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Bachelors and Masters Programs for a Human Resources Management Career in Pennsylvania

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, the number of jobs in human resources is expected to grow rapidly during the ten-year projection period leading up to 2022:

  • Human Resource Manager – 18.3 percent projected job growth
  • Human Resource Specialist – 7.9 percent projected job growth

This growth is expected to further strengthen the already robust field of human resources in Pennsylvania, which has both high levels of employment and high rates of pay.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Pennsylvania was home to more than 19,500 HR specialists as of 2014, placing the state among the top five in the nation with the highest number of human resource specialists.

Further, Pennsylvania holds promise for human resource managers, too, with Philadelphia being one of the highest paying metropolitan areas across the nation for this job class. According to the U.S Department of Labor, HR managers in this division earned an average annual salary of more than $150,000 as of 2014.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor, as of December 2014 Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate dropped below the national average to just 4.8 percent. It is widely understood that as employment across all sectors increases, so too do opportunities for the HR professionals responsible for recruiting, screening, training and managing a growing number of workers.

It is no surprise that the major employers that contribute significantly to growing a state’s workforce also tend to support the bulk of HR jobs. As of 2014, Pennsylvania’s top employers included:

  • Wal-Mart Associates
  • City of Philadelphia
  • Trustees of the University of PA
  • Giant Food Stores LLC
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • School District of Pennsylvania
  • UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside
  • United Parcel Service Inc.
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • PNC Bank
  • Giant Eagle Inc.
  • Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education

For these companies, and more, HR professionals are needed, not only to screen, recruit, interview, and place workers, but also to manage all facets of compensation, payroll, benefits, training, development, labor relations, and more.

Exploring Human Resources Careers in Pennsylvania’s Top Industries

Pennsylvania’s booming private sector has a demand for HR professionals, and hires them in varying job titles, such as recruiting manager, staffing consultant, HR manager, HR generalist, manager of training and development, HR business partner, and more.

Along with the private sector, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor indicates that the federal and state government are the top two largest employers throughout the state, so jobs and job requirements for HR positions at the federal, state, and local levels of government are also featured.

Federal Government

Human resources jobs in Pennsylvania with the federal government may be found in a number of federal departments and agencies, and would include such titles as:

  • Human Resources Assistant (NAF Recruitment and Placement)
  • Human Resource Specialist (Military)
  • Human Resources Specialist

These positions may be found in the military, National Guard, NAF recruitment and placement, department of homeland security, compensation, and more.

For illustrative purposes, a few job titles and descriptions are listed to reveal the type of educational requirements that are necessary for many of these positions (taken from a job vacancy survey in 2015; job listings here do not constitute job offers):

Human Resources Assistant for the Department of Homeland Security – Applicants for this position may enter at the GS-05, GS-06, or GS-07 level, and must have specialized experience in HR processes and procedures.

Supervisory HR Specialist for the Department of Defense – For this GS-13 level position, applicants should have one year of specialized knowledge past the GS-12 level, including experience in labor relations, labor laws, regulatory requirements, analyzing workforce data, and more.

HR Specialist (Compensation) for Department of Defense – Applicants can enter this position at the GS-07, GS-09, or GS-11 level, having specialized experience in HR compensation policies, principals, regulations, wage and salary programs, and more.

A quick description of qualifying education for different GS levels includes:

  • GS-05: Complete a bachelor’s degree (four academic years above high school)
  • GS-07: Hold bachelor’s degree with honors, OR one year of graduate education
  • GS-09: Hold master’s degree
  • GS-11: Hold PhD
  • GS-12 Hold research position with completed PhD

State and Local Governments

To find jobs with the State of Pennsylvania, HR professionals can explore the PA Employment Jobs website, which lists both civil service and non-civil service job openings.

An exploration of the varying jobs and job requirements reveal what level of education and experience HR professionals will need when looking for employment in the state (taken from state class title specifications and do not constitute job offers):

Chief, Human Resource Development Division – To apply for this position, HR professionals would need either a bachelor’s degree in human resources (or a related field) and six years of professional personnel experience, OR a master’s degree in human resources (or a related field) and at least four years of experience.

Human Resource Manager – Applicants for this position would need either a bachelor’s degree in human resources (or a related field) and six years of professional HR experience, OR a master’s degree in human resources (or a related field) and one year of experience as a human resource analyst, labor relations specialist, or human resources director.

