Long considered to be the nation’s manufacturing leader, Illinois is where everything from construction equipment to processed foods to chemicals are made and exported. Coupled with that an unemployment rate of just 4 percent in August 2019 (the lowest on record) and more than 65,000 additional jobs added to the state’s economy between September 2018 and September 2019, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, and it’s clear that the demand for human resources professionals who can manage a growing, complex workforce is greater than ever.
Salary statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and job projections from the Illinois Department of Employment Security reveal the highlights for human resources managers, specialists, and assistants in the Prairie State:
Human Resources Management
- Human Resources Managers – Illinois is home to the third highest employment level of human resources managers in the nation, at 9,960.
- Compensation and Benefits Managers – The number of Illinois’ compensation and benefits managers – 1,100 – earns Illinois second place in the nation for its employment level of these professionals.
- Training and Development Managers – The number of training and development managers in Illinois is projected to increase 10.9 percent between 2016 and 2026, slightly higher than the national projected increase of 10.4 percent for these professionals.
Human Resources Specialists and Assistants
- Human Resources Specialists – Human resources specialists in Illinois earn a median salary of $58,060, just slightly below the national median of $60,350.
- Labor Relations Specialists – Illinois is home to the fourth highest employment level of labor relations specialists in the nation, at 5,400.
- Training and Development Specialists – Training and development specialists in Illinois earn a median salary of $63,200, surpassing the national median of $60,360 for these professionals.
- Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialists – Compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists in Illinois earn a median salary of $62,430, which is in line with the national median of $63,000 for this HR profession.
- Human Resources Assistants – Illinois’ HR assistants earn a median salary of $40,200, which is line with the national median of $40,390 for this profession.
Exploring Human Resources Careers with Illinois’s top Employers
Illinois’ largest employers drive the greatest demand for HR managers and specialists. According to the BLS, the largest employers here include:
- The University of Illinois at Chicago – 20,000 employees
- Shire – 17,000 employees
- Illinois National Guard – 13,000 employees
- Allstate Insurance Company – 13,000 employees
- State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company – 13,000 employees
- Abbott Laboratories – 12,000 employees
A review of job descriptions from advertised postings provides a glimpse into what various HR positions with some of Illinois’s top employers entail (Shown for illustrative purposes only):
Market Human Resources Manager, Sam’s Club – The manager will work with management associates at multiple facilities on a variety of workplace matters, oversee HR strategies, and ensure compliance with federal, state, and local laws and regulations and company policies and procedures.
HR Representative, TNS – Job duties include overseeing HR metrics, managing on-boarding and off-boarding of staff, and overseeing the HR intranet site.
Human Resources Coordinator, Erie Family Health Center – Job duties include providing daily assistance to employees, overseeing employee data, and overseeing all processes related to Erie’s Non-Employees (students, volunteers, residents, etc.).
The Right Degree for a Career in Human Resources
Most HR training specialists, recruiters, compensation and benefits managers, labor relations specialists, and HR managers working for Illinois’ top employers possess undergraduate degrees in the following areas:
- Human resources
- Human resource management
- Business administration
- Industrial relations
- Industrial organizational relations/psychology
A bachelor’s degree is appropriate for most positions, including those in lower-to-mid-level management. Upper-level management, consultant and executive positions are generally reserved for those with a master’s degree or specialized MBA.
Job announcements help illustrate the value of undergraduate and graduate degrees related to human resources in the eyes of Illinois’s top employers (Shown for illustrative purposes only):
- Human Resources Generalist, Follett Corporation – A bachelor’s degree in human resources, business administration, or related field is required, while a master’s degree is preferred.
- Human Resources Specialist, Cornerstone Credit Union – A bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Human Resources or another related field is required.
- Human Resources Generalist, Berry Plastics Corporation – A bachelor’s degree in a relevant field is required, while a master’s degree is preferred. PHR or SPHR certification is considered a plus.
Bachelor’s Degrees in Human Resources
Bachelor’s degree programs in human resources prepare students for the broad assortment of tasks that human resources specialists, generalist, and managers perform. These degrees, in the form of a Bachelor of Science (BS), a Bachelor of Arts (BA), or a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), are often minimum requirements for human resources management positions.
A few examples of the most common bachelor’s degrees include:
- Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resource Management
- Bachelor of Arts in Management with a Human Resources Specialization
- Bachelor of Arts in Human Resource Management
- Bachelor of Science in Human Resources
- Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a Human Resources concentration.
Just some of the areas covered in undergraduate human resources courses include:
- Communication strategies
- Labor relations
- Management theory and practice
- Management of personnel
- Program design and development
Master’s Degrees in Human Resources
A large number of graduate programs related to human resources accept students with undergraduate degrees in a variety of majors, though specific undergraduate courses in areas like management and business law and are often required. Additionally, some programs require students to possess a 3.0 GPA or above in their undergraduate studies, as well as high scores on the GMAT exam.
Mid-to-upper-level management positions typically include a master’s or specialized MBA in HR Management:
- Master of Arts (MA) in Organizational Management with a concentration in Human Resources
- Master of Arts (MA) in Human Resource Management
- Master of Arts (MA) in Management with a Human Resources concentration
- Master of Science (MS) in Human Resources Management
- Master of Human Resources (MHR)
- Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a specialization in Human Resources
- Master of Science (MS) in Human Resources
Typical coursework in a master’s degree program related to human resources include:
- Managerial accounting
- Financial management
- Information technology
- Strategic management
- Marketing strategies
- Operations management
- Quantitative analysis for decision making
Professional Certification in Human Resources
While specialized HR certification is not always required, it is often preferred. Examples of the best-recognized organizations and their certification options include:
- 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)
HR Employers and Professional Associations in Illinois
Human resources professionals in Illinois are employed in the state, nonprofit, and private sectors. Links to just some of the HR employers and professional associations in Illinois are provided as a resource:
- Human Resources – Illinois State
- City of Chicago: Human Resources
- Hanover Park: Human Resources
- Human Resources – Lake County, Illinois
- Human Resources Management Association of Chicago
- Illinois Association of School Personnel Administrators (IASPA)
- Evansville-Area Human Resource Association
Private Staffing Firms
- Lucas Group
- HR Staffing Recruiting Chicago
- Arlington Resources
- Human Resources | Salo
- The Lasalle Network
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_il.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 Illinois Department of Employment Security 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.