If you consider yourself a strong problem solver who is analytical, objective and impartial – plus you communicate well, then a career in human resources might be your calling.
The human resources field is full of professionals who have a variety of different educational paths and backgrounds, but nearly all have a four-year degree.
For example, those with strong math and science skills might find employment in compensation or employee benefits. Teachers could transition into HR by becoming trainers, while law school graduates may find positions as labor relations specialists.
While there are a number of undergraduate HR programs available at U.S. colleges and universities, a bachelor’s degree in a related subject – such as communications, business, industrial/organizational psychology, sociology and the social sciences – could also be applied to a career in human resources.
Erin Warnock, SHRM-CP and human resource analyst at the UCPath Center, said her journey to a career in HR consisted of several jobs in a variety of industries. She first obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from UC Riverside with a double major in women’s studies and sociology.
After college, Warnock briefly worked as an administrative assistant in an operations department of a construction company. “While at that company, I transferred over to the safety, HR and risk management department,” she continued. “I absolutely loved the HR portion of the job – that started my career in HR.”
Here are some tips on how to climb the human resources career ladder:
Focus on Education and Training
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), HR professionals can further their career by earning an appropriate professional certification:
- The Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR) from the HR Certification Institute is the first certification designed for professionals new to HR.
- For those with experience, check outSHRM’s Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) and SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP)
- Or look into the HR Certification Institute’s Professional in Human Resources (PHR) or Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)
- The Professional in Human Resources – California (PHRca) certification is for an HR professional who has mastered the laws, regulations and HR management practices unique to California.
Warnock said she currently holds a SHRM-CP certification. In order to become certified, candidates are first tested on their HR knowledge. “My biggest study tip is to get a study buddy and relate study material information to what you have already seen in your workplace,” she added.
Aspiring practitioners can also work toward a career in human resources by signing up for a continuing education program. The University of California provides workshops and classes that broaden a professional’s HR skills.
UCLA Extension, UC Riverside Extension and UC San Diego Extension all offer professional certificates in Human Resource Management that taps into special projects, case studies and role-playing opportunities to create a practical learning experience.
Warnock said she also obtained a certificate in Human Resources Management from UCR’s Extension Center.
Gain Experience in HR
On-the-job experience in human resources is essential, as practitioners need to apply what they have learned in the classroom to the real world. According to Warnock, HR is not static. “There is always something new to learn.”
One way to get experience is to work in an administrative role at an organization for several years and then transition into HR. For instance, some begin their HR journey in a payroll processing position.
Another way to break into human resources without experience is by starting off as a recruiter at a staffing company. Extroverts comfortable in the sales and networking aspect of talent acquisition could leverage that experience into an employee services (customer service) role at the UCPath Center, for example.
If you’re a college student or a recent graduate, an internship in an HR department can provide hands-on experience, as well as exposure to prospective employers. Or you can volunteer at an organization to further your professional development and expand your network. You can use these opportunities to see what areas of HR you enjoy the most and build up your skill set.
One of the best ways to find an internship or a volunteer position in HR is to contact your alma mater and reach out to alumni in the HR industry.
Cultivate Business Relationships
Job candidates are finding their way into HR-related careers these days by attending professional networking events such as industry-specific conferences, local SHRM chapter meetings, and getting involved with professional associations.
Warnock said she attended the California HR conference in 2017. “I learned so much,” she added. “I also attend a lot of UC Riverside alumni association events for networking.”
It’s important to meet HR professionals in the community. Before you ask for their advice/help, it’s a good idea to find out how you can add value to their organization.
Digital networking has risen in popularity in recent years, thanks to online social networking sites LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. When it’s time to write a brief networking note, be sure to maintain a polite and professional tone. The goal is to establish rapport, and then ask for general information and advice.
Remember, a successful professional should work hard at building their knowledge, as well as expanding and maintaining their business networks.
Kickstart Your HR Career at the UCPath Center
Those pursuing an HR career at the UCPath Center should take into account the evolving day-to-day responsibilities of the HR professional, as well as staying on top of training, acquiring the required skills and networking with industry experts and peers.
The UCPath Center’s Human Resources team includes professionals in HR, training, and communications. The HR team’s core services include disability and leave management, learning and development, compensation, talent acquisition and employment.
Employees at the UCPath Center are currently processing payroll, administering employee benefits, maintaining employee records, and answering employee questions regarding their benefits, paychecks and personnel transactions, among other responsibilities.