How to Become a Human Resource Manager

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To become a human resource manager, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business administration, or any related field. Some employers may also require a master’s degree in human resources or a related field for upper management positions. Field experience is also essential, which can be accomplished through internships, co-ops, or entry-level positions. Additionally, obtaining extra certifications from professional organizations can demonstrate expertise and commitment to the field.

This guide covers some of the most common questions about embarking on this career path, including education and certification requirements for a career in human resources, information about typical salary ranges and the future job outlook for this field, and some of the specific duties and responsibilities you can expect in this role.

What Is a Human Resource Manager?

When you hear the term “human resources,” many people think of it as the department that handles the “people” or personnel concerns for a given organization. However, the name refers to the actual “humans” who just so happen to be employees – sometimes referred to as a resource of humans. With that in mind, a human resource manager is a professional who is responsible for managing these human resources of an organization.

General responsibilities include recruiting, hiring, training, and retaining employees. They are also responsible for developing and implementing policies and procedures related to employee relations, compensation, benefits, and performance management.

The Role of a Human Resource Manager

Human resource managers work closely with other departments to ensure the organization meets its established goals and objectives. They also play a pivotal role in ensuring that the organization complies with all applicable employment laws and regulations. They may also be involved in resolving conflicts and addressing employee concerns. Overall, a human resource manager’s role is critical to any organization’s success.

The primary roles and responsibilities of a human resources manager vary depending on the industry and size of the company. Key responsibilities include:

  • Recruiting and hiring new employees. They establish job descriptions, job postings, screen resumes, conduct interviews, and extend job offers.
  • Providing training and development opportunities to employees. HR managers identify training needs, design training programs, and provide ongoing professional development to employees.
  • Managing employee compensation and benefits. They help design and implement compensation plans, administer benefits programs, and ensure compliance with legal requirements.
  • Managing employee performance. They set performance goals and key performance indicators (KPIs), provide employee feedback, and conduct performance evaluations.
  • Ensuring compliance with employment laws and regulations. HR managers develop and implement policies and procedures to ensure compliance and provide the necessary training to employees.
  • Maintaining positive relationships between employees and management. They manage employee complaints, provide direction on workplace policies and procedures, and mediate any employee disputes.
  • Developing and implementing HR strategies. They work closely with leadership to determine HR needs and develop plans that align with the organization’s goals and objectives.

Work Environment

The work environment for human resources managers can vary depending on the industry and company they work for. Generally, HR managers are employed in nearly every industry and often work in an office setting, spending considerable time at a desk or in meetings. They may work in a corporate headquarters, a smaller office, or even from home, depending on the size and policies of the company. In addition, many managers travel to attend conferences, visit local branch divisions, and recruit new employees locally.

Human resources managers regularly work closely with other departments, such as finance, to ensure company operations run smoothly. Managers will frequently interact with employees at all levels of the organization, from entry-level staff to top executives, depending on the need. Handling confidential information and sensitive situations with discretion and professionalism is imperative due to some cases that may arise.

They may also manage a team of HR professionals, making strong leadership and communication a crucial skill set for this role. Overall, the work can be fast-paced and challenging, with tight deadlines and high expectations. Yet, HR management can also be rewarding, with plentiful opportunities for growth and advancement within the field.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for human resources managers was $126,230 as of May 2021. Employment of human resources managers is projected to grow 7% from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

This growth is due to the increasing importance of human resources in organizations and the need for skilled professionals to manage employee relations, recruitment, compensation, and benefits. Additionally, the demand for human resources managers is expected to rise as companies expand their operations remotely and globally, often requiring an understanding of international labor regulations and cultural distinctions.

human resources employees working in office

Steps to Becoming an HR Manager

If you are interested in pursuing a career in HR management, there are several steps you can take to achieve your goal. This section will outline the key steps to becoming an HR manager.

Earn a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree in human resources is a four-year undergraduate program that provides students with a comprehensive understanding of the principles and practices of managing the actual employees within organizations. The course curriculum typically covers topics such as recruitment and training, compensation and benefits, managing employee relations, as well as labor laws. Entry-level positions for bachelor’s degree graduates include HR generalist, recruiter, or benefits specialist.

A master’s degree in human resources is a graduate-level program that builds upon the general foundation students learn in their bachelor’s degree program and typically takes two years to complete. It provides students with advanced skills and knowledge in HR management, opening positions for upper management, and the experience of working at a corporate level. In addition, the course curriculum covers topics that go beyond general knowledge, such as an understanding of strategic HR management, organizational development, and even analytics. Senior-level positions for master’s degree graduates include HR director, HR manager, or organizational development specialist. Graduates may also qualify to teach new students at a university level.

Common HR Certifications

Human resources professionals are crucial in managing an organization’s most valuable asset – its people. Many HR professionals pursue additional certifications in order to demonstrate their expertise and knowledge in the field. Obtaining HR certifications not only improves one’s skills and credibility, but also gives them a competitive advantage in the job market and can lead to higher salaries compared to those who are not certified.

Additionally, certification programs offer continuous opportunities for professional growth, enabling individuals to remain current with the most recent HR trends and optimal approaches. While many of the benefits of HR certifications remain similar, with rising levels of distinction and prestige, each certification requires a comprehensive exam and has its own experience eligibility requirements.

  • The PHR (Professional in Human Resources) requires a minimum of two years of professional HR experience for individuals with a bachelor’s degree or four years of field experience for those without a degree.
  • The SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) requires at least four years of experience in a professional-level HR position. This experience must be in a leadership or managerial capacity.
  • The SHRM-CP (Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional) requires a minimum of three years of HR experience in an HR-related role, with at least one year of experience in an HR role in the past three years.
  • The SHRM-SCP (Society for Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional) requires a graduate degree (or equivalent) in HR or any related field with at least three years of HR experience or a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) in HR or a related field with at least four years of HR experience.
Gain on-the-job Experience

If you’re looking to gain on-the-job experience in human resources, you can do a few things to accelerate your potential and increase your chances of success. One option to start a career in HR is to pursue an internship, co-op, or entry-level job in the field. This will provide valuable exposure to the industry and hands-on experience working alongside more seasoned HR professionals.

Additionally, you can also gain experience by seeking HR-related projects or initiatives at your current job or through volunteer work. Networking with HR professionals and attending industry events can also be beneficial.

Finally, as mentioned previously, you may want to explore obtaining HR certifications or enrolling in continuing education programs. By committing yourself and putting in the added effort, you can acquire practical experience in HR and elevate your career prospects.

What Makes a Good Human Resource Manager?

A skilled and talented human resource manager is essential to ensure that an organization has the right people with the proper skills, in the correct positions. In addition to recruiting the right personnel for an organization, a human resource manager’s job doesn’t end there. They continually work with employees at all levels to ensure that they are motivated and engaged to achieve the company’s overarching goals and objectives. This section will discuss the essential qualities and skills of a good human resource manager.


Skillful communication is crucial for human resource managers as they oversee and coordinate many aspects of employee relations, including recruitment, training, ongoing performance, compliance, and conflict resolution. In addition, meaningful exchanges are crucial in sharing vital information, setting clear expectations, and providing feedback to employees, which can lead to enhanced engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction.

An HR manager must also build strong connections with employees, encouraging a positive work culture and even reducing turnover. In addition, effective communication between HR managers and other departments and stakeholders, including senior management, legal teams, and external vendors, is crucial to ensure that HR policies and practices align with the organization’s goals and objectives.

Problem-solving Skills

Problem-solving skills are crucial for human resource managers as they are responsible for resolving various issues and conflicts within the organization. Therefore, they must possess the ability to recognize problems, analyze the situation, and implement practical resolutions that serve the interests of both the staff and the organization as a whole.

HR managers also need to be able to anticipate potential problems and take proactive measures to prevent them from occurring. With strong problem-solving skills, they can foster a positive workplace, boost employee morale, and enhance productivity.

Time Management Techniques

Human resource managers need to utilize time management techniques as they are accountable for overseeing their teams’ time management and efficiency, and often the organization as a whole. By implementing effective time management techniques and processes, such as accurate time tracking and resourcing systems, HR managers can ensure that team members can complete their tasks efficiently and proficiently, leading to increased productivity, improved job satisfaction, and better overall performance.

By implementing efficient time management strategies, HR managers can effectively manage their workload, meet critical deadlines, and prevent burnout and fatigue, resulting in a more efficient and productive HR team.

woman in office sitting at a desk with laptop open facing camera and smiling

Building a Career in Human Resources

Building a career in human resources requires a combination of education, experience, and skills. Learn from some of the best in the industry. Are you interested in exploring a career in human resources or a related field?  National University offers a range of online and hybrid human resources programs. With scholarships for eligible students, accelerated study options, credits offered for work experience, and a military-friendly campus culture, National University provides the support you need to launch or grow your HR career. Explore our 75+ accredited programs online, or get in touch with our admissions office to learn more about applying today.

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