With more than 17,000 human resource specialists employed throughout the state, Virginia is ranked number two in the nation when it comes to the highest concentration of human resource specialists, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (2014). Along with that, the DC-VA-MD metropolitan area reported having the fourth highest number of human resource managers of any metro area in the nation, with more than 3,200 HRM professionals employed there as of 2014.
Virginia also ranks as one of the top paying states in the nation for those in the profession. The U.S. Department of Labor indicates that as of 2014:
- The median salary for human resource specialists in Virginia was at $69,830
- The median salary for human resource managers in Virginia was at $124,720
Because job growth in general inherently indicates a growing demand for human resource professionals to recruit, screen and training more employees, job growth for HR professionals can be partly attributed to Virginia’s low unemployment rate of just 4.8 percent as of 2015 – the lowest it has been since the 2009 recession.
Researchers concur that the Virginia economy is booming. For instance, the Information Technology Innovation Foundation (ITIF) published a “2014 State New Economy Index,” which states that Virginia ranks among the top ten states in America that are prepared to navigate the changing economy, since the state is knowledge-based, globalized, entrepreneurial, IT-driven, and innovation-based.
Supporting this, the Virginia Employment Commission indicates that between 2008 and 2018, the state will have 1.5 million job vacancies. To handle the influx of employees, top-notch human resource professionals will be vital to recruiting, interviewing, screening, hiring, and training the changing workforce.
Top employers throughout Virginia create a growing demand for HR professionals. Some of the top employers in Virginia include:
- Sentara Healthcare in Richmond – 25,000 employees
- Heart & Vascular Institute in Winchester – 20,540 employees
- Huntington Ingalls Industries in Newport – 20,000 employees
- University of Virginia in Charlottesville – 20,000 employees
- Lab Corp in Roanoke – 17,000 employees
- Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport – 16,335 employees
- Ernst & Young in Mc Lean – 10,000 employees
- Re/Max-Walsh Team Realty in Springfield – 10,000 employees
- Sodexo in Springfield – 8,500 employees
- Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth – 8,000 employees
Qualifying for Human Resources Jobs with Virginia’s Top Employers
Job descriptions and their associated requirements reveal what Virginia’s top employers in government and private industry are looking for when hiring and promoting human resources professionals. Examples are taken from a survey of job vacancies in May 2015 and are shown for illustrative purposes only:
Human Resources Careers in Virginia with the Federal Government
The federal government has a strict GS system that delineates different requirements for different positions. A quick overview of the GS system shows the standard requirements for HR positions with the Federal government:
- GS-04: minimum requirement of an associate’s degree (two academic years above high school)
- GS-05: minimum requirement of a bachelor’s degree (four academic years above high school)
- GS-07: minimum requirement of a bachelor’s degree with honors, OR one year of graduate education
- GS-09: minimum requirement of a master’s degree
- GS-11: minimum requirement of a PhD
- GS-12 minimum requirement as holding research position with completed PhD
Human Resource Specialist (Employee Benefits) for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement in Sterling – applicants for GS-09 – GS-12 positions such as this can be hired at varying qualification standards, such as with a master’s degree, a master’s degree with a full year of specialized experience, or a PhD.
This professional will provide policy oversight for employee benefits, pay administration, and personnel action processing.
Human Resource Specialist for the Department of Homeland Security in Arlington – applicants for GS-12 – GS-13 positions such as this should ideally hold a PhD in human resources, human resource management, or another related field, and have one or two years of progressively specialized HR experience.
This professional will provide HR services to various Coast Guard departments, such as preparing recruitment materials, posting job positions, providing advice to management, and more.
Human Resources Careers with the Virginia State Government
Human resource professionals looking for job openings in the Virginia State government will search the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Central Job Board, which posts all state jobs in all departments, such as state universities, hospitals, and departments.
Human Resource Analyst for the Department of Medical Assistant Services in Richmond – applicants for positions such as these should hold a bachelor’s degree in human resource management, business administration, or a related field.
This professional will be responsible fro managing automated HR systems, such as the Human Resource Management (HuRMan), the Personnel Management Information System (PMIS), and the Recruitment Management System (RMS) or HRIS system.
Human Resources Assistant for the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg – applicants to positions such as this will need some level of college work, preferably a bachelor’s degree in human resources or another related field.
Education should have trained the assistant concerning HRIS systems, automated HR/Payroll systems, and in other duties related to human resources.
Human Resource Supervisor for the Catawba Hospital in Roanoke – professionals applying to positions such as these should hold a bachelor’s degree in human resource management (or a related field).
Professionals will be responsible for coordinating recruitment and selection of employees, coordinating onboarding processes, administering employee benefit programs, and administering wage and salary.
Human Resources Generalist for Radford University in Radford – applicants to positions such as these should hold a bachelor’s in business, public administration, human resources, human resource administration, or another related field. Preference will be given to applicants with extensive experience in human resources, advanced human resources education, or PHR/SPHR certification.
This professional will provide expertise in university strategies related to employment, benefits, classification, and compensation.
