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How to Become a Human Resource Manager

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Human Resources Manager

What human resources managers do >

Human resources (HR) managers can perhaps best be described as being the liaison between an organization’s management and its employees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), human resources managers oversee how an organization functions administratively and take care of the recruiting and hiring of new staff (BLS.gov, 2012). They may also be called upon to work with management on an organization’s long-term objectives.

In addition, human resources managers may do the following:

  • Inform managers of company policies such as sexual harassment and employment laws concerning equal opportunity, healthcare, employee pay, and retirement plans
  • Direct the hiring process of an organization, which entails identifying, interviewing, and choosing candidates
  • Manage staffing issues, which could involve mediating disputes, overseeing disciplinary procedures and, at times, relieving employees of their positions

Human resources managers usually work in offices on a full-time basis. For those managers working for organizations with offices nationwide, travel to visit other branches as well as to attend professional meetings or to recruit employees is often required (BLS, 2012).

Types of human resources managers

According to the BLS, types of human resources managers include the following (BLS.gov, 2012):

  • Labor relations managers (often referred to as employee relations managers) handle employee issues in both union and nonunion work environments
  • Payroll managers oversee how an organization’s payroll department operates
  • Recruiting managers (sometimes called staffing managers) direct the recruiting and hiring process in an organization

How to become a human resources manager

According to the BLS, human resources managers should possess good problem-solving, supervisory, multitasking and public-speaking skills. Due to the nature of their job, it’s important that they work well with others and are comfortable forming constructive professional relationships with their colleagues (BLS, 2012).

The BLS reports that human resources managers are usually required to have a bachelor’s degree in human resources or business administration. This is not always feasible, however, since not every undergraduate program offers a degree in human resources. In such cases, candidates can get a bachelor’s degree in another field and take courses in similar subjects, such as labor or industrial relations. Sometimes, positions are filled by experienced people with backgrounds in other areas (BLS.gov, 2012). 

Although there are several different paths to becoming a human resources manager, a common path includes the following steps:

  • Earn a high-school diploma or GED
  • Enroll and complete a program of study in human resources management, business administration, or another field with courses in HR–related subjects at a college or university
  • Apply for employment

Some human resources managers pursue certification. The Society for Human Resource Management is among many professional associations that offer a variety of certification programs. Human resource managers aspiring to high-level positions may wish to seek master’s degree in human resources, labor relations or a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Additional certification, training, education or work experience may be required for employment.

Career outlook for human resources managers

The BLS projects employment of human resources managers to grow by up to 13 percent between 2010 and 2020. According to the BLS, human resources managers earned a national annual wage of $99,130 median in 2011, with the lowest 10 percent earning up to $60,070 and the highest 10-percent earning up to $169,310 nationally in 2011.

The BLS reports that the following industries employed the most human resources managers in 2011: management of companies and enterprises; local government; general medical and surgical hospitals; colleges, universities and professional schools; and employment services (BLS).

Quick Facts: Human Resources Managers
*All facts from BLS.gov*

2011 National Median Pay

$99,130 per year; $47.66 per hour

Entry-Level Education

Bachelor’s degree

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

1 to 5 years

On-the-job Training


Number of Jobs, 2011


Job Outlook, 2010-20

13% nationally (About as fast as national average)

Employment Change, 2010-20




Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Human Resources Managers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, 11-3121 Human Resources Managers, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes113121.htm

Society for Human Resource Management, http://www.shrm.org/Pages/default.aspx

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