Human resources is a great career for those with excellent interpersonal skills, who enjoy working with others and helping them achieve their professional goals.

Typical Job Functions

An organization’s human resources (HR) department manages the lifecycle of its employees, from recruiting to training to benefits to exit. Technical companies often look for HR professionals with a scientific background, who can speak the technical language of their job candidates and employees.

Typical job duties include:

  • Reviewing resumes, conducting interviews, and making hiring decisions
  • Processing employment records related to hiring, termination, transfers, leaves, and promotions
  • Orienting new employees to company policies and procedures
  • Evaluating, explaining, and enforcing company policies and procedures to ensure that all legal requirements are met
  • Investigating and mediating allegations of harassment and other job-related complaints
  • Overseeing corporate training and development of employee talent
  • Developing recruiting strategies to meet the company’s long-term hiring needs

Special considerations:

  • Travel is usually required for job fairs, recruiting events, etc.
  • Networking events are typical and may extend working hours when they occur.

Career Paths

The typical career path for a human resources professional is from HR Specialist to HR Manager. A certification is human resources can enhance advancement opportunities in the field.

HR Specialist

An entry-level position for someone with a bachelor’s degree. Specialists may focus on a specific area of an organization’s HR needs (e.g., hiring, onboarding, mediation, etc.). At larger companies, a specialist may even specialize in a single task (e.g., recruiting, training, terminations, etc.).

HR Manager

Oversees the typical functions of their human resources department and handles more complex personnel issues. They also consult with top executives regarding strategic planning and talent management for the organization.

Recruiting Agencies

At a recruiting agency, most human resource professionals start out recruiting candidates. As they progress, they may work with client companies in an advisory capacity to identify and define the positions to be filled.

Getting Started

A bachelor’s degree in human resources (HR) or business administration is usually ideal for a position in HR. For scientific companies, a degree in chemistry may be considered an advantage, since it shows you will be familiar with the vocabulary and skills of the employees. 

Part-time work or an internship (even if in other fields) adds to your potential as a job candidate, as do leadership roles in clubs, volunteer experiences, and club or college sports.

Upper-level positions may require a master’s degree in human resources, labor relations, or business administration.

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