With the exception of finance, HR is the department most familiar with employee salaries. It should come as no surprise that HR professionals know how to negotiate for competitive compensation. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that HR specialists bring home a median amount of $59,180 and HR Managers an impressive $106,910—well above the cross-industry median of $44,668.
According to Namely’s database of over 1,000 companies, the average HR salary across all levels of experience is $98,048. That’s quite promising, but we wanted to dig deeper. We set out to understand how company size affects compensation, which job titles receive the most competitive salaries, and how HR professionals are valued at each stage of their career. Here’s what the data had to say.
Impact of Company Size
It’s fair to assume that more established companies typically offer more competitive salaries than their smaller counterparts. The BLS shows that the average hourly worker at a company with 500+ employees earns nearly twice the total compensation of an employee at a company with under 50 employees. It seems pretty cut and dry, but when it comes to HR, our data revealed a different trend at play:
While small companies do pay less than large companies, 101-300 employees appears to be the sweet spot for the most competitive HR salaries. Surprisingly, in companies with 101-300 employees, HR actually makes 3 percent more than those at companies with over 300 employees. This may be because companies with 101-300 employees often have small but nimble HR teams, with one or two critical members. As department headcount increases, the average HR team salary could also decrease as a result.
Job Title & Level
Job titles are indicative of career advancement and company status. To gauge trends in compensation, we started by looking at the salary data for the most common job titles in HR.
Unsurprisingly, upward mobility in title or level is rewarded with appropriate compensation. This data confirms that the HR career trajectory is promising for anyone looking for long-term advancement. To glean broader insights, we expanded our search to include all HR titles as they correspond to three tiers: Entry Level, Mid Level, and Senior Level.
With a 58 percent salary jump between Entry and Mid Level, and a significant 121 percent jump between Mid and Senior Level, there is clearly dramatic growth potential for HR professionals. However, both company size and job tier can impact HR salaries simultaneously, so we looked to see if the 101-300 employee range is still the salary “sweet spot” across job levels.
For Entry Level and Senior Level roles, companies at the 100-employee mark see moderate salary growth relative to employee headcount. What jumps out, however, is how much Mid Level HR employees are valued at companies with 101-300 employees. This group makes 23 percent more than in companies with under 100 employees—and most surprisingly, 27 percent more than peers at companies with 300+ employees.
What This Means for HR
With an average ratio of three HR employees for every 100 employees, a company in the sweet spot may have only one or two people leading their core HR function. With such a small team, it’s possible that job titles deemed “mid-level” actually represent the most senior HR roles within the company. When companies grow to 300+ employees, HR teams scale accordingly, which puts mid level HR professionals at mid-sized companies in the best position to receive the most competitive compensation.