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What is Human Resource Management? Explore Career Paths, Tasks and More

By DeVry University

The information presented here is true and accurate as of the date of publication. DeVry’s programmatic offerings and their accreditations are subject to change. Please refer to the current academic catalog for details.


September 16, 2020

6 min read


There’s no doubt that the field of human resources (HR) is a popular area of study for our students. Whether it’s the idea of serving as your company’s go-to point-of-contact or assisting new colleagues as they join the organization and shape their future careers, HR roles have a lot of appeal.

For one thing, the job outlook is bright. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of human resource specialists to grow 6% from 2022 to 2032, faster than average for all occupations. The BLS further projects about 78,700 openings for human resource specialists each year, on average, over the decade.1

Growth projected on a national level. Local growth will vary by location. BLS projections are not specific to DeVry University students or graduates and may include earners at all stages of their career and not just entry level.


HR is a popular field and requires professionals that work in all kinds of capacities, including human resource management. But what is human resource management, exactly, and what are the functions of HR professionals? Read on to learn more about this broad and varied career path and some of the day-to-day tasks you might perform, including managing recruitment, overseeing talent retention efforts and coordinating insurance benefits.

What is Human Resource Management?

Human resource management (HRM) refers to the management of people as well as all resources pertaining to the human capital of an organization. These resources can range from health insurance to employee assistance programs and may include labor relations issues such diversity, workplace safety, compensation and environmental conflicts.

Human resource professionals are needed in businesses of all sizes from small, family-owned establishments to multi-national corporations in virtually every industry. HR professionals should be able to:

  • Communicate clearly

  • Exercise good judgment and possess a keen sense of ethics

  • Think quickly and understand implications of decisions on stakeholders

  • Demonstrate organizational skills

  • Work independently or as part of a collaborative team

  • Effectively use problem solving and conflict management skills

What are the functions of Human Resource Professionals?

Human resources management is a profession with a broad scope, given that tasks can vary based on company size and needs. Some of the more common tasks associated with HR professionals involve staffing within an organization, such as onboarding new employees and advising or creating policies on employment and organizational development.

Other typical responsibilities include:

Recruitment and Onboarding

HR professionals work closely with department heads, hiring managers and other decision makers to determine desirable qualifications, skill sets and education levels used in the recruitment strategies for new roles.

In the past, recruitment often meant manually sifting through hundreds of resumes, but today's professionals are more likely to depend on specialized software to maintain a database of applicants and jobs. This not only streamlines the process and potentially reduces the hiring costs associated with manual labor, but also helps them to quickly track down the right candidates by searching for key skills and experience.

Many HR positions require knowledge about employment and labor laws to ensure compliance. In many firms, HR professionals are often a new employee’s first contact within the organization because they:

  • Conduct the initial interviews in a hiring process

  • Perform background checks and check references

  • Onboard new employees and help orient them to company policies and procedures

  • Assist new employees in getting set up with health insurance, payroll and other benefits

Employee Training and Development

Human resource departments and HR managers are also responsible for implementing both introductory and ongoing training programs designed to provide employees with the tools they need to do their jobs and stay current in their field. They produce employee handbooks, create and administer company training and facilitate conferences, seminars or other career development opportunities for employees. These opportunities for development are designed to help organizations cultivate and retain their workforces.

The health and safety of an organization is also an important priority for HR professionals. They may communicate workforce safety guidelines or develop trainings and procedures that encourage employees to report unsafe practices without fear of retaliation. It is often important for HR professionals to understand and ensure their organizations remain within regulatory compliance with respect to workplace safety.

Performance Management

An ongoing employee performance management process is critical to ensure that employees are receiving feedback on their job performance and continuing to develop within their roles. Because compensation can be tied to performance reviews, it is vital that HR professionals implement systems and processes that aim to create consistency and fairness while minimizing opportunities for bias across the organization.

Compensation and Benefits Administration

Another responsibility of a human resource department includes determining compensation for a position based on the role, experience and equity across the organization and industry. HR professionals use industry data to determine appropriate compensation benchmarks and ensure the company remains competitive in the market. For example, an HR professional may gather data from a compensation survey to analyze market trends and make recommendations on pay bands for positions.

Similarly, HR professionals research employee benefits across comparable industries to ensure that their benefits packages are in line with other organizations. This may include health insurance, retirement plans, employee tuition assistance and other benefits programs. HR professionals are often responsible for negotiating rates, performing cost analyses and making recommendations to leadership on the most cost-effective packages. In addition, HR professionals communicate and administer the benefits to employees.

What is the goal of the Human Resources department?

In a small organization, the HR department may consist of an HR generalist with many different responsibilities. In a larger company, they may have several HR specialists focusing in specific areas. For example, some HR professionals concentrate solely on recruiting or onboarding of new hires, while others may work in the administration of employee benefits programs, or in compensation. No matter the size of the company, HR departments help their organizations:

  • Support and manage talent

  • Foster a positive working environment and company culture

  • Communicate its vision, systems and policies

  • Reach goals related to succession planning, diversity, equity and inclusion and other strategic initiatives

HR departments often serve as the link between employees and the leadership of the organization. They represent the moral compass of an organization, providing guidance on best practices and ethical behaviors. In this way, many people see the HR team as key to a company’s overall success.

Skills Needed for a Career in Human Resource Management

To prepare to pursue a human resource management career, you will need to acquire skills that are unique to people side of an organization. These include human resource competencies that enable you to interact well with employees and job applicants, including:

  • Communication: Human resource management requires the ability to work and interact with different groups of people, including an organization’s current employees and those who are applying for jobs. With strong communication skills like active listening, excellent verbal and written communications, nonverbal communication skills, empathy and public speaking, human resource professionals are able to engage with people in a broad range of situations and contribute to the achievement of an organization’s human capital goals. 

  • Organization: Time and calendar management, records and filing, project management and the use of digital resources for organization are all things that play a role in human resource management. These skills are used frequently by HRM professionals as they review applicants’ qualifications, organize and carry out employee evaluations, and schedule and conduct interviews.

  • Adaptability: In a typical HR department, staff need to respond to a variety of delicate matters like employee termination or disciplinary action, or when an employee may be experiencing a mental health situation. Adaptability allows an HR administrator to be flexible in the face of sensitive situations and make good decisions for the best possible outcomes.

  • Confidentiality: Because leaders in HR departments have access to the personal information of both current and former employees, they need to adhere to professional and ethical principles that help to maintain this confidentiality. In addition to keeping information confidential, they also need to maintain discretion when dealing with sensitive workplace situations like the ones mentioned above.

  • Technical skills: HR professionals should be proficient in the various technologies like human resource information system (HRIS) software to manage payroll, employee relations, onboard new employees, handle benefits, training, performance and other tasks. 

What are some Human Resource career paths?

Because HR professionals are needed in every industry, they often come from a wide range of backgrounds and levels of experience. But the first step in pursuing a successful career in human resources typically involves advancing your education by earning a human resource management degree or certificate.

Your career opportunities may vary depending upon the level of education you’ve acquired and whether you’ve pursued any work experience in the field.

With a Bachelor’s Degree Specialization in Human Resource Management from DeVry, for example, you may consider pursuing roles such as: 

  • Administrative Services Manager

  • Employee Benefits Specialist

  • Employee Relations Manager

  • Human Resource Generalist

  • Human Resource Information Systems Specialist

  • Management Analyst Consultant

  • Training and Development Manager

If you’re already a bachelor’s degree holder, you may choose to earn a master’s degree or a graduate-level certificate to deepen your knowledge in a specific area of HR, add a credential to your resume or prepare to pursue career advancement.


Graduates of our Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Management may consider such careers as:


  • Benefits Coordinator

  • Human Resources Generalist 

  • Human Resources Assistant

  • Workforce Services Representative

Graduates of our Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management may consider such careers as:


  • Compensation and Benefits Manager

  • Human Resources Coordinator

  • Human Resources Generalist

  • Human Resources Manager

  • Technical Recruiter

  • Training and Development Manager

Want to explore a degree program with a broader scope? Our MBA with a Specialization in Human Resources can help you gain your HR skills right alongside core business competencies, and can help you prepare to pursue roles in:


  • Employee Compensation

  • Employee Analysis

  • Employee Management

  • Labor Relations

Because of the many ways ever-evolving technology is impacting human resources, pursuing an education that provides you with real-world scenarios and hands-on experience may help you as you explore pursuing a career in the field. At DeVry, our curriculum is built with this kind of preparation in mind. Our knowledgeable professors work in the industries they teach and are there to guide you as you practice working with the technology and tools you’ll use in the field. 

How to Get Started in Human Resource Management

Your career journey in human resource management is a step-by-step process that begins with education, continues with industry experience, and may involve the pursuit of industry-recognized certifications and advanced education.

Earn a human resource management degree

Your first step will be education. It’s important to learn the skills that are specific to human resource management, as well as competencies that apply to the broader discipline of business administration.

According to the BLS, human resource specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree in HR, business, communications or a related field. At DeVry, our Bachelor’s Degree with a Specialization in Human Resource Management can help you create a strong foundation of knowledge in business and management with an emphasis on talent management.

This specialization can be earned as part of our Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, our Bachelor’s Degree in Management or our Bachelor’s Degree in Technical Management, which are all accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).2

As you progress through your career, you might find advanced education is either required or preferred. Our Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management is also ACBSP accredited,2 and can help you broaden your understanding of how to work with people, manage human capital and how to lead a workforce. You’ll also learn the details behind strategic staffing and how to balance resources to amplify employee performance. 

DeVry University can help you further your knowledge of the human resource field. All of our human resources programs and specializations are aligned with the Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM) HR Curriculum Guidebook and Templates.

Gain experience in HR

The next step on your journey will be to gain experience in the industry, which can be done in a few different ways. SHRM recommends that students pursuing entry-level jobs in HR begin building relationships by reaching out to HR professionals who attend industry conferences or speak at industry events, or getting involved with a SHRM Student Chapter so you can network with your peers, or doing an internship to help you gain practical industry experience.

Earn professional certifications

As in other industries, human resource management certifications enhance your knowledge in HRM and demonstrate your commitment to the profession. Certifications can also be a key factor in career advancement, as hiring managers may list certain certifications as preferred qualifications on job postings.

Credentials that human resource professionals may consider pursuing include the Professional in Human Resources® certification (PHR®) by the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI®), the SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) and the SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) certifications offered by the Society of Human Resources Management, and the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) certification offered by the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA).

Utilize all resources for your job search

Your job search should include a multi-faceted approach that utilizes every tool available to you. This includes online job boards, social media profiles, networking, smart resume building and other tactics that will help get your job search firing on all cylinders.

At DeVry, our Career Services Team offers a range of career resources to support you along this journey, while you’re in school and after graduation. Built right into the cost of your degree program, career-building tools like virtual employer events, career planning, one-to-one career coaching, networking, resume writing and more provide a robust support system to help you as you work toward your professional goals.

Study Human Resource Management at DeVry

If you’re preparing to pursue a career in human resource management, DeVry can help you take the first step. Our Bachelor’s Degree with a Specialization in Human Resource Management can help you acquire many of the skills you need to work in today’s HR landscape. If you’re looking to advance or explore more in the HR field, our Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Management or our Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management can provide a more in depth perspective.

All of DeVry's University human resources programs and specializations are aligned with the Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM) HR Curriculum Guidebook and Templates.

The flexibility of 100% online learning at DeVry can help you balance your commitment to education with work, family and other aspects of your busy life. Classes start soon. Let’s talk about getting you started in our next session.

1Growth projected on a national level. Local growth will vary by location. BLS projections are not specific to DeVry University students or graduates and may include earners at all stages of their career and not just entry level.
2Conferral and Assessment Data - Available for all of DeVry and Keller's ACBSP accredited programs. For a full list of DeVry University's business and accounting degree programs accredited by ACBSP,  please see the Accreditation page.

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