6 Career Paths in Human Resources

6 Career Paths in Human Resources

In this article, we discuss 6 Career Paths in Human Resources. Although Human Resources is commonly thought of as a single type of job, there are many career options within this field. I will attempt to summarise many of the major HR functions, how people get into HR jobs in each respective area and what types of skills are needed to be successful. Please note that to fit a discussion on HR careers in one article, I have generalized to fit everything in.

Recruiting & Staffing

One of the entry points into HR is recruiting and staffing. Many people get their first exposure to this function working for recruitment agencies. You learn how to recruit candidates to fill job vacancies. Many of the roles are assigned to the more entry-level people. From there people may move into recruiting more higher-level executives or transitioning to a more specialized field of recruiting. Others may use this experience to move into a corporate HR role. Entry-level HR persons tend to use this role as a stepping stone to gain experience and move into a more senior role. The critical skills you need to get into this role are:

  • People skills,
  • Understanding how a candidate’s skills contribute to a company
  • Matching those skills with the job vacancy

These roles have a high earning potential.

“In order to build a rewarding employee experience, you need to understand what matters most to your people.” – Julie Bevacqua


People with no experience don’t necessarily start off in this role. However recent graduates in an HR role are hired to support seniors in this role and then progress into a more senior role. In the payroll function, there is extensive work with spreadsheets, statistics, and statutory requirements. These roles require a good understanding of numbers, legal requirements, PAYE, pension/provident, UIF, and many other facets.

The basic skills you need to get into this role are:

  • High school diploma.
  • A degree in HR or business administration is preferred.
  • 2-3 years of experience working in a similar role is preferred.
  • Computer literate and proficient in Microsoft Office and payroll software.
  • Strong numerical aptitude and attention to detail.


Good trainers have excellent people skills, are patient and are really good at teaching and sharing their knowledge. People typically move into a training role via and internal promotion. The trainer typically has experience or skills that need to be shared with junior persons. Some trainers may come from other fields outside of HR. Trainers evaluate the skills of employees to gauge where certain skills are lacking. They are responsible for designing training programs to up skill the companies workforce.

Typically a trainer need to meet these basic requirements:

  • A degree in HR, education or training.
  • Prior experience as a trainer or mentor.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Ability to identify gaps in skills.

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people not on strategies.” – Lawrence Bossidy

Labor Relations / Employee Relations

Typically these roles are filled by people with a legal background and experience in labor relations. They could also be people who have been promoted  from a higher position in HR. People in these roles have experience in working with unions and have extensive training in labor relations. To work in these roles you need to have strong analytical and negotiating skills. You can expect to be working in negotiating and executing contracts. Employee relations focuses on employee issues. Their primary responsibilities include offering counseling services to employees, participating in the recruitment process, overseeing employee orientation and training, and conducting exit interviews.

As an Employee Relations Specialist, you will need to meet the following basic requirements:

  • Degree in human resources.
  • Demonstrated knowledge of employment law.
  • Outstanding interpersonal skills.
Free recruiting and staffing platform.
One of the entry points into HR is recruiting and staffing.

Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS)

Typically these roles are filled by industry experts or by internal promotion. People in these roles are normally technical HR people, IT professionals, or someone with strong system skills. HRIS roles are inclined towards working with and understanding technology. HRIS manager performs a range of duties including processing employee data, maintaining HR systems, preparing reports, and developing data processing systems.

Basic requirements for a Human Resource Information Systems Manager:

  • Degree in human resource management or IT relevant field.
  • A minimum of 3 years of experience in HRIS.
  • Strong knowledge of labor laws and regulations.

Human Resource Administration

The HR administration role may be an entry level role or may transition from another position within the HR function. The primary function of the HR administrator is to support the business with admin-related tasks. This may include staffing and recruiting, training, labor relations, HRIS or any other function they may be called upon to do.

So as we have discovered there is really is not one human resource position but many. If you would like to pursue a career in HR, my recommendation is to assess your skills and talents and what you enjoy doing see which function within HR is your best fit. If you are pursuing a career in HR I hope this article has given you more clarity.

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