Learn About Being an HR Generalist

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 10, 2019

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

What does an HR generalist do?

Human resources (HR) generalist is a key part of the department responsible for a company’s employees. These professionals manage employee payments and benefits, training and development programs, hiring and relations. Their work contributes to a company’s culture and employee performance. HR generalists report to HR managers or directors. Their typical duties include:

  • Recruiting, interviewing and hiring new staff

  • Advising and helping supervisors manage employee relationships and evaluate performance concerns

  • Developing employee policies and identifying areas for improvement

  • Organizing and implementing programs to train new employees, educate staff about new processes and teach employees about occupational safety and welfare

  • Administering employee wages and benefits

  • Issuing employee communications, such as emails about company events

Average salary

Many HR generalists are full-time employees, but some may work part-time or as temporary employees. Salaries for HR generalists vary depending on their level of education, relevant work experience and their employer’s industry, company size and geographical location. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in U.S.: $57,899 per year

  • Some salaries range from $36,270 to $104,390 per year.

HR generalist requirements

A bachelor’s degree, work experience in HR and strong interpersonal skills help HR generalists succeed in their people-focused roles. Additional certification can help HR generalists secure work and higher salaries.


Most HR generalists hold a bachelor’s degree in areas such as human resources, human resource management, human resource administration, organizational development or business. Some in this profession pursue further study and earn their Master of Science in Human Resource Management. This advanced degree may help HR generalists earn higher-management roles.

Some workplaces require their HR generalists to undergo further specialized education. A variety of courses may be beneficial for those interested in this career path, including courses in: 

  • Employment law

  • Organization development and planning

  • Compensation

  • Employee relations

  • Preventative labor relations

  • Workplace safety


On-the-job training helps HR generalists learn the procedures for their workplaces. Many HR generalists also attend conferences and seminars to deepen their understanding of their role. Common topics for these seminars include:

  • The role of human resources in business

  • Laws applicable to human resources

  • Ways to improve the image of human resources within a company

  • Challenges in human resources and tactics for overcoming them


Certification is not usually required to work as an HR generalist, although some workplaces prefer certified employees. Applicants must work in human resources for a set number of years, then pass an examination. The most common basic certifications for HR generalists include:

Society of Human Resource Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP):

Applicants must meet minimum educational and experience criteria for this certification, which is offered by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM). HR professionals with a graduate degree in human resources can automatically apply, while applicants with a non-HR associate’s degree must first work in HR for four years. You will need to renew your certification every three years.

Professional in Human Resources (PHR)

Applicants must have at least one to four years of experience working in HR, depending on their education level, to receive this certification from the HR Certification Institute (HRCI). Earning this certification will give the candidate comprehensive knowledge in employee and labor relations, business management, talent planning and acquisition, total rewards and learning and development. 

The SHRM-CP and PHR certifications have matching advanced certifications:

Society of Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP)

SHRM increases its experience requirements for this advanced certification. Applicants must work at least three years if they have a graduate degree in HR, or at least seven years if they have an associate’s degree or less in a non-HR related discipline. 

Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)

Applicants must have at least one to four years of experience working in HR, depending on education level, to receive this advanced HRCI certification. While earning this certification, HR generalists will learn about the best practices concerning employee relations and engagement, talent acquisition and learning and development.


HR generalists will need to use the skills they’ve cultivated through their education and experience to succeed. Companies look for professionals who possess the following skills to join their HR departments:

  • Strong verbal and written communication skills: HR generalists must communicate the requirements of roles to job candidates. They also need strong listening skills to determine whether candidates are suited to the positions. Strong writing skills also help them write effective company emails and letters.

  • Interpersonal skills: Successful HR generalists are outgoing and personable. They should strive to make people feel comfortable and content around them.

  • Organization: HR generalists work with the records of current and potential new employees. It requires strong organizational skills to manage so many pieces of information.

  • Strong decision making: HR generalists must regularly make decisions about the best candidates for a job, how to resolve employee disputes and how to properly train new employees.

  • Discretion: HR generalists know sensitive information about employees, including their contact details, salaries and performance. Their discretion ensures that these details remain confidential.

HR generalist work environment

HR generalists are typically employed by businesses with internal human resources departments. They may work for employers in virtually any industry. They spend most of their time working in human resources offices. However, they may travel to job fairs and college employment events to recruit new talent.

HR generalists usually work a standard full-time schedule during normal business hours. Overtime hours and weekend work may be required during peak periods.

How to become an HR generalist

HR generalists graduate college with a bachelor’s or master’s degree, then work in human resources before securing employment in their specialized roles. You could take the following steps to secure their roles.

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree.

A bachelor’s degree in a subject such as human resources, business, human resource management, human resource administration or organizational development is a prerequisite for most HR generalist roles. Courses in business, psychology, industrial relations, accounting and human resource management will teach you how to apply the skills required for this field.

2. Earn a master’s degree.

Some HR generalists pursue further education. A Master of Science in Human Resource Management is one of the most common advanced degrees HR generalists hold, as it teaches advanced business, psychology and communication skills.

3. Gain work experience in HR.

Most HR generalists work as a human resource assistant or in customer service before advancing in their careers. You may take one of these roles to apply your HR knowledge while you are studying for a master’s degree.

4. Earn basic HR certification.

SHRM-CP or PHR certification is usually voluntary, but many companies will view it favorably.

5. Update your resume.

After studying, working in HR and earning certification, you can begin updating your resume. Highlight your most recent roles and education and include references who can attest to your aptitude for HR.

6. Apply for HR generalist roles.

Once you have reached this point, you should have all the knowledge and experience you need to transition to a role as an HR generalist. Select positions you are qualified for based on your years of experience and qualifications.

7. Earn senior HR certification.

Gaining advanced SHRM-SCP or SPHR certification can be helpful for some HR generalist roles. This certification also improves your understanding of HR strategy and leadership.

HR generalist job description example

Our software development company is searching for an experienced HR generalist with well-rounded human resources expertise and business knowledge. The ideal candidate will provide a wide range of HR support to our human resources team and department managers. In this role, you will offer guidance on recruitment, performance management, employee relations, employee policies, HR best practices and terminations. The positive relationships you foster between our employees and senior management will play a key role in our company’s future success.

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