10 Careers to Consider in HR

This article was originally published on The Washington Post.

If your perception of a human resources job is akin to that of Toby Flenderson’s job on “The Office”—toiling away in infinite frustration from a cubicle in the far back—think again. HR is a diverse field with many exciting career opportunities, including work-from-home positions. These 10 career paths of all levels might offer the right job for you.

1. Entry-level HR assistant: An entry-level HR assistant position is just that: the right way to get your foot in the door. You’ll be assisting a manager or director in ensuring HR functions smoothly, likely giving you exposure to all aspects of human resources: hiring, onboarding, compensation and benefits, training, and even employee terminations.

2. HR manager/director: The HR manager/director at many small- and medium-size companies works with senior leadership to carry out all aspects of HR, ensuring that positions are filled, employees are paid, and the company follows employment laws. Depending on the size of the organization, an HR manager/director may be a department of one, or they may supervise an assistant or other type of specialist.

3. Payroll specialist: The job title says it all. This is the resident expert on employee payroll, from establishing new employees in the system to making sure managers approve timesheets so payroll can be run before each payday. A payroll specialist must understand income taxes and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

4. Benefits administrator: A benefits administrator specializes in all the group benefits a company offers its employees, from health insurance to a retirement program. Responsibilities include helping new employees enroll in benefits, conducting annual open enrollment, shopping for new insurance products when premiums rise, and ensuring departing employees are informed about their right to continuation of coverage under COBRA and applicable state laws.

5. Human resources information specialist: This position is a mashup between HR and IT. Not only is the HR info specialist responsible for implementing and maintaining HR-related information systems—which contain sensitive and confidential employee information—they are often responsible for reporting on HR data, performing analyses, and developing forecasts.

6. Recruiter: A recruiter is a bit like a matchmaker. Your job is to match candidates to positions. If you’re an in-house recruiter, you may travel extensively to job fairs and universities to promote working at your company. You’ll be the first line of contact for job applicants, answering their questions and serving as a buffer between them and the hiring manager. If you’re working for a recruiting agency, a company will hire you to find a selection of qualified candidates for its leadership to choose from. This is a particularly common approach when companies are looking for new executives. Expect to spend a lot of time on LinkedIn scouring profiles.

7. Training and development specialist: If you have an interest in adult education, this could be an excellent career path. In training and development, you’ll work with a company’s leadership to assess gaps in employee knowledge, whether technical or in the soft skills. You’ll then develop and administer course content, often through an online learning management system.

8. Compensation specialist: A compensation specialist assists companies in ensuring their salary ranges are competitive in the local market. These professionals analyze job descriptions and survey companies on what they’re paying employees in similar roles.

9. Labor relations specialist: A labor relations specialist deals with some of the trickiest aspects of human resources, including working with labor unions on collective bargaining agreements, resolving employee disputes and facilitating the employee grievance process. This type of role will be most common in government, manufacturing and other industries that have a stronger union presence.

10. Diversity and inclusion specialist: Working in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space could encompass many HR-related duties, from surveying employees to developing strategies for recruiting professionals from underrepresented populations.

Human resources functions are a perennial need for employers, so it’s a field with ongoing and evolving opportunities. Don’t overlook the opportunity to find a job serving other employees.

By Alice Song
Alice Song Career Counselor