The Massachusetts economy is one of the strongest in the nation, thanks to an abundance of high-tech jobs and an unemployment rate of just 2.9 percent as of August 2019. It’s also home to a dozen Fortune 500 companies, such as General Electric, Liberty Mutual Insurance Group, Raytheon, and Thermo Fisher Scientific, and a flurry of new biotech companies, many of which have settled into the Boston-Cambridge area.
This type of job growth and economic vitality sets the stage for exceptional opportunities in the human resources field, as companies large and small require experts who can manage a complex and often-growing workforce.
Salary statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and job projections from the Massachusetts Labor and Workforce Development provide a closer look at the opportunities that exist for the state’s human resources professionals:
Human Resources Management
- Human Resources Managers – Human resources managers in Massachusetts earn a median salary of $117,930, or about $4,000 more than the national average for this profession.
- Compensation and Benefits Managers – Compensation and benefits managers in Massachusetts have the fourth highest employment level in the nation for this profession.
- Training and Development Managers – The median salary for training and development managers in Massachusetts is $117,330, which is about $6,000 more than the national median salary for this profession.
Human Resources Specialists and Assistants
- Human Resources Specialists – HR assistants in Massachusetts have the third highest salary in the nation for this profession. The median salary for these professionals in Massachusetts is $68,110.
- Labor Relations Specialists – Labor relations specialists in Massachusetts earn a median salary of $70,110 – that’s about $7,000 more than the national median salary for this profession.
- Training and Development Specialists – Training and development specialists in Massachusetts have the third highest salary in the nation for this profession, earning a median salary of $68,470.
- Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialists – Compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists earn a median salary of $70,940 in Massachusetts, which is about $7,000 more than the national median salary for this profession.
- Human Resources Assistants – HR assistants in Massachusetts have the third highest salary in the nation for this profession. The median salary for these professionals is $46,250, or about $6,000 more than the national median salary.
Where the Jobs are for Human Resources Professionals in Massachusetts
Job trends for human resources professionals in Massachusetts follow the growth trends seen in the state’s biggest industries. For example, the clean energy industry continues to create thousands of jobs every year, highlighting the need for professionals who can create, implement, and oversee policies related to employee recruitment, hiring, and benefits. Healthcare is also a big employer in Massachusetts, accounting for tens of thousands of jobs.
According to the BLS, the following companies are the largest employers in Massachusetts:
- Massachusetts General Hospital: 17,000 employees
- Brigham & Women’s Hospital: 13,303 employees
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology: 12,607 employees
- Oracle Corporation: 10,000 employees
- Raytheon Systems: 10,000 employees
- Boston Children’s Hospital: 8,000 employees
Degree and Certification Requirements to Become a Human Resource Professional
College degrees are a necessary foundation for nearly all managerial or senior-level human resources job in Massachusetts. More specifically, many employers require human resources professionals – human resources directors, analysts, consultants, and recruiters – to possess a bachelor’s degree or above.
Bachelor’s Degree Programs for Human Resources Professionals
A bachelor’s degree in human resources may be designed as a Bachelor of Arts (BA), a Bachelor of Science (BS), or a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA). Just a few of the undergraduate programs in human resources include:
- 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
- Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resource Management
A bachelor’s degree in human resources, which is designed to prepare students with knowledge and skills in business and labor practices, often includes coursework in:
- Leadership and Management
- Business Law and Ethics
- Global Business
- Project Management
- Workforce Planning: Recruitment and Selection
- Compensation and Benefits
- Advanced Human Resource Management
Master’s Degree Programs for Human Resources Professionals
Senior-level positions in human resources are often achieved through the completion of a graduate program, such as:
- Master of Arts in Human Resource Management
- Master of Arts in Management with a Human Resources concentration
- Master of Arts in Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations
- Master of Science in Human Resources
- Master of Science in Organizational Leadership with a specialization in Human Resource Management
- Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a Human Resources specialization
- Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
Most graduate programs in human resources accept students with a variety of undergraduate degrees, although the completion of specific undergraduate courses in areas like business and management is often required. These degrees are often ideal for career changers who may have undergraduate degrees in a variety of areas. Many competitive programs require students to possess a 3.0 GPA or above in their undergraduate studies.
Many master’s degree programs in human resources allow students to focus their graduate degree on a specific area of human resources or complete a general track of study. Just a few areas that may be explored in a master’s degree in human resources include:
- Human resources management
- Organizational development
- Training and development
- Compensation and benefits
- Employee and labor relations
Coursework in a master’s degree in human resources often includes:
- Diversity management
- Employee relations
- Compensation and benefits
- Staffing and selection
Most master’s programs culminate in a capstone project. Some programs offer campus-based instruction, some offer online instruction, and some offer or a blended program of both online and campus-based instruction.
Professional Certification Options for Human Resources Professionals
Although certification for human resources professionals is voluntary, it is commonplace for employers to strongly encourage candidates to possess a nationally recognized professional designation.
Some of the most widely recognized professional certifications in human resources 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)
What Massachusetts’s Employers Look for in an HR Professional
Massachusetts’s HR specialists and managers are found in federal, state, and local government entities, as well as in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors.
Recent job descriptions for human resources positions provide valuable insight into the minimum employment requirements employers expect (Shown for illustrative purposes only):
HR Generalist/Recruiter, The Cambridge Institute of International Education, Waltham:
This position involves partnering with department leaders to meet hiring needs, assisting with job posting ads and descriptions, posting open jobs, and sourcing applicants through social networks, research, college networks, and job fairs.
Candidates for this position must possess a BA or higher in business or human resources, as well as some experience recruiting in an educational environment.
Human Resource Generalist, Energy Efficient & Renewables, Framingham
This position is responsible for working with the senior HR business partner to coordinate regional outreach to attract, source, screen, select, recruit, and hire qualified candidates. This job involves conducting new hire orientation, filing paperwork, ensuring statutory compliance, and overseeing benefits orientations and enrollments.
To qualify for this position, candidates must possess a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business, or a related discipline, along with at least three years of experience in progressive HR sourcing, recruiting, and employee relations.
Human Resources Generalist, Globoforce Limited, Southborough
This position involves providing HR support and communications to U.S. management and employees, working closely with administration and HR teams, and supporting HR initiatives, which include the development of programs that focus on retention, performance management, and career development.
Candidates must possess a bachelor’s degree, with advanced courses in human resources management desirable, along with at least three years of experience in a similar role within human resources.
Assistant Executive Director, Human Resources, Office of the State Treasurer (Massachusetts State Lottery Commission)
This position requires enhancing, planning, and administering all aspects of the human resources function and for the development of HR plans and strategies that support business objectives and the mission of the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission. This involves providing leadership and guidance in the areas of staffing, retention, workforce planning, talent acquisition, professional development, and employee relations.
Candidates for this position must possess at least six years of supervisory or management experience in human resources, business administration, business management, or public administration, and preferred candidates will possess a college degree and SPHR/PHR certification.
Resources for HR Professionals in Massachusetts
- Massachusetts State Council, Society of Human Resource Management
- Northeast Human Resources Association
- Human Resource Leadership Forum (Networking and education resource for senior HR leaders in Boston and New England)
- Cape Cod Human Resources Association
- State of Massachusetts, Human Resources Division
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_ma.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 Massachusetts Labor and Workforce Development 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.