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What is a good path for a human resources career?

Hi! I am Abby, and I don't actually know what I'm going to do with my life. It's a little intimidating and scary as a high school senior. I have done some research on what I am interested in, and declared my major at most prospective schools as psychology. I genuinely like it and I feel like it opens doors to different future careers. However, it is not something I can see myself doing forever, and most psychology majors have to pursue a post-BA education to have a shot at a job. While I am interested in psych, I think a career like HR or another corporate path would work and to keep the door open, I wanted to see if anyone had any advice on how to get started, or what paths people took. My main questions are:
- How will it take to exit the "entry level" tier in HR?
- How well paying is it? Or, how long did it take to get to a well paying position? This is not something that's extremely high on my list of factors, but I do think it matters quite a bit.
- How large is the potential for growth (promotions, bonuses, etc)?
- How hard is it to find a job?
- Will a psychology major be looked down upon in the hiring sense? I have heard from other sources that this may be an occurrence for psych majors looking to go corporate.
- Any other career advice or other potential paths?

Thank you so much for your time, and any advice is appreciated! psychology college college-major career major corporate humanresources psychologymajor business chro management

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John’s Answer

Abby if you have the desire to help a organization find the best talent and help employees reach their full potential? Human resource professionals can be found in every industry and sector including education, healthcare, business, social service, and government. Human resource management professionals need skills in psychology, communication, business, finance, marketing, human services, and management. While earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resource Managements is perhaps the most direct route toward a career in HR, psychology remains one of the most popular college majors.

BACHELOR'S DEGREE IN PSYCHOLOGY – A bachelor’s in psychology would provide you with a broad understanding of the factors that influence behavior and performance. Programs in psychology offer courses that develop critical thinking, scientific problem solving, research skills, and technical writing abilities. Future Human Resource Management professionals can use these skills to understand what motivates their staff, create meaningful incentives, and improve employee performance through contemporary theories in psychology. Most programs can be completed in four years including an internship experience or senior project. Graduates are prepared to work as life skills instructors, research associates, training and development professionals, case managers, consultants and human resource management professionals. Some programs offer a program track or minor in business which can be a great compliment for you if your planning to pursue management or human resources career. Many graduates use a psychology degree as a stepping stone for graduate work in psychology, human resources, healthcare administration, or business. The demand for psychologists is expected to grow by 14% through 2026, or faster than average. While it takes a doctorate degree to become a psychologist, the knowledge and skills acquired through bachelor’s level programs will provide you with the ability to work in a variety of areas including human resources or social service. Money isn’t everything, of course Abby, but human resource salaries and earning potentials are still an important piece of the puzzle for anyone considering a career in this field.

HR SPECIALIST – Median annual salary: $68,900 – The HR specialist job title encompasses many of the primary HR positions, such as recruiter and HR generalist. Typically, these professionals recruit, screen, interview and place employees, while also handling tasks related to employee relations and orientation. Human resources specialists might also administer benefits, process payroll and field problems. HR specialists also tend to have a strategic focus for their companies, planning and hiring to fit current and future needs. In short, these specialists are the skilled HR professionals who handle a large portion of the execution of day-to-day initiatives. HR specialists typically need a Bachelor’s degree

HR MANAGER – Median annual salary: $116,500 – Human resources managers oversee, plan and direct the administrative functions of an organization, according to the BLS. This can involve guiding the recruitment and onboarding of new staff, strategic planning with executives and sometimes overseeing HR teams and programs, such as compensation, employee retention and employee relations. Overall, human resources managers are responsible for maximizing the value of the organization’s employees. Larger companies might hire specific managers for each department in HR as well, such as payroll managers or recruiting managers. HR managers need at least Bachelor’s degree and several years of related work experience. These jobs are certainly competitive, and candidates with a Master’s degree will likely have the best prospects.

Human resources from top to bottom is all about people and a psychology major would you understand what type of personalities would contribute to a company’s success. Now that you have a better idea of what human resources salaries are out there, you are better equipped to chart an ambitious HR career path. It’s no surprise that the higher-paying management positions require some time and experience in HR, but if you have a plan for the positions you want to work toward, you can make informed choices from the beginning.

