A May 2015 article published in the Seattle Times reported on the strength of the economy in Washington and the state’s expanding job market, with King County leading the way with an unemployment rate of just 3.3 percent – the lowest its been since 2009. With increased hiring comes an increased demand for human resource professionals to recruit, interview, screen, train and manage new talent in Washington’s high growth tech, aerospace and healthcare sectors.
With this falling unemployment rate, the demand for human resources professionals is staggering. The Washington State Employment Security Department estimates that between 2013 and 2023, human resources departments will be expanding as the field enjoys strong job growth:
- Human resource managers – 16.8 percent job growth
- Compensation and benefits managers – 15.9 percent job growth
- Training and development managers – 16.6 percent job growth
- Human resource specialists – 18.2 percent job growth
- Human resource assistants – 10.8 percent job growth
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
- Navy Region Northwest – 43,000 employees
- Microsoft Corporation in Redmond – 40,000 employees
- University of Washington – 29,800 employees
- Sea-Tac International Airport – 21,000 employees
- Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island – 10,000 employees
- Providence Physician Service in Spokane – 8,000 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.
A review of job descriptions and related requirements revel the educational and experiential qualifications that some of Washington’s top employers look for when hiring or promoting human resources professionals (taken from a survey of job ads in May 2015 and shown for illustrative purposes only).
Washington State Government
A few examples of HR positions with the Washington State Government include:
Human Resource Consultant 1 – Professionals 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 professionals work under less direction, 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 educational requirements that corporate employers in the private sector are looking for:
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
The top employers in Washington seek to hire human resources professionals that hold master’s degrees and extensive experience in the field when filling upper-level management and executive positions. However, many professionals are able to begin their careers as generalists, specialists or lower-to-mid-level managers with a bachelor’s degree.
Although students that major in areas like industrial relations or organizational psychology can enter the field of human resources as generalists, degrees directly related to HR will prepare students for more specialized roles.
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
- HR Manager
- 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 key roles 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 or 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 research to businesses, candidates with a master’s degree are more likely to be considered for top management positions.
Obtaining a professional certification is one 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, to distinguish between top applicants.
Eligibility is based upon an applicant’s previous education and experience.
HRCI offers specialized certifications, such as:
- Professional in Human Resources (PHR)
- Human Resource Business Professional (HRBP)
- Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR)
- Human Resource Management Professional (HRMP)
- Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)
SHRM offers more general certifications for human resource professionals, such as:
Washington’s Top HR Employers and Professional Resources
Major human resource professional employers throughout Washington include, but are not limited to:
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