Human resources specialists recruit, screen, and interview job applicants and place newly hired workers in jobs. They also may handle compensation and benefits, training, and employee relations.


Human resources specialists typically do the following:

  • Consult with employers to identify hiring needs
  • Interview job applicants about their relevant experience, education, and skills
  • Check applicants' references and backgrounds
  • Inform applicants about job details, such as duties, benefits, and working conditions
  • Hire or refer qualified applicants
  • Run or help with new employee orientation
  • Keep employment records and process paperwork

Human resources specialists often are trained in tasks for all disciplines of a human resources department. In addition to recruiting applicants and placing workers, human resources specialists help guide employees through human resources procedures and answer questions about an organization’s policies. They sometimes administer benefits, process payroll, and handle associated questions or problems. Some specialists focus more on strategic planning and hiring than on administrative duties. They also ensure that all human resources functions comply with federal, state, and local regulations.

The following are examples of types of human resources specialists:

Human resources generalists handle all aspects of human resources work. Their duties include recruitment, compensation, benefits, training, and employee relations, as well as administering human resources policies, procedures, and programs.

Recruitment specialists, sometimes known as recruiters or “talent acquisition specialists, find, screen, and interview applicants for job openings in an organization. They search for applicants by posting listings, attending job fairs, and visiting college campuses. They also may test applicants, contact references, and extend job offers.

Some specialists focus on a certain area of human resources, such as retirement or training. For information about those who focus on an organization’s wage and nonwage programs for workers, see the profile on compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists. For information about those who plan and administer programs that improve workers’ skills and knowledge, see the profile on training and development specialists.

Work Environment

Human resources specialists held about 782,800 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of human resources specialists were as follows:

Employment services 17%
Professional, scientific, and technical services            13
Government 10
Healthcare and social assistance 10
Manufacturing 7

Some organizations contract recruitment and placement work to outside firms, such as those in the employment services industry or the professional, scientific, and technical industry.

Work Schedules

Human resources specialists generally work in office settings. Some, particularly recruitment specialists, travel to attend job fairs, visit college campuses, and meet with applicants.

Most specialists work full time during regular business hours. Some work more than 40 hours per week.

Education and Training

Human resources specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation.


Human resources specialists typically need a bachelor's degree in human resources, business, communications, or a related field.

By working in an internship during college, students gain relevant experience that may be helpful in competing for human resources specialist jobs. Internships in human resources departments may help prospective specialists to increase their understanding of the occupation and to network in an industry.

Other Experience

Some positions require human resources specialists to have relevant work experience. Candidates may gain experience as human resources assistants (information clerks), customer service representatives, or in related occupations.

Employers also may prefer to hire candidates who have experience in areas such as personnel recruitment, staff training and development, employee relations, and compensation and benefits. Candidates sometimes get this experience while in college, either through courses or by volunteering.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Professional associations that specialize in human resources offer courses to enhance the skills of their members, and some offer certification programs. For example, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers the SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) and SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP), and the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) offers a range of certifications for varying levels of expertise.

Certification usually requires that candidates pass an exam that covers human resources knowledge and asks candidates to apply their knowledge to different situations. Candidates for certification also typically need to meet minimum education and experience requirements.

Although certification is usually voluntary, some employers prefer or require it. Human resources generalists, in particular, may benefit from certification because it shows knowledge and professional competence across all human resources areas.


Human resources specialists who have a thorough knowledge of their organization and its personnel regulations may advance to become human resources managers. Specialists may increase their chance of advancement by taking on new responsibilities or completing voluntary certification programs.

Personality and Interests

Human resources specialists typically have an interest in the Helping, Persuading and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Helping or Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a human resources specialist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Human resources specialists should also possess the following specific qualities:

Communication skills. Listening and speaking skills are essential for human resources specialists. They must convey information effectively, and pay careful attention to questions and concerns from job applicants and employees. 

Decisionmaking skills. Human resources specialists use decisionmaking skills when reviewing candidates’ qualifications or when working to resolve disputes.

Detail oriented. Specialists must be detail oriented when evaluating applicants’ qualifications, performing background checks, maintaining records of an employee grievance, and ensuring that a workplace is in compliance with labor standards.

Interpersonal skills. Specialists continually interact with new people and must be able to converse and connect with people from different backgrounds.


The median annual wage for human resources specialists was $62,290 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,680, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $108,160.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for human resources specialists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Professional, scientific, and technical services           $76,920
Government 74,150
Manufacturing 72,370
Healthcare and social assistance 57,720
Employment services 48,440

Some human resources specialists, particularly recruitment specialists, travel to attend job fairs, visit college campuses, and meet with applicants.

Most specialists work full time during regular business hours. Some work more than 40 hours per week.

Job Outlook

Employment of human resources specialists is projected to grow 8 percent from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 81,900 openings for human resources specialists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire. 


Companies are likely to continue to outsource human resources functions to organizations that provide these services, rather than directly employing human resources specialists. In addition, the services of human resources generalists will likely be needed to handle increasingly complex employment laws and benefit options.

For More Information


Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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This information is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truity does not editorialize the information, including changing information that our readers believe is inaccurate, because we consider the BLS to be the authority on occupational information. However, if you would like to correct a typo or other technical error, you can reach us at

I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. On this site, you can take the Career Personality Profiler assessment, the Holland Code assessment, or the Photo Career Quiz.

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