Labor Relations Specialists

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Labor Relations Specialists Do[About this section] [To Top]

Labor relations specialists interpret and administer labor contracts regarding issues such as wages and salaries, healthcare, pensions, and union and management practices.

Duties of Labor Relations Specialists

Labor relations specialists typically do the following:

  • Advise management on contracts, worker grievances, and disciplinary procedures
  • Lead meetings between management and labor
  • Meet with union representatives
  • Draft proposals and rules or regulations
  • Ensure that human resources policies are consistent with union agreements
  • Interpret formal communications between management and labor
  • Investigate validity of labor grievances
  • Train management on labor relations

Labor relations specialists work with representatives in a labor union and a company’s management. In addition to leading meetings between the two groups, these specialists draft formal language as part of the collective bargaining process. These contracts are called collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), and they serve as a legal and procedural guide for employee/management relations.

Labor relations specialists also address specific grievances a worker might have, and ensure that all labor and management solutions comply within the relevant agreement.

Work Environment for Labor Relations Specialists[About this section] [To Top]

Labor relations specialists hold about 82,100 jobs. About 76 percent of labor relations specialists work in labor unions and similar labor organizations.

Labor relations specialists generally work in offices. The work of labor relations specialists can be stressful because negotiating contracts and resolving labor grievances can be tense.

Labor Relations Specialist Work Schedules

Most labor relations specialists work full time during regular business hours. Some specialists work longer periods when preparing for meetings or settling disputes.

How to Become a Labor Relations Specialist[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Labor Relations Specialists near you!

Applicants usually have a bachelor’s degree in labor relations, human resources, industrial relations, business, or a related field. However, the level of education and experience required to become a labor relations specialist varies by position and employer.

Labor Relations Specialist Education

Labor relations specialists usually have a bachelor’s degree. Some schools offer a bachelor’s degree in labor or employment relations. These programs focus on labor-specific topics such as employment law and contract negotiation.

Candidates also may qualify for labor relations specialist positions with a bachelor’s degree in human resources, industrial relations, business, or a related field. Coursework typically includes business, professional writing, human resource management, and accounting.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Many positions require previous work experience. Candidates can gain experience as human resources specialists or generalists before specializing in labor relations.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some colleges and universities offer labor relations certificates to specialists who prefer greater specialization in certain topics, such as mediation. These certificates give participants a better understanding of labor law, the collective bargaining process, and worker grievance procedures.

Important Qualities for Labor Relations Specialists

Decisionmaking skills. Labor relations specialists use decisionmaking skills to help management and labor agree on decisions when resolving grievances or other disputes.

Detail oriented. Specialists must be detail oriented when evaluating labor laws and maintaining records of an employee grievance.

Interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are essential for labor relations specialists. When mediating between labor and management, specialists must be able to converse and connect with people from different backgrounds.

Listening skills. Listening skills are essential for labor relations specialists. When evaluating grievances, for example, they must pay careful attention to workers’ responses, understand the points they are making, and ask relevant followup questions.

Writing skills. All labor relations specialists need strong writing skills to be effective at their job. They often draft proposals and must be able to convey complex information to both workers and management.

Labor Relations Specialist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

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Entry Level Experienced

The median annual wage for labor relations specialists is $56,950. 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 $17,940, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $107,780.

Most labor relations specialists work full time during regular business hours. Some specialists work longer periods when preparing for meetings or settling disputes.

Job Outlook for Labor Relations Specialists[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of labor relations specialists is projected to decline 8 percent over the next ten years. The number of workers represented by unions has declined. About 12.3 percent of employed wage and salary workers are represented by unions. This rate fell steadily from 23.3 percent in 1983, and the decline is likely to continue. This means there is less demand for the services of labor relations specialists.

Labor Relations Specialists Job Prospects

Job prospects for labor relations specialists are expected to be less than favorable because there will be less demand for their work. Overall, candidates with a bachelor’s degree and related work experience should have the best job prospects.

Employment projections data for Labor Relations Specialists, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Labor relations specialists 82,100 75,600 -8 -6,400


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

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