Human resources managers plan, direct, and coordinate the administrative functions of an organization. They oversee the recruiting, interviewing, and hiring of new staff; consult with top executives on strategic planning; and serve as a link between an organization’s management and its employees. 


Human resources managers typically do the following:

  • Plan and coordinate an organization’s workforce to best use employees’ talents
  • Link an organization’s management with its employees
  • Administer employee services
  • Advise managers on organizational policies, such as equal employment opportunity and sexual harassment
  • Coordinate and supervise the work of specialists and support staff
  • Oversee an organization’s recruitment, interview, selection, and hiring processes
  • Handle staffing issues, such as mediating disputes and directing disciplinary procedures

Every organization wants to attract, motivate, and keep qualified employees and match them to jobs for which they are well suited. Human resources managers accomplish this by directing the administrative functions of human resource departments. Their work involves overseeing employee relations, regulatory compliance, and employee-related services such as payroll, training, and benefits. They supervise the department’s specialists and support staff and ensure that tasks are completed accurately and on time. 

Human resources managers also consult with top executives regarding the organization’s strategic planning. They identify ways to maximize the value of the organization’s employees and ensure that they are used as efficiently as possible. For example, they might assess worker productivity and recommend changes to the organization’s structure to help it meet budgetary goals. 

Some human resources managers oversee all aspects of an organization’s human resources department, including the compensation and benefits or training and development programs. In many larger organizations, these programs are directed by specialized managers, such as compensation and benefits managers and training and development managers

The following are examples of types of human resources managers:

Labor relations managers, also called employee relations managers, oversee employment policies in union and non-union settings. They draw up, negotiate, and administer labor contracts that cover issues such as grievances, wages, benefits, and union and management practices. They also handle labor complaints between employees and management and coordinate grievance procedures. 

Payroll managers supervise the operations of an organization’s payroll department. They ensure that all aspects of payroll are processed correctly and on time. They administer payroll procedures, prepare reports for the accounting department, and resolve any payroll problems or discrepancies. 

Recruiting managers, sometimes called staffing managers, oversee the recruiting and hiring responsibilities of the human resources department. They often supervise a team of recruiters, and some take on recruiting duties when trying to fill high-level positions. They must develop a recruiting strategy that helps them meet the staffing needs of their organization and effectively compete for the best employees.

Work Environment

Human resources managers held about 102,700 jobs in 2012 and were employed in nearly every industry.

The industries that employed the most human resources managers in 2012 were as follows:

Management of companies and enterprises 14%
Manufacturing 14
Government 12
Professional, scientific, and technical services 10
Health care and social assistance 10

Human resources managers work in offices. Some managers, especially those working for organizations that have offices nationwide, must travel to visit other branches as well as to attend professional meetings or to recruit employees.

Work Schedules

Most human resources managers work full time during regular business hours.

About one-third worked more than 40 hours a week in 2012.

Education and Training

Candidates need a combination of education and several years of related work experience to become a human resources manager. Although a bachelor’s degree is sufficient for most positions, some jobs require a master’s degree. Candidates should have strong interpersonal skills.


Human resources managers usually need a bachelor’s degree in human resources or business administration. Alternatively, candidates can complete 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 in a Related Occupation

To demonstrate an ability to organize, manage, and lead others, related work experience is essential for human resources managers. Some employers accept management experience in a variety of fields. However, 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 a solid understanding of federal, state, and local employment laws.

Others start out as human resources specialists or labor relations specialists.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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 and the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans are 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. 

Leadership 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.


The median annual wage for human resources managers was $99,720 in May 2012. 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 $59,020, and the top 10 percent earned more than $173,140. 

In May 2012, the median annual wages for human resources managers in the top five industries employing these managers were as follows:

Management of companies and enterprises $112,550
Professional, scientific, and technical services 112,210
Manufacturing 97,930
Government 92,020
Health care and social assistance 85,870

Most human resources managers work full time during regular business hours.

About one-third worked more than 40 hours a week in 2012.


Job Outlook

Employment of human resources managers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. 

Employment growth largely depends on the performance and growth of individual companies. However, as new companies form and organizations expand their operations, they will need more human resources managers to oversee and administer their programs.

Managers will also be needed to ensure that firms adhere to changing, complex employment laws regarding occupational safety and health, equal employment opportunity, healthcare, wages, and retirement plans. For example, adoption of the Affordable Care Act may spur the need to hire more managers to help implement this program.

Job Prospects

Although job opportunities are expected to vary based on the staffing needs of individual companies, very strong competition can be expected for most positions.

Job opportunities should be best in the management of companies and enterprises industry as organizations continue to use outside firms to assist with some of their human resources functions. 

Candidates with certification or a master’s degree—particularly those with a concentration in human resources management—should have the best job prospects.

Those with a solid background in human resources programs, policies, and employment law should also have better job opportunities.

For More Information

For more information about human resources managers, including certification, visit

Society for Human Resource Management

For information about careers and certification in employee compensation and benefits, visit

International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans


For information about careers in employee training and development and certification, visit

American Society for Training and Development

International Society for Performance Improvement