HR Salary and Career Outlook

There are many facets to a modern workplace. Talented human resources (HR) professionals can help organizations stay up-to-date on what’s happening in modern offices. Organizations that attract and retain top talent aim to survive long term. A human resources specialist can make it easier for employers to locate qualified job applicants, comply with applicable employment law, improve job satisfaction and help current employees excel in their positions. A career in human resources can be challenging, but the rewards might be worth it.

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The online Master of Science in Human Resources program from Pepperdine University prepares students to connect talent management with business strategy. No GRE/GMAT scores are required for admission.

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  • AACSB-accredited

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Human Resources Job Description

Most employers expect human resources specialists to recruit, screen and interview potential employees. HR job descriptions may also require specialists to handle interpersonal issues among employees as well as facilitate the training process.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), human resources specialist duties also include:1

  • Consulting with employers to identify employment needs.
  • Informing applicants about job details, such as duties, benefits and working conditions.
  • Conducting or helping with new employee orientation.
  • Keeping employment records and processing paperwork.

Employee job descriptions may include fewer or more duties than those listed here. For example, while you may be assigned to a central office location, your employer may require a high percentage of travel if duties include recruitment. This could mean visiting regional job fairs and college campuses or interviewing applicants at various locations rather than conducting remote recruiting. Some specialists may even administer employee benefits, process payroll or take part in strategic planning efforts.

Human Resources Education and Experience

A human resources job description would be incomplete without considering education, work experience, desired skill set, and licensure or certification requirements. The BLS reports that a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business or related fields is required for most entry-level positions.2 Generally, degree coursework includes psychology, writing, human resources management, business and accounting. Master’s in human resources programs are also available to expand your knowledge of HR and best practices.

Candidates who also hold a professional human resources certification may have the edge over those who only hold a related degree. Some employers may even require applicants to hold a Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) certification. There’s no minimum standard for prior work experience.

The exact job duties, educational, and experiential requirements will vary by employer.

Desired Human Resources Skills

Human resources specialists make decisions that affect an employee’s and/or organization’s future. The BLS identified at least three important qualities of those pursuing this occupation. They include:

  • Communication and interpersonal skills. The ability to convey information effectively and pay careful attention to questions and concerns from job applicants and employees.
  • Decision-making skills. Human resources specialists use decision-making skills in various scenarios, such as when reviewing candidates’ qualifications or resolving interpersonal disputes.
  • Detail-oriented. This occupation often requires individuals to maintain employee grievance records and ensure workplace compliance with local, state and federal labor standards.

Great Human Resources Jobs

According to the BLS, human resource specialists held roughly 625,700 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of this occupation were in these sectors:

Employment SectorPercentage of Jobs in 2018
Employment services
16%
Professional, scientific and technical services
13%
Government
12%
Healthcare and social assistance
10%
Manufacturing
8%

Organizations may hire internally or contract with an employment services firm to handle human resources for the business. This may be limited to recruiting or extending to ongoing HR support.

Human resources specialists may be assigned different job titles but perform similar duties. Sample titles include Employment Representative, Human Resources Analyst, Human Resources Coordinator, Human Resources Generalist, Human Resources Representative, Human Resources Specialist, Personnel Analyst, Personnel Officer and Recruiter.

While duties may crossover, different job titles represent a unique area of focus. Some may even combine titles to better reflect the overall job function. Here are two examples of great human resources specialist jobs to explore as you consider the specializations available within the field.1

Human Resources Generalist

Human resources generalists typically administer human resources policies, procedures, and programs. This often includes recruitment, employee relations, compensation, benefits, and new employee and professional development training.

Recruitment Specialist

Sometimes called personnel recruiters or “headhunters,” a recruitment specialist finds, screens, and interviews applicants to fill job openings within an organization. They may also test applicants, perform reference checks, and extend job offers.

Human Resources Demand and Job Outlook

The BLS forecasts the human resources specialist occupation to grow by 5% between 2018 and 2028, which is as fast as the average expected growth for other occupations. This equates to approximately 67,700 openings annually.2

Occupational TitleEmployment, 2018Projected Employment, 2028Percent Change, 2018-28Numeric Change, 2018-28
Human resources specialists
625,700
658,700
5
33,000

What is the Median Salary for Human Resources Specialists?

According to the BLS, the 2019 median salary for human resources specialists was $61,920.2 The data also revealed that the lowest 10% earned less than $37,180, and the highest 10% earned more than $105,930. These figures are based on full-time employment.

