As we head into the holiday season, UPS will be adding 55,000 temporary workers to its payroll. Walmart is planning to do the same. Meanwhile, Macy's is said to be hiring 83,000 seasonal workers, and Amazon will employ another 70,000 at its fulfillment centers across the country to prepare for the holiday rush.
Behind all these jobs is one job that will make sure the right workers get hired and, eventually, let go at the end of the season. That job is the human resources specialist.
Human resources careers on the rise
Human resources might seem like a ho-hum career choice, but smart students would be wise to take a second look at this growing field.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that demand for human resources specialists will increase 21 percent nationwide between 2010 and 2020. In addition, the field pays well, with a mean annual wage of $60,660 in 2012, according to the BLS.
As the economy rebounds, you can expect HR jobs to continue to be a hot commodity even after the seasonal hiring boom ends. Today's human resources professionals do more than simply hire and process payroll; they are also taking on an increasingly active role in other business areas such as strategic planning and social media.
Types of HR jobs
The human resources field offers opportunities to work as either a generalist or in a more specialized role. Business intelligence firm Wanted Analytics reports the following titles were the five most in-demand HR positions as of August 2013:
- Human resources assistant
- Payroll specialist
- Technical recruiter
- Payroll clerk
However, not every human resources professional wants to specialize in a particular area. Jenny Redes is the Human Resources Manager for Custom Profile, a manufacturer of plastic profile extrusion products located in Grand Rapids, Mich.
"I started my HR career as an intern working with the safety, HR and marketing departments," says Redes. "After that position I became a recruiter for a contract cleaning company but was looking for a position that I could be more of a generalist."
She found that at Custom Profile, where she started as a coordinator in 2000 and rose to the position of manager. Today, she is responsible for a laundry list of duties including employee relations, payroll, benefits, recruiting, training, safety, employee events and community service.
The evolving role of HR professionals
"There is no typical day in HR," explains Redes. "Since I am a generalist and a department of one in my organization, I might be handling employee questions, working with managers on departmental changes, recruiting, training, payroll - the list goes on and on."
What's more, human resources is a dynamic field that continues to evolve as new technology becomes available. For example, Wanted Analytics notes a small but growing number of human resources job ads include mention of social media duties. These tasks may include integrating social media into training programs, communicating with employees via social media or using these sites for recruiting.
Still, in 2013, only four percent of HR job postings referenced social media skills. However, that is a 43 percent increase from 2012 and may indicate it will quickly become the norm for human resources professionals to have social media experience.
As for Redes, she has found her role expanding from simply taking care of paperwork to helping shape the future of her company. "Over the years my position has changed from more of an administrative position to a more strategic position," says Redes.
Degrees in human resources
To pursue a career in human resources, you at least need a bachelor's degree. Human resources degrees are available at many schools, and the Society for Human Resources Management recommends a balanced curriculum that includes an emphasis on business. Beyond a bachelor's degree, human resources professionals can earn a graduate degree in a specialty field, such as a master's degree in organizational development.
Certifications are also available for human resources professionals. Redes has a Professional in Human Resources certification from the HR Certification Institute. "There are professional and educational requirements before you can take the exam to become certified and you must re-certify every 3 years," says Redes.
In addition to the PHR certification, the HRCI offers the following credentials to human resources professionals:
- Senior Professional in Human Resources
- Global Professional in Human Resources
- Human Resource Management Professional
- Human Resource Business Professional
Finally, the organization offers special certifications for California HR workers.
Breaking into the human resources field
Having the right degree and certification can go a long way towards landing a job in human resources. However, don't overlook the benefits of networking as well.
"I encourage anyone looking to get into HR to get involved and network in the HR community," advises Redes. "There are local HR chapters throughout every state. You can volunteer with them and serve on a board and attend monthly meetings as you build your HR network."
Networking is also an integral part of job growth says Redes. "Having a strong HR network has also helped me grow within my position and has helped my company since we are sharing best practices."
In the end, human resources may not be the flashiest career field, but it definitely is not a flash in the pan. Long after the holiday hiring season is done, HR professionals will be making plans and implementing strategies to help their businesses thrive all year long.
Human Resources Specialists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages May 2012, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes131071.htm (Accessed November 7, 2013)
Human Resources Specialists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/human-resources-specialists.htm (Accessed November 7, 2013)
Careers in Human Resource Management, Society for Human Resources Management, http://www.shrm.org/Communities/StudentPrograms/Pages/careersinHRM.aspx (Accessed November 7, 2013)
"20 Most In-Demand HR Job Titles," Wanted Analytics, August 6, 2013, Abby Lombardi, http://www.wantedanalytics.com/insight/2013/08/06/20-most-in-demand-hr-job-titles/
"How Social Media is Changing Human Resources Jobs," Wanted Analytics, October 24, 2013, Abby Lombardi, http://www.wantedanalytics.com/insight/2013/10/24/social-media-is-changing-human-resources-jobs/
Our HR Certifications, HR Certification Institute, http://www.hrci.org/our-programs/our-hr-certifications (Accessed November 7, 2013)
"Seasonal Job Boom: 8 Companies Hiring Now," ABC news, October 30, 2013, Alan Farnham, http://abcnews.go.com/Business/seasonal-jobs-companies-hiring-now/story?id=20715347#all
"UPS Delivers Steady Outlook, Holiday Hiring Plans," Forbes, October 25, 2013, Samantha Sharf, http://www.forbes.com/sites/samanthasharf/2013/10/25/ups-delivers-steady-outlook-holiday-hiring-plans/