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HR Manager Career Guide

What is an HR manager?

An HR manager, or human resources manager, is a pivotal figure in any organization. This role serves as the liaison between the organization’s management and employees, ensuring smooth interpersonal relations and effective use of talent. They are often involved in planning and coordinating an organization’s administrative functions. Their main objectives are to make sure that the company attracts and retains the right talent, manages employee benefits and compensation, and maintains a pleasant work environment. They significantly contribute to the company’s strategic goals and objectives by aligning them with human resources policies and structures.

Duties and responsibilities

An HR manager plays quite a few essential functions. At the heart of these responsibilities is managing a team that consistently recruits, interviews, hires, and onboards new staff. They also oversee and implement employee benefits programs, maintain employee records, and handle employee grievances. These professionals are often responsible for ensuring compliance with all relevant labor laws and creating a respectful and ethical work culture. They also liaise with the management to plan strategic HR decisions like succession planning and employee retention strategies.

Work environment

The work setting for an HR manager is typically an office environment. It’s a position that can be found across nearly all industries, from finance and healthcare to manufacturing and retail. Environments vary considerably depending on the specific industry and the organization’s size. In larger organizations, they often supervise a team of HR professionals, while in smaller entities, the manager may represent the entire human resources capacity. Besides the office scenario, they also engage in face-to-face meetings with employees, attend corporate meetings, and, when necessary, travel out of the office for other HR-related events.

Typical work hours

The typical work hours for an HR manager align with the regular working hours of the establishment they serve – often, this would be a typical five-day, 40-hour week. There might be instances where they need to work beyond typical work hours. These situations could include dealing with unexpected incidents, attending networking events, or interviewing potential hires during evenings or weekends. Despite occasional extended hours, this role provides significant predictability and stability regarding work schedules.

How to become an HR manager

This career guide section outlines the steps to become an HR manager. A career in human resources management requires a solid educational foundation, considerable work experience, and strong interpersonal skills.

Step 1: Earn a bachelor’s degree

The first essential step is to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Studying business administration, psychology, human resources, or a closely related field lays the groundwork for understanding organizational behavior, labor laws, and staff management.

Step 2: Gain relevant work experience

Entry-level roles such as HR assistant or coordinator provide the practical experience necessary to comprehend the daily operations of an HR department. These positions allow you to learn the finer points of recruitment, benefits administration, training, and employee relations, among other things. Typically, the period of working in these roles ranges from 3-5 years before moving up.

Step 3: Brush up on legal standards and company policies

Being competent in legal aspects and corporate policies is essential for these professionals. Familiarize yourself with laws related to employment, discrimination, and benefits. It’d be beneficial to understand company policies as well to ensure employee compliance and to resolve any policy-related disputes or questions.

Step 4: Consider a master’s degree

A master’s degree in human resources or a related field, such as business administration, may increase your marketability and open up additional career opportunities. Advanced coursework might cover strategic planning, managerial decision-making, and organizational behavior.

Step 5: Acquire professional certification

Earning a professional HR certification, like those offered by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) or the HR Certification Institute (HRCI), can make you stand out. These certifications demonstrate your expertise and commitment to your profession and may even be required by certain employers.

Step 6: Aim for a management role

Once you gain the necessary education, experience, and certification, you can start applying for management positions. This is where your networking, leadership abilities, and strategic planning skills are put to the test. With the manager role often being a stepping stone to higher executive positions, it’s important to constantly develop relevant skills and stay updated with industry trends.

How much do HR managers make?

HR manager salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Factors like the specific niche of their industry and the level of personnel responsibility involved directly affect compensation.

Highest paying industries

  • Management of Companies and Enterprises – $122,860
  • Securities and Commodity Exchanges – $121,060
  • Computer Systems Design – $117,650
  • Software Publishers – $115,600
  • Pharmaceutical – $112,470

Highest paying states

  • California – $130,650
  • New York – $124,750
  • New Jersey – $121,280
  • Washington – $118,360
  • Massachusetts – $116,070

Browse HR manager salary data by market

Types of HR management

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for HR managers.

Talent acquisition manager

Talent acquisition managers play a pivotal role in the hiring process. With expertise in recruiting and hiring, these professionals develop innovative sourcing strategies, identify and screen potential candidates, conduct interviews, and facilitate the negotiation process to acquire talent that perfectly matches a company’s needs.

