Every company, big or small, relies on human resource professionals — those versatile employees responsible for everything from making great hires and fostering a strong company culture to communicating and enforcing company policies. Good HR professionals help things run smoothly and make their companies good places to work.
In any sizable company, the foundation of the HR team is the human resources specialist. HR specialists attend to day-to-day HR operations like screening and interviewing job candidates, onboarding new hires and more. HR specialists typically report to an HR manager.
Although the HR specialist is an entry-level role, it can open the door to many opportunities.
HR skills are very widely used and transferable — you can be in the HR function in any industry.
Senior Director of People Analytics, Expedia
“HR skills are very widely used and transferable — you can be in the HR function in any industry, from very small companies to very large companies,” said Rupert Bader, senior director of people analytics at Expedia, program developer and instructor in the new Certificate in Human Resources Essentials
offered by UW Professional & Continuing Education. “It’s a really strong skill set to have when you’re starting out.”
Human Resources Specialists Jobs on the Rise
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs for HR specialists in the United States is expected to grow at a solid 7 percent through 2026. But O*NET reports that the growth is expected to be more than triple that — 23 percent — here in Washington state.
Seattle’s robust economy is creating more jobs, and more jobs means more HR jobs.
“Seattle has a high-growth economy, but it also has a lot of jobs that depend on the quality of the people you hire, like technical jobs or professional services,” Bader said. “If you are a company with those kinds of jobs, you’re really motivated to invest in the HR function.”
projected job growth
Washington state: 23%
Median Annual salary
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET
What HR Specialists Need to Know
HR specialists need a wide range of skills and abilities to start out in the industry — skills that the new Certificate in Human Resources Essentials was created to impart. The 3-course, 8-month program starts in April and meets Thursday evenings in downtown Seattle.
In the first two courses, students learn foundational competencies that are necessary to succeed in an entry-level HR position, including records management, communication, compliance with policies and regulations, and problem solving.
The third and final course uses real-world scenarios to teach students how to apply the skills they’ve learned in key HR functional areas such as payroll, operations, compensation and benefits, recruiting and learning and development. It also teaches students how to prepare for launching their HR careers in either small or large organizations.
The certificate program emphasizes newer HR skills like project management and analytics, which reflect the changing nature of HR’s role. It used to be that HR had a more tactical role; now it’s become an essential part of the strategy team.
“The older model was about HR providing service to the organization’s leaders. The new model is about HR asking leaders what problems they are trying to solve — and then helping to solve them,” Bader said.
That’s where analytics come in: In their problem-solving capacity, HR professionals rely on data to inform their recommendations.
“Like many fields, HR is all about the analytics these days,” Bader said. “It’s not enough anymore to just do what the managers or leaders of the organization want. HR is bringing a stronger point of view based on the data than they have in the past.”
Getting Started or Advancing in Human Resources
Interested in getting started in the field of human resources? Check out our new Certificate in Human Resources Essentials.
If you’re already a HR professional and would like to move into a management role, you might consider our more advanced Certificate in Human Resources Management.