One of the ways Washington D.C.-based businesses, defense contractors and federal agencies attract top HR professionals is by offering some of the highest average salaries in the nation.
The following job projections, provided by the D.C. Department of Employment Services, and salary statistics, provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), illustrate the outstanding opportunities for HR professionals in our nation’s capital:
Human Resources Management
- Human Resources Managers – Among human resources managers, those in Washington D.C. enjoy the second highest salaries in the nation. These professionals earn a median salary of $157,250.
- Compensation and Benefits Managers – The median salary for compensation and benefits managers in the District of Columbia is $129,960 – about $10,000 more than the national median salary for these professionals.
- Training and Development Managers – Among training and development managers, those in D.C. earn the third highest salaries in the nation. Plus, the number of these professionals is expected to increase 16.7 percent between 2016 and 2026 – that’s much higher than the national projected increase of 10.7 percent.
Human Resources Specialists and Assistants
- Human Resources Specialists – Washington D.C.’s human resources specialists earn the highest salaries in the nation. The median salary for these HR pros is $92,420 – that’s nearly $40,000 more than the national median salary of $54,780.
- Labor Relations Specialists – The median salary for labor relations specialists in the District of Columbia is $81,080, which is in line with the national median salary of $81,100.
- Training and Development Specialists – The number of training and development specialists in D.C. is projected to increase 12.5 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is higher than the national projected increase of 10.4 percent during this time.
- Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialists – Compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists in Washington D.C. are the top earners in the nation, with those in the top 10% earning an average salary of $130,840.
- Human Resources Assistants – C. human resources assistants are the highest paid in the nation. These professionals earn a median salary of $52,410 – that’s about $12,000 more than the national median salary for this profession.
Beyond enjoying some of the best salaries available in their field nationwide, HR professionals in our nation’s capital are also able to look forward to a strengthening job market. The unemployment rate here was 5.5 percent as of August 2019, and in the Washington D.C. metro area, the unemployment rate during this time was just 3.3 percent.
As D.C. continues to show strong signs of growth, a greater demand for human resources professionals follows. According to BLS stats, the largest employers in D.C. in 2019 were:
- George Washington University – 10,000 employees
- S. Department of Commerce – 10,000 employees
- Naval Research Laboratory – 7,000 employees
- Medstar WA Hospital Center – 6,000 employees
- Children’s National Health – 5,338 employees
- National Oceanic Atmospheric – 5,000 employees
- S. Federal Highway Administration – 5,000 employees
Exploring Human Resources Careers in Washington DC
During the last 12 months (August 2018-August 2019), employment increased by 43,300 jobs in Washington D.C. The private sector increase by 31,300 jobs, while the public sector increased by 12,000 jobs.
The following job listings provide insight into the types of HR jobs available in Washington D.C. (Shown for illustrative purposes only):
Private Sector HR Job Descriptions
- Senior Recruiter with Verizon Wireless – This professional works as part of Verizon’s Global Talent Acquisition Team, leading recruitment efforts of candidates who are applying from around the world. They will work closely with HR Business Partner teams to set their talent acquisition strategy and goals.
- Human Resources Leader with Kaiser Permanente – This professional is responsible for directing and leading complex local HR planning initiatives, as well as working with hospitals and/or medical offices. They will provide HR solutions, direction, and guidance to senior leadership teams and executives.
- Employee and Labor Relations Consultant with Raytheon – This professional will team with the Labor Relations Manager to work with management and collective bargaining agreements. They will advise all levels of Raytheon management in regards to labor laws and collective bargaining agreements.
Job Descriptions for Federal HR Positions
- Human Resources Specialist (GS-07) with the US Capitol Police – This professional is tasked with applying basic HR procedures to develop and maintain manuals, instructions, and operating procedures for assigned HR programs. An important part of this position is the maintenance of this agency’s HR information system. Other duties include processing personnel actions that affect employees.
- Human Resources Assistant (GS-06) with the Peace Corps – This professional can work with many different HR functions within this organization. Duties may include supporting an employee awards program, a labor and employee relations event, or a performance management program.
- HR Specialist (Policy) with the local DC government – This professional is responsible for serving as a resource and providing authoritative leadership in human resources management. An important aspect of this position is ensuring HR programs and policies are in compliance with the Comprehensive Merritt Personnel Act. They must also ensure District-wide HR rules and policies are being met.
Federal jobs are listed on the website USAJOBS. These positions are classified according to the General Schedule (GS), a 15-level scale that delineates education and experience requirements. Local government HR careers can be found through the DC Department of Human Resources.
Earning the Right Degree for a Career in Human Resources
One of the best long-term career investments prospective HR professionals can make is education. A four-year degree is often a requirement for entry-level HR positions for specialists, generalist, and lower-level managers, while a graduate degree can lead to more advanced career opportunities in upper-level management and business leadership positions.
