How to Become an HR Manager

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The human resources department plays a critical role in any company, ensuring that a great team is in place and working together productively. This makes the position of an HR manager very important to the success of a company. It’s not, however, an easy role and takes education, skills, and experience.

If you aspire to be an HR manager, this guide will help you to plan your path.

Education and Skills

Your first step is getting the required education. Most HR roles of any kind require a bachelor’s degree, which could be either a bachelor’s degree in human resources or a business administration degree with a focus on HR.

These types of degrees will include courses to not only teach you the nuts and bolts of HR, such as strategic management, workforce planning, human resource development, and organizational management, but also those that will help you to develop leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills.

Those types of skills are essential for any HR role, but particularly for an HR manager.

You could also consider doing an HR internship while you’re earning your bachelor’s degree to get a head start on gaining experience.

A bachelor’s degree will set you up to get a starting role in HR, but to become an HR manager, you might consider obtaining a master’s degree. You could do so while you’re working in an HR role so that you’d be getting education and experience at the same time.

Your master’s degree does not necessarily have to be in human resources. It could be in business administration, project management, or some other relevant field.

Before you begin your educational path, you may want to do some research online to learn more about what’s required of HR professionals. This human resource site has many relevant articles that can help you prepare for your journey.

Gain Relevant Work Experience

Before becoming an HR manager, you’ll have to gain some experience working in the field, probably starting with an entry-level HR role. Potential jobs could be:

  • HR assistant
  • Recruiter
  • HR specialist
  • HR compliance analyst
  • HR employee relations coordinator
  • Payroll specialist
  • Training specialist
  • Benefits administrator

You’ll want to select jobs that allow you to get a diverse range of experience so that you understand the functions of all areas of HR.

As you’re working, you’ll want to be proactive and learn as much as you can. If you can find a role in a company where you can get cross-training on various HR functions, that would be ideal.

Obtain Professional Certifications

To obtain a management role in HR, professional certifications can go a long way. There are several nationally recognized certifications that you can obtain.

  • Society of Human Resource Management Certified Professional (SHRM-C)
  • Society of Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP)
  • Professional in Human Resources (PHR)
  • Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)

Each certification has specific experience, education, and training requirements. Getting these certifications adds much credibility to your resume, so at various points on your HR career path, you should consider obtaining one or more of the certification options.

Networking and Professional Development

For any management role, networking is a vital part of meeting people who can help you find opportunities. Membership in professional organizations and associations are a great way to develop your network.

Many of these organizations also offer continuing education opportunities, such as the SHRM.

Other organizations to consider joining include:

  • The Association for Talent Development
  • The Human Capital Institute
  • The American Payroll Association
  • The Academy of Human Resource Development
  • The International Association of Administrative Professionals
  • The National Human Resources Association

These organizations often have online communities that are good options for networking, and many hold regular conferences that you can attend to network in person.

You should be able to find valuable contacts, but also learn about what’s happening in the industry from other perspectives.

Apply for HR Manager Jobs

Once you’ve reached a point in your career where you feel that you’re ready to advance to an HR management role, you can start your job hunt unless an opportunity exists within your current company.

First of all, you need to craft a strong resume and cover letter that highlight your education, certifications, and experience. You should be well versed by now in what makes a good resume and cover letter.

Then, search for opportunities that are appealing to you. Look for companies that seem to share your values, and that you believe you would enjoy working for.

Also look for roles in which you think you could add real value to a company, perhaps by introducing new processes or strategies.

Your resume, after your years of education and experience, should make you an attractive candidate and get you to the interview stage.

You’ve probably had much experience being the interviewer, but now you have to prepare to be an interviewee. Put together a strategy for your interviews so that you’re fully prepared.

Advancing in the HR Field

Becoming an HR manager is not the highest level that you can reach if you’re ambitious. Many companies have roles such as a vice president of human resources or a chief human resources officer (CHRO). To obtain such roles, you’ll have to have experience and success as an HR manager.

To prepare yourself to go to the next level, you’ll need to be innovative in your management role, and achieve accomplishments that you can add to your resume. You’ll also want to continue your education, and continue your networking efforts.

Additionally, you should always stay current with industry trends, best practices, and HR laws and regulations.

The bottom line is that the more knowledge, accomplishments, and credentials you have, the more likely you are to be a candidate for a high level role. Always keep this in mind as you follow your career path, and always be learning.


It can be a long road to becoming an HR manager, but if you’re passionate about helping companies and individuals advance, it can be well worth the effort.

As you follow your path, keep in mind how important your HR roles are, soak up information, and keep your goals in mind. It won’t be easy, but the rewards will make your hard work worthwhile.

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