If you enjoy helping others and working with a variety of people then take a look at what it takes to become a human resources officer
As a human resources (HR) officer you will develop, advise on and implement policies relating to the effective use of staff in an organisation.
In the role your aim is to ensure that the organisation that you work for employs the right balance of staff in terms of skill and experience, and that training and development opportunities are available to colleagues to enhance their performance and achieve the company's business aims.
HR officers are involved in a range of activities whatever the size or type of business. These cover areas such as:
To be successful in this role you must have a clear understanding of your employer's business objectives and be able to devise and implement policies which select, develop and retain the right staff to meet these objectives.
You will not only deal with staff welfare and administration-centred activities, but also strategy and planning.
HR departments are expected to add value to the organisation they support. The exact nature of the work varies according to the organisation, but is likely to include:
Salaries within HR vary considerably between employers. They can be influenced to some extent by location but also by industry sector, level of responsibility, seniority and particular function.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
You'll generally work a standard 9am to 5pm day but hours could sometimes include shift or weekend work. There may also be a requirement to work extra hours to meet deadlines.
Part-time and job-share positions may be available.
Although this area of work is open to all graduates and those with a HND, the following subjects may be particularly relevant:
There are various entry routes into HR but competition is generally fierce for all routes. Applying to a HR graduate training scheme is one possibility. Early application is strongly advised for such schemes. You could also try sending speculative applications for graduate roles.
Some graduates move into HR after having experienced placements in several areas of an organisation, as part of a general management training programme. Starting in an administrative role in a HR department provides useful experience and it is possible to get promoted into HR management if suitable positions arise.
A pre-entry postgraduate qualification in HR/personnel management, while not essential, might be useful. Many postgraduate courses require a degree for entry but some may consider other qualifications such as a HND, perhaps with relevant experience. Search for postgraduate courses in human resource management.
Although it is possible to enter HR work without being professionally qualified, for middle and higher management posts employers will prefer an accredited qualification from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
It's almost always expected that you have a CIPD qualification when applying for high-level roles. You should check with individual employers regarding sponsorship for studying towards a CIPD qualification. There are various study methods available, including full-time, part-time and distance learning, plus a range of educational institutions deliver CIPD courses.
You will need to have:
In some larger organisations you could also be working with overseas staff, so cultural awareness and having some understanding of work issues in other countries may be important.
Relevant experience gained during a course placement, previous employment or vacation work greatly improves your chances. You may also develop appropriate skills at university by taking on positions of responsibility, whether in a voluntary or paid capacity, or through student groups and organisations.
Talking to staff already working in HR will help you make well-informed applications, as will reading appropriate publications and websites such as:
HR officers work in organisations that employ staff. These include:
The way the work's structured within these organisations varies widely. Some employers have just one or two people covering the full range of HR activities. Larger employers may structure their HR departments according to different specialist roles, or the functions can be split among several general HR officers on a departmental or perhaps location basis.
Some very large organisations have a group of HR specialists at a head office who provide support to general HR officers working out of various departments or locations.
There are also opportunities to work in specialist consultancies, which range in size from one-person companies to small firms and partnerships. An outplacement service, when a firm engages a specialist consultancy to help staff deal with redundancy, is one example of this type of work. Many well-known firms of management consultants are also developing HR practices, offering services in areas such as compensation and benefits.
Look for job vacancies at:
Recruitment agencies and online job sites commonly handle vacancies.
Larger organisations often advertise graduate training schemes on their own websites.
Networking and speculative applications can uncover opportunities that have not been advertised. For named HR/personnel contacts in medium to large-sized organisations see HR Nation.
New graduates entering the profession need to be flexible in terms of geographical location and the type of work that they want as competition for vacancies is usually intense.
If you wish to progress within the profession it may be necessary, while at the beginning of your career, to study for qualifications accredited by the CIPD. Some employers might sponsor you to study towards qualifying for CIPD membership and allow study leave but this depends on the individual employer. The exact qualification for which you study depends on your role and educational background.
The CIPD offers HR qualifications at foundation, intermediate and advanced level. These qualifications include a range of optional units allowing learners to specialise in areas relevant to their career development needs. For further information, see CIPD Qualifications.
The training available to achieve membership of the CIPD is delivered through accredited universities and colleges throughout the UK and may be completed through a variety of study methods, depending on your location.
Short courses, seminars, workshops and conferences are also offered at various locations on an ongoing basis, focusing on specific subjects of professional relevance such as:
In addition, some organisations will allow you to attend internal or external training courses relevant to your role, for example to:
Recent graduates are likely to begin their career in human resources by working in a general HR role. Many enjoy the breadth of this work and choose to remain in this environment or move into a more senior position with responsibility for a number of HR officers.
For those wishing to pursue more specialist careers within HR, a range of roles are available including:
These specialist roles are more likely to be found in the headquarters of organisations operating in major cities, so geographical flexibility may be required for career development.
Longer term, HR managers may move into more senior roles within an organisation and be promoted to a HR director role, possibly as far as board level. Promotion depends on ability and career prospects are enhanced by completing the highest level of CIPD qualifications.
The CIPD offers various levels of membership including chartered membership, which entitles you to use the letters MCIPD after your name. To be eligible for chartered status you must have a relevant CIPD qualification at advanced level and be able to demonstrate professional experience and impact in the workplace, usually over a period of 12 to 18 months. See the qualifications and membership sections of the CIPD website for further information.
Self-employment and freelance work as a consultant to HR departments is sometimes possible for experienced HR staff.