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How to Become a Human Resources Specialist

Most positions require that applicants have a bachelor’s degree. However, the level of education and experience required to become a human resources specialist varies by position and employer. 

Education and Work Experience

Most positions require a bachelor’s degree. When hiring a human resources generalist, for example, most employers prefer applicants who have a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business, or a related field.

Although candidates with a high school diploma may qualify for some interviewing and recruiting positions, employers usually require several years of related work experience as a substitute for education.

Some positions, particularly human resources generalists, may require work experience. Candidates often gain experience as human resources assistants, in customer service positions, or in other related jobs.


Many professional associations that specialize in human resources offer courses intended to enhance the skills of their members, and some offer certification programs. Although certification is usually voluntary, some employers may prefer or require it. Human resources generalists, in particular, can benefit from certification, because it shows knowledge and competence across all human resources areas. 

Important Qualities

Decision-making skills. Human resources specialists use decision-making skills when reviewing candidates’ qualifications and in recruiting and selecting them for job openings. 

Detail oriented. Human resources specialists must be detail oriented when evaluating applicants’ qualifications, performing background checks, and maintaining employment records. 

Interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are essential for human resources specialists. When recruiting and interviewing candidates, they continually interact with new people and must be able to converse and connect with people from varied backgrounds. 

Listening skills. Listening skills are essential for human resources specialists. When interviewing job applicants, for example, they must pay careful attention to candidates’ responses, understand the points they are making, and ask relevant follow-up questions. 

Speaking skills. Human resources specialists need strong speaking skills to be effective at their job. They often give presentations and must be able to clearly convey information about their organizations and jobs within them. Recruiters also must persuade top candidates to consider their organization.

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