Private Sector

Varying HR job titles throughout Pennsylvania indicate the general educational and experience requirements HR professionals will need in order to be competitive. Job titles and related job descriptions include, but are not limited to (taken from a job vacancy survey in 2015; job listings here do not constitute job offers):

Human Resources Coordinator for Vector Security Inc. in Warrendale—Applicants for this position should hold a bachelor’s degree in human resources (or a related field), and two (or more) years of HR experience, in order to assist the VP of HR in executing departmental responsibilities.

HR Business Partner for Kantar Media in West Chester – Applicants for positions such as this would need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in human resources (or a related field), and five to seven years of professional experience. HR certification is preferred, and some years of experience may be traded for advanced education, such as a master’s degree in human resources.

HR Manager for Fromm Electric Supply in Reading – Applicants to this position would need a bachelor’s degree in human resources (or a related field) and five years of HR experience, OR an equivalent combination of education and experience, such as a master’s degree in human resources and three years of experience.

Selecting the Best Degree for a Career in Human Resources

The top employers in Pennsylvania will look for the best-prepared HR professionals, meaning those with advanced education and HR certification.

Although a master’s degree in human resources is appropriate for upper-level management and director positions, many HR professionals start their careers as generalists, specialists or lower-level managers by obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

Degrees applicable to the field of HR include bachelor’s or master’s degrees in fields such as human resources, psychology, business, communication, industrial relations, and more. Many of these degrees can be obtained through programs that are offered online, on-campus, or as a blend of both.

Bachelor’s Degree Options in Human Resources

At the undergraduate level, students may choose from many degrees that pertain to the field of human resources, including:

  • Bachelor of Science or Arts (BA or BS) in Human Resources
  • Bachelor of Science or Arts (BA or BS) in Human Resource Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Business – Human Resource Management
  • Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Human Resources

There are a few nuanced differences between these degrees, including:

  • While a bachelor of science in HR is more likely to focus on scientific, quantities research, a bachelor of arts in HR is more likely to focus on theoretical concepts, such as employment law
  • While a BA or BS in HR will focus directly on human resources concepts, a BA in business with a concentration in HR will blend business courses, such as business law, accounting, and finance, with HR courses, such as payroll and compensation

In all instances, courses that pertain to the core functions of human resources would be included in all relevant BA, BS or BBA programs:

  • Employee Recruitment
  • Training and Development
  • Compensation and Benefits
  • Workforce Development
  • HR Management
  • Labor Relations and Labor Law

HR professionals with bachelors’ degrees are generally prepared to apply for jobs in the workforce with titles such as:

  • HR Generalist
  • Employment and Training Specialist
  • Employee Services Consultant
  • Labor Relations Specialist

Master’s Degree Options in Human Resources

Most graduate programs will require that students meet high academic standards in order to enter, including:

  • Holding a bachelor’s degree in human resources or a related field
  • Holding a minimum 3.0 GPA in bachelor’s degree

After meeting admission criteria, HR professionals have varying degree options for a master’s degree related to the field, such as:

  • MA or MS in Human Resources
  • MA or MS in Human Capital Development
  • MA or MS in Human Resource Management
  • MA in Management (MAM) in Human Resources
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA) with HR Concentration

A graduate degree in human resources will include courses directly pertaining to the field of human resources, including, but not limited to:

  • Employee Benefits
  • Reward Systems
  • Internal Consulting Skills
  • Employment Law
  • Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility

A graduate degree in human resource management will include courses more focused on the managing aspects of the profession, including:

  • Managing Diversity
  • Global Workforce Strategy
  • Managing Workforce Flow
  • Creating and Managing Organizational Change
  • Advanced Statistics for HR Managers

Finally, a graduate degree in business with a concentration in human resources will blend business courses with human resources concepts, including courses such as:

  • Financial Decisions
  • Data-Based Decisions
  • Business and Competitive Strategy
  • Measurement Issues
  • Developing Human Capital

Human resource professionals with a master’s degree in the field are prepared to apply for jobs in the workforce with titles such as:

  • HR Manager
  • HR Chief Director
  • HR Business Partner

Professional Certification Options in Human Resources

Achieving human resources certifications is another way to further stand out as an excellent professional in the field. Certification exams can be taken through either of these organizations:

Pennsylvania’s HR Associations, Government Employers and HR Staffing Firms

Professional human resources associations, major departments, and staffing firms are listed here as a resource for professionals in Pennsylvania:

Professional HR Associations in Pennsylvania

Major HR Employers and Departments

Pennsylvania Staffing Firms

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