Human Resources Careers in Virginia’s Private Sector
Benefits Consultant for Leidos in Reston – applicants for positions such as these will want a bachelor’s degree in human resources, human resource management, business administration, or another related field, along with six (or more) years of experience in administration and benefits communication. Preference will be given to those with project management and organizational skills.
Professionals in this position will manage total rewards, benefits, and benefits communication.
Senior Recruiter in Talent Acquisition for Leidos in Reston – professionals applying for positions such as these will either need twelve years of HR experience, seven years of HR experience with a bachelor’s degree in human resource management (or another related field), or four to seven years of HR experience with a master’s degree in human resources, human resource management, or another related field.
This professional will focus on recruitment, reviewing requisitions, conferring with clients, providing regular feedback, and determining sourcing strategies.
Director of Human Resources Administration for the University of Virginia in Charlottesville – applicants who hold a master’s degree in human resources or public administration, as well as a PHR or SPHR certification, will be preferred for positions such as these.
As the director of HR in the school of medicine, the professional will work to promote the functions of all HR duties throughout the university system.
Choosing the Right Degree for Human Resource Careers
Virginia’s top employers look to hire and retain human resources professionals with relevant bachelor’s degrees when filling HR generalist, specialist and lower level management positions. However, upper-level management and advanced leadership positions are typically reserved for those with a master’s degree and professional certification.
In Virginia, such programs are available through colleges and universities that offer online, on-campus, or blended options that combine classroom and distance learning formats.
Bachelor’s Degrees in Human Resources
At the bachelor’s level, students have a wide variety of degrees to choose from, including, but not limited to:
- BA or BS in Human Resources
- BA or BS in Human Resource Management
- BA or BS in Management: Human Resources
- BA or BS in Business Administration: Human Resource Management
Students who choose a human resources major will be trained in all areas of human resources, including staffing, hiring, onboarding, training, benefits, compensation, and development.
If specializing in management or business, students will be prepared to fit specific management roles, such as compensation manager, employee assistance manager, benefits manager, and more.
Although each program will have specific course requirements, a quick overview of some of the different course topics associated with each major will help students choose the right degree for them.
Distinguishing courses include, but are not limited to:
- Employment law
- Human resource systems
- Training and development
Human Resources Management
- Human resources management
- Budgeting and forecasting
- Principles of management
- Project management
Business Administration: Human Resource Management
- Business information systems
- Accounting and finance
- Health services management
- Hospitality management
- Operations management
- Sales and marketing
Some degree programs even offer the option for further specialization with courses that are taken in lieu of electives:
- Business information systems
- General management
- Human resource management
- Hospitality management
- Health services management
- Security management
- Sustainability management
- Small business management
Bachelor’s degrees in human resources will prepare students with the skills and expertise to work as:
- Human resources managers
- Training and labor relations manager
- Compensation specialist
- Recruitment coordinator
- Payroll/benefits specialist
Advancing to a Master’s Degree in Human Resources
Although each program is different, most master’s degrees will be comprised of 10-12 courses, and they are offered in online formats, making them more accessible to working HR professionals.
Applicable master’s degrees include, but are not limited to:
- Master of Arts (MA) in Human Resources
- Master of Arts (MA) in Human Resource Management
- Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) in Human Resources
- Master of Management (MAM) in Human Resources
While a graduate degree in human resources will develop students’ understanding of HR duties such as staffing, employment law, reward systems, and consulting, a master’s or specialized MBA in HRM will help develop specialized skills in business leadership.
A master’s in management in human resources will include such courses as:
- Managing organizational change
- Creating change
- Managing recruitment and workforce
- Managing global workforce
- Diversity management
A master’s in business administration with a concentration in human resources will include such courses as:
- Decisions in finance and accounting
- Marketing and sales
- Competition and strategy
- Statistics and data-based decisions
Obtaining an advanced degree gives HR professionals a competitive edge when applying for advanced positions:
- HR business partner
- HR consultant
- HR director
Earning a Human Resources Certification
Human resource professionals can obtain generalized or specific certification from these two well-respected organizations:
- Professional in Human Resources (PHR)
- Human Resource Management Professional (HRMP)
- Human Resource Business Professional (HRBP)
- Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR)
- Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)
Virginia’s Major HR Employers, Staffing Firms and Professional Associations
Human resource professionals will find that these resources, including major employers, staffing firms, and HR associations, are helpful in the ongoing advancement of their career:
- Virginia Department of Human Resource Management
- State of Virginia Central Job Board
- Virginia Municipal League Job Openings
- Virginia Government Jobs
- Virginia Job Network
- Adams & Garth Staffing and Executive – Richmond
- Curzon Staffing Inc. – Alexandria
- Virginia’s Staffing Choice – Charlottesville
- NVT Staffing – Falls Church
HR Associations in Virginia
- Virginia SHRM State Council
- Society for Human Resource Management
- The Virginia Society for Healthcare Human Resources
- Richmond SHRM
- Hampton Roads Society for Human Resource Management