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HR Administrator Career Guide

What is an HR administrator?

An HR administrator, or human resources administrator, plays a fundamental role in the operations of an organization’s human resources department. This role is pivotal in ensuring that employees are managed effectively and that the company complies with all necessary labor regulations and guidelines. These professionals act as a liaison between employees, management, and the HR department to make sure that all parties are informed and that all HR needs are addressed effectively.

They form a key part of the infrastructure that allows a company to operate smoothly. Without a competent administrator, a company may find it challenging to adhere to all necessary HR policies and guidelines. This role is necessary to maintain an organization’s labor force and to make certain that all personnel are treated equitably and are provided with resources that allow them to perform their roles to the best of their ability.

Duties and responsibilities

One of the primary duties of an HR administrator is to manage employee records. They maintain both electronic and paper records, updating them as necessary and ensuring they are kept secure at all times. They prepare reports on personnel activities, training, grievances, and performance evaluations. These professionals also coordinate employee benefits, including enrollment and contract renewals.

Often, they are tasked with assisting in the recruitment and hiring process. This can involve preparing and posting job advertisements, screening applications, and assisting in interview set-up. Administrators might also be involved in initiating and coordinating the onboarding process for new hires.

Work environment

An HR administrator typically works in an office environment, meaning most of their work is carried out at a desk, using a computer. They may have their own office or workspace, or they may work in a more communal area shared with other members of the HR department. They are also likely to attend meetings and conduct interviews in meeting rooms or offices within the company’s premises.

Although the role is generally not physically demanding, it can be mentally taxing due to multitasking and the need to be detail-oriented. It’s a position that often requires the ability to work under pressure, think critically, and problem-solve on the spot.

Typical work hours

HR administrators generally work during standard business hours, from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. However, this can vary depending on the organization’s specific needs. In some cases, additional hours may be required, especially during peak hiring seasons or when special projects or initiatives are being implemented. Some overtime may be required, especially in case of dealing with immediate HR issues or emergencies.

Occasionally, they might need to be available outside of office hours for special events. Sometimes, they may also need to travel for job fairs, recruitment events, or to meet with benefits providers or labor organizations. These are typically planned well in advance and are considered part of the role’s responsibilities.

How to become an HR administrator

This career guide section outlines the steps to become an HR administrator. The key steps include obtaining a relevant degree, acquiring human resource certifications, gaining related experience, and mastering essential skills.

Step 1: Obtain a bachelor’s degree

The journey typically starts with acquiring a bachelor’s degree. Human resources, business administration, or a related field is traditionally the preferred area of study. The curriculum should cover important topics like recruitment methods, workplace culture, labor laws, and employee benefits.

Step 2: Gain related experience

After graduation, gaining relevant work experience is important. This may be accomplished through entry-level positions in the human resources department or internships. This real-world experience offers a chance to apply the knowledge learned during academic studies and better understand the roles and responsibilities associated with human resources.

Step 3: Get certified

Certification, although not always required, is highly recommended in the HR field. Several organizations, like the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), offer credentials like the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) designation. These certifications can provide an edge during the job hunt as they show commitment and specialized knowledge in the field.

Step 4: Master essential skills

Proficiency in specific skills is necessary to be effective. Among these are excellent communication abilities (both verbal and written), proficiency in relevant software (like HRMS), organizational skills, ethical decision-making, and understanding of employment laws. Continuous learning and skills enhancement are also important for career progression.

Step 5: Apply for jobs

With a relevant degree, sufficient experience, certifications, and the right skills in hand, you’re prepared to apply for HR administrator positions. Make sure your resume highlights your education, experience, certifications, and skills relevant to the job. Once you’ve secured a position, continuous learning and networking will help you excel in your new role and advance your career.

How much do HR administrators make?

HR administrator salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Special considerations impacting their compensation include the complexity of the HR systems being managed, the number of employees within the organization, and any additional specializations such as benefits administration or employee relations.

Highest paying industries

  • Management of Companies and Enterprises – $69,700
  • Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services – $68,750
  • Manufacturing – $66,900
  • Finance and Insurance – $65,800
  • Healthcare and Social Assistance – $63,120

Highest paying states

  • California – $73,590
  • New Jersey – $71,450
  • New York – $70,250
  • Connecticut – $68,820
  • Massachusetts – $67,950

Browse HR administrator salary data by market

Types of HR administrators

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for HR administrators. This section serves as an in-depth guide for those interested in this profession, listing the different career pathways you can take. These specializations allow you to tailor your career according to your interests and skill set.