Hope this was helpful Abby
Thank You Nathan. The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. John Frick
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Shakia’s Answer

Hi Abby,
As a HR professional, I can definitely tell you a psychology degree will not be looked down upon. In my experience, employers are more-so concerned with your interpersonal skills and how you relate to people. I got my start as a recruiter. The position was very entry level working for a “temp service” after nearly two years of experience I moved to the corporate world and was quickly promoted. I am compensated well with lots of room for growth at my current company. You can always branch out into management or training! I am considered “mid level” and have plans to pursue further schooling later in my career. I hope this helps!
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Nathan’s Answer

Hey Abby.

After discussing this with some colleagues, we have the following suggestions we think could be helpful:

Talk to your careers advisor (if applicable), and look into internships (especially ones with rotations) and volunteering opportunities (this could also be a part time job) to show that you're able to develop skills etc outside of your typical school.

Additionally you should ask around and see who you know in this industry as well. Talk to people within this role directly if possible and those who are just starting out in this role. How did they make this transition?

Background in Psychology (as others note) will not hurt you. I guess, just index on making sure you enjoy people and the fun complexities they can add to the mix.

In regards to compensation. This does tend to differ based on what industry you may 'HR' in. Also depending on if you remain generalist or specialise this can impact compensation.

Lots of room for growth and development and opportunity in this field, HR is people, people are consistent in every organisation, being open to change and development opportunities. The market has more opportunity to enter right now so you should be able to find a few out there.

When interviewing and CV's - think through the cover letter and how you can apply the companies values to your own experience and why they resonate. Follow up is important too - be considered in how you follow up after and discuss your learnings. And when interviewing, really index on why you're passionate about the specific role - discuss your experiences to date and learnings that'll help you be successful in the role.
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Tracee’s Answer

Hi Abby-
First of all, it is very normal to not know what you want to do with your career. In fact, most people will have several "careers" during their lifetime.
Specifically, regarding your HR questions:
- How will it take to exit the "entry level" tier in HR? It depends on your interest and willingness to explore different opportunities. Careers in HR are often not "linear" and you may want to explore several different entry level roles in HR. It is likely, though, that you should expect to spend a couple of years in an entry level position before moving to the next level.
- How well paying is it? Or, how long did it take to get to a well paying position? This is not something that's extremely high on my list of factors, but I do think it matters quite a bit. This depends on several factors including the industry, where you live (geography), and the specific role. You can make a good living in HR positions.
- How large is the potential for growth (promotions, bonuses, etc)? There can be lots of opportunities for growth and promotions if you are willing to work hard.
- How hard is it to find a job? If you have completed an internship or have some office experience, it can make finding a job easier.
- Will a psychology major be looked down upon in the hiring sense? I have heard from other sources that this may be an occurrence for psych majors looking to go corporate. A psychology major can be looked favorably upon--understanding people is really important!
- Any other career advice or other potential paths? The skills that you learn within this major can be really helpful in most jobs involving people.
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Amanda’s Answer

Hi Abby -

Great to hear that you are doing a good amount of research on your end for career paths and majors related to HR roles.

Brief background about myself and my role in HR: I majored in Economics, which is versatile and applicable to many roles, from entry level to more senior levels. I initially worked in a tax position for a few years, before transitioning to a human resource-like role. I currently work in mergers & acquisitions deals consulting, and help support organizations from the people perspective. We look at understanding employee workforce, benefits and insurances (such as medical, vision, dental, retirement, etc.), HR policies, organizational design, employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, and workforce changes.

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I've answered some of your questions below:
- How will it take to exit the "entry level" tier in HR? Based on my experience, many entry level positions range from 1.5 years to 3 years.
- How well paying is it? Or, how long did it take to get to a well paying position? This is not something that's extremely high on my list of factors, but I do think it matters quite a bit. This will vary depending on role. You can look at market ranges or responses via Glassdoor for a particular position.
- How hard is it to find a job? Based on my experience, I would say it depends on the location and the exact role. By talking with recruiters, alumni, and searching job sites such as LinkedIn, you will realize there are more opportunities out there than you would think.
- Will a psychology major be looked down upon in the hiring sense? I have heard from other sources that this may be an occurrence for psych majors looking to go corporate. Do not let this limit you. Hiring is not all about the major! It's about what you can bring - whether that be from internship experience, leadership roles in colleges, and feeling passionate about the job that you want.
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Best of luck!
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Gero’s Answer

Hello Abby C!

