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Top jobs in human resources

Kate Lorenz, CareerBuilder editor

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Handling job benefits and interviewing prospective employees is just the starting point these days for human resources managers. Today's HR managers are asked to participate in high-level talks about company direction and meeting strategic goals.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), professionals in HR are increasingly integrated into executive teams and work with senior management "to find the right combination of pay, benefits, environment and learning opportunities to engage employees and reinforce company culture." 

Depending on the size of the organization for which they work, the role of those who oversee personnel matters can be quite varied. In a large corporation, there may be a dozen different titles for department heads who handle one aspect of human resources work – recruitment, equal employment opportunity (EEO), compensation and job benefits, training and industrial relations.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the required skills and education vary according to specific HR jobs, but the abilities that are imperative for anyone interested in a career in human resources are communication and interpersonal skills. Resolving problems that employees have requires an ability to listen to differing points of view and handle personnel issues discreetly. Improved morale and worker productivity is the result when human resources managers succeed in their role.

Many specific roles will need to be filled in growing field

This is a field that the BLS projects will grow about 22 percent in the coming decade, citing new laws regulating workplace issues such as healthcare, occupational safety and equal opportunities that are playing a significant role in the human resources field.

BLS reports there were 904,900 human resources jobs in the U.S. in 2008. Those who are considered personnel generalists, recruitment and training personnel, as well as labor relations managers were employed in all industries. Some of the largest concentrations were within administrative and support services, scientific and technical fields, health care and social assistance. The median salary of compensation and benefits managers was $86,500 and the median salary earned by training and development managers was $87,700.

The bureau expects demand through 2018 to be strongest for human resources specialists in "job-specific training programs" because of technological advances. Replacing baby boomers who retire will also require many professionals to recruit and train new talent.

And with a wide variety of roles to be filled, the educational levels of human resources professionals vary as well. Some management jobs may require an advanced academic degree in personnel administration, labor relations or business.

For entry-level positions, a college degree is usually required in human resources or a combination of courses in social sciences and business. SHRM recommends that HR professionals have basic financial skills and knowledge of computers and information systems.

SHRM, along with professional associations such as the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans and the American Society for Training and Development, offer skills training that leads to specialized job certifications that can help individuals advance in the field.

While the traditional functions within HR – compensation, benefits, training, employee relations – will remain, its managers will rely more on technology and become more integrated into all lines of their companies' business.

Last Updated: 07/03/2011 - 5:47 PM

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