Where Can A Career In HR Take You?
Human Resources (HR) exists to find, hire, develop and retain the best people for a business, ensuring their wellbeing whilst they’re employed and diplomatically resolving any legal or personal issues that might come up during their employment.
It’s an industry that’s all about people, so its employees need to have the right balance of compassion and emotional intelligence, whilst still being fully aware of the business’s commercial objectives.
Areas within HR include recruitment, learning and development, change management, Workplace Health and Safety (WHS), Industrial Relations (IR), workforce planning and organisational development.
A high level of professionalism is required at all times from those in HR – there is a certain level of responsibility as a role model taken on by those who choose to work in this area.
Skills & interests required
Working with people is an integral part of HR, so you will definitely need skills in communication and teamwork. These skills are essential to effectively manage the personnel needs of both your team and your wider employer. As conflict management may also be central to your HR role, skills in this area are also beneficial.
Graduates looking to move into HR need to be highly organised and responsible, and must enjoy working with people.
Most degrees will equip you with the above, but aside from these distinct skills you will also need a good knowledge of business if you are to get a job in HR. You should also be of good character, in order to represent the business both internally and to outside organisations.
Being successful in HR is largely down to your personality, but many degrees with also equip you with the skills required. Communication, presentation and organisation are all skills that are essential in this field.
- Presentation Skills
Typical Career Progression Routes for Graduates in HR
Many large organisations will run graduate schemes with an HR stream. These schemes will last approximately two years and are your best chance of progressing quickly within a team to become an HR Manager. Employers will not usually require a specific degree for an HR role, with any business or humanities-related degree providing you will the soft skills that you’ll need. There are also a number of entry level roles, for which you should apply directly to the company you are interested in. The majority of employers will look for an upper second-class (2:1) undergraduate degree.
Career progression in HR is fairly straightforward, although it will of course vary between larger and smaller organisations. You’re likely to start as an HR administrator, before becoming an HR assistant or HR officer. Moving up in your career, you could eventually become an HR manager or HR director.
Of course, these roles are general and do not account for the specialisms that you will find within HR if you work in a large organisation – roles such as HR recruitment partner, for example, focus on one specific area, and fall within the wide spectrum of senior level positions within the HR department.
In general HR careers progress quickly, with most of those working in this area receiving promotions or moving to higher level roles within other companies after a couple of years - meaning that you can reach seniority whilst only a few years into your career.
Whatever company you’re in, you’ll be expected to take on further training to ensure your skills and “people” knowledge is up to date. Professional qualifications, which you can take whilst working, are run by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). You may be able to persuade your employer to support you in gaining these qualifications. Qualifications in counselling, coaching and mentoring, employee engagement or talent management could give you the opportunity for further career progression.
Tips for getting into the field
It’s important to know exactly what employers are looking for when you’re applying for roles.
Obviously, a personable nature and willingness to see the positive in any given situation are both hugely important.
There are also a large number of general, non-industry-related things that you can do to put yourself in a good position to start applying for jobs. These include:
- Tailoring your CV for each specific role - making sure you focus on previous experience and relevant skills
- Applying for internships and/or work experience – this is a no-brainer: as well as ensuring that you’ve experienced the field before you start applying for jobs within it, it’ll show that you’re committed and allow you to start acquiring the practical skills you’ll need in your future job
- Take on similar roles – for example as an HR assistant or similar, during holidays or whilst you apply for higher-level roles right after graduation
- See what the top companies in the field require – start by looking for case studies from the big firms, and note what backgrounds and skills their current employees have
- Use your contacts – university professors, those you met on work experience, people you can approach through social media or LinkedIn – they’re all potentially the stepping stone to your next role, and they might very well be happy to help you
HR Directors are paid well, with some paid over £100,000 after only a few years in the industry. This pay-off comes with experience, though – your salary within an HR department is likely to start at around £24,000, going up to £30,000 relatively quickly and progressing from there.
Here are the average salaries for some HR roles:
HR administrator – £19,611
HR assistant – £20,147
HR officer – £24,460
HR adviser – £26,808
HR manager – £35,423
HR business partner – £40,389
HR director – £68,281
Qualification requirements & subjects to study
Graduates with many different degrees work in HR. You will usually be expected to have a 2:1 (or higher) undergraduate degree. Degrees popular with those working in HR and recruitment include: