How to Become an HR Manager

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Human resource managers ensure that all employees’ needs are being met, which usually involves the areas of compensation, benefits, maintenance of employee records, management of hiring processes, labor relations, and mediation between employees and senior management.

Human resource managers work across all industries to ensure the mutual satisfaction of a firm’s employees. These sectors include the service industry, government, media, communications, health and human services, transportation, universities, investment firms, public safety, healthcare administration, and nonprofits, among others.

Read on how to become a certified HR manager, including information about licensing, education, and experience.

What is an HR Manager and What Do They Do?

Human resource managers develop, implement and oversee training programs or procedures. They are authorities on employee rights, equal opportunity employment law, and matters of sexual harassment. They typically work full-time in office environments with the occasional business trip for industry conferences, meetings, seminars, or training.

An HR manager is a liaison between management and employees. In business, a human resource manager’s role is to create spaces in which positive relationships between employees and all levels of management can be facilitated. The ultimate goal is the satisfaction of the workforce. While the path to becoming a human resources manager can be challenging, students often find that the work is very rewarding.

Some important skills for human resources managers include multi-tasking, mathematics, empathy, compassion, sympathy, and clear communication, as well as a deep understanding of health insurance company policy, recruitment strategy, personnel management, discretion, privacy, and how to let go of an employee.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) lists the annual median pay for human resources managers at $121,220. Of course, given various specialization tracks and certifications that add value, this median salary figure might vary. Also, the BLS (2021) projects a 9 percent growth in HR management jobs nationally between 2020 and 2030—higher than the average rate for all occupations (8 percent)

Check out a step-by-step guide to becoming an HR manager.

Featured Human Resources Management Programs
Maryville University MBA - Human Resources Management View Full Profile
Purdue University Global Online MBA - Human Resources View Full Profile
Grand Canyon University Online MBA - Strategic Human Resource Management View Full Profile
Southern New Hampshire University Online MBA In Human Resource Management View Full Profile
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota International Human Resource Management Certificate (Post-Bachelor's Cert) View Full Profile
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THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST IN Southern New Hampshire University Online MS - Construction Management

Step 1: Graduate from High School (Four Years)

There are many ways that high school students can prepare for a career as human resources professionals. It is recommended that one take a wide variety of courses in business, economics, psychology, mathematics, speech, technical communications, and professional communications, where available. It is also advisable to take community college courses or advanced placement (AP) classes to earn college credits in relevant subjects before enrollment in a university degree program.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree (Four Years)

The first step towards a career in human resources is to earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field. While some human resource professionals have their BS in human resources management or business, some have taken different educational paths in areas such as marketing, operations, communications, journalism, psychology, legal studies, or sociology.

The core curriculum of BS programs in human resources emphasizes human resource theory, psychology, operations, management, mathematics, speech, technical communications, labor management, employment law, employee development, accounting, statistics, information technology, and professional communications.

These programs are typically located in a school’s business or management department. If there is an opportunity that an internship might be offered as part of an academic program, it is recommended that students take it.

For those interested in a traditional brick-and-mortar degree, look no further than the University of Nebraska. For those eyeing an online pathway, Southern New Hampshire University offers an innovative online BS in business administration with a concentration in human resources management.

Step 3: Complete an Internship (One Year or Less)

The Society for Human Resource Management reported that several human resources professionals considered the time they spent in an internship as critical to their success in the industry.

Internships allow students to gain real-world experience in the industry of their choice and offer the perfect way to begin applying the practical knowledge that is the focus of human resources bachelor’s programs.

This step however had a major setback due to the impact of Covid-19. At the beginning of this pandemic, many businesses cut out their internships. HR managers believed that it became increasingly difficult to prepare interns when they weren’t physically present in the office. Additionally, many businesses were already in survival mode, so teaching prospective interns about the basics of their business wasn’t the top priority.

If you do not get the chance to take part in an internship while in school, many companies have begun to offer them to recent college graduates. The purpose of human resources internships is to give students a chance to see how the industry works from the inside out. Ideally, internships or externships allow future HR managers the opportunity to identify, hone, and develop the interpersonal skills that are critical to the job.

Step 4a: Gain HR Work Experience (At Least Two Years)

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in human resources or a related field, it is a good idea to enter the workforce to gain experience. Essentially, any advanced or upper management position in human resources requires that students provide proof of having attended seminars or post-secondary training, in addition to real-world experience.

Entry-level positions include human resources assistant, associate, or specialist. Typical responsibilities include assisting with record-keeping of employee benefits, tracking work performance, managing compensation for employees, conducting employee orientations and training, and leading personal and team development strategies.

