Human resources professionals help organizations hire new employees, administer compensation and benefits plans, and train current employees. They make sure organizations run smoothly by handling employee disputes and strengthening the company’s workforce. But is HR a good career?
“While a bachelor’s degree is the entry-level educational requirement for most human resources careers, the field’s top positions often require a graduate degree.”
The field of human resources offers several routes to career advancement and increased earning potential. While the median HR salary for entry-level roles exceeds $61,000 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median HR manager salary exceeds $116,000.
While a bachelor’s degree is the entry-level educational requirement for most human resources careers, the field’s top positions often require a graduate degree. For example, a Ph.D. in human resources or a Ph.D. in leadership prepare HR professionals for top executive roles like chief human resources officer or vice president of human resources. In these roles, the average human resources salary can exceed $150,000 per year.
Three High-Paying Careers in Human Resources
Chief Human Resources Officer
Average Salary: $152,996 – PayScale
Chief human resources officers (CHROs) report to an organization’s chief executive officer on all human resources matters, including staffing, training, and compensation. They create the organization’s internal HR practices and regulations while also ensuring compliance with government laws. As top executives, CHROs supervise the entire organization’s human resources staff, from HR specialists to HR managers.
Organizations rely on CHROs to meet their workforce needs. This includes recruiting new employees and training current employees to improve performance. CHROs also develop staff retention policies and oversee performance reviews. They research the effectiveness of retention and bonus policies while making sure the organization addresses morale problems.
Most chief human resources officers spent 8-10 years as human resources managers before moving into the CHRO role. They bring strong organizational, leadership, and communication skills to their job. Many employers prefer to hire CHROs with a graduate degree.
Vice President of Human Resources
Average Salary: $136,940 – PayScale
Vice presidents of human resources are top executives within their organization. They create human resources policies, review the organization’s compliance with labor laws, and oversee employment contracts. VPs may also negotiate contracts and represent their organization during business dealings with a union or non-unionized employees.
Human resources vice presidents closely monitor personnel issues in their company. They set the policies around recruitment, hiring, firing, and addressing HR complaints. As top-level executives, HR VPs also work closely with other executives to meet the organization’s goals.
The role requires a strong attention to detail, extensive human resources experience, and legal experience. VPs may consult with their organization’s legal department on employee handbooks, contracts, and personnel policies. HR professionals may work for several years as human resources specialists or HR managers before becoming human resources vice presidents. Many organizations expect candidates to hold a graduate degree.
Compensation and Benefits Manager
Average Salary: $88,870 – PayScale
Compensation and benefits managers (CBMs) specialize in managing an organization’s employee compensations and benefits. As executives within the human resources department, they make sure employees receive fair pay and administer health benefits and retirement plans. These managers also carefully follow laws and regulations on pay and benefits.
Within the field of compensation and benefits, some specialize in compensation and an organization’s pay structure. They analyze competitor salaries and research the market to make sure the organization offers competitive pay rates. Others may focus on the benefits side of human resources, acting as the administrator for an organization’s employee benefits program. Like compensation managers, they research and monitor market trends to make their benefits competitive.
The position requires strong interpersonal, research, and communication skills. Compensation and benefits managers must explain benefits packages and compensation plans to employees. Most positions require work experience in compensation and benefits, and many employers prefer candidates with a graduate degree.
Other Human Resources Titles to Consider
Average Salary: $88,610 – PayScale
Human resources directors act as the head of the HR department, connecting human resources staff with executives within the organization. They handle day-to-day issues related to benefits, hiring, and training, while also monitoring their organization’s long-term HR goals. HR directors must also make sure their organization follows employment laws and regulations.
As executives, HR directors manage budgets, plan for their department, and manage human resources initiatives. Many positions require a graduate degree and HR experience. Professional certifications can also help HR directors.
Training and Development Manager
Average Salary: $76,020 – PayScale
Training and development managers help organizations increase their workforce’s effectiveness and efficiency. They oversee training programs, lead workshops to educate employees about procedures, and develop team-building exercises. These managers also train new employees in an organization’s policies.
Specialists in training and development may bring a background in human resources, business, or psychology. As managers, they supervise employees and communicate with top executives within the organization, including HR executives.
Labor Relations Specialist
Average Salary: $71,149 – PayScale
Labor relations specialists advise executives on the relationship between employees and management. They help companies resolve labor disputes by overseeing negotiations and creating collective bargaining agreements. Labor relations specialists may also lead training sessions in labor relations.
Many labor relations specialists work in HR departments and report to human resources managers. In diverse fields, labor relations specialists help organizations reach agreements with unionized and non-unionized workers. The career generally requires a bachelor’s degree, though some employers prefer to hire candidates with a master’s degree.
General Salary Information for Human Resources
Human Resources Specialists
Human resources professionals with a bachelor’s degree and limited professional experience can enter the field as human resources specialists. The median human resources salary for HR specialists is nearly $62,000 per year, with the top 10% earning over six figures, according to the BLS. With experience or a graduate degree, human resources specialists can move into supervisory and managerial positions.
|Lowest 10%||Median Salary||Highest 10%|
|Less than $37,180||$61,920||More than $105,930|
Human Resources Managers
By moving to the management level, human resources specialists can increase their earning potential. In 2019, HR managers earned a median annual salary of nearly $117,000, according to the BLS. Typically, HR managers bring several years of experience in human resources or a graduate degree in their field. Titles like HR director also fall into this category.
|Lowest 10%||Median Salary||Highest 10%|
|Less than $68,300||$116,720||More than $205,720|