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Bachelors and Masters Programs for a Human Resources Management Career in Rhode Island

As of December 2014, the unemployment rate in Rhode Island was just 6.8 percent, nearly half of what it was during the height of the 2009 recession.

As the state’s major employers reinvest in human capital, HR managers and specialists have been at the front of the line in the effort to recruit, vet, hire, train and manage compensation and benefits for a growing workforce. Industry giants with a strong presence in Rhode Island like Amgen and Schneider Electric have been among the companies to increase the size of their HR departments in the state.

Rhode Island state government has also jumped in to help rebuild the state’s workforce. The governor implemented a new grant program offering financial support to employers as they seek qualified workers, while also connecting people to job openings across the state. Recognizing that employers need assistance that is flexible and that meets the requirements of their particular industry, Governor Raimondo has designed the Real Jobs RI grant program to allow employers to tailor grant requests to the unique training and hiring demands of each company.

Human resources professionals will be able to help businesses take advantage of these funds as they develop training and acquisition programs for new employees. As government and industry continue to partner in an effort to create a strong workforce in Rhode Island, the number of human resource positions will continue to grow as well.

The largest employers in Rhode Island are found primarily in the private sector, with the healthcare industry at the top of the list. Among Rhode Island’s top employers are nine hospitals and a major pharmaceutical manufacturer:

  • Amgen Inc. Pharmaceutical Manufacturer
  • Landmark Medical Center
  • The Miriam Hospital
  • Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island
  • South County Hospital
  • Joseph’s Health Services
  • GTECH Corporation Computer Business Services
  • Raytheon Company Instruments Manufacturer
  • Schneider Electric
  • Verizon Communications

The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training estimates that employment will continue to rise by 10.4 percent statewide through 2022. The top industries for job growth in Rhode Island between 2012 and 2022 are expected to be:

  • Construction and extraction occupations at 21 percent
  • Healthcare support services at 20.4 percent.

Statewide across all industries, the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training is optimistic about the number of jobs expected to become available to HR professionals between 2012 and 2022:

  • Human Resources Assistants: 485
  • Human Resources Managers: 417
  • Human Resources Specialists: 1,341
  • Human Resources/Payroll and Timekeeping Clerks: 719

A Closer Look at Human Resources Jobs in Rhode Island

HR jobs are found in nearly every industry, both in the public and private sectors. The larger an employer is, the more likely it is to have a fully staffed HR department. For instance, Providence College recently listed an opening for an HR generalist. This office also staffs the following positions:

  • Benefits Specialist
  • Human Resource Assistant
  • Associate VP Human Resources
  • Assistant Director for HRIS/Compensation Coordinator
  • Employee Relationship Specialist
  • Director of Employee/Association Director HR

A look at job descriptions for active postings on job boards can provide a good understanding of the duties and responsibilities associated with certain job titles (taken from of survey of job boards in May 2015 and shown for illustrative purposes only):

Tasca Automotive Group, Inc in Cranston, RI, Part Time Payroll/HR Assistant

Responsibilities include:

  • Oversee company weekly payroll including time-collection data review, compensation changes, and deductions
  • Create payroll entries to ADP system and process payroll checks
  • Perform required payroll audits and maintain accurate data files
  • Create spreadsheets for the Accounting Department
  • Conduct new hire on-boarding and benefit orientations
  • Assist management with employee relations issues
  • Assist with completion of mandated I-9 documentation
  • Create personnel file folders for new hires

Neighborhood Health Plan of RI, Benefits Management Specialist

Responsibilities include:

  • Serve as key contact for member benefits
  • Manage and coordinate member benefits for all lines of business and across departments
  • Manage and maintain internal member benefits portal
  • Educate and train internal staff
  • Collaborate with key stakeholders regarding project tasks, milestones and dates for deliverables
  • Research and draft member benefit summaries

Greencore USA, North Kingstown, RI, Human Resources Manager

Responsibilities include:

  • Develop an HR team for the company
  • Oversee staffing and recruiting
  • Manage temp workers and permanent hires
  • Ensure safety and legal compliance
  • Develop and deliver training programs
  • Ensure that employee benefit programs are handled according to policy
  • Collaborate with other staff on best practices
  • Participate in wage surveys and structures. Propose changes when necessary.

