A Closer Look at 9 Human Resources Salaries

Two women talking in business attire

The first thing you’ll notice about researching human resources (HR) jobs is that there are a lot of them. Titles like specialist, generalist and assistant pair with seemingly every focus area from timekeeping to labor relations. If you’re new to the world of HR, you’ll likely have a hard time sorting out which HR positions net the highest salaries, which are specializations and which are entry-level jobs.

Money isn’t everything, of course, but human resource salaries and earning potentials are still an important piece of the puzzle for anyone considering a career in this field. We’ve compiled this list of common HR job titles to help you better handle on the earning potential, level of education needed and the type of work these roles are typically responsible for.

9 Common HR job titles and salaries

Ready to get a better feel for different types of HR roles and the potentially life-trajectory-changing salaries that come with them? Read on to get started!

1. HR assistant

Often the starting point for many in this field, the role of an HR assistant typically centers on supporting the human resources department by completing clerical tasks. They’re responsible for recording and compiling employee data, such as absences, disciplinary actions, supervisor reports and termination information, according to the Department of Labor (DOL).1 They keep records updated and organized and retrieve information for managers when it’s needed.

2019 Median annual salary: $41,4301

Job outlook: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a one-percent growth rate for HR assistant positions from 2019 through 2029. This is a slower rate of growth than the average occupation. These jobs are certainly out there but may not have as many opportunities and availabilities as others in HR.

Education needed: HR assistants typically need some college training or an Associate’s degree, according to the DOL.1 For some employers, related job experience might be acceptable in place of education.

2. Payroll and timekeeping clerk

Payroll and timekeeping clerks handle data related to employee time and payment, according to the DOL.1 Tasks may vary depending on the company they work for, but these professionals are generally the ones who review timesheets, enter commissions and wages, prepare paychecks and enter new employee information as needed.

2019 Median annual salary: $46,1801

Job outlook: Employment of payroll and timekeeping clerks is projected to slightly decline from 2019–2029, according to the DOL. While that employment growth rate is slower than the national average for all jobs, HR is still projected to be adding around 15,800 new payroll and timekeeping clerk jobs between 2018–2028.1

Education needed: A high school diploma or equivalent can be enough for some payroll and timekeeping clerks. The DOL reports 39 percent of respondents for this occupation as holding a high school diploma, with the rest having some college training or an Associate’s degree.1

3. HR specialist

The HR specialist job title encompasses many of the primary HR positions, such as recruiter and HR generalist, according to the BLS.2 Typically, these professionals recruit, screen, interview and place employees, while also handling tasks related to employee relations and orientation.

Human resources specialists might also administer benefits, process payroll and field problems. HR specialists also tend to have a strategic focus for their companies, planning and hiring to fit current and future needs. In short, these specialists are the skilled HR professionals who handle a large portion of the execution of day-to-day initiatives.

2019 Median annual salary: $61,9202

Job outlook: From 2019 to 2029, employment of HR specialists is projected to grow at a rate of seven percent, according to the BLS.2 One notable change in the job market for these roles is that many HR specialist positions are now being outsourced to specialized agency-style providers, like talent recruitment firms or benefits administration providers.

Education needed: HR specialists typically need a Bachelor’s degree in Business or Human Resources, according to the BLS.

4. Training and development specialist

Have you ever watched a training video in your first week of a new job? If so, you have an idea of at least some of what training and development specialists do. They’re the folks responsible for the design, planning and administration of training programs intended to develop employee skills and competencies.

This includes deciding what information employees need to know to train in, creating training documents, presenting information to employees, updating existing training materials and evaluating the need for new options. This is an important role for organizations to fully integrate and develop their employees to their maximum potentials.

2019 Median annual salary: $61,2102

Job outlook: Employment of training and development specialists is projected to grow nine percent from 2019 to 2029, according to the BLS. Many industries require continuous education and training of employees to keep up with changing regulations, trends and best practices. This helps spur demand for training and development HR specialists.

The growing use of media and technology in many companies is also creating more demand for training and development specialists who can train their employees in the new systems.

Education needed: Training and development specialists typically need a Bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS.2 Many positions may also require work experience in areas such as training and development or similar occupations, such as human resources specialists or teachers.

While not typically required, candidates looking for an extra edge could also pursue certification in training and development from organizations like the Association for Talent Development or International Society for Performance Improvement. Additionally, broader HR certification from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM®) can be an asset.

5. Compensation/benefits specialist

This HR specialty centers around what brings employees back day after day: their paychecks and the benefits that come with them! Companies need compensation, benefits and job analysis specialists to build and manage compensation and benefits programs. These professionals use data and cost analysis to evaluate benefits plan options, determine salary ranges for different roles and keep the company in compliance with state and federal regulations.

Depending on the organization, this role may break down into subspecialties. Compensation specialists assess and work with the organization’s pay structure. Benefits specialists administer the organization’s benefits programs (e.g., retirement plans, leave policies, wellness programs and insurance policies). Job analysis specialists, also known as position classifiers, evaluate positions by writing or assigning job descriptions and deciding salary scales.

2019 Median annual salary: $64,5602

Job outlook: The job outlook for these professionals looks bright. According to the BLS, their employment is projected to grow eight percent from 2019 to 2029.2

Companies need these professionals to determine the right compensation and benefits offerings for their employees and to ensure their compensation packages abide by regulations. They also depend on compensation and benefits specialists to offer competitive compensation packages to attract and retain qualified employees—a factor that is especially important in sectors where talent is in high demand.

