Whether you enjoy working for a firm that handles thousands of clients or prefer a small business atmosphere, becoming a human resources specialist offers many interesting avenues. You may already know that getting employed in the human resources field almost always requires a degree. Though there are exceptions, most people who work in human resources should hold at least a bachelor’s degree in a related business field. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in human resources, then read on to learn about the qualifications and opportunities in the field.

Human Resources Overview

What does a human resources professional actually do? You may be familiar with some of the job responsibilities associated with human resources professionals. These may include hiring and screening job candidates, interviewing applicants, handling terminations and maintaining employees’ personnel files. However, HR professionals also perform a wider range of duties depending on the company for which they work and the degrees and experience they hold. For example, an HR manager may become an HR consultant. This person acts as a liaison between an HR department and a company’s high-level administration, keeping both departments up-to-date on rules and regulations as well as implementing HR procedures and offering advice on corporate policy. There are many routes you can take as an HR professional.

Non-Management Positions

Those who enter the human resources career field but don’t go into management are listed as Human Resources Specialists according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. These individuals earned an average of $52,690 in 2010, and the job outlook was faster than average with a 21 percent increase over the next decade. If you plan to become a human resources specialist, then you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in human resources or a related field. According to the BLS, most employers prefer that HR specialists hold a bachelor’s degree in human resources or a related field, but some prefer candidates with experience in addition to or in lieu of traditional degrees.

Management Positions

According to the BLS page on Human Resources Managers, human resources managers “usually need a bachelor’s degree in human resources or business administration.” However, the BLS also notes that since some programs don’t offer these particular degrees, you may be able to earn a master’s in a different but related field and take additional coursework to make up for the lack of specific subject matter. Different organizations will require different qualifications. Human resources managers earned a median salary of $99,180 in 2010 according to the BLS report, and the job outlook was about as fast as average for the next decade.

For both management and non-management positions, you have options when it comes to choosing your degree path. In general, you will need a degree in business, human resources or a related field to work in an HR department. If you hope to enter the management track and engage in a more lucrative career with better prospects, then you will need a master’s in human resources or an MBA with a focus on human resources. For detailed information on specific educational requirements, the Society for Human Resource Management offers a closer look at undergraduate and graduate degree programs.