With a master’s degree in human resources management, one of the highest-paying master’s degrees, you’re well-equipped to rise to the heights of this people-focused field of business. Two of the job titles you might hear in human resources management include HR manager and HR director. While both of these roles perform management functions related to a company’s workforce, there are significant differences between these job functions that go beyond mere titles. These differences include the level of job seniority, whether they focus on daily operations or on strategic planning, the number of opportunities available in each role and the salary potential for each job.

Differing Levels of Seniority

What Is the Difference Between an HR Manager and Director

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A human resources director is, generally, at a higher level of seniority than a human resources manager. A larger organization may have numerous human resources managers at different levels and in different areas of specialization. There are HR managers, entry-level HR managers, assistant HR managers, senior HR managers, human resources project managers, regional human resources managers, people operations HR managers, recruiting managers, employee relations HR managers and more.

In a company with many levels of HR management, a human resources director is at the top of the HR hierarchy, overseeing all of the human resources professionals in the organization. Each human resources manager that sits below the HR director, in turn, supervises their team of human resources specialists and support staff.

Different organizations, and particularly organizations of different sizes, have their own hierarchy and job titles. A job that is listed simply as a human resource manager in one company might be the equivalent of a senior HR manager in another company or even an HR director in another company.

An Emphasis on Day-to-Day Operations vs. Strategy

Perhaps the biggest practical difference that results from this distinction in seniority is whether the HR professional focuses primarily on day-to-day operations or on strategic planning. Human resources managers tend to hold more hands-on responsibilities than human resources directors, according to The Houston Chronicle. They are more involved in the daily operations that keep the company moving smoothly, including overseeing the processes of hiring staff, handling issues of understaffing and disciplinary actions and overseeing benefits plans and employee training and development plans.

A human resources director, in contrast, typically has few job responsibilities that relate to the minutiae of routine company operations – especially if the company has one or more HR managers below the role of director. Instead, HR directors tend to deal more with strategic planning of the company’s workforce. How many new workers are needed to facilitate growth in the organization? What kind of talent is necessary to accomplish the work that is needed? These are the questions a human resources director needs to answer so that the HR manager can focus on recruiting the right personnel.

Differences in Job Opportunities and Earning Potential

Organizations generally need more workers than they do managers and more mid-level managers than senior-level managers. For example, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 165,200 human resources managers working in America in 2019, compared to 666,500 human resources specialists. As a result, job opportunities for HR managers are more plentiful than those for human resources directors specifically.

The comparative scarcity of HR director jobs is one of the reasons why candidates for these roles face strong competition. Another reason is the particularly high salary for this position. Both human resources manager and human resources director are roles that offer impressive earning potential. For an HR manager, Salary.com reports a median salary of $105,554. Human resources directors see a considerably higher pay rate, with Salary.com reporting a $159,888 median salary.

Given the fierce competition for positions as HR director, employers are more likely to have higher expectations of candidates for these roles. If you want to become a human resources director, you’re more likely to benefit from having senior-level professional certifications or a master’s degree – either a master’s in HR or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in human resources. Large, well-known companies may be particularly interested in both the amount and the quality of your experience managing human resources strategic planning for other major companies.

Bonuses, profit-sharing and commissions can add up to a considerable chunk of a human resources director’s total compensation package, according to PayScale.

Additional Resources

What Are the Typical Job Responsibilities of an HR Manager?

How Can an HR Manager Help Shape Corporate Culture?

How Much Does Social Media Play Into the Everyday Doings of an HR Manager?