How to Start a Career in HR

In-depth Guide to Entering the Human Resources Industry

A human resources (HR) department is responsible for managing the workforce and handling various aspects related to employees. The primary focus of HR is on people—from recruitment and onboarding to training and development, and ultimately to employee retention and well-being. The HR department plays a crucial role in creating a positive work environment and supporting the overall goals and success of the organization.

If you like administrative activities and enjoy working with people, read on to see whether a career in HR is right for you.

Who Should Work in HR?

Human resources is a field that requires individuals with a combination of interpersonal skills, organizational acumen, and a genuine interest in supporting both employees and the overall goals of an organization.

The people best suited for a career in human resources are people who understand and connect with the emotions and perspectives of employees and who are culturally aware. HR professionals should be able to navigate diverse workplaces, which includes understanding and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the organization.

It’s important to note that while the above qualities are beneficial, there is no one-size-fits-all profile for an HR professional. Different roles within HR may require a unique mix of skills, and individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences may find success.

Common Careers in HR

Human resources is a diverse field with various career paths. Here are some common HR careers:

  • HR Generalist. These professionals handle a range of HR functions, including recruitment, employee relations, training, benefits administration, and compliance. They are often a point of contact for employees and managers within an organization.
  • Recruitment Specialist / Recruiter. These specialists are responsible for sourcing, screening, and selecting candidates for job openings within an organization. They may also be involved in developing recruitment strategies and building relationships with potential candidates.
  • Compensation and Benefits Specialist. Professionals in this role design and manage compensation and benefits programs. They analyze market trends, ensure compliance with regulations, and work to create competitive and attractive compensation packages.
  • Training and Development Specialist. These specialists design and deliver training programs to enhance the skills and knowledge of employees. They may develop onboarding programs, organize workshops, and assess training needs within the organization.
  • HR Manager. HR managers develop HR policies, ensure compliance with labor laws, and provide strategic guidance to the organization. They often play a key role in decision-making related to workforce planning.
  • Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. Professionals in this role focus on creating inclusive workplaces. They develop and implement strategies to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within the organization.
  • Talent Management Specialist. These professionals focus on attracting, developing, and retaining top talent. They may be involved in succession planning, leadership development, and workforce planning.

Skills and Qualifications Needed to Work in HR

Working in HR requires a diverse set of skills to effectively manage people, policies, and processes. Here are some essential skills for a successful career in HR :

    • Communication skills
    • Interpersonal skills
    • Problem-solving skills
    • Ethical judgment
    • Organizational skills
    • Adaptability
    • Familiarity with HR technology
    • Negotiation skills
    • Analytical skills
    • Legal knowledge
    • Leadership skills
    • Time management


Education Needed to Work in HR

The education required to work in HR can vary based on the specific position and organization. However, a common educational path for entry into HR roles includes earning a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Some common fields for a bachelor’s degrees include human resources management, business administration, psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, and labor relations. Excelsior’s Bachelor of Science in Business program equips you skills you can use on the job, including accounting, business strategy, communication, computer skills, economics, business ethics, finance, global business, leadership, management, marketing, data analysis, teamwork, and cultural diversity. The BS in Business program is a good choice if you are looking to enter the field of human resources.

Certifications can also enhance your qualifications and demonstrate your expertise in human resources. Some of the most common certifications include the Professional in Human Resources (PHR), Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP), Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), and Society for Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP).

Building a successful HR career takes time, dedication, and continuous learning. Be proactive in seeking opportunities and showcasing your skills to potential employers.