Your Guide to HR Career Paths

With a one-person HR team, administrative duties often take priority over strategic initiatives, like employee experience, workforce planning, or company culture.


However, as companies grow, so too do opportunities for HR professionals to take on new responsibilities and contribute in meaningful ways. Specialized HR careers ensure that every stage of the employee lifecycle has a clear owner and a process—so nothing gets left in a blind spot.


With HR roles taking many forms, that means that you—as an HR professional—have a wide range of career paths to choose from. Where do you start? We’ve outlined five tracks to help you find your ideal future in HR.


1. The HR Generalist

For the jack-of-all-trades and multi-tasker extraordinaire, HR Generalist roles may be the fit for you. The HR Generalist has a hand in all pieces of the HR machine, including benefits, onboarding, performance management, talent acquisition, and compliance. The HR Generalist plays a vital role in ensuring that everything runs without a hitch. While this can be a lot for one person, it does give you a 360 degree view of the company’s ecosystem (and can help you identify where else you might want to specialize down the line.)


Qualifications

  • Minimum 3 years of related HR experience
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Exceptional organization and communication skills


Responsibilities

  • Own execution of compensation including payroll and benefits
  • Manage the hiring process from recruiting to onboarding
  • Attend to employee relations, concerns, and culture
  • Administer performance reporting
  • Create high level goals and processes
  • Ensure company compliance across the board


National Average Salary*
$55,880


2. The Talent Acquisition Specialist

As companies grow, talent acquisition becomes more important than ever. With a focus on finding and developing top talent, the Talent Acquisition Specialist is responsible for building and shaping an organization’s structure. In this role, you understand the importance of bringing in new hires that are both well equipped to do the job and a strong culture fit. This role manages all efforts to recruit, interview, and onboard top talent. Over time, talent acquisition can be broken into even more specific roles, such as department-specific recruiters or onboarding specialists.

Qualifications

  • 2 years of relevant experience
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Excellent communication and critical evaluation skills


Responsibilities

  • Work closely with hiring manager to define the ideal candidate
  • Promote job openings and scout external talent
  • Screen and interview candidates
  • Drive the hiring process, including verifications and offers
  • Provide orientation and onboarding training to new employees


National Average Salary
$50,800

line.png


3. The HR Data Analyst


Data is becoming increasingly important to every department within an organization, and HR is no exception. The HR Data Analyst tracks metrics throughout the talent lifecycle to inform better processes. This role is still relatively new in the field, so it requires a lot of creativity and strategic data-driven thinking in order to develop useful and actionable metrics.


Qualifications

  • 5 years relevant experience in data analysis or statistics
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher
  • A comprehensive understanding of the HR space


Responsibilities

  • Establish core metrics to measure success of talent lifecycle
  • Track metrics and identify fluctuations over time
  • Create surveys to obtain qualitative insights
  • Work with the rest of the team to implement metric-driven changes


National Average Salary
$80,000


4. The Payroll and Benefits Administrator

Employees’ primary communication with their HR team typically centers around compensation and benefits. Whether it’s a missed paycheck, open enrollment, or tax season, employees rely on the Payroll and Benefits Administrator to answer their questions and make sure everything is in order. The Payroll and Benefits Administrator maintains processes to ensure that employees are properly compensated.


Qualifications

  • 3-5 years of relevant experience in benefits and payroll
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Able to communicate confusing concepts to employees


Responsibilities

  • Establish processes for distribution and management of payroll and benefits
  • Run payroll for employees
  • Research and implement benefits plans
  • Communicate insurance plans to employees
  • Address any employee payroll concerns


National Average Salary
$42,908


5. The Employee Relations Manager

Employees need a central contact for their disputes, personal concerns, and questions. Within the HR department, the Employee Relations Manager handles all things people. This means the Employee Relations Manager works collaboratively across the HR team, relying on peers for expert guidance when different employee situations arise—but the role’s primary focus is to advise and consult employees on any concerns.


Qualifications

  • 3-5 years relevant HR experience
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Strong communication and relationship management skills

 

Responsibilities

  • Handle employee personal concerns that affect their work life
  • Facilitate a safe and comfortable workspace
  • Advise management on practices and policies
  • Administer colleague relations and grievance procedures
  • Ensure compliance with employment regulations


National Average Salary
$76,988

HR touches every part of the employee experience and as the field grows, there are more and more HR career paths to choose from. The best way to find your niche is to dive right in, get your hands dirty, and see what tasks align most with your goals and interests. Here’s to finding the right stops along your path to Chief People Officer, Chief Happiness Officer, or even Chief Listening Officer!


*All national salary averages come from Glassdoor.