Because job growth in general inherently indicates a growing demand for human resource professionals to recruit, screen and train more employees, job growth for HR professionals can be partly attributed to Virginia’s low unemployment rate of just 2.8 percent as of August 2019 – 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) found that as of 2017, Virginia ranks fourth in America among states that are prepared to navigate the changing economy. The report cites the facts that the state is knowledge-based, globalized, entrepreneurial, IT-driven, and innovation-based.
Supporting this, the Virginia Employment Commission indicates that between 2016 and 2026, the state will experience a 10.1 percent job growth rate. To handle the influx of employees, top-notch human resource professionals will be vital to recruiting, interviewing, screening, hiring, and training the changing workforce.
With more than 20,000 human resource specialists employed throughout the state, Virginia is ranked number two in the nation when it comes to the highest concentration of HR specialists, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (2018). Along with that, the DC-VA-MD metropolitan area reported having the fifth highest number of human resource managers of any metro area in the nation, with more than 4,500 HRM professionals employed there as of 2018.
Virginia also happens to be one of the states with the highest demand for bachelor’s and master’s prepared HR professionals. The Virginia Employment Commission indicates that between 2016 and 2026, this growth will include:
HR Management Roles
- Compensation and Benefits Managers: 6 percent increase
- Human Resources Managers: 1 percent increase for an average of 340 openings per year
- Training and Development Managers: 6 percent increase for an average of 100 openings per year
Non-managerial HR Roles
- Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialists: 9 percent increase for an average of 230 openings per year
- Human Resources Specialists: 9 percent increase for an average of 2,220 openings per year
- Training and Development Specialists: 2 percent increase for an average of 1,320 openings per year
- Labor Relations Specialists: Expect an average of 100 openings per year
- Human Resources Assistants: Expect an average of 500 openings per year
Top employers throughout Virginia create a growing demand for HR professionals. Some of the top employers in Virginia include:
- University of Virginia in Charlottesville – 30,000 employees
- Huntington-Ingall Industries in Newport News – 40,000 employees
- Navy Federal Credit Union in Vienna – 17,000
- CarMax in Richmond – 25,110
- Capital One Financial in McLean – 42,685
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.
Human Resources Careers in Virginia with the Federal Government
The federal government has a strict pay scale system that clearly shows the different requirements for different positions, called GS levels. 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
The following examples of HR job postings in Virginia are shown for illustrative purposes only:
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.
These roles 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 position 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 (Shown for illustrative purposes only):
Human Resource Analyst for the Department of Medical Assistant Services in Richmond – This position requires you to hold a bachelor’s degree in human resource management, business administration, or a related field.
The person hired to fill this slot will be responsible for 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 – This position requires some level of college work, preferably a bachelor’s degree in human resources or another related field.
That education should prepare the applicant sufficiently concerning HRIS systems, automated HR/Payroll systems, and in other duties related to human resources.
Human Resource Supervisor for the Catawba Hospital in Roanoke – Anyone interested in applying to positions such as these should hold a bachelor’s degree in human resource management (or a related field).
Supervisors are 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 – The successful applicant for this role will 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 – To fill this role, you’ll need 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.
This position will manage total rewards, benefits, and benefits communication.
Senior Recruiter in Talent Acquisition for Leidos in Reston – For this position, you 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.
The job 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 this role.
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. A master’s degree is also a respected path into human resources for those who earned their bachelor’s degree in a separate discipline, particularly one not otherwise related to HR.
In Virginia, such degrees 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 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 three well-respected organizations:
- 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)
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
HR Associations in Virginia
- Virginia SHRM State Council
- DC SHRM
- Society for Human Resource Management
- The Virginia Society for Healthcare Human Resources
- Richmond SHRM
- Hampton Roads Society for Human Resource Management
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.
Job growth projections sourced from the Virginia Employment Commission 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 October 2019.