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How do you know if doing human resource management is right for you? Do you need to narrow down which industry to work in for HR?

I am currently studying business in college, but I am not sure which business major to study. I do a lot of communications and like connecting with people, which is why I think HR might be right for me. (I'm not sure if this is the correct way of thinking or viewing HR.) There is HR in many different types of industry. Do you need to narrow it down? For example, if you want to do HR in an accounting firm, do you need general knowledge about accounting? More than general knowledge or less is doable? human-resources business

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Emitom’s Answer

Hi Amy!

There are great insights in these responses. When considering a career in HR, I think it's important to think about what within HR interests and excites you. Even if you are an HR generalist, there may be certain subject matter that draws you to the field such as Talent Acquisition, Performance Management, or Learning & Development. I provided a brief overview of what you may learn when working in different areas of HR in another post you can find here:

In terms of narrowing down industries, it's definitely not necessary, but it could be helpful to narrow down your job search. Your job as an HR practitioner can vary significantly based on the industry you work in (e.g. high tech vs. manufacturing). Once you join a company in a certain industry, they will provide resources to help get you up to speed on the industry and business, but it doesn't hurt to have some advanced knowledge. If you do have certain industry preferences, doing your research on those industries can help you stand out during the interview process. Lastly, I actually work in HR for a professional services firm, which includes accounting. I took a few basic accounting classes in college, but have not used them at all in this role. It's more important for me to understand the experiences of our accounting employees than the technical aspects of their roles.

Let me know if you have additional questions!
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Darlene’s Answer

Hi Amy,
I love that you ask about HR. I have been working in HR for 20 years now and it is an incredible career that offers much variety and challenge. There is always something to learn and something different to do. I studied business but did not major in Human Resources AND did not know that I would end up working in HR when I graduated. I suggest either majoring in Human Resources or in the minimum taking Employment Law classes. Yes, communicating is key and connecting with people, but this is true of a lot of career tracks. You do not need to study accounting or any other industry unless you want a minor to fall back on. HR is something you can take to other industries.

However, knowing an industry is helpful to assist leaders with strategic decisions, especially as you get into higher level positions. You can learn this on the job, while in your entry level positions. The technical side of an industry like accounting - how to collect monies, bill for monies and account for these transactions is not so important to know. Learning about industry trends, laws affecting the industry, education required for the positions, pay, etc. would be more helpful. To understand these things allows you to help leaders with strategic decisions about hiring/firing, etc.

I started my HR career in a service (food) industry and then followed with manufacturing/warehousing, non-profit health care and am now in high tech. The HR skills are transferrable. The industry knowledge can be learned and applied as you come up to speed in your position however, you may find that you like or prefer one industry over another.

Good luck to you in your career!

Thank you for the comment! This is helpful and I appreciate to learn about the perspective from this field. Amy L.

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Karri’s Answer

These are all amazing answers and since it sounds like you are already drawn to HR now, don't bother with accounting classes. I had a very different career path where I majored in business and minored in accounting with an intent to go into accounting. I spent 2 years in auditing and realized that I would much rather support and guide people in their career and I was fortunate to move into HR roles from my accounting firm. Most of my career is in HR and I would echo getting the relevant certifications would be important if you want to move around to different companies or industries.

Thank you! Love hearing about your career journey and advice. Amy L.

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De'andra’s Answer

Hi Amy, I commend you for planning ahead and recognizing your interest in HR! I agree with all the other answers here in that there's no need to minor or get certified in a particular industry. The general knowledge, however, can be useful for making connections with employees and sharing a common language, especially if you're in charge of recruitment/hiring. Keep in mind it's also important to share values with the industry to which you're applying. In the last 15 years, I've worked in HR in the legal, social service, financial, manufacturing industries.

If you're interested in culture/engagement (a recent buzz word in the HR industry), I highly recommend taking classes in human behavior, or motivation like behavioral economics. These courses helped set a great foundation for my HR career, especially as it related to measuring performance. Although I'm no wiz at numbers, taking courses in stats helped me understand HR reports, and the employee behavior that may be behind those numbers. Despite what you may hear, data CAN lie. It should really be used as a guideline for asking further questions. is a really helpful tool I've used over the years to explore common career paths in HR, as well as their salaries and skills required.

Good luck in your path, and remember your journey is more like a lattice than a ladder. Follow your instinct and passion (not the money) to the next right step.

Thank you for your comment! These are all very great advices you're giving and I will definitely take a look at the site to explore my interest. Amy L.

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Matthew’s Answer

Amy - Based on your question, it seems like your intuition is pointing you towards human resource management as a career, which is an excellent choice at this time. Looking at business from a high level, you basically have three main parts: people, money, and materials. So, having education and expertise in managing people are very important knowledge and skills to have. This will only increase in importance over the next several years; therefore your timing is excellent.

I agree with Darlene's answer (above) in that it's not necessary to broaden your education into the other parts, money and materials, while in college. Once you get into a specific industry, you will be able to access technical training that is specific to your company, which will be more relevant. However, I would reiterate something that Darlene did mention. Find a sub-area of human resource management, like human resource law or strategic planning, to focus on while in college as opposed to learning about accounting. After graduation, you would use this extra knowledge as a differentiator in interviews, for promotions, or for continuing your education as desired in the future.

Many years ago, my mentor told me when I was feeling overwhelmed by choices to ask myself this question, "of all the things that I could do, what are the few things that I should do that will really make a difference?" These few things are called levers because when you use them they really make a big difference in the outcome.

This is the question that you probably need to ask yourself about your education choice. I think you already know the answer.

Best of luck in your education and career.

Thank you for the comment! I like and appreciate the wise words. Amy L.

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Lisa’s Answer


HR is a professional that will allow you to move into any industry. Although industries have particular areas that apply only to them, your knowledge and understanding of HR Resources and Laws will actually allow you to work in any industry. Also, the HR world now has a Certification for HR Professionals. I recommend getting this along with your degree. This will improve your HR knowledge for all industries; and it may impact your starting salary. :)

Thank you! I find your comment and suggestion helpful. Amy L.