Earning the Right Degree for a Career in Human Resources

Employers typically seek candidates with a degree in human resources or a related business major that support HR duties. A bachelor’s degree is the general standard for managerial positions, while executive-level human resources professionals very often hold graduate degrees.

Bachelors Degree in Human Resources

Undergraduate degrees in human resources and human resource management are available as dedicated BA and BS programs, or as BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) programs with a concentration in human resources management.

Bachelor’s level programs will afford students a solid foundation for entering the workforce as generalists, specialists and even human resource managers. Though courses differ between BS, BA, and BBA programs, most all bachelor’s programs will include coursework that covers general workplace policy and business law.

Courses will prepare students with an understanding of the legal and practice aspects of human resource management:

  • Salary, insurance and other benefits
  • Leadership skills
  • Policy and procedures
  • Human resources and employment law
  • Team development
  • Recruitment techniques

Jobs advertised in Rhode Island in May 2015 that specify a bachelor’s degree include the following (taken from of survey of job boards and shown for illustrative purposes only):

  • Executive Recruiter for MRI Network Boston Group in Providence, RI
  • Branch Manager & Business Development – Favorite Healthcare Staffing Inc., Providence, RI
  • Payroll Manager Rogers University Bristol, RI
  • Town of Westerly Rhode Island, government position, HR Coordinator, Westerly, RI
  • Human Resource Generalist, George Patton Associates Inc., Bristol, RI
  • HRIS Analyst I, IGT (previously GTECH), Providence, RI

Masters Degrees and Graduate Certificates in Human Resources

A master’s degree in human resources or a specialized MBA with a concentration in human resources management are among the requirements employers look for in HR professionals wishing to enter management and director positions. In order to qualify for graduate-level programs, most universities will require the following:

  • Submitting test scores – GRE, GMAT, MAT, LSAT —with minimum grades
  • GPA minimum requirements
  • All course transcripts
  • Personal statement
  • Recommendation letters

A graduate program will typically consist of about 39 semester credit hours. The classes will be divided by core curriculum and electives. The electives allow the graduate student to choose an area of specialization within the program, which include:

  • Labor relations
  • Human resources management
  • Labor law
  • Collective bargaining
  • Economics and labor markets

Jobs advertised in Rhode Island in May 2015 that specify a master’s degree include the following (taken from of survey of job boards and shown for illustrative purposes only):

  • Director of Human Resources with Kent County Memorial Hospital, Warwick, Rhode Island
  • VP/Director Talent Managementat Fidelity, Smithfield, Rhode Island
  • Director of Human Resources, Hasbro Managerial Services, Pawtucket, Rhode Island

Professional HR Certifications

In today’s fast-moving business climate, it is often challenging for formal educational systems to keep up with and respond to all the changes taking place in healthcare, law, and employee relations. Human resources certification training and testing programs allow candidates a more in-depth and immediate opportunity to acquire a level of specialized knowledge in the field of human resources.

As part of the eligibility process, some employers will actually seek out candidates who have added specific HR certifications to their training. These certificates are available through professional organizations that focus on testing an individual’s knowledge in areas specific to the field of human resources.

Currently the following Human Resources certificates are available in Rhode Island:

  • PHR
  • SPHR
  • GPHR
  • PHR-CA
  • World-at-Work
  • Institute for Human Resources (IHR)

Each certification has its own purpose and benefits, but two of the more common and in-demand certificates are the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR). These will be the certifications that show up in job postings more than others.

Rhode Island’s HR Resources and Employers

There are several key organizations that are helpful to HR professionals in Rhode Island and those aspiring to enter the field. These include the following:

Professional Organizations and Support Organizations

Rhode Island HR Staffing Firms

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