Education needed: A Bachelor’s degree is the most common threshold for this job, according to the BLS. Some work experience in compensation analysis and general HR is also often required.

6. Labor relations specialist

Labor relations specialists advise an organization’s management on contracts, worker grievances and disciplinary procedures, according to the BLS.2 This may involve orchestrating meetings between management and labor unions, meeting with union representatives directly, investigating grievances and training management in labor relations. Additionally, these specialists may also draft formal language as part of the collective bargaining process and use their deep knowledge of collective bargaining agreements to ensure both labor and management comply with contractual agreements.

2019 Median annual salary: $69,0202

Job outlook: Employment of labor relations specialists is projected to decline seven percent from 2019 to 2029, according to the BLS.2 Part of this decline in employment demand is because union membership has been declining.2

In industries where unions still have a large presence, there should be more opportunities. Candidates with a Bachelor’s degree, related work experience and professional certificates are likely to have have the best job prospects.

Education needed: Labor relations specialists typically need a Bachelor’s degree with some coursework in labor or employment relations, according to the BLS.2 Previous experience in HR may also be a requirement.

7. HR manager

Human resources managers oversee, plan and direct the administrative functions of an organization, according to the BLS. This can involve guiding the recruitment and onboarding of new staff, strategic planning with executives and sometimes overseeing HR teams and programs, such as compensation, employee retention and employee relations.

Overall, human resources managers are responsible for maximizing the value of the organization’s employees. Larger companies might hire specific managers for each department in HR as well, such as payroll managers or recruiting managers.

2019 Median annual salary: $116,7202

Job outlook: Employment of human resources managers is projected to grow six percent from 2019 to 2029, according to the BLS.2 This is a slightly faster rate of growth than the average for all occupations.2 As new companies form and organizations expand, they will need more human resources managers to oversee their programs.

Education needed: HR managers need at least Bachelor’s degree and several years of related work experience. These jobs are certainly competitive, and candidates with a Master’s degree will likely have the best prospects.

8. Training and development manager

Training and development managers oversee the company’s efforts to create and coordinate programs that enhance employee knowledge and skills, according to the BLS.2 This might include assessing training needs, strategizing on larger company goals, managing training budgets and monitoring endeavors for effectiveness.

This position involves some teaching since managers teach training methods to specialists who then instruct the organization’s employees. In smaller companies, training and development managers may also instruct employees directly.

2019 Median annual salary: $113,3502

Job outlook: Employment for training and development managers is projected to grow seven percent from 2019 to 2029, according to the BLS.2 The BLS states that this growth rate is faster than the national average for all occupations—4 percent.2 In part, this is because technology is enabling new learning possibilities for employees.

The rising importance of social media, digital tools and technological solutions in companies across all industries also creates plenty of demand for training.

Education needed: Training and development managers need a Bachelor’s degree for many positions, but some jobs may require a Master’s degree, according to the BLS.2 Related work experience is also crucial for training and development managers. Some employers may prefer this experience to be in their specific industry.

9. Compensation and benefits manager

Compensation and benefits managers set their organization’s pay and benefits, determine competitive wage rates and choose and manage outside partners, such as insurance brokers and investment managers, according to the BLS.2

Depending on the size of the company, these professionals might manage teams of HR specialists who work on different compensation and benefits programs. They also keep tabs on federal and state regulations to ensure their company complies. Compensation and benefits managers also meet with senior staff to present analyses and make recommendations on compensation and benefits policies, programs and plans.

2019 Median annual salary: $122,2702

Job outlook: From 2019 to 2029, employment of compensation and benefits managers is projected to grow by three percent, according to the BLS.2 Trying to reduce costs is a continual goal for companies, and hiring a compensation and benefits manager is key to keeping the company ideally positioned in the market.

Education needed: As you might expect, most compensation and benefits managers need a Bachelor’s degree. Managers also need related work experience and often specialize in either compensation or benefits, depending on the types of experience they have.

Getting a start as a compensation, benefits and job analysis specialist is a great way to gain the needed experience for management.

Find the HR career that fits your future

Now that you have a better idea of what human resources salaries are out there, you are better equipped to chart an ambitious HR career path. It’s no surprise that the higher-paying management positions require some time and experience in HR, but if you have a plan for the positions you want to work toward, you can make informed choices from the beginning. This could mean pursuing education that has your primary interests built in. For example, an HR program that emphasizes organizational leadership right from the start. 

Human resources from top to bottom is all about people. If you understand how central people are to a company’s success, HR might be the ideal career for you. Check out “6 Facts About the Rasmussen University Human Resources and Organizational Leadership Programs” to learn what makes the HR programs at Rasmussen University stand out.

SHRM is a registered trademark of the Society for Human Resource Management, Inc.

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, [accessed February, 2021 www.bls.gov/oes/. 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.
2Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed Februrary, 2021] www.bls.gov/ooh/. 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.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2018. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2021.

Brianna Flavin

Brianna is a content writer for Collegis Education who writes student focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen University. She earned her MFA in poetry and teaches as an adjunct English instructor. She loves to write, teach and talk about the power of effective communication.

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