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Human resources departments often have a variety of job types and titles. The variety and ranking of HR positions can be confusing if you have little experience with the field. If you are interested in an HR career, however, it is important to know what jobs you might qualify for or get promoted to as you progress. In this article, we will explain the hierarchy of HR job titles and how to advance in an HR career path.
What is HR?
Human resources, or HR, is the department within a company responsible for the hiring and development of its employees. Human resources staff manages all payroll, benefits and administrative tasks for employees. They also handle employee relations and resolve conflicts.
Human resources departments are important because they help a company increase productivity while also maintaining employee satisfaction. Other reasons HR departments are important to include:
Setting competitive salary and benefits plans to attract talented employees
Providing employees with a safe place to work by ensuring that the company follows occupational safety and health rules
Resolving workplace issues between employees and employers
Organizing orientation and training for new and existing hires
Assessing employees’ job satisfaction and ways to improve it
Creating a smooth process for recruiting, evaluating, interviewing and hiring skilled individuals
Making sure the company follows employment laws
Businesses in all industries often hire a variety of HR professionals to meet these responsibilities. Bigger companies typically require a larger HR department with more specialized positions than smaller companies.
HR job hierarchy
Human resources departments often build a hierarchy of jobs, each level containing employees who may support others or perform specialized duties. This ranking helps ensure the department operates smoothly and meets the company’s personnel needs. Here is a list of human resources job levels a company might have:
- Lower- or entry-level HR jobs
- Mid-level HR jobs
- Senior-level HR jobs
- Specialized HR positions
Lower- or entry-level HR jobs
People can apply for entry-level HR jobs after getting a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources, Business Administration or a similar field. Most of these positions are administrative roles that report to the HR manager. Entry-level HR job titles and descriptions vary by company, but might include:
National average salary: $14.74 per hour
Primary duties: These professionals help recruit employees, screen job candidates, assist in new hire orientation and administrative tasks, such as organizing time-off requests.
National average salary: $15.30 per hour
Primary duties: These individuals create job descriptions, assess applications and resumes, schedule interviews and manage employee schedules.
National average salary: $16.28 per hour
Primary duties: These professionals help HR managers with basic duties and administrative tasks, such as payroll, data entry, assisting employees and recruitment.
National average salary: $16.42 per hour
Primary duties: Associates answer employee questions about payroll and benefits. They also organize staff paperwork and job applications.
National average salary: $18.18 per hour
Primary duties: These professionals help employees and job candidates fill out paperwork and understand company policies and benefits.
National average salary: $18.82 per hour
Primary duties: Administrators maintain employment records, employee data, contracts and databases.
National average salary: $56,982 per year
Primary duties: Analysts gather and manage company and employee data, review salaries and other statistics, conduct surveys and present this information to their managers.
Mid-level HR jobs
After two or three years in an entry-level HR position, professionals often receive promotions for mid-level jobs with more responsibilities and higher salaries. In these roles, they might oversee a team of lower-level employees or they might specialize in a certain area, such as training and development. They typically report to the HR director or another upper management position. Examples of mid-level HR jobs might include:
National average salary: $51,609 per year
Primary duties: Specialists help recruit and hire employees, conduct interviews and oversee orientation.
National average salary: $53,996 per year
Primary duties: Generalists oversee all human resources duties, from company policies to employee relations.
National average salary: $55,695 per year
Primary duties: Supervisors oversee hiring, regulate employee relations, manage payroll and lead training events.
National average salary: $56,882 per year
Primary duties: These professionals recruit, hire and train new employees. They also review performance after probationary periods or annually.
Senior-level HR jobs
Upper-management HR professionals are responsible for all decision-making in the department. Depending on the company’s size, these individuals need at least 5 to 10 years of HR experience. Some high-level HR positions require a master’s degree. Human resources executives typically report to the company’s CEO. Examples of senior HR jobs might include:
National average salary: $73,653 per year
Primary duties: These professionals oversee all HR tasks, including recruiting, training, payroll, benefits and employee relations.
National average salary: $95,032 per year
Primary duties: Sometimes called "deputy directors," HR directors oversee all employee relations, budgets, staffing, compliance, payroll and benefits.
National average salary: $113,766 per year
Primary duties: Chief human resources officers manage the department and develop strategies to hire and train the most qualified candidates.
National average salary: $149,361 per year
Primary duties: These professionals oversee and guide all staffing plans, employee relations, budgeting and more.
Specialized HR positions
Large companies might have highly specialized mid-level jobs that focus on one area of human resources. These can include:
National average salary: $17.09 per hour
Primary duties: These individuals oversee employees’ health, dental, vision, disability and life insurance, retirement plans, profit-sharing and other benefits.
National average salary: $46,823 per year
Primary duties: Staffing managers oversee all of a company’s staffing needs, from recruitment to hiring to training to firing.
National average salary: $49,122 per year
Primary duties: Sometimes called interviewers, these professionals create recruiting plans and search for new talent through a network of industry organizations, professional contacts, social media, job fairs and more.
National average salary: $66,046 per year
Primary duties: These professionals oversee relationships and challenges between coworkers as well as employees and their supervisors.
National average salary: $77,450 per year
Primary duties: These professionals make sure companies follow federal and state laws, ensure employee safety and perform safety training.
National average salary: $80,034 per year
Primary duties: Development managers, also called "training managers," organize employee training programs and materials.
How to advance in your HR career
You can follow these steps to progress in a human resources career path:
1. Network with other HR professionals
A large network of professional connections and relationships can give you more opportunities to learn, develop and find jobs. Expand your network by meeting industry members through conferences, social events, trade shows, human resources organizations and professional networking websites.
2. Maintain current industry knowledge.
Stand out from others by staying up to date on new ideas and changes in the HR industry. Read human resources journals, blogs and magazines. Many HR associations, such as the Academy of Human Resource Development, produce articles and reports on the latest HR theories and practices.
3. Update your resume
Every time you get a promotion, reach a milestone, give a presentation or earn another accomplishment, add it to your resume. You should have a current resume ready to send to potential employers if better job opportunities arise.
4. Understand all HR jobs
Because human resources departments include so many job types, learning about each one can help you decide where you want to specialize. A basic understanding of multiple HR jobs can also prepare you for generalist or management positions that oversee all HR operations. To build your knowledge, ask your supervisor or colleagues if you can talk to them about their job duties or shadow them for a day.
5. Get certified
Industry credentials, such as the HR Certificate Institute’s Professional in Human Resources certification or the Society for Human Resource Management certification, can improve your HR knowledge and set you apart from your coworkers. You must meet the education and experience requirements, then pass an exam to get certified. Add any certifications or continuing education courses to your resume.
6. Obtain your master’s degree
An advanced degree can prepare and qualify you for upper-level job opportunities. A Master’s Degree in Human Resources, Human Resources Management or Business Administration can help you develop your skills and knowledge in subjects such as financial management, recruiting and business analysis. You might earn your master’s by taking in-person or online courses while still keeping your full-time HR job. A graduate program typically takes two years to complete.
You might hold several HR positions throughout your career. Once you understand the hierarchy of HR job titles, you can determine which ones you are qualified to apply for and which fit in your career path.