Human resources deals with the group of people who make up the workforce within a company. It is a critical component of employee well-being in any business, regardless of size. In a large company, the human resources department may have multiple specialists who perform specific tasks that relate to recruitment, employment interviews, job placement and labor relations. The  small-business owner may need to hire only one human resources specialist who handles a wide range of tasks.

Duties and Responsibilities

Recruitment/Job Placement: The HR Specialist achieves staffing goals by studying the company’s plans and goals and meeting with managers to determine their needs. He/she examines job descriptions and qualifications to determine applicant requirements and uses a variety of methods, such as media, internet job sites and employment agencies to locate qualified candidates. The HR Specialist interviews applicants, verifies references and compares the job criteria to the applicant’s qualifications.

New Hire/Termination: The HR specialist ensures that the new hire fills out mandatory forms, such as federal and state tax forms. He/she also processes employee termination, such as performing exit interviews and advising terminated employees of their right to continuing group health-care and unemployment benefits.

Labor Relations: The HR specialist interprets labor laws and administers them accordingly. This includes keeping up with federal and state minimum wage, overtime, child-labor and record-keeping laws. She/he administers employment contracts relating to wages and salaries and management and union practices. Labor laws are vast and complex; the HR specialist must have a keen understanding of them to ensure compliance. This responsibility will be more prevalent in larger corporations, particularly those involving unions.

Payroll and Benefits: Even if you have a payroll person that processes paychecks, the HR specialist must still interact with payroll to some extent. For example, in new hire and termination cases, the HR specialist forwards the respective paperwork to payroll to ensure proper payment. Also, she/he administers workers- compensation insurance and state disability insurance, which the state may require you to obtain. The HR specialist also sets up benefit days, such as vacation, sick or personal days, or group health insurance and retirement plans and communicates about them to employees. In a larger business, these duties will be spread throughout the HR department.

Company Policies: Even if there are only a handful of employees, the company should have a company handbook that explains the company’s culture and employment processes. The HR specialist establishes clear company policies and helps to enforce them. Policies may relate to a code of conduct such as acceptable and unprofessional behavior, time-card submission and paychecks, benefits, safety inspection, workers’ compensation, employee dispute resolution and reasons for termination.


There are degree programs offered at the bachelor’s level for this field, namely a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resource Management. This program allows the student to gain an understanding of business with courses in accounting, operations, financial management, communication theories, organizational goals, and administration of compensation and benefits.

Whichever bachelor’s business program the student chooses, the emphasis should be on an HR curriculum that provides the opportunity to learn about staffing, job analysis, recruitment, training, development, compensation, benefits, employee evaluation, labor law, global human resource management, and human resource strategies. Theses business HR programs typically include accounting fundamentals, macro and microeconomics, finance, business law, management, marketing principles, and statistical methods.


Another feather in one’s cap is to become certified by the Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) after employment. Employment is a pre-requisite for eligibility to sit for the exam. A minimum of one year experience in a professional HR position with a Master’s degree is required; two years professional HR experience is required with a Bachelor’s degree. This applies to the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification. This is just one of five certifications offered by the HRCI.


The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2012 that the median salary was $55,640 with a Bachelor’s degree. The projected job growth/change through 2022 is 7% or 32,500 jobs. There are close to 500,000 employed as HR Specialists in America.