Let’s face it, human resources (HR) isn’t really the most glamorous-looking department within a company. After all, one of the most prominent examples of an HR professional in popular culture brings to mind the fictional struggle between Michael Scott and Toby Flenderson of The Office. Despite Toby’s general competence, you’re not going to hear people say they want to be like him when asked, “Why work in HR?”
Luckily, the human resources field has a lot more going for it than a television character. To prove this, we combined government data with expert insight from HR professionals to identify some of the top reasons for working in HR.
11 reasons you’ll want to work in HR
1. You’ll be in a position of influence
HR professionals have a unique perspective into the businesses they work for due to the nature of their job. Not only do they have a strong understanding of an organization’s priorities and challenges, but they also have the ability to influence the future of the company based on the employment decisions they make.
Author and HR expert Sharon Armstrong says she loved being able to make a difference for employees in the workplace.
“Good HR professionals have their finger on the pulse of what is going on in their companies, and they continue to try to do what they can to make or keep it an employer of choice,” Armstrong says.
2. You’ll earn an above-average salary
The work of HR professionals is key to any organization, so it’s no surprise that they’re compensated appropriately. The median annual salary for human resources specialists in 2016 was $59,180, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).* To put that into perspective, the median wage for all occupations was $37,040.
There’s also plenty of room to increase that figure as you work your way up the corporate ladder. For example, advancing into an HR management position could earn you an average of $106,910, according to the BLS.*
3. You’ll have the chance to change lives
A great HR professional can have a profoundly positive impact on people just by clocking in each day. The daily duties of the job make employee welfare and happiness a matter of professional responsibility.
“A lot of the back stories of employees and the ways companies help them are never mentioned,” Armstrong says.
There are countless examples of ways HR professionals have a hand in helping those in need: hiring someone who’s in danger of losing a home, providing health insurance or tuition reimbursement to someone who’s never had it before, or arranging job training that will give employees transferable skills no matter where they work.
“The list can go on and on,” Armstrong says.
4. You’ll have some real staying power
Technology and automation can change an industry rapidly. Yet HR appears to be well-situated for withstanding technological displacement. It’s true that human resources information systems (HRIS) have automated some of the duties of HR generalists, but there is a large element to HR careers that simply can’t be automated.
“Software takes the ‘human’ out of human resources,” says Lynda Spiegel, a 15-year HR veteran and career coach. Spiegel says the profession requires intuition and common sense, something technology just doesn’t have the capability of effectively emulating.
5. You can help develop the people around you
The work you do in HR goes a long way in the professional development of other employees. With tools like performance reviews and exit interviews, human resources professionals can collect valuable information that guides performance improvement plans. This ultimately provides you the rewarding opportunity to not just improve the organization as a whole, but also the individual employees you work alongside.
6. The industry is experiencing steady growth
The BLS projects HR specialist jobs to increase at a rate of five percent through 2022, which is on pace with the national average for all occupations. This career field, barring the unexpected, appears to be anchored on steady ground for years to come. Companies will continue needing recruiters, benefits specialists and other HR personnel as they grow. HR plays a fundamental role in a business’s operations, which isn’t likely to change.
7. You’ll feel gratification from solving problems
Do you ever feel like you see trouble coming before everyone else does? In this position, spotting and addressing a problem area is going to pay off. HR pros are on the frontlines of employee problem-solving. Because of this, they have the opportunity to smooth out organizational kinks before they become company-wide knots.
“It’s really gratifying to see employees go from being frustrated because they’re having a problem with their manager to feeling productive and appreciated,” Speigel says.
8. You’ll get to welcome the rookies
“Onboarding is an often overlooked aspect of HR that I always found satisfying,” Speigel says. “I love making new hires feel welcome and ready to join the team.”
The first day of any job can be daunting. There’s a host of new places, people and processes to learn. The job of many HR professionals revolves around providing a quality onboarding experience that will ease the stress of a new job and ensure they are set up for success.
9. Each workday will be different
You have to stay on your toes when you work in HR. One day you may be helping an employee navigate changes to their health insurance while the next you could be dealing with the effects of new laws or regulations.
“I loved the variety and the challenge,” Armstrong says, citing new employee challenges that come up regularly as well as updated federal and state statutes as big sources of variety and excitement on the job. Challenges like these can keep the work engaging, no matter how long you’re in the game.
10. You’ll get to guide others in their careers
Not every entry-level employee has a clear plan for the direction of their career. HR professionals have the opportunity to guide and, when appropriate, nudge employees toward pursuing new career opportunities.
“A lot of people think they know what they want but then figure out it doesn't go with their life goals,” says Janice Chaka, author and HR consultant. “As a mentor, I get to help them find what works for them.”
11. You’ll get to work with people
The term “human resources” suggests you’ll be working with other humans. Needless to say, you shouldn’t pursue a career in HR without having a passion for working with others. The day-to-day duties of HR professionals constantly revolve around interacting with people, whether it’s conducting job interviews or assisting current employees with complaints or questions. If you thrive when working with others, you’ll have plenty of reason to enjoy the job.
Is an HR career for you?
You now have a whole host of reasons why it’s worth it to work in HR. Is this the rewarding career you’ve been longing for?
If so, learn more about the skills, education and experience needed to get started by checking out our article, “Everything You Need to Know About Working in Human Resources.”
*Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in November 2012. It has since been updated to reflect information relevant to 2017.