Compensation and benefits manager

This specialization focuses on developing an organization’s compensation and benefits policies. Professionals in this role examine industry trends and the organization’s requirements to formulate competitive remuneration strategies, including salary, bonuses, and other perks. They also ensure the company complies with relevant employee benefits laws and regulations. With experience, progression to a senior position or director role is possible.

Training and development manager

Training and development managers plan, coordinate, and direct skills enhancement programs for a company’s workforce. They identify employee skills gaps, implement training programs tailored to address them, and evaluate such programs’ effectiveness. They often collaborate with top management to align the training objectives with the organization’s goals. Opportunities to evolve into a head of learning and development representative may arise by acquiring robust expertise and skills.

Labor relations director

Professionals in this role mediate the relationship between a company and its employees or between a company and labor unions. Labor relations directors interpret and administer employees’ contracts regarding wages, complaints, disciplinary procedures, and other work-related matters. They also play a lead role in negotiating collective bargaining agreements. A successful career in labor relations may progress to broader roles, such as vice president of labor relations.

HR information systems manager

An HR information systems manager utilizes technology to enhance a company’s HR functions. They could design online recruitment tools or improve remote work systems, making the HR team more efficient. This role is at the intersection of IT and HR, and it’s great for those who love both. Over time, professionals may progress to senior management roles focusing on strategic planning, development, and execution of technology solutions within the HR division.

Top skills for HR managers

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

Communication skills

Being an efficient communicator is at the core of this role. It involves active listening and clear verbal and written communication to effectively interact with employees, department heads, stakeholders, and outside vendors. One also needs the ability to negotiate tactfully and mediate disputes should they arise.

Organizational skills

The ability to plan, prioritize, and manage tasks within a schedule is important. It’s key to staying on top of multiple tasks and deadlines and keeping track of employee data, benefits arrangements, and recruitment efforts for the smooth functioning of the HR department.


A significant aspect of this role includes implementing policies and affecting organizational change. Skills such as decisiveness, strategic planning, team building, and employee motivation are necessary for effective leadership and management.

Ethical conduct

In this role, one would deal with sensitive information daily. It is essential to uphold strong work ethics, maintain confidentiality and fairness, and ensure compliance with all labor laws and company policies.

Understanding of human behavior

A deep understanding of human behavior and team dynamics helps with conflict resolution, change management, and creating initiatives to boost employee morale and involvement.

Technological savvy

In our digital world, being comfortable with HR information systems, data analysis tools, and office applications is necessary. With growing technology involvement in HR, adapting quickly to new software or technology for performing tasks is beneficial.

HR manager career path options

If you are currently working as an HR manager, you are at a pivotal part of your career path. From here, your career can move in a few different directions. One of the natural progressions is to take up a role as an HR director. This position offers a more strategic overview of the department, focusing on designing policies that meet business objectives. From the role of HR director, the next level could be a position as a chief human resources officer (CHRO), the highest HR career level within a company. This role manages overall HR operations, including benefits, compensation, recruiting, wellness, and workplace culture.

Alternatively, you could consider a transition into the related field of talent management, where job roles can vary from training and development manager to director of learning and development. These roles focus more on the individuals and teams in a company, helping them cultivate their skills and careers within the organization. You could also contemplate a move into an organizational development role, concentrating on changes in the business’s structure or strategy to improve effectiveness.

Some might find fulfillment in consulting roles. As an HR consultant, you could provide insights and recommendations to multiple businesses rather than working within a single organization. This path offers greater variety and can prove challenging but enjoyable. Consultants might specialize in benefits and compensation, employee engagement, or leadership development.

The world of human resources is continually evolving, requiring HR managers to constantly adapt their strategies to better serve employees and their organization. With the advent of technology, there is a clear shift toward digital tools to streamline processes. A growing trend in the HR space revolves around employee engagement and corporate wellness. In this role, you’ll focus more on improving the overall employee experience, from onboarding to exit. Organizations are increasingly looking for ways to ensure their teams feel valued and satisfied.

Another noticeable HR trend revolves around data analytics. Nowadays, every aspect of an organization generates data, and human resources is no exception. You’ll find data analytics increasingly become a larger part of your role, provided you are in this field. Analyzing this data can provide vital insights into employee performance, satisfaction, turnover rates, and more, informing crucial policy decisions.

