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Best Careers in Human Resources Part 1

Published on Wednesday, June 2, 2010

By Jhoanna Gan-So

There are two types of jobseekers: Those who know exactly what they want, and those who have no clue as to what career to pursue, even after years of studying.

If you belong to the first group, good for you!  All you have to do is follow the direction that your heart takes you in, and you’ll be on your way to finding the career that you desire.

But for those who are not sure, those who have not yet zeroed in on a particular career, and those who are still searching, don’t worry.

Here’s another Career Guide that can help open your mind to more options and opportunities. For this month, I will focus on Best Careers in Human Resources. (If you are interested in other career options, check out past issues archived in my blog


Contrary to popular belief, HR is not just about paperwork and payroll processing. There are many facets to this exciting career, stimulating issues to challenge your mind, great rewards, and benefits.

First, let’s discuss what the requirements are if you want a career as an HR professional.

In terms of educational requirements, most four-year college degree-holders are sought for HR entry level positions. There is a preference for psychology, behavioral science, organizational communication, industrial relations, sociology, and humanities, but many companies are quite open to other general courses as well, since there’s really no “College of HR.”

In terms of attitude and skills, companies look for people who are good with people—meaning, good communication and interpersonal skills are must-haves if you want to pursue a career in HR.  Other wanted skills are organizational skills, records management, and leadership.

Many HR practitioners start out as HR assistants and administration officers, learning the ropes along the way and gaining knowledge as they work in this field. They are usually sent by their employers to HR seminars to arm them with the knowledge and skills necessary for the job. Many are trained on different HR functions such as recruitment and interviews, training and development, compensation and benefits, labor law, and employee discipline.

So if you are a new graduate or if you are thinking of shifting careers, HR is a field that’s quite easy to get into as the requirements for entry level positions are general. HR can be learned on the job; it will also help if you acquire additional knowledge through HR seminars and books (for more information about courses you can take, visit


As an HR practitioner, you can either be a generalist or a specialist. There are companies, usually SMEs, who look for generalists—HR people who can do all the functions of HR, sort of like jacks-of-all-trades. But there are also companies, usually those with big and compartmentalized departments, who look for specialists—HR positions where the job entails only a single but specialized function (ex. recruitment officer, training officer, payroll officer).

Being a generalist or a specialist has its own advantages and disadvantages. If you are just starting in the field of HR, you may want to experience the different functions of HR to get a feel for the field, to find out where you are best suited and what you like the most.

My suggestion is to learn as much as you can about human resources. Get as much experience as you can with the different functions, then carve out a good stable career for yourself.


Like all careers, many HR practitioners start off as HR or administrative assistants. These entry-level positions usually come with entry-level (or a little above it) salaries.

As you gain experience, your salary and responsibilities rise. After a few years on the job, you may be promoted to HR supervisor or executive. You may have a generalist or specialist function, depending on the size of your company.

When you’ve got about 5 to 10 years experience, you may become a manager.  That’s where you gain more influence in your company, create programs that affect all employees, and get to work strategically with top management. Salaries at middle to top management levels are usually pretty good, as you are climbing the corporate ladder. Once you’ve proven yourself, gained extensive experience, and have stayed with your company long enough, you may reach AVP-VP levels.


A career in HR can be very rewarding. The financial rewards are usually commensurate to the work that you do, your knowledge and expertise, and your position level in the company. But aside from this, there are other perks to being part of HR.  Let me share some of them:

Influence with People Matters. As an HR practitioner, you will be in a position to advocate programs that will fill the needs and benefits of all employees in your company. You can directly make a difference in everyone’s lives and work relationships.

In the Know. Since you are the one hiring, processing the payroll, and recommending promotions, you will be privy to confidential information. This knowledge will allow you to benchmark your own position against those of others and you can negotiate well for yourself.

Being in the Loop. You will know what’s happening in the company, whether it be events, employee movements and management policies. You may even be tasked to lead most of these matters.

Last Ones to Go. During retrenchments, HR people are usually the last ones who will be let go. This is due to the practical reason that they are needed for the actual retrenchment process.

These are just some of the perks of being in HR. It’s an exciting field because you get to touch people’s lives directly. (To be continued on Sunday, June 13. For Part 2, I will discuss the different positions you can try or apply for in the field of human resources.)

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