Step 4b: Earn a Master’s Degree in Human Resources (Two Years, Optional)

A master’s degree in human resources management or administration equips learners with the requisite higher-level foundation on which to build a career as a human resources manager. Expect coursework in psychology, human resource theory, operations, labor management, speech, technical communications, employment law, employee development, accounting, arbitration, mediation, contract negotiation, statistics, information technology, and professional communications.

For example, a traditional campus-based graduate program in human resources management from Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management can prepare any prospective human resources professional for an exciting career, while Columbia University offers a compelling, cutting-edge degree for those who want to get their master’s degree in human capital management online.

Step 4c: Earn a Doctorate in Human Resources (Optional, Three to Five Years)

An HR PhD is firmly grounded in advanced coursework in human resource theory, information technology, human resources operations, labor management, arbitration, mediation, professional counseling, technical communications, employment law, employee development, mediation, contract negotiation, statistics, and professional communications. Individuals with this credential usually rise to upper-level management positions quickly, eventually managing teams of personnel in labs or at private companies.

For a face-to-face experience, consider this PhD specialization in human resources at Ohio State University. Alternatively, check out this online doctorate in human resource and workforce development with a concentration in GIS at the University of Arkansas.

Step 5: Consider HR Certification

Human resources certification is a process by which a third-party organization evaluates the level of an applicant’s knowledge and experience. Those that meet industry standards are eligible for certification.

A growing number of employers are looking for human resource professionals with additional certifications, which show expertise, as well as commitment and dedication to the field. Both the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offer several certification designations, including the Professional of Human Resources (PHR), Certified Employment Benefits Specialist (CEBS), and Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certifications. Other specialization tracks include Group Benefits Associate, Retirement Plans Associate, and Compensation Management Specialist.

Applying for these exams requires up to four years of experience in the human resources field or a combination of education and experience. Note that exam duration and lengths vary by state and concentration.

Another professional development option is to join a professional society. Two of the most popular human resources management professional organizations in the United States are the National Human Resources Association and the Society for Human Resource Management.

Where Do HR Managers Work?

Human resources managers work in all corners of the market where the management of human capital is necessary. This could include government, the service industry, communications, health and human services, transportation, elementary schools, investment firms, public safety, healthcare administration, science labs, non-profits, small-to-medium businesses, and real estate firms.

Resources for Human Resource Managers

For more information on careers in HR, job boards, and other professional development resources, check out the list below:

  • Evil HR Lady
  • Human Resources @ Entrepeneur.com
  • HR.com
  • HR Indeed Jobs Board
  • Society for Human Resource Management
  • HR Magazine
  • HR Crossing
  • HR Bartender How-To Guides
  • Homebase HR & Compliance
  • The Definitive Guide to Onboarding
  • SHRM’s HR Jobs

Featured Human Resources Management Programs

Purdue University

Purdue University offers an online master of business administration (MBA) program with a concentration in human resources. The SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) has acknowledged that this online concentration fully aligns with SHRM’s HR Curriculum Guidebook and Templates. This guidebook defines the minimum human resource content areas that should be studied by HR students at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

The program comprises 60 to 76 credits, while the HR concentration is made up of 16 credits including courses such as employment law; training and development; strategic reward systems; and recruitment and selection.

  • Location: West Lafayette, IN
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP); Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 30 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $485 per credit

Strayer University

Strayer University offers an online master of business administration program with a concentration in human resource management that helps students learn the foundations of human resource management along with how to effectively manage change within an organization.

The human resource management concentration consists of 13.5 credits including coursework in human resource management foundations; strategic human resource management; and managing organizational change. The program requires students to complete ten courses.

  • Location: Herndon, VA
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP); Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $2,985 per course

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

An online master of arts in human resource management offered by the Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota also has an SHRM-aligned curriculum ensuring that students receive the most up-to-date information. Graduates of this program will be ready to become versatile HR professionals gaining an understanding of conflict management, goal assessments, and rewards systems as they relate to a company’s execution, planning, and completion of objectives.

Made up of 36 credits, the curriculum includes courses such as human resource management strategy; human resource analytics; employment law; training and development; labor relations; globalization and diversity; and compensation and benefits.

  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $675 per credit

Southern New Hampshire University

SNHU’s online MBA in human resources is aligned with the guiding principles of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). This MBA concentration stresses the strategic nature of the human resource role. Students will learn how the human resource system helps in driving the overall organizational mission and see its impact from both a business and human resource perspective.

Students complete a total of 30 credits for this program with 9 credits from the HR concentration. Courses include strategic human resource management; total rewards; leading change; leading people and organizations; measuring success in an organization; leading organizational change; and strategic opportunity management.