Employment projections

According to the latest projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of human resources managers is projected to grow 7 percent through 2031, faster than the average for all occupations. As new companies form and organizations expand their operations, they will need managers to oversee and administer their programs and to ensure that firms adhere to changing and complex employment laws. Strong competition can be expected for most positions.

HR manager career tips

Understand the business model

Immerse yourself in understanding the business model of the company. By having deep knowledge of how your organization operates, you will better equip yourself to develop effective strategies, initiatives, and policies that align with the business objectives. This knowledge also helps ensure the human resources department complies with industry-specific regulations.

Master employment law

One of the integral parts of this role is being well-versed in employment law. Regularly update your knowledge about employment legislation, labor standards, worker’s compensation, health and safety regulations, and other relevant employment laws. This will not only help protect the company from possible legal issues but also ensure fair and respectful treatment of employees.

Invest in career development

Continuous learning is necessary to stay current in this profession. Consider investing time in HR-related qualifications, workshops, and training. Some noteworthy educational investments include:

  • Certified Professional in Human Resources (CPHR)
  • Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)
  • Master’s degree in human resources management

Build a professional network

Establishing strong professional networks can provide valuable insights, mentorship, and potential collaborations. Consider joining professional associations or networks related to the field. Some recommended ones include:

  • Human Resource Professionals Association (HRPA)
  • Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
  • Association of Talent Development (ATD)

Stay up-to-date with HR technology

Human resource technology is continuously evolving. Familiarize yourself with the latest tools and applications that simplify HR tasks, including workforce analytics, applicant tracking systems, and employee engagement software.

Promote an inclusive culture

Encourage a culture where diversity and inclusion are celebrated. This not only promotes goodwill in the workplace but also serves as an excellent recruitment and retention tool. Always ensure that your company’s practices are in line with equality and non-discrimination.

Where the HR manager jobs are

Top employers

  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Amazon
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Johnson & Johnson

Top states

  • California
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • Illinois

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • SimplyHired


What skills are necessary for the HR manager position?

Appropriate skills include excellent interpersonal skills, strong oral and written communication abilities, and a knack for strategic planning. Having a firm grasp of labor law and HR best practices is also important. All these can be developed through formal education, work experience, and continuous professional learning.

What kind of experience do HR managers typically have?

Most have experience in employee relations, recruitment, training and development, and strategic planning. They may start in entry-level HR roles and gradually move into manager positions after gaining sufficient experience and expertise.

What does a day in the life of an HR manager look like?

Their day-to-day responsibilities vary but generally include managing recruitment processes, handling employee relations, implementing company policies, and overseeing training and development programs. They are also involved in strategic decision-making related to HR planning.

What good habits should an HR manager cultivate?

Some good habits to cultivate include excellent organizational abilities, good time management, thoughtful decision-making, and a communicative approach to work. Regularly updating oneself on labor laws and HR trends enhances one’s ability to function effectively in this role.

What challenges could an HR manager anticipate?

Changes in labor laws, managing workforce diversity, resolving employee disputes, and aligning HR policies with business goals are common challenges. Strong problem-solving abilities and staying updated with current trends can help tackle these challenges effectively.

What types of continuing education are necessary for HR managers?

Continuing education could involve attending workshops and seminars, engaging in webinars, or even pursuing higher degrees in human resource management. Besides formal education, they also benefit from reading the latest research or subscribing to industry publications to stay up-to-date with trends and best practices.

Can career-switchers transition into HR management?

Certainly, career-switchers can transition into this profession, especially if their previous roles involved managing people or projects. Relevant transferable skills are highly valued. However, specialized knowledge of HR operations and labor laws is key and may necessitate formal study or certification.

What kind of mindset is beneficial for HR managers?

An effective manager has a people-centric mindset, demonstrating empathy, fairness, and concern for employees’ well-being. A promising professional in this field is also proactive and solution-oriented, able to anticipate and respond to HR challenges with effective plans and policies.

Why is the role of an HR manager central to an organization?

Their role is crucial for any organization because they are responsible for hiring the right talent, improving employee engagement, developing effective policies, and maintaining compliance with labor laws. All of these tasks have a significant impact on a company’s culture, operations, and success.