The D.C. area is home to a number of colleges and universities that offer undergraduate and graduate programs in human resources – both online and in traditional classroom settings.
Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources
A bachelor’s degree in human resources will typically include a segment of lower-division courses and prerequisites, followed by more specialized upper-division undergraduate classes. Coursework often includes:
- Report writing
- Business mathematics
- Managerial accounting
- Introduction to human resources management
- Organizational behavior
- Managing HR changes
- HR law and employee safety
- Diversity in human resources
Candidates can fulfill the education requirements for the following careers with a bachelor’s degree in human resources(Shown for illustrative purposes only):
- Senior Recruiter with Verizon Wireless – Candidates for this position must have at least a bachelor’s degree in a field related to human resources or business administration
- Human Resources Leader with Kaiser Permanente – Applicants for this position must have a bachelor’s degree in a field related to human resources, public health, psychology, or business administration
- Employee and Labor Relations Consultant with Raytheon – Candidates for this position must have at least a bachelor’s degree in a field such as human resources or business
- HR Specialist (Policy) with the local DC government – Applicants can qualify for this position with a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent combination of education and experience
Master’s Degree in Human Resources – MBA in Human Resource Management
HR professionals interested in a graduate degree in human resource management (HRM) will need to start by determining the admission requirements for their particular graduate school. These can typically include:
- Undergraduate degree in any subject
- Undergraduate degree that includes certain HR prerequisite courses or a minor in HR
- Minimum GPA requirement
- GMAT or GRE exams
- Letters of recommendation and personal essays
Graduate schools offer general HR degrees, as well as degrees that offer particular HR tracks, such as:
- MBA in Human Resource Management
- One-year graduate certificate in Human Resources
- Master’s degree in human resources, with a concentration in:
- Strategic human capital management
- International HR
- Inclusion and diversity management
Each program of study will have different specialized courses and include a general repertoire of coverage for subjects like:
- HR compensation and benefits
- Strategic HR planning theory
- Research methodology and practices in HR
- Creating and sustaining an inclusive HR climate
- Workplace ethics
- Global HR theory and practice
Candidates can fulfill the education requirements for the following careers with a master’s degree in HRM or another area of the human resources field (Shown for illustrative purposes only):
- Human Resources Leader with Kaiser Permanente – Candidates for this position should have a master’s degree in a field related to human resources, psychology, or business administration
- Employee and Labor Relations Consultant with Raytheon – Applicants for this position should have a master’s degree in human resources
- Human Resources Specialist (GS-07) with the US Capitol Police – Candidates can qualify for this position by having at least one year of graduate-level studies or an exceptional academic record as an undergraduate
- Human Resources Assistant (GS-06) with the Peace Corps – Candidates can qualify for this position by having at least one year of graduate-level education in an HR-related field
- Human Resources Manager with BAE Systems – Candidates for this position should have a master’s degree
Professional Human Resources Certification
There are several national organizations that offer professional HR certification to qualifying candidates. The following are some of the most commonly preferred – and sometimes required – HR certifications:
- SHRM-CP (certified professional)
- SHRM-SCP (senior certified professional)
HR Certification Institute (HRCI)
- Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR)
- Associate Professional in Human Resources – International (aPHRi)
- Professional in Human Resources (PHR)
- Professional in Human Resources – International (PHRi)
- Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)
- Senior Professional in Human Resources – International (SPHRi)
- Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR)
- Certified Professional (IPMA-CP)
- Senior Certified Professional (IPMA-SCP)
Examples of D.C.-based careers that either prefer or require a professional HR certification include:
- Human Resources Leader with Kaiser Permanente
- Human Resources Manager with BAE Systems
- HR Administrator with AMEX International
- HR Generalist with the National Council of Architectural Registration Board
- Human Resources Generalist with Sodexo
Resources for Prospective HR Professionals
Aspiring HR professionals can find many local resources throughout the Washington DC area:
- Nonprofit HR
- HR Policy Association
- DC Labor and Employment Relations Council
- Capital Area Human Resource Association
Major HR Departments
- Verizon Wireless careers
- Kaiser Permanente careers
- Raytheon careers
- Target careers
- Safeway careers
- Walmart careers
- DC Department of Human Resources
- DC Department of Employment Services
Professional Staffing Agencies
- Hire Strategy
- Ruthi Postow Staffing
- Help Unlimited
- Whitman Associates
- Hire Standard
- BH Griner
- The Midtown Group
Examples of HR positions were taken from a survey of job listings in the state at the time of this writing and are shown for illustrative purposes only. These examples do not represent job offers or positions that are currently available.
Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2018 for human resources managers, specialists, and assistants – https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_dc.htm#11-9111. The BLS salary data shown here represents median – 90th percentile salary ranges for the state and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries.
Job growth projections sourced from the DC Department of Employment Services and published in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2016-2026) database – https://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
All salary and job growth data accessed in September 2019.