Should I Be a Human Resources Major? Everything You Need to Know to Decide

illustration of woman thinking with two human resources icons above her head

Human resources is a field that we all interact with at some point in our professional lives. From the process of being hired, trained, and supported within an organization, HR plays a vital role. As you think through how your education will impact your professional life, take a moment to consider the possibilities of pursuing a human resources major.

Human resources is both a specialized major and an interdisciplinary course of study involving social science, business and communication. These skills are applicable far beyond the world of human resources and may set you up for a deeply rewarding and dynamic professional life. We spoke with numerous former human resource majors about how their education influenced their ability to find a future career.

“Forget what you think you know about HR,” says Dave Morley, General Manager of Rockstar Recruiting. “It is so much more than you think it is. HR is not just an admin role or a group of people who plan office parties. HR is a key strategic component of any company and is essential to the growth of all businesses. Your HR degree is your introduction to the business world, what you do with that degree is up to you.”

What will I learn in a Human Resources program?

Human resources is a field about people. That includes knowing how to effectively find the right people for an organization, assisting in those employees’ professional development and knowing how to ethically navigate the potentially sensitive situations that may arise in their lives. If you are interested in learning more about people, courses within an HR major will help you better understand the dynamic social psychology within organizations and leadership—an understanding that will serve you in numerous future careers.

“I gained an understanding of labor relations, occupational health and safety, and all about recruitment,” says Jack Choros, HR manager of IronMonk Solutions. “More than those basic principles, I gained networking opportunities and found my first job in the industry.”

Here are a few sample courses you’ll find within the Human Resources and Organizational Leadership program at Rasmussen University:

  • Managing a Diverse Workforce
  • Organizational Development
  • International Leadership and Human Resource Management
  • Human Resource Information Systems
  • Strategic Human Resource Management
  • Law and Ethics for the Human Resource Professional
  • Workforce Performance and Talent Management
  • Workforce and Labor Relations Management
  • Contemporary Leadership Challenges
  • Organizational Behavior Analysis
  • Human Resource Recruitment and Selection
  • Compensation Administration

These courses are designed to build the key competencies needed to flourish as a modern HR professional. You’ll learn not only the theory behind key concepts but will also apply what you’ve learned in coursework that incorporates realistic work scenarios.

What are some common roles associated with a Human Resources major?

Depending on the kind of work environment you’re looking for, there are many exciting and diverse options within the field of HR to explore. We’ve compiled information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to give you a quick run down of four common careers for HR majors:

1. Human resources specialist

An HR specialist might be the classic role you imagine when you think about HR. An HR specialist is trained in most human resources disciplines such as recruiting and placing workers, administration of benefits, payroll, and compliance with federal, state, and local regulations.

The typical duties of this role will vary depending on the specialized role you pursue. This can include:

  • Identifying employment needs and resource planning.
  • Interviewing and screening applicants.
  • Contacting and following up with applicant references.
  • Managing employment records and paperwork.
  • Overseeing new employee orientation efforts.

Projected employment growth (2019-2029): 7 percent (faster than average).1

2019 Median annual salary (BLS): $61,920.1

Educational requirements: Bachelor’s degree.1

2. Human resource manager

HR managers direct the administrative work of an HR department. HR managers oversee HR specialists and work towards attracting, motivating, and keeping the most qualified and effective employees within an organization.

The duties of a HR manager often include:

  • Planning and organize a workforce to best use employee talents.
  • Planning, review and negotiation of employee benefit options.
  • Coordination and supervision of HR staff.
  • Lead organization wide staffing and resource planning initiatives.
  • Overseeing recruitment, interview, selection, and hiring efforts.

Projected employment growth (2019-2029): 6 percent (faster than average).1

Median annual salary (2019): $116,720.1

Educational requirements: Bachelor’s degree.1

3. Training and development specialist

Training development specialists create, administer and deliver training programs within an organization. Part educator, part business professional, individuals in this role play a big part in getting new hires up to speed and also developing current employees as they grow in their careers.

The duties of a training and development specialist often include:

  • Assessing organizational training needs.
  • Design and creation training manuals, online learning modules, or course materials.
  • Delivering training to employees.
  • Assisting in evaluation of training effectiveness.
  • Performing administrative tasks related to training such as scheduling and budgeting.

Projected employment growth (2019-2029): 9 percent (much faster than average).1

Median annual salary (2019): $61,210.1

Educational requirements: Bachelor’s degree.1

4. Training and development manager

Training and development managers typically oversee a staff of training development specialists to plan, coordinate, and direct training programs for an organization’s staff. Training and development professionals at this level often work hand in hand with management from other departments to develop broad organizational training plans.

The duties of a training and development manager often include:

  • Overseeing the work of training and development staff.
  • Assessing needs for training and developing plans to meet organizational goals.
  • Evaluating and updating training programs.
  • Teaching training methods and skills to instructors and supervisors.

Projected employment growth (2019-2029): 7 percent (faster than average).1

Median annual salary (2019): $113,350.1

Educational requirements: Bachelor’s degree.1

Of course, this is just a sampling of potential roles. A Human Resources degree provides a depth of knowledge related organizational behavior, leadership, and employment law and more, and HR majors may find opportunities to explore careers outside of these traditional roles.

“Those with HR degrees are seeing a rise in their value in other people-related industries,” says Phil Strazzulla, CEO of Select Software Reviews. “We’re even seeing the rise of a new C-suit position: The Chief People Officer. Positions in people management, people analytics, and talent brand are giving people with HR education new career paths with more diversity than sitting behind a desk and shuffling paperwork.”

What qualities benefit human resources professionals?

What qualities do HR majors need to excel in their education and future career? We found one critical quality HR professionals referenced about what kind of a student thrives in this field: having a genuine interest in people.

While being a social butterfly and an extravert might be helpful, it is far more important that you are interested in collaborating with and supporting a diverse group of people as they meet their professional goals within an organization. This takes strong communication and listening skills as well as compassion and problem solving. If you already have these qualities, you have a big advantage in your education in HR.

Interested in becoming a Human Resources major?

If you are looking for a major that will give you unique insight into human behavior and organizational development as well as preparation for a career in a growing and important field, consider studying Human Resources. 

If you are interested in learning more about what the day-to-day of a HR professional looks like, check out our article, “Everything You Need to Know about Working in Human Resources.”

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [career information accessed August, 2020] Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.

About the author

Anjali Stenquist

Anjali Stenquist is a content writer for Collegis Education who writes student focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen University. She is passionate about helping students of all backgrounds navigate higher education.

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