A great way to get your foot in the door of a human resources department is to start as a Human Resources (HR) generalist. Whether remote or in-person, every company benefits from trained HR employees. As an HR generalist, you will be exposed to a variety of HR topics and problems, giving you a well-rounded perspective of the field, and an organization as a whole. While learning what keeps the company running, you will also have the opportunity to work with employees — from entry level to the C-suite executives, along with performing supervisorial duties requiring leadership and management skills.
Think you may be the right fit for this career? Read our guide — which includes a thorough HR generalist job description, salary details, and skills and education required — to get all your questions answered about this HR career path.
What Is an HR Generalist?
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), an HR generalist is a human resources professional who performs a variety of duties in the human resources department.
The HR Generalist runs the daily functions of a Human Resources department and works closely with internal divisions such as payroll, benefits, training, compliance, and more. The position may also include supervisory responsibilities such as leading and overseeing subordinate staff.
As a human resources generalist, you may be responsible for managing company communications, hiring and retaining employees, welcoming new employees, helping employees exit the company, and helping to maintain company values.
What Does an HR Generalist Do?
The specific duties of an HR generalist will vary from organization to organization and are often related to the size of the company. However, there are some common duties that HR generalists typically perform. These include:
- Conducting unemployment compensation hearings
- Drafting policy manuals
- Employee relations
- Maintaining employee records
- Recruiting and staffing
- Training and development
What Skills Do You Need to Become an HR Generalist?
As an HR generalist, you will need to have strong problem-solving skills and the ability to think creatively when it comes to resolving employee issues. You should also be able to effectively communicate with people at all levels of an organization.
Some HR generalists may specialize in a specific area of human resources, such as recruiting or benefits administration. However, most HR generalists have a broad knowledge of all HR areas. Some skills you’ll want to have include:
- Excellent communication skills
- Outstanding interpersonal skills
- The ability to think creatively
- Strong analytical and problem-solving skills
- Good judgment and decision-making abilities
- Excellent organizational skills and attention to details
- The ability to handle confidential information discreetly and with sensitivity
- A good working knowledge of HR laws and regulations
- Strong computer skills, including experience with HRIS software systems
- The ability to multitask and prioritize effectively
- A positive attitude and a professional demeanor
- Flexibility and adaptability to changes in the workplace
What Are the Education Requirements for HR Generalists?
Most HR generalists have at least a bachelor’s degree in human resources or a related field. A great foundational education for those aspiring to become HR generalists is a Bachelor of Arts in Business Leadership. This degree equips you with the education and skills to confidently handle HR roles. Another option is to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Human Resources Management.* HR generalists may also want to have several years of experience working in the HR department of an organization to boost their resume.
HR generalists play an important role in the HR department of an organization. If you are interested in working in HR, consider becoming an HR generalist. With a bachelor’s degree in business leadership, human resources, or a related field, and several years of experience working in HR, you can start your career as an HR generalist.
What Type of Person Would Be a Good Fit for an HR Generalist Role?
Because HR generalists handle a variety of responsibilities, you need to be a well-rounded, detail-oriented individual. You should possess excellent communication, interpersonal, and organizational skills. HR generalists should also be able to handle multiple tasks simultaneously and work well under pressure. If you’re considering a career in HR, ask yourself if you have the following qualities:
1. Strong communication skills
HR generalists need to be able to effectively communicate with employees at all levels of an organization. You therefore should be able to clearly articulate policies and procedures, as well as give feedback in a constructive manner.
2. Interpersonal skills
HR generalists must be able to build relationships with employees from all walks of life. You should be approachable and easy to talk to, while also being able to maintain a professional demeanor.
3. Organizational skills
HR generalists need to be able to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously. You should have excellent time management skills and be able to prioritize your workload.
HR generalists must pay close attention to detail in order to properly execute duties. You should be able to spot errors and correct them in a timely manner.
What Is an HR Generalist Salary?
While the average salary for HR generalists varies greatly by location and industry, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) finds that the average salary of an HR generalist, sometimes referred to as an HR specialist, is $62,290 annually, or $29.95 per hour. However, this number depends on a variety of factors, especially in which industry you practice. Case in point: for HR generalists working in in 2020 when the BLS last collected job information and data, they earned the following average annual salaries:
- Employment services - $48,440
- Health care and social assistance - $57,720
- Manufacturing - $72,370
- Government - $74,150
- Professional, technical, and scientific - $76,920
In 2020, there were 674,800 HR specialist and generalist jobs, with an average growth rate of about 10%.
Becoming an HR Generalist: Four Steps to Follow
If you’re interested in becoming an HR generalist, there are four steps you can follow to get started.
Undergraduate degrees provide a strong foundation for the business education you need as an HR generalist.
2. Strengthen your communication and organizational skills
HR generalists must be able to effectively communicate with employees and managers, as well as discretely maintain confidential employee information. HR generalists must also be proficient in using computer HR software programs.
3. Gain experience in the HR field
Many HR generalists start their careers as HR assistants or HR coordinators. Consider pursuing an HR internship or working in an HR role prior to applying for HR generalist positions.
4. Consider pursuing HR certification
Although not required, many HR generalists pursue HR certification through SHRM. SHRM offers two types of HR certification — the Associate Certified Human Resources Professional (SHRM-CP) and the Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP). To be eligible for either of these certifications, you must have a minimum two years of professional HR experience as well as meet additional requirements for each.
If you are considering pursuing a career as an HR generalist, there are many things to consider about what the day-to-day responsibilities will look like and the education you may need to get there. While a BA in Business Leadership or a BA in Human Resources Management will help set the foundation for this career, it’s important to gain HR generalist skills and experience outside of the classroom. To get started, do your research. Build out your skills and experience. Consider joining SHRM or another network of HR individuals. With the right combination of education and experience, you will be on your way to becoming an HR generalist.
Want to get started? Contact an advisor today to learn more about earning a bachelor’s degree in business leadership or human resources management today.
Certain degree programs may not be available in all states.
* Successful completion of the Bachelor of Arts in Human Resources Management degree by itself does not provide licensure or certification in any state, regardless of concentration or specialization. Students seeking licensure or certification in a particular profession are strongly encouraged to carefully research the requirements prior to enrollment. Requirements may vary by state. Global Campus does not guarantee that any professional organization will accept a graduate’s application to sit for any exam for the purpose of professional certification.