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Working as a human resources specialist

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Few things in life are more stressful than job interviews. Even the smoothest, most professional candidates are likely to suffer a few butterflies in the stomach when confronted with the opportunity to land a new job -- or not.

Human resources specialists help companies look beyond the pressed suits and carefully prepared answers to find out who will be the best fit for a particular job. Some of them specialize in other areas such as recruitment, training or employee retention as well. 

What they do:
Human resources specialists might handle all aspects of human resources or focus in one of several areas, according to the Society for Human Resources Management, a nonprofit membership organization. A few of those include:

- Benefits, such as health insurance, retirement planning or medical leave.
- Compensation, including base pay, overtime and incentives such as bonuses.
- Ethics, sustainability and diversity -- a key part of the image and mission of some companies. Human resources specialists may be responsible for developing or implementing policies in these areas.
- Labor relations issues like collective bargaining and contract negotiation.
- Employee relations, which involves creating worker incentives, performing regular evaluations and managing disputes.
- Global human resources, an area that is increasingly important in our global economy, where workers may be stationed in any number of countries.
- Training and employee development, and other ways to make the best use of employees already on the payroll.
- Business development: human resources specialists higher up on the leadership ladder might consult with senior management about strategic or long-range planning.

What they need:
Like many jobs that rely heavily on interpersonal and communication skills, the education requirements for human resources specialists are somewhat flexible. Bachelor's degrees are usually highly preferred, typically in areas such as business or communications. Degrees are especially helpful for those who wish to advance in the field.

Many schools offer degrees or certificates in human resources. For example, DePaul University's school of Continuing and Professional Education offers a human resources and training program. Professional associations also offer certification, which may be helpful for those who want to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the industry.

Less tangible skills are important, too. Human resources specialists have to be good with people -- good listeners and good communicators able to negotiate difficult issues between employees and employers.

What they earn:
The national average salary for a human resources specialist is $64,686, according to The 25th percentile earns $51,045, and the 75th percentile makes $82,751.

Job outlook:
The outlook for human resources specialists is pretty good overall: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 21 percent employment growth between 2010 and 2020, for a total of 90,700 new jobs. That's faster than the 14 percent projected for all occupations. And the picture is even better for the approximately 17 percent of human resources specialists who work in the employment services industry. They're likely to see 55 percent job growth -- the result of a greater reliance by many companies on staffing and temp agencies.

Last Updated: 20/06/2012 - 11:03 AM

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