Picture a company where employees are perfectly matched to their roles, feel valued and are encouraged to learn and grow. Now picture what that does for a company’s bottom line.
Human resources managers help organizations strategically hire and develop their most important asset for success: their people.
Common Job Titles
Human Resources Manager, Human Resources Business Partner, Director of Human Resources, Human Resources Vice President
Projected Job Growth
Washington State: 32%**
Median Annual Salary
*Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
**Data from O*NET.
“There’s been an evolution in human resources, a move toward focusing less on compliance and administration and more on thinking about people as an investment — and on how to maximize that asset,” said Michael Walters, senior vice president of human resources for Genoa Healthcare and an instructor in the Certificate in Human Resources Management
offered by UW Professional & Continuing Education.
Relationship Builder, Business Leader
If you’ve been employed in any sizable organization, you’ve probably interacted with HR specialists during recruitment, benefits and compensation negotiations, onboarding and training. They’re the face of the company for employees.
HR managers are more behind the scenes. They’re the ones who oversee HR specialists and all the processes they use. HR managers also handle issues that come up in employee relations, regulatory compliance and employee-related services such as payroll, benefits and training. They also play an important role in implementing business strategy.
“As an HR manager, you need to have an understanding of key business drivers and adapt your practices and policies to support the needs of the business,” Walters explained. “You need to focus on business solutions and the people component to those solutions.”
For example, if a company is going through a change — growing, shifting business focus, moving into international markets, hiring new leadership, etc. — the HR manager works as an internal consultant to other managers to boost the effectiveness of their people during these transitions. This could take a variety of forms, from re-evaluating employee roles to creating a new workforce plan to rolling out communications about the change.
Growing Companies Need HR Managers
New and growing companies are fueling a demand for HR managers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for HR managers to grow 9 percent from 2016 to 2026. In Washington state, job growth is projected to be more than triple that, according to the O*NET occupation information website.
“In the Puget Sound area, HR is very strong because of the diversity of businesses. We have large tech companies, aerospace, world-famous coffee,” Walters said. “A commonality across all these businesses is that need for HR.”
HR skills are also portable between industries, providing ample prospects for job seekers. Walters used his career as an example: “I’ve worked in the entertainment industry, in technology, and now I’m working in the medical space. You have an opportunity to go from industry to industry.”
Becoming an HR Manager
You can start your path into HR by earning a bachelor’s in human resources or business administration. But that’s not the only route. You could also transition from another job into an HR specialist role by finding one that leverages your experience.
For example, if you’re a software engineer, you might move into an HR role in recruitment for IT talent or in software training. If you have an analytics background, benefits and compensation might be a road in. Or say you have experience as a journalist, HR communications might be a perfect fit.
To advance into HR management, you’ll need to build knowledge in the areas outside your specialty, whether by studying on your own or through professional education.
“A certificate in HR management, such as from UW Professional & Continuing Education, is a great place to start,” Walters said. “It demonstrates to employers that you have a good depth of academic background in the different domain spaces within HR.”
Those who are looking to break into the HR field should consider taking the Certificate in Human Resources Essentials. Another option, the Certificate in Business Administration, covers key elements common to all businesses, including HR.
Formal education can also be a springboard toward learning the body of knowledge needed to pass certification tests from the HR Certification Institute or the Society for Human Resource Management. These certifications are another way to show employers your mastery of HR practices.
In addition to experience and education, Walters noted that networking is one of your most powerful tools. Meeting other HR professionals through classes, conferences, trade shows and volunteering can open up job opportunities. He suggested, “Find somebody in HR who is willing to take a chance on you because they’ve gotten to know you, appreciate your drive and business acumen as well as your ability to develop relationships. These are the attributes that are important in the field of HR.”
One graduate of the Certificate in Human Resources Management, Nicole Bowers, used the connections she developed through the program to help her make a career change and find a job she loves in the HR field. "The program was a great way for me to network with other people who had a passion for the human capital side of the business," she said.