. Aspiring HR directors can learn how to motivate staff, improve productivity and reduce turnover by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology with a concentration in organizational psychology. Coursework typically includes lifespan development and psychology, introduction to psychology, applied psychology, and employment and personality testing.

An applied psychology education prepares graduates to:

  • Understand issues around management, recruitment, selection and promotion of employees.
  • Recognize leadership opportunities in managing conflicts and facilitating communication.
  • Value the concepts and complexity of sociocultural and international diversity.
  • Develop practical solutions to human resources problems facing organizations today.
  • Leverage skills and knowledge into employment as a human resources director.

Many employers offer opportunities for continuing education. It’s possible to gain an entry-level job with a bachelor’s degree and use an employer’s tuition assistance program to pay for a master’s degree.

Is a Human Resources Director Career in Your Future?

Human resources directors must be able to listen attentively, communicate effectively and think critically. They must be calm and professional in challenging situations, and make good decisions to solve employer/employee problems. With these skills, you could be on your way to a successful HR director career.

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