Human Resources Specialists

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Human Resources Specialists Do[About this section] [To Top]

Human resources specialists recruit, screen, interview, and place workers. They often handle tasks related to employee relations, compensation and benefits, and training.

Duties of Human Resources Specialists

Human resources specialists typically do the following:

  • Consult with employers to identify employment needs
  • Interview applicants about their experience, education, and skills
  • Contact references and perform background checks on job applicants
  • Inform applicants about job details, such as duties, benefits, and working conditions
  • Hire or refer qualified candidates for employers
  • Conduct or help with new employee orientation
  • Keep employment records and process paperwork

Human resources specialists are often trained in all human resources disciplines and perform tasks throughout all areas of the department. In addition to recruiting and placing workers, human resources specialists help guide employees through all human resources procedures and answer questions about policies. They sometimes administer benefits, process payroll, and handle any associated questions or problems, although many specialists may focus more on strategic planning and hiring instead of administrative duties. They also ensure that all human resources functions comply with federal, state, and local regulations.

The following are examples of types of human resources specialists:

Human resources generalists handle all aspects of human resources work. They may have duties in all areas of human resources including recruitment, employee relations, compensation, benefits, training, as well as the administration of human resources policies, procedures, and programs.

Placement specialists match employers with qualified jobseekers. They search for candidates who have the skills, education, and work experience needed for jobs, and they try to place those candidates with employers. They also may help set up interviews.

Recruitment specialists, sometimes known as personnel recruiters or “head hunters,” find, screen, and interview applicants for job openings in an organization. They search for applicants by posting listings, attending job fairs, and visiting college campuses. They also may test applicants, contact references, and extend job offers.

Work Environment for Human Resources Specialists[About this section] [To Top]

Human resources specialists hold about 482,000. The industries that employ the most human resources specialists are as follows:

Employment services 16%
Government 14
Professional, scientific, and technical services 12
Healthcare and social assistance 11
Manufacturing 7

Because hiring needs may vary throughout the year, many organizations contract recruitment and placement work to outside human resources firms rather than keep permanent human resources specialists on staff.

Human Resources Specialist Work Schedules

Human resources specialists generally work in offices. Some, particularly recruitment specialists, travel extensively to attend job fairs, visit college campuses, and meet with applicants.

Most specialists work full time during regular business hours.

How to Become a Human Resources Specialist[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Human Resources Specialists near you!

Human resources specialists must usually have a bachelor’s degree.

Human Resources Specialist Education

Applicants seeking positions as a human resources specialist must usually have a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business, or a related field.

Coursework typically includes business, industrial relations, psychology, professional writing, human resource management, and accounting.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some positions, particularly human resources generalists, may require previous work experience. Candidates can gain experience as human resources assistants, in customer service positions, or in other related jobs.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Many professional associations that specialize in human resources offer courses intended to enhance the skills of their members, and some offer certification programs. For example, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers the SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) and SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP).

Although certification is usually voluntary, some employers may prefer or require it. Human resources generalists, in particular, can benefit from certification because it shows knowledge and professional competence across all human resources areas.

Advancement for Human Resources Specialists

Human resources specialists who possess a thorough knowledge of their organization, as well as an understanding of regulatory compliance needs, can advance to become human resources managers. Specialists can increase their chance of advancement by completing voluntary certification programs.

Important Qualities for Human Resources Specialists

Decisionmaking skills. Human resources specialists use decisionmaking skills when reviewing candidates’ qualifications or when working to resolve disputes.

Detail oriented. Specialists must be detail oriented when evaluating applicants’ qualifications, performing background checks, maintaining records of an employee grievance, and ensuring that a workplace is in compliance with labor standards.

Interpersonal skills. Specialists continually interact with new people and must be able to converse and connect with people from different backgrounds.

Listening skills. Listening skills are essential for human resources specialists. When interviewing job applicants, for example, specialists must pay careful attention to candidates’ responses, understand the points they are making, and ask relevant followup questions.

Speaking skills. All specialists need strong speaking skills to be effective at their job. They often give presentations and must be able to clearly convey information about their organizations and jobs within them.

Human Resources Specialist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for human resources specialists is $57,420. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,630, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $98,130.

The median annual wages for human resources specialists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Professional, scientific, and technical services $63,310
Government 62,200
Manufacturing 61,060
Healthcare and social assistance 49,420
Employment services 48,170

Many human resources specialists, particularly recruiters, travel extensively to attend job fairs, visit college campuses, and meet with applicants.

Most specialists work full time during regular business hours.

Job Outlook for Human Resources Specialists[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of human resources specialists is projected to grow 5 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 16 percent of human resources specialists work in the employment services industry, which includes employment placement agencies, temporary help services, and professional employer organizations. Employment growth in employment services is projected to be faster than the average as organizations continue to outsource human resources functions to professional employer organizations—companies that provide human resources services to client businesses.

Companies will need human resources specialists to find replacements for workers leaving the workforce. Organizations will likely need more human resources generalists to handle increasingly complex employment laws and healthcare coverage options.

However, employment of human resources specialists will be tempered as companies make better use of available technologies. Rather than sending recruiters to colleges and job fairs, for example, some employers are increasingly conducting their entire recruiting process online. In addition, administrative tasks are more efficient with software that allows workers to quickly manage, process, or update human resources information.

Human Resources Specialists Job Prospects

Job prospects for human resources specialists are expected to be favorable. Specifically, job opportunities should be good in the employment services industry, as companies continue to outsource portions of their human resources functions to other firms.

Overall, candidates with a bachelor’s degree and professional certification should have the best job prospects.

Employment projections data for Human Resources Specialists, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Human resources specialists 482,000 503,900 5 22,000


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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