Recruitment administration

Serving within recruitment, an HR administrator has a vital role to play in bringing talented individuals into the organization. Their duties often include posting job adverts, screening resumes, scheduling interviews, and conducting initial phone assessments. This specialization allows you to play a key role in shaping your company’s human capital.

Training and development coordination

If you are interested in staff development, this area of human resources might be a suitable career path. You’ll arrange training courses, manage career progression programs, and ensure employees earn necessary certifications. If you value learning and growth, this specialization area has much to offer.

Benefits and compensation administration

Here, you’ll focus on creating and implementing compensation plans, administering payroll, and managing employee benefits packages, among other responsibilities. This requires strong numeracy skills and an understanding of related laws and regulations. You hold a key role in maintaining employee satisfaction and welfare.

Employee relations management

In employee relations, you design protocols, manage conflicts, and ensure the workplace sustains a positive work environment. Much relies on your ability to communicate and mediate, resolving employee concerns while upholding company policies. This area of HR tends to be engaging and varied, entrusting you with the harmony of the organization.

Compliance and policy administration

For those inclined toward rules and regulations, this specialization revolves around assuring the company fully complies with all national and local labor laws. You’ll likely develop and update HR policy documents, advise on employment law, and promote ethical work practices. This specialization aims to protect both the company and its workers.

Top skills for HR administrators

This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as an HR administrator.

Communication skills

Effective communication is key to building strong relationships both within and outside the HR team. You should be able to articulate ideas, relay updates, and provide information clearly and concisely.

Organizational skills

As an individual in the human resource department, you will often juggle multiple tasks simultaneously. Managing time effectively, accurately maintaining records, and efficiently coordinating various processes are essential aspects of this role.

Problem-solving abilities

Unforeseen issues, employee complaints, and disputes are some of the challenges that may arise. The ability to approach these situations analytically, identify the root cause, and implement effective solutions is highly valued in this profession.

Knowledge of labor laws

Understanding employment legislation is essential for compliance in HR operations. You will need to stay updated about changes in laws and interpret them correctly to make sure the organization doesn’t face any legal troubles.

Technological proficiency

Being familiar with HR software and information systems is highly desirable. Digitally managing employee records, utilizing HR analytics, and working with e-learning platforms for training are some examples of using technology in this profession.

HR administrator career path options

An HR administrator often starts their journey in human resources, juggling numerous tasks, from handling employee records and coordinating HR projects and meetings to assisting with the recruitment and onboarding process. But where do these professionals go from here?

Intermediate level

After establishing expertise and gaining a few years of experience, administrators often aim at moving up the ladder to a mid-level position. They may progress to roles such as HR specialist or HR officer, providing them with greater responsibility and opportunities to specialize more deeply in areas such as compensation and benefits, employee relations, or recruitment.

Advanced level

In the advanced stages of their career, these professionals typically transition into HR manager roles. It involves higher-level decision-making, strategic planning, and overseeing HR operations. This role is more about leading the department and driving the company’s HR policy and strategy than it is about fulfilling operational tasks.

Executive level

The pinnacle of an HR career usually involves becoming an HR director or VP of human resources, depending on the organization’s structure. In these positions, professionals are not only in charge of big-picture HR strategies but also play a key role in shaping the entire organization’s culture, structure, and policies.

Of course, the career progression of an HR administrator does not follow a single path and may vary depending on the individual’s aspirations and the opportunities available within their workplace. Some people may find their niche within HR and decide to specialize, while others may choose to diversify their experience across multiple HR functions.

Automation is becoming more prevalent in human resource operations. Many organizations are introducing HR systems that streamline routine administrative processes, giving HR administrators more time to focus on strategic tasks. This automation trend doesn’t decrease the importance of administrators; instead, it changes the nature of their work, allowing them to play a more consultative role. Due to this, acquiring skills such as data analysis or HR software management will be helpful for those eyeing this job title.

The HR landscape is also shifting toward emphasizing employee experience. These professionals are expected to create a compassionate work culture that enhances employee satisfaction and productivity. As such, skills in change management, communication, and empathy are growing increasingly important in this area.

With organizations going global, there’s a strong need for those who know different cultures, foreign labor laws, and global employment practices. This international perspective is becoming a sought-after skill and is expected to gain more traction in the future.

Employment projections

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of human resources specialists, including HR administrators, is projected to grow 8 percent through 2031, faster than the average for all occupations. Companies will continue to need these professionals to handle issues related to employment law, changes in health insurance and retirement plans, and increasing diversity in the workplace.