What you're feeling is totally normal; I've been in your exact same shoes! You've already done most of the work researching what your interest are, so you're nearly there. A job in HR can be very rewarding both financially and career wise.

To answer your questions:

- How will it take to exit the "entry level" tier in HR?

> I'd recommend that you take an internship within different areas of HR to help you explore & find out what your passionate about - it could be beneficial to search for a Rotational HR Program. These programs typically allow you to sit in many roles for a set amount of time, so that you touch a little bit of everything.

- How well paying is it? Or, how long did it take to get to a well paying position? This is not something that's extremely high on my list of factors, but I do think it matters quite a bit.

> There are many variables that impact pay like industry, your skillset, certifications, etc. Tech companies generally pay better compared to other industries.

- How large is the potential for growth (promotions, bonuses, etc)?

> Working at a start up will get you exposed to many different parts of the business and provide an opportunity for you to wear many hats. Although these environments could be very rewarding, they come with a lot of chaos and ambiguity. Working at a larger, public, company will provide more structure, but potentially not as much exposure or opportunities that could accelerate advancement.

- How hard is it to find a job?

> The economy and job market can affect this, but a safe route would be through your college placement programs and internships!

- Will a psychology major be looked down upon in the hiring sense? I have heard from other sources that this may be an occurrence for psych majors looking to go corporate.

> Not at all! There are many executives who have a degree in Psychology - our Chief People Officer has one!

- Any other career advice or other potential paths?

> With anything, if you are passionate and motivated about it, you'll succeed :) HR can be very fun!

I hop this is helpful & best of luck!
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Gemma’s Answer

- Entry level average 1-2 years before promotion, depends on the size of the company
- certifications like SHRM (HR qualification in the US) can be useful. In the UK, CIPD qualifications can help increase your knowledge and look great on resume
- Psych major can be a good thing, definitely not looked down upon for a HR role :)
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dave’s Answer

I was a Recruiter for many years so I have a lot of experience dealing with HR so that may be one way to gain some experience and there always seem to be jobs for junior recruiters available!

also recruiters can make more $ as they usually earn commissions too!

good luck
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Christopher’s Answer

Hey Abby,

I hope you get a good answer to your question. I personally am not in HR but I do know / work with a lot of HR professionals.

I would say in terms of their undergraduate training there a several who do have a BS/BA in psychology, but virtually all of them also have some additional training like an MBA or advanced degree in industrial psychology. The rest have a undergraduate majors from the business school as well as a smattering of other humanities (like history and sociology). A deep understanding of psychology (especially behavioral and industrial psychology) is valuable in HR but I would say it’s often considered essential to have additional business training.

You are correct in that many in the cooperate world largely views psychology as a degree that’s really earned in preparation for additional education (such as a masters degree). If you are interested in a undergraduate degree that will get you the most mileage in the corporate world without additional training, you may want to consider business administration, accounting, etc. and perhaps minor of psychology (or double major).

Hopefully someone with direct experience working in HR can give you a more detailed answer soon.

Best of luck!
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Shelyse’s Answer

Hi Abby -

I have had a long career in HR and I still enjoy it. Many degrees are useful in HR, including Psychology. The field of HR is growing and has expanded into different areas including HR analytics, Employee Relations, Organizational Effectiveness, etc. I have given many people the advice that a good starting point for HR is Recruiting/Talent Acquisition. Any entry level Talent Acquisition role might be easier to come by than an HR business partner role. I've met many HR professionals who worked first in the staffing industry and later moved into other various areas of HR. With that said, there is a lot of variety in HR.

A Psychology degree is definitely not frowned upon in HR. Starting wages in HR vary by geography, company size and type. You can progress from an entry level role in as little as 2-3 years. An internship, if available in your area, is another great way to get exposure to the profession.
Good luck in know that it's normal to be unsure of your path. I'm sure you'll have a great career, whether it's in HR or another area.

Best!
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