How to Become a Human Resources Specialist

Human resources specialists are identified by the Society for Human Resources Management as early career human resources professionals who are specialists within a specific support function – or, generalists with limited experience.

The responsibilities of human resources specialists revolve around the recruitment and placement of employees; therefore, their job duties may range from screening job candidates and conducting interviews to performing background checks and providing orientation to new employees.

In some organizations, HR specialists may also have other duties related to benefits administration, employee retention, and the like. HR specialists who specialize may do so in areas such as recruitment, job placement, and interviewing.

Because the title of human resources specialist is a rather broad one, it often means different things to different organizations. However, what remains constant throughout is that these HR professionals provide the link between employer and employee and their overall goal is to ensure that the best employees are hired for specific positions.

Specific job titles for HR specialists (often found in larger organizations) may include: recruitment specialist:

  • Personnel coordinator
  • Technical recruiter
  • Employee interviewer
  • Job placement specialist


Job Duties and Responsibilities of Human Resources Specialists

The work of human resources specialists begins when a position with the organization needs to be filled. These HR specialists, at this time, may do every from creating and placing job posts to visiting job fairs to find the right candidate. Once a pool of potential candidates has been assembled, HR specialists then sort through them, scheduling and conducting interviews. In larger organizations, senior HR members may be responsible for the interviewing process, although HR specialists in smaller companies are often responsible for this step in the hiring process.

When not hiring, placing, and orienting new employees, HR specialists often oversee current employee satisfaction and productivity, ensuring that the workplace is always running efficiently.

Human resources specialists work under HR directors and managers. During the hiring process, they generally consult with members of the management team to ensure that the right candidates are being placed into the right position. Thus, their job duties frequently involve consulting with the appropriate HR managers.

Daily job duties of human resources specialists include:

  • Preparing or updating employment records related to hiring, transferring, promoting, and terminating
  • Explaining human resources policies, procedures, laws, and standards to new and existing employees
  • Ensuring new hire paperwork is completed and processed
  • Informing job applicants of job duties, responsibilities, benefits, schedules, working conditions, promotion opportunities, etc.
  • Addressing any employment relations issues, such as work complaints and harassment allegations
  • Processing all personnel action forms and ensuring proper approval
  • Overseeing hiring process, which includes coordinating job posts, reviewing resumes, and performing reference checks
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HR Specialist Roles

HR specialists may also be called upon to focus their efforts on one of the following areas of HR:

    • Workforce Planning and Employment
      • Implementing the organization’s recruiting strategy
      • Interviewing applicants
      • Administering pre-employment tests
      • Assisting with completing background investigations
      • Processing transfers, promotions, and terminations


    • HR Development
      • Conducting training sessions
      • Administering on-the-job training programs
      • Evaluating the effectiveness of training programs
      • Maintaining records of employee participation in all training and development programs


    • Total Rewards
      • Analyzing job duties
      • Writing job descriptions
      • Performing job evaluations and job analyses
      • Conducting and analyzing compensation surveys


    • Employee and Labor Relations (union environments)
      • Interpreting union contracts
      • Helping to negotiate collective bargaining agreements
      • Resolving grievances
      • Advising supervisors on union contract interpretation


    • Employee and Labor Relations (non-union environments)
      • Assisting with processing employee grievances
      • Overseeing engagement programs and other employee relations work


  • Risk Management
    • Developing and administering health and safety programs
    • Conducting safety inspections
    • Maintaining accident records
    • Preparing government reports as to remain in compliance


How to Become an HR Specialist: Education and Certification Requirements

Although considered to be an early career profession, HR specialists are still educated and qualified HR professionals who must generally possess, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business management, or a related field.

The most logical career step for HR specialists seeking managerial roles involves acquiring experience in the field of human resources and, often, pursuing a master’s degree in an HR specialization. Areas of HR specialization available to students in a master’s degree in human resources (Master of Arts/Master of Science in Human Resource Management) often include human resource management, organizational development, and human resource performance.

Another popular graduate degree for HR specialists is the Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Human Resource Management. An MBA in Human Resource Management prepares human resources specialists to work effectively in a number of HR disciplines, as it focuses on the key aspects of leadership , interpersonal and organizational behaviors, and approaches for managing and motivating employees.

Graduates of MBA in HR Management programs are prepared to lead their organization’s HR activities and help achieve organizational goals and objectives. A foundation in business prepares graduates to address new procedures, solve conflicts, and oversee employee benefits, compensation, training, and more.

Professional Certification Options for HR Specialists

HR specialists with their eye on advancement in the profession are always well served by considering professional certification in human resources. The two most widely recognized certifying bodies in HR include:


  • HR Certification Institute (HRCI)
    • Professional in Human Resources (PHR)
    • Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)
    • Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR)
    • Human Resource Management Professional (HRMP)
    • Human Resource Business Professional (HRBP)
    • California Certification for PHR and SPHR certified professionals

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Salary Statistics for HR Specialists: What to Expect

Human resources specialists, reports the U.S. Department of Labor, earned a mean, annual salary of $62,590, as of May 2014, with the top 10 percent earning more than $98,130.

The Department of Labor reported that the top-paying industries for HR specialists, as of May 2014, were:

  • Pipeline transportation of crude oil: $108,300
  • Software publishers: $88,180
  • Securities and commodity contract intermediation and brokerage: $84,600
  • Oil and gas extraction: $84,130
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It comes as no surprise that the above industries are some of the swiftest growing; therefore, they are likely to require HR specialists who can keep up with their hiring demands.

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