HR administrator career tips

Understand the company culture

It’s your job to foster a positive company culture that supports both the company’s mission and its employees. Understanding and enhancing this culture is crucial to attracting and retaining the right talent, creating a positive work environment, and driving the company’s success. Research your company’s culture, identify areas of improvement, and devise strategies to reinforce positive aspects and address negative ones.

Learn employment legislation

The human resources field involves many legal complexities, such as employment laws and regulations. Administrators need to be knowledgeable about these laws to ensure the company is in compliance and to protect both the company and its employees. Continuous learning of employment legislation and keeping updated on any new changes is very important.

Build a professional network

Networking is essential in the human resources profession. It can help you gain insights from experienced professionals, provide opportunities for career advancement, and improve your understanding of the industry. Here are some professional associations and networks to consider:

  • Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)
  • Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
  • Australian HR Institute (AHRI)

Enhance technological proficiency

Many HR tasks, such as maintaining employee records and handling payroll, are conducted using specific software. Acquiring proficiency in HR technologies can boost your efficiency, making you a more valuable asset to your organization. Look for relevant online courses and always commit to learning new systems as they emerge.

Pursue relevant certification

Certification in human resources can attest to your professional credibility and expertise. These certifications may require additional study and examinations but prove beneficial in the long run. They not only enhance your job performance but also serve as leverage for promotion and capacity expansion. Some certifications you might consider include:

  • Professional in Human Resources (PHR) from HR Certification Institute (HRCI)
  • Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP)

Where the HR administrator jobs are

Top employers

  • IBM
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Ernst & Young
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Procter & Gamble

Top states

  • California
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Illinois
  • Florida

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • LinkedIn
  • Indeed
  • Monster
  • CareerBuilder


What educational credentials are often needed for HR administrators?

In most cases, HR administrators are expected to hold a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business administration, or a related field. For higher-level or specialized roles, a master’s degree or certification in human resource management may be required.

What skills are necessary for HR administrators?

Strong communication skills, attention to detail, organizational abilities, and proficiency in using human resource information systems are required. They also need to have in-depth knowledge of labor law and HR best practices.

What does a typical day look like for an HR administrator?

The daily tasks of an HR administrator may include maintaining employee records, assisting in payroll preparation, updating internal HR databases, and coordinating training sessions and seminars. They also address employee inquiries and support the HR director’s duties, among other administrative tasks.

What are common challenges HR administrators may face?

Balancing a varied workload, staying updated with changes in employment law, and handling sensitive employee information are common challenges. Also, HR administrators often have to address difficult situations, such as conflicts among employees or between employees and management. It often demands a lot of diplomacy and discretion.

What professional development opportunities exist for HR administrators?

Many organizations and professional associations offer workshops, seminars, and courses to help HR administrators stay updated on HR policies, employment laws, and best practices. There are also several professional certifications available which serve as proof of specialized knowledge and skills.

How important are soft skills for HR administrators?

Soft skills are critical to HR management. HR administrators need strong communication skills for interacting with employees, along with problem-solving skills for addressing workplace issues. Additionally, emotional intelligence is key as it can contribute to selecting the right personnel, managing conflict, and developing a good company culture.

What differentiates a good HR administrator from a great one?

A good HR administrator performs tasks efficiently and effectively, but a great one takes a proactive approach to identify issues before they become serious problems. They continuously look for ways to improve HR processes and enhance workplace culture. They also understand their company’s business objectives and can align HR initiatives accordingly.

What are some common misconceptions about HR administrators?

One common misconception is that this role is only administrative. In reality, HR administrators often play a strategic role and contribute significantly to a company’s decision-making process and culture-building efforts. Another misconception is that it’s an easy role; in fact, this position comes with a great deal of responsibility and challenges, such as handling conflicts and legal compliance issues.

How does the work of HR administrators impact the operation of a company?

HR administrators play a key role in implementing policies, ensuring employee satisfaction, and maintaining legal compliance, which greatly impacts overall company operations. Happy employees are often more productive and committed, which would benefit the operation. Additionally, through effectual HR policies, companies can avoid lawsuits and other potential legal issues.

What are some resources for those interested in HR administration?

Books like ‘The HR Answer Book’ by Shawn Smith and Rebecca Mazin and ‘HR From Now to Next’ by Jason Averbook are good resources. Websites such as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), HR.com, and Workology provide useful articles, webinars, and educational resources relevant to this role.