For comparison, the median annual wage for all workers as of May 2019 was $39,810.

The BLS also reported that in May 2019, the median annual wages for human resources specialists in the top industries  in which they worked were:

IndustryMedian Annual Wage
Professional, scientific and technical services
$70,180
Government
$67,590
Manufacturing
$64,900
Employment services
$54,660
Healthcare and social assistance
$53,190

A closer look also reveals that human resources specialists’ job salaries may be higher in other industries. According to the BLS, top HR earners work in these industries:3

IndustryEmploymentPercent of industry employmentHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
4,480
0.48
$43.84
$91,190
3,570
1.10
$43.41
$90,300
4,430
1.03
$43.03
$89,500
2,830
0.54
$42.31
$88,000
$42.19
$87,760

The industries with the highest employment level for human resource specialists (see below) may not be the highest paying. However, wages are still above the national average HR salary.

IndustryEmploymentPercent of industry employmentHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
101,080
2.75
$30.53
$63,510
50,380
2.04
$34.25
$71,240
28,140
1.40
$41.96
$87,280
27,900
1.87
$36.12
$75,130
24,880
1.14
$35.95
$74,770

These industries have the highest concentration of employment for human resource specialists:

IndustryEmploymentPercent of industry employmentHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
101,080
2.75
$30.53
$63,510
10,570
2.12
$30.86
$64,190
50,380
2.04
$34.25
$71,240
27,900
1.87
$36.12
$75,130
270
1.42
$41.77
$86,890

5 Best Paying Cities for Human Resource Specialists

As of May 2019, the BLS found the five best-paying metropolitan areas for human resource specialists to be:3

Metropolitan areaEmploymentEmployment per thousand jobsHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
13,870
5.61
$43.19
$89,820
23,730
7.46
$42.15
$87,670
170
3.64
$41.68
$86,700
6,260
5.48
$40.74
$84,730
2,320
5.61
$39.69
$82,550

The highest average annual income for human resource specialists was found in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA, metropolitan area at $89,820. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV, followed with an average yearly income of $87,670. The remaining regions also stayed above $80,000 a year with California-Lexington Park, MD at $86,700, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA, at $84,730, and Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT, at $82,550.

Top States for Human Resource Careers

States that pay the highest annual average HR salary don’t necessarily have the highest concentration of jobs according to BLS data. For example, according to BLS, the top-paying states for human resource specialists are:3

State or DistrictEmploymentEmployment per thousand jobsHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
7,500
10.36
$46.99
$97,730
17,310
5.21
$37.13
$77,220
18,200
4.45
$36.72
$76,380
71,130
4.09
$36.63
$76,200
41,880
4.40
$36.62
$76,170

States with the highest employment level for human resource specialists include some of the largest states in the country:

StateEmploymentEmployment per thousand jobsHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
71,130
4.09
$36.63
$76,200
49,190
3.96
$32.52
$67,650
41,880
4.40
$36.62
$76,170
36,970
4.20
$28.31
$58,890
27,580
4.58
$30.72
$63,890

The BLS also compared states with the highest concentration of jobs for human resources specialist and found the top five to be:

State or DistrictEmploymentEmployment per thousand jobsHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
7,500
10.36
$46.99
$97,730
21,900
5.65
$36.45
$75,810
15,250
5.31
$29.66
$61,700
14,140
5.28
$34.09
$70,900
18,910
5.22
$36.49
$75,900

The District of Columbia appeared to be the top place for human resources specialists based on May 2019 data. It topped the list of states for the highest annual average HR salary and the highest concentration of jobs for this occupation.

Is a Human Resources Career Path Right for You?

You can turn your interest in the human resources field into a rewarding, long-lasting HR career. If you enjoy high levels of interpersonal communication and watching people reach their potential, a career as a human resources specialist might be an excellent fit.

Pepperdine University's Online Master’s in Human Resources

The online Master of Science in Human Resources program from Pepperdine University prepares students to connect talent management with business strategy. No GRE/GMAT scores are required for admission.

  • No GRE/GMAT scores required to apply
  • Complete in as few as 12 months
  • AACSB-accredited

info SPONSORED

Last Updated August 2020

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics. “What Human Resources Specialists Do,” April 2020. Accessed August 2020.

2 Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Human Resources Specialists,” April 2020. Accessed August 2020.

3 Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Employment Statistics: Human Resources Specialists,” July 2020. Accessed August 2020.