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How to Become a Human Resources Manager

Candidates need a combination of education and related work experience to become a human resources manager. 


Human resources managers usually need a bachelor’s degree in human resources or business administration. Alternatively, as not all undergraduate programs offer a degree in human resources, candidates can get a bachelor’s degree in another field and take courses in human resources subjects, such as labor or industrial relations, organizational development, or industrial psychology. Some positions are also filled by experienced individuals with other backgrounds, including finance, business management, education, and information technology. 

Some higher-level jobs require a master’s degree in human resources, labor relations, or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.

Work Experience

To demonstrate an ability to organize, manage, and lead others, related work experience is essential for human resources managers. Some positions accept management experience in a variety of fields, but many positions require experience working with human resources programs, such as compensation and benefits plans or with a Human Resources Information System (HRIS), and require solid understanding of federal, state, and local employment laws.


Although certification is voluntary, it can show professional expertise and credibility and may enhance advancement opportunities. Many employers prefer to hire certified candidates, and some positions may require certification. The Society for Human Resource Management is among many professional associations that offer a variety of certification programs. 

Important Qualities

Decision-making skills. Human resources managers must be able to balance the strengths and weaknesses of different options and decide the best course of action. Many of their decisions have a significant impact on workers or operations, such as deciding whether to fire an employee. 

Interpersonal skills. Human resources managers need strong interpersonal skills because they regularly interact with people. They often collaborate on teams and must develop positive working relationships with their colleagues. 

Managerial skills. Human resources managers must be able to direct a staff and oversee the operations of their department. They must coordinate work activities and ensure that workers in the department complete their duties and fulfill their responsibilities. 

Organizational skills. Organizational skills are essential for human resources managers. They must be able to manage several projects at once and prioritize tasks.

Speaking skills. Human resources managers rely on speaking skills to give presentations and direct their staff. They must clearly communicate information and instructions to their staff and other employees.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition