by Mary Bauer, Demand Media
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If you love working with people and find satisfaction in helping others, the human resources, or HR, field may be an ideal fit for you. The CNN Money website ranks HR manager as fourth in its list of best jobs in the United States, based on the high level of flexibility and creativity, and manageable levels of difficulty and stress. It's an important and growing field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a significantly higher-than-average growth rate for HR jobs in the entry and specialist levels between 2010 and 2020.
A Pivotal Role
Corporations know that their competitive edge lies in innovation and customer service, which depend on the quality of their personnel and the level of employee satisfaction. For this reason, HR professionals are a vital part of a company's strategic management team. Your bosses will look to you to help them gauge employee satisfaction, devise strategies to maintain employees’ enthusiasm and build communications channels between management and employees.
The HR profession offers excellent opportunities for advancement and increased levels of responsibility. As a junior HR professional, you may be involved in a broad array of activities, such as interviewing prospective employees, helping to organize a job fair, drafting job descriptions, processing paperwork for promotions and compiling compensation statistics. As you move up the ladder, you may decide to specialize in a specific HR discipline, such as training, compensation, succession planning or employee relations. As a senior HR professional, you may help to address grievances, run a leadership training program or participate in contract negotiations. Or, you may become chief of human resources for a corporation.
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A career in human resources offers great flexibility. You may choose to work in a small corporation, where each member of the HR team has a significant level of responsibility. Or, you may prefer to work in a larger firm with a more expansive HR structure, where you would have a narrower range of duties and the opportunity to develop a more in-depth, specialized skill set. Another option is to work for an HR firm that provides consulting services to other companies, where you would have a continually changing slate of challenges as you work with different clients. Because most corporations have an HR department, you could work in virtually any geographic location within the United States, or in another developed country.
Entry-level salaries for HR employees are modest, but have significant growth potential. As of May 2011, the mean salary for an HR assistant, excluding payroll clerks and timekeepers, was $38,330, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of 2010, HR specialists earned a median salary of $52,690 and HR managers drew a median salary of $99,130, also according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. HR managers embedded in some industries receive significantly higher compensation. For example, HR managers in the financial industry earned a mean salary of $139,150 and, in the film industry, $158,700, as of May 2011.