How to Become a Human Resources Manager

Industry Advice Management

Starting a career in business administration can seem like an impossible task. Many prospective human resources managers find themselves stuck in the endless climb to a management position during the first few years of their career. In fact, according to a CNBC article, Visier found that most professionals are promoted within the first three years of employment at a company. However, promotions often drop off significantly after 10 years.

This statistic may be discouraging to those interested in human resources, but there are many things you can do to ensure you are prepared for this rewarding career path. If you’re interested in becoming a human resources manager, here’s everything you need to know about what they do, how to become one, and if this career is right for you.

What Is a Human Resources Manager?

Human resources managers are high-level individuals within the human resources department of any organization. HR managers work hard to strengthen and maintain employee relations on behalf of their organization, and work to keep employees happy through recognition, providing training and development opportunities, demonstrating an appreciation of diversity and unique skill sets, and ensuring workplace safety.

While most HR managers support employees and executive leadership in any way they can, they generally fall into six different areas of focus.

  • Recruitment and hiring: Responsible for writing job descriptions, reading resumés, and working with employment agencies. These organizational leaders generally handle the hiring process from start to finish, as well as employee training and onboarding.
  • Health and safety: Focus on health and safety and keeping a safe work environment for employees. This can be achieved through effectively complying with federal safety laws and labor relations, creating and implementing workplace safety policies, and handling workplace accidents.
  • Employee development and training: Responsible for developing talent expansion and training programs. These are meant to look for ways to harness and boost productivity in employees across the organization.
  • Risk management: Reduce the company’s chance of legal issues and lawsuits. They work to ensure their organization consistently fosters an equitable and inclusive workspace.
  • Labor and employee relations: Responsible for receiving and addressing employee concerns and issues, maintaining morale and productivity, and facilitating communication between staff and leadership across the organization.
  • Compensation and employee benefits: Handle compensation and employee benefits, craft employee health insurance plans, handle payroll, and manage employees’ time off (e.g., vacation time, sick days, and maternity leave). Their work is vital to ensuring the workforce stays satisfied and engaged.

How to Become a Human Resources Manager

If you’re interested in becoming a human resources manager, but fear the knowledge and experience from your undergraduate degree was not enough, here’s everything you need to know about becoming a human resources manager.

1. Obtain a Degree

Most human resources manager positions require a bachelor’s degree. However, given the growing responsibilities and level of importance within organizations, there has been a recent shift toward employers preferring, and even requiring, a master’s degree.

According to our analysis of job postings data, 15 percent of job postings between April 2020 and April 2022 required a master’s degree.

“A master’s degree very often will show employers that you are motivated and seek professional excellence. It highlights your willingness to go above and beyond,” says Les Stein, PhD, assistant teaching professor of leadership at Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies.

This makes a master’s degree in human resources that much more valuable to prospective employers. It shows which applicants are more interested in the specialized skills that come with this role.

2. Get Experience

Past professional experience is another important aspect candidates should consider when applying for human resources manager positions. According to our analysis of job postings data, 35 percent of all human resources manager job postings between April 2020 and April 2022 required four to six years of industry experience.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) confirms this trend and suggests that five years of experience is the growing expectation from employers hiring human resources managers. And this expectation also carries across all industries. Many employers expect human resource managers to have several years of industry experience to retain authority on their team and within their organization.

3. Develop Specialized Skills

As with all industries, individuals seeking careers in human resources management should consider the skills required to do the job effectively and ensure their resumé stands out from the rest.

The top five skills that every human resources manager should have include:

  • Employee relations: Helping employees navigate change, resolving conflicts, facilitating communication, and handling complaints
  • Performance management: Monitoring and evaluating employees’ performance and managing the communication and feedback between employees and leadership
  • Human resources management: Handling HR management tasks such as compensation, recruitment, hiring, performance management, organizational development, workplace safety, benefits, wellness, and training
  • Human resources information system (HRIS): Understanding the business analysis tools and project management systems used by HR departments
  • Labor laws: Recognizing an organization’s relationship with employees and unions

In addition to these competencies, human resources professionals need additional interpersonal skills to be effective in their role. For example, communication skills are incredibly important to employee relations.

Is a Career as a Human Resources Manager Worth It?

Even with the required skills, education, and experience needed to become a human resources manager, you may still wonder if pursuing this career path is really worth it. However, there are a number of reasons why a career in human resources management can be incredibly rewarding.

Earning a Competitive Salary

Since HR managers are high-level leaders within an organization, this position is often financially rewarded with promising salary growth potential. According to our analysis of job posting data, the median salary for human resources managers is $78,208, but offers plenty of opportunities to make well into the six-figure range.

Growing Job Opportunities

The “Great Resignation” phenomenon that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need for effective leadership within organizations. With low pay, limited advancement opportunities, and a feeling of disrespect cited as the top three reasons for employees leaving their jobs, strong leadership seems more important than ever.

Data reflects this through a steady rise of human resources management job postings from May 2020 to May 2022. The critical nature of these positions within successful organizations has ensured human resources roles becoming increasingly valued and sought after.

Graph showing the number of unique job postings for HR managers increasing from almost 1,500 in May, 2020, to over 3,500 in May, 2022

“The human resources department, when done correctly, is supposed to demonstrate that the company cares about its employees. So I think companies have recognized the value of human resources because often one of the reasons people leave an organization is because they feel nobody cares about them,” Stein states.

Take the First Step to Becoming a Human Resources Manager

Students who want to begin their journey toward a career in human resources management should look for graduate degree programs that ensure they are well-prepared and qualified candidates in an increasingly competitive field.

Northeastern University’s Master of Science (MS) in Human Resources Management is an experiential learning program designed to help students gain cutting-edge skills and knowledge that allow them to effectively lead within organizations. Emerging realities such as global talent management and artificial intelligence are also unique targets of the program that aims to provide a solid foundation for the future of business.

If you’re interested in earning your MS in Human Resources Management, visit the program’s page and learn how you can start working toward your HR management career today.