Labor Relations

Quick Facts: Labor Relations Specialists
2017 Median Pay $63,200 per year 
$30.38 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation Less than 5 years
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 81,100
Job Outlook, 2016-26 -8% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2016-26 -6,300

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Labor Relations Career, Salary, and Education Information

What Labor Relations Specialists Do

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


Labor Relations

Duties of Labor Relations Specialists

Labor relations specialists typically do the following:

  • Advise management on contracts, worker grievances, and disciplinary procedures
  • Lead meetings between management and labor
  • Meet with union representatives
  • Draft proposals and rules or regulations
  • Ensure that human resources policies are consistent with union agreements
  • Interpret formal communications between management and labor
  • Investigate validity of labor grievances
  • Train management on labor relations

Labor relations specialists work with representatives from a labor union and a company's management. In addition to leading meetings between the two groups, these specialists draft formal language as part of the collective bargaining process. These contracts are called collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), and they serve as a legal and procedural guide for employee/management relations.

Labor relations specialists also address specific grievances workers might have, and ensure that all labor and management solutions comply within the relevant CBA.

Work Environment for Labor Relations Specialists

Labor relations specialists hold about 81,100 jobs. The largest employers of labor relations specialists are as follows:

Labor unions and similar labor organizations: 78%

Government: 4%

Management of companies and enterprises: 3%

Labor relations specialists generally work in offices. Some may travel for arbitration meetings or to discuss contracts with employees or management. The work of labor relations specialists can be stressful because negotiating contracts and resolving labor grievances can be tense.

Work Schedules

Most labor relations specialists work full time during regular business hours. Some specialists work longer periods when preparing for meetings or settling disputes.

How to Become a Labor Relations Specialist

Applicants usually have a bachelor’s degree in labor relations, human resources, industrial relations, business, or a related field. However, the level of education and experience required to become a labor relations specialist varies by position and employer.


Labor relations specialists usually have a bachelor’s degree. Some schools offer a bachelor’s degree in labor or employment relations. These programs focus on labor-specific topics such as employment law and contract negotiation.

Candidates also may qualify for labor relations specialist positions with a bachelor’s degree in human resources, industrial relations, business, or a related field. Coursework typically includes business, professional writing, human resource management, and accounting.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Many positions require previous work experience. Candidates can gain experience as human resources specialistscompensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists, or human resources generalists before specializing in labor relations.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some colleges and universities offer labor relations certificates to specialists who prefer greater specialization in certain topics, such as mediation. Earning these certificates give participants a better understanding of labor law, the collective bargaining process, and worker grievance procedures.


Labor relations specialists who seek further expertise in contract negotiation, labor law, and similar topics may become lawyers. They will need to earn a law degree and pass their state’s bar exam. 

Important Qualities

Decisionmaking skills. Labor relations specialists use decisionmaking skills to help management and labor agree on decisions when resolving grievances or other disputes.

Detail oriented. Specialists must be detail oriented when evaluating labor laws and maintaining records of an employee grievance.

Interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are essential for labor relations specialists. When mediating between labor and management, specialists must be able to converse and connect with people from different backgrounds.

Listening skills. Listening skills are essential for labor relations specialists. When evaluating grievances, for example, they must pay careful attention to workers’ responses, understand the points they are making, and ask relevant follow-up questions.

Writing skills. All labor relations specialists need strong writing skills to be effective at their job. They often draft proposals, and these proposals must be able to convey complex information to both workers and management.

salaries for Labor Relations Specialist

The median annual wage for labor relations specialists was $63,200 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 $18,820, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $116,480.


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

Management of companies and enterprises: $84,570

Government: $72,960

Labor unions and similar labor organizations: $59,530

Most labor relations specialists work full time during regular business hours. Some specialists work longer periods when preparing for meetings or settling disputes.

Job Outlook for Labor Relations Specialists

Employment of labor relations specialists is projected to decline 8 percent over the next ten years. The number of workers who are union members has declined. About 10.7 percent of employed wage and salary workers are members of unions. This rate fell from 20.1 percent in 1983, and the decline is likely to continue. This will result in less demand for the services of labor relations specialists.

Job Prospects 

Job prospects for labor relations specialists are expected to be less than favorable because there will be less demand for their work. Overall, candidates with a bachelor's degree, related work experience, and professional certificates should have the best job prospects.

Employment projections data for Labor Relations Specialists, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 81,100

Projected Employment, 2026: 74,800

Change, 2016-2026: -8%, -6,300

Careers Related to labor relations specialists

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.

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.

Human Resources Specialists

Human resources specialists recruit, screen, interview, and place workers. They often handle other human resources work, such as those related to employee relations, compensation and benefits, and training.

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.

Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants provide client services, including support for families, in a wide variety of fields, such as psychology, rehabilitation, and social work. They assist other workers, such as social workers, and they help clients find benefits or community services.

Training and Development Managers

Training and development managers oversee staff and plan, direct, and coordinate programs to enhance the knowledge and skills of an organization's employees.

Training and Development Specialists

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

Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis SpecialistsBachelor's degree$62,680
Human Resources ManagersBachelor's degree$110,120
Human Resources SpecialistsBachelor's degree$60,350
Public Relations SpecialistsBachelor's degree$59,300
Training and Development ManagersBachelor's degree$108,250
Training and Development SpecialistsBachelor's degree$60,360
Social and Human Service AssistantsHigh school diploma or equivalent$33,120

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