  • Location: Manchester, NH
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP); New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $627 per credit

Walden University

Walden University offers an online master of business administration (MBA) program with a specialization in human resource management helping students explore key strategies and practices for managing, developing, leading, and recruiting diverse talent. Students will explore practical approaches for measuring employee performance, leading high-functioning teams, and managing talent.

Consisting of 30 credits, the program includes courses such as managing people and promoting collaboration; improving business performance; accounting for management decision making; individual and organizational performance management; human resource analytics; and conflict management and negotiation.

  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP); Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $989 per credit

Capella University

Capella University’s online master of business administration in HRM is another program that has been acknowledged by the Society for Human Resource Management and is fully aligned with SHRM’s HR Curriculum Guidebook and Templates. Students in this program will be introduced to a diverse human resource skillset that can be applied to real-life business challenges.

The program consists of 45 credits including coursework in sourcing and managing talent in the workplace; retaining and engaging employees for the modern workforce; strategic human resource management; operations management for leaders; MBA leadership; and applied managerial finance.

  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP); Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 14 months
  • Estimated Tuition: FlexPath ($2,750 every 12-week billing session); GuidedPath ($805 per credit)

Carlow University

Carlow University’s online MBA in human resources management prepares students to sit for the national SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) exam and take on several in-demand leadership roles.

Comprising 36 credits, the program includes courses such as strategic human resources management; employment law; capstone experience—human resource management; management organization and change; marketing management; and financial analysis and planning.

Graduates will be able to take up roles such as compensation and benefits managers, human resources managers, talent acquisition managers, training and development managers, risk management professionals, and employee education specialists.

  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Accreditation: International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE); Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 15 to 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $675 per credit

King University

King University offers an online master of business administration program with a concentration in management. Students through this program will be able to enter leadership roles in their organization and advance their careers by studying topics that are designed to help build their professional success.

The program requires the completion of 36 credits. The 27-credit core coursework includes topics such as quantitative and research methods; economics of organizational architecture and strategy; and strategic financial management. The management concentration comprises 9 credits including courses such as managing for organizational effectiveness; building competitive advantage: human resource development; and operations management.

  • Location: Bristol, TN
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: 16 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $605 per credit

St. Thomas University

St. Thomas University offers an online master of business administration with a concentration in human resource management providing students with the skillsets they need for career advancement in development, human resources management, training, staffing, or planning. Graduates will deepen their general business knowledge making them a valuable asset for any corporation.

Made up of 36 credits, the program helps students in developing a solid ethical foundation in both HR management and business. Sample some of the courses in the curriculum: human resources planning and staffing; human resource management; labor-management relations; organizational design and theory; strategic marketing management; and financial management.

  • Location: Miami Gardens, FL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $515 per credit

Campbellsville University

Campbellsville University offers an online human resource management MBA preparing students to become well-rounded leaders and advance their career in this human resources management field. Graduates will be able to effectively resolve any conflicts and controversies and integrate human resource management into their organization’s overall business strategy. They will also be able to manage human resources in regulatory, social, and economic environments.

Consisting of 36 credits, the program includes courses such as compensation and benefits; human resource staffing; negotiation and conflict resolution; marketing management; business strategy; and human resource management.

  • Location: Campbellsville, KY
  • Accreditation: International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE); Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $479 per credit

University of Southern Indiana

University of Southern Indiana’s MBA with a concentration in human resources online provides students with the organizational strategies and expert knowledge they need for managing the most valuable assets in any business. The program covers the policies, practices, and methods for strategically managing human resources organizationally and individually.

To complete this program, students will be required to complete 30 credits, including 21 credits of core courses and nine credits of concentration courses. The curriculum explores topics such as the legal and social environment of business; managing human capital; data-driven decision making; managerial economics; financial management and financial markets; and marketing strategies.

Graduates will be ready to take up positions such as training and development managers, executive recruiters, human resources consultants, labor relations specialists, and human resources directors.

  • Location: Evansville, IN
  • Accreditation: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International); The Higher Learning Commission (HCL)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 11 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $430 per credit
Kenneth Parker
Kenneth Parker
Writer

Kenneth Parker is a feature writer, poet, and musician living in the Pacific Northwest. His writing on remote work, education, and technology has been published by BustedCubicle.com, MedicalTechnologySchools.com, and other websites. His poetry, short fiction, and album reviews have appeared in Scifaikuest, Nanoism, and No Clean Singing. His background includes time spent as an associate editor, proofreader, private grammar instructor, freelance content editor, medical claims agent, and SEO consultant. He is a graduate of the University of Oregon, where he studied literature and worked as a composition tutor.

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