Human Resources Specialists

Quick Facts: Human Resources Specialists
2017 Median Pay $60,350 per year 
$29.01 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 547,800
Job Outlook, 2016-26 7% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 38,900

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Human Resource Specialists Career, Salary and Education Information

What Human Resources Specialists Do

Human resources specialists recruit, screen, interview, and place workers. They often handle tasks related to employee relations, compensation and benefits, and training.


Human resource specialist

Duties of Human Resources Specialists

Human resources specialists typically do the following:

  • Consult with employers to identify employment needs

  • Interview applicants about their experience, education, and skills

  • Contact references and perform background checks on job applicants

  • Inform applicants about job details, such as duties, benefits, and working conditions

  • Hire or refer qualified candidates for employers

  • Conduct or help with new employee orientation

  • Keep employment records and process paperwork

Human resources specialists are often trained in all human resources disciplines and perform tasks throughout all areas of the department. In addition to recruiting and placing workers, human resources specialists help guide employees through all human resources procedures and answer questions about policies. They sometimes administer benefits, process payroll, and handle any associated questions or problems, although many specialists may focus more on strategic planning and hiring instead of administrative duties. They also ensure that all human resources functions comply with federal, state, and local regulations.

The following are examples of types of human resources specialists:

Human resources generalists handle all aspects of human resources work. They may have duties in all areas of human resources including recruitment, employee relations, compensation, benefits, training, as well as the administration of human resources policies, procedures, and programs.

Recruitment specialists, sometimes known as personnel recruiters or head hunters,” find, screen, and interview applicants for job openings in an organization. They search for applicants by posting listings, attending job fairs, and visiting college campuses. They also may test applicants, contact references, and extend job offers.

Work Environment for Human Resources Specialists

Human resources specialists held about 547,800 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of human resources specialists were as follows:

Employment services: 16%

Professional, scientific, and technical services: 13%

Government: 12%

Healthcare and social assistance: 10%

Manufacturing: 8%

Some organizations contract recruitment and placement work to outside firms, such as those in the employment services industry or consulting firms in the professional, scientific, and technical industry.

Work Schedules

Human resources specialists generally work in offices. Some, particularly recruitment specialists, travel extensively to attend job fairs, visit college campuses, and meet with applicants. Most specialists work full time during regular business hours.

How to Become a Human Resource Specialist

Human resources specialists usually must have a bachelor’s degree.


Applicants seeking positions as a human resources specialist usually must have a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business, or a related field. Coursework typically includes business, industrial relations, psychology, professional writing, human resource management, and accounting.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Many professional associations that specialize in human resources offer courses intended to enhance the skills of their members, and some offer certification programs. For example, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers the SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) and SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP). In addition, the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) offers a range of certifications for varying levels of expertise. 

Certification usually requires passing an exam, and candidates typically need to meet minimum education and experience requirements. Exams check for human resources knowledge and how candidates apply their knowledge and judgment to different situations.

Although certification is usually voluntary, some employers may prefer or require it. Human resources generalists, in particular, can benefit from certification because it shows knowledge and professional competence across all human resources areas.


Human resources specialists who possess a thorough knowledge of their organization, as well as an understanding of regulatory compliance needs, can advance to become human resources managers. Specialists can increase their chance of advancement by completing voluntary certification programs.

Important Qualities 

Communication skills. Listening and speaking skills are essential for human resources specialists. They must convey information effectively, and pay careful attention to questions and concerns from job applicants and employees. 

Decisionmaking skills. Human resources specialists use decisionmaking skills when reviewing candidates’ qualifications or when working to resolve disputes.

Detail oriented. Specialists must be detail oriented when evaluating applicants’ qualifications, performing background checks, maintaining records of an employee grievance, and ensuring that a workplace is in compliance with labor standards.

Interpersonal skills. Specialists continually interact with new people and must be able to converse and connect with people from different backgrounds.

salaries for Human Resources Specialists

The median annual wage for human resources specialists was $60,350 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $35,810, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $103,570.

In May 2017, the median annual wages for human resources specialists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Professional, scientific, and technical services: $68,090

Government: $65,990

Manufacturing: $62,260

Employment services: $52,820

Healthcare and social assistance: $51,340

Job Outlook for human resources specialists

Employment of human resources specialists is projected to grow 7 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Companies are likely to continue to outsource human resources functions to organizations that provide these services, rather than directly employing human resources specialists. In addition, the services of human resources generalists will likely be needed to handle increasingly complex employment laws and benefit options.

Job Prospects 

Job prospects for human resources specialists are expected to be favorable, particularly in companies that provide human resources services to other organizations. Overall, candidates with a bachelor’s degree and professional certification should have the best job prospects.

Employment projections data for Human Resources Specialists, 2016-2026:

Employment, 2016: 547,800

Projected Employment, 2026: 586,700

Change, 2016-2026: +7%, +38,900

Careers Related to human resources specialists

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Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialists

Compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists conduct an organization’s compensation and benefits programs. They also evaluate position descriptions to determine details such as classification and salary.

Customer Service Representatives

Customer service representatives interact with customers to handle complaints, process orders, and provide information about an organization’s products and services.

Human Resources Managers

Human resources managers plan, direct, and coordinate the administrative functions of an organization. They oversee the recruiting, interviewing, and hiring of new staff; consult with top executives on strategic planning; and serve as a link between an organization’s management and its employees.

Insurance Sales Agents

Insurance sales agents contact potential customers and sell one or more types of insurance. Insurance sales agents explain various insurance policies and help clients choose plans that suit them.

Labor Relations Specialists

Labor relations specialists interpret and administer labor contracts regarding issues such as wages and salaries, healthcare, pensions, and union and management practices.

Public Relations Specialists

Public relations specialists create and maintain a favorable public image for the organization they represent. They craft media releases and develop social media programs to shape public perception of their organization and to increase awareness of its work and goals.

Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents determine how much is owed in taxes and collect tax from individuals and businesses on behalf of federal, state, and local governments. They review tax returns, conduct audits, identify taxes owed, and collect overdue tax payments.

Training and Development Managers

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Training and Development Specialists

Training and development specialists help plan, conduct, and administer programs that train employees and improve their skills and knowledge.

Compensation and Benefits ManagersBachelor's degree$119,120
Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis SpecialistsBachelor's degree$62,680
Customer Service RepresentativesHigh school diploma or equivalent$32,890
Human Resources ManagersBachelor's degree$110,120
Insurance Sales AgentsHigh school diploma or equivalent$49,710
Labor Relations SpecialistsBachelor's degree$63,200
Public Relations SpecialistsBachelor's degree$59,300
Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue AgentsBachelor's degree$53,130
Training and Development ManagersBachelor's degree$108,250
Training and Development SpecialistsBachelor's degree$60,360


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Human Resources Specialists,
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