Sometimes it seems like the economic boom in Washington state will never end. Boeing kicked off the party with a globe-circling fleet of popular airliners and huge assembly plants scattered around Puget Sound. Microsoft joined in later with the operating system that dominates personal computing around the world, and in more recent years, Amazon has become the retail and cloud-computing behemoth behind a voracious demand for office space and employees in the Evergreen State.
With all that increased hiring comes an increased demand for human resource professionals to recruit, interview, screen, on-board, train and manage new talent in Washington’s high growth tech, aerospace and healthcare sectors.
With a steadily dropping unemployment rate that hit 4.6 percent in August 2019, the demand for human resources professionals is staggering. The Washington State Employment Security Department estimates that between 2016 and 2026, human resources departments will be expanding as the field enjoys strong job growth:
HR Management Roles
- Compensation and Benefits Managers: 3 percent increase
- Human Resources Managers: 8 percent increase for an average of 500 openings per year
- Training and Development Managers: 5 percent increase for an average of 110 openings per year
Non-managerial HR Roles
- Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialists: 5 percent increase for an average of 180 openings per year
- Human Resources Specialists: 8 percent increase for an average of 2,220 openings per year
- Training and Development Specialists: 5 percent increase for an average of 830 openings per year
- Labor Relations Specialists: Expect an average of 230 openings per year
- Human Resources Assistants: 1 percent increase for an average of 330 openings per year
According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, as of 2019 Washington’s largest employers contribute significantly to the growing demand for human resource professionals, since they are responsible for employing a large portion of the state’s skilled workforce:
- Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes Division in Everett and Renton – 85,000 employees
- Joint Base Lewis McChord – 56,000 employees
- Amazon in Seattle – 52,000 employees
- Microsoft Corporation in Redmond – 50,000 employees
- University of Washington – 46,000 employees
What Washington’s Top Employers Look for When Hiring or Promoting HR Professionals
From labor relations managers and employee development specialists, to payroll specialists and benefits managers, a career in human resources means having plenty of opportunities for specializing in key niche areas.
Washington State Government
A few examples of HR positions with the Washington State Government include (Shown for illustrative purposes only):
Human Resource Consultant 1 – Anyone applying for this position should hold a bachelor’s degree in business, human resources, social or organizational behavior, or a related field.
These are first-level professionals who work under supervision and are assigned to one or more areas, such as classification, compensation, benefits, recruitment, affirmative action, and more.
Human Resource Consultant 2 — This second-level position requires candidates to have a bachelor’s degree in business, human resources, organizational behavior science, or another field, plus one year of professional HR experience. In lieu of one year of experience, the candidate may hold a master’s degree in human resources or a related field.
These individuals work under less direction than first-levels, and perform HR functions independently.
Human Resource Consultant 3 — This tertiary level position requires applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree in business, human resources, organizational behavior science, or another field, plus two year of professional HR experience. (Equivalent education/experience will be acceptable.)
This is a senior position that involves working independently as a consultant and advisor.
Washington’s Private Sector
As one of Washington’s largest employers, vacancy announcements for HR jobs with Boeing provide a representative example of common qualifications and education requirements that corporate employers in the private sector are looking for (Shown for illustrative purposes only):
Human Resources Generalist Level 2 in Renton – Professionals looking to apply for jobs such as this should hold either a bachelor’s degree in human resources (or a related field) and three years of experience, OR a master’s degree in human resources (or a related field) and one year of experience.
Human Resources Generalist Level 3 in Everett – Applicants for positions such as this should hold a bachelor’s degree (in HR, HR management, or a related field) and have six years of work experience, OR hold a master’s degree with four years of experience (or an equivalent combination of education and experience).
Employee Development Specialist in Everett – Professionals looking to apply for positions such as this should hold a bachelor’s degree (in human resources or a related field) with ten years of work experience, OR hold a master’s degree with eight years of work experience.
Commercial Aviation Services HR Business Partner Level 3 in Renton – Professionals seeking a position such as this should hold a bachelor’s degree (in human resources or a related field) and six years of experience, OR a master’s degree (in human resources or a related field) with four years of work experience.
Earning the Right Degree for a Career in Human Resources
When filling upper-level management and executive positions, the top employers in Washington look for HR professionals with master’s degrees and extensive experience in the field. A master’s is also standard for anybody with a bachelor’s in another field looking for a career change to HR.
Still, many professionals are able to begin their careers as generalists, specialists or lower-to-mid-level managers with a bachelor’s degree in HR, industrial relations or organizational psychology.
Universities throughout Washington offer these programs through flexible online and blended formats that allow working professionals to advance their education without sacrificing work and family life.
Bachelor’s degrees directly related to human recourses and human resource management include:
- Bachelor of Arts or Science in Human Resources
- Bachelor of Arts or Science in Human Resource Management
- Bachelor of Science in Management: Human Resources
- Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) in Human Resource Management
Each major differs slightly based on the specific emphasis, but all will provide core courses covering the fundamental facets of human resources:
- Training and development
- Employment law
- HR development
- Staffing organizations
- Compensation and benefits
- Workforce diversity
- Collective bargaining
In human resource management (HRM) programs specifically, courses will also cover management and business leadership skills:
- Organizational Communications
- Intercultural Management
- Principles of Management
- International HR management
- Information systems management
Finally, in a business and human resources major, students will focus more directly on topics related to business operations, law and ethics:
- Business policy and strategy
- Business policy
- Business ethics
- Business law
- Principles of accounting
- Financial management
HR professionals with a bachelor’s degree are often prepared for such job titles as:
- Employee benefits coordinator
- Human resource coordinator
- Employee training specialist
- Labor relations specialist
Human resources professionals also have a wide range of options when it comes to choosing a master’s degree. Applicable master’s degrees include:
- Master of Arts (MA) in Human Resources
- Master of Arts (MA) in Human Resource Management
- Master of Business Administration (MBA) – Human Resources
- Master of Management (MAM) – Human Resources
Eligibility qualifications may vary between programs, but students will generally be expected to hold a bachelor’s degree in human resources or a related field that includes prerequisite courses in business and human resources.
Master’s programs generally include 10-12 courses (30-36 credits) with opportunities to focus coursework on management and other specialty areas such as labor relations.
For example, a Master of Business Administration in Human Resource Management is likely to include such courses as:
- Organizational research and theory
- Strategic management
- Research methods
- Organizational research and theory
- International business
- Human resources management methods
- Labor relations and collective bargaining
- Compensation management
With in-depth practical skills and an ability to apply higher level business expertise in a strategic HR management context, candidates with a master’s degree are more likely to be considered for top management positions.
Obtaining a professional certification is one more way that human resource professionals can stand out as experts in their field. Many of Washington’s top employers will look to certification, along with education, when deciding between top applicants.
Eligibility is based upon an applicant’s previous education and experience.
- 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)
Washington’s Top HR Employers and Professional Resources
Staffing firms are a great place for HR professionals to use their screening, interviewing, and recruiting skills. Washington staffing firms include, but are not limited to:
HR associations provide opportunities to network with other professionals in the field. Along with this, they provide information on changing regulations in human resources and sometimes offer professional development courses. HR associations in Washington include:
- Washington State Human Resources Council
- NRHMA – Northwest Human Resource Management Association
- Lake Washington Human Resources Association
- Snohomish County Human Resource Association
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 Washington Employment Security Department 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.