Occupations in Human Resources

by Nicole Ramos

March 15, 2022

Human resources departments can serve many functions, from recruiting to conflict resolution. Those working in human resources have a considerable impact on the performance of a company. They recruit, hire, train, and retain the most capable and skilled people, hopefully increasing productivity and efficiency and leading to better margins. At least, that is what businesses hope for, and the reason that it is important to attract qualified human resources personnel. However, human resource departments are not homogeneous, they encompass a wide variety of specializations and positions with different levels of demand, experience, and pay.

It can be challenging to align individual business hiring needs with market needs. Although human resources managers, human resources specialists, human resources assistants, compensation and benefits managers, and compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists have similar goals, the labor market for each occupation is unique. Understanding the conditions of these individual occupations could be the difference between recruiting qualified workers and struggling to hire.

Wage and Education

For example, although human resources managers and specialists are both considered high-wage and high-demand occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree, the median annual salary for a human resources manager ($108,848) is roughly 42% more than the median salary of a human resources specialist ($62,160). That’s not surprising; while a human resources specialist may perform activities related to the recruitment of personnel, human resources managers perform duties related to managing human resource activities and personnel, including human resources specialists.

The same can be said of compensation and benefits managers and compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists. The median annual salary of a manager ($111,038) is approximately 35% more than that of a specialist ($71,686). Still, unlike their human resources manager and specialist counterparts, compensation and benefits managers oversee the compensation and benefits activities of an organization and are less in demand, with projected annual openings through the year 2030 expected to average 12 openings. Compensation and benefits managers and compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists require a bachelor’s degree, but a compensation and benefits manager requires more experience and is considered a STEM occupation.

All five human resources occupations are considered high-wage occupations, meaning they pay above the median wage. The lowest paid of the five occupations is a human resources assistant (except payroll and timekeeping). They make an hourly median wage of $21.84, but a bachelor’s degree is typically not needed. So, although human resources assistants average $7.80 less per hour than human resource specialists, and $30 less than their manager counterparts, they make relatively high wages compared with all occupations. 
When it comes to wage, location is just as important as education and experience level. Depending on where you work, you could be making more than your peers, but more often than not it is the interaction between these variables that determines the wage for a given job. As an example, let’s look at wages in Clackamas County. Clackamas County has some of the highest wages in Oregon at the top of the pay scale, but its median wage is lower than in many areas. Looking at wages in the 90th percentile for human resources managers, Clackamas County has the third highest wages in Oregon. The top 10% of employees in Clackamas County make an hourly wage of $80.30 or more, and those 10% are also making more than they would if they worked elsewhere in Oregon. For instance, if they lived in Lane County they would be making $14.58 less. This in itself is not a bad thing. If the cost of living in Lane County is not as high as in Clackamas County, it follows that wages would be lower. Interestingly, the 50th percentile, median wage in Clackamas is $47.01, and although $7.47 more an hour compared with Lane County, the median wage is third to last in Oregon. Several factors may be in play with these differences by location, including cost of living, education and experience of workers, and differences in industry specialization.

Industries of Employment and Projections

Other major differences can be found in the way these occupations are spread out through the industries. For example, the majority of compensation and benefits managers (141) are concentrated in only three industries: management of companies and enterprises, manufacturing, and government. In other industries, these specialized activities are likely included in the more general human resources classifications. Human resources specialists, on the other hand, are abundant (7,816) and can be found in almost all industries even though the majority (58%) work in the following four industries: administrative and support and waste management and remediation services; health care and social assistance; management of companies and enterprises; and state and local government (excluding education and hospitals). In fact, the management of companies and enterprises industry has one of the largest, if not the largest number, of human resources jobs (1,975), followed by the administrative and support and waste management and remediation services industry (1,653).  
Furthermore, each occupation is projected to grow at a different rate. Human resources managers, human resources specialists, and compensation and benefits specialists are all expected to grow at an approximate rate of 16% through 2030. The number of jobs that will be created differs significantly among the occupations. While projections anticipate an additional 126 human resources specialist positions will be created each year, 42 human resources manager positions will be created, and only 15 new compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialist positions will be created. For compensation and benefits managers, growth is expected to be slightly slower at 13.5%, resulting in just two additional openings a year anticipated due to growth. Many more openings are expected due to the need to replace human resources workers as they change occupations, retire, or otherwise leave the occupations. These replacement openings account for 86% of total openings expected across these five occupations.  

While human resources fields have similarities and overlap, the individual occupations have different requirements, wages, and employment trends. Many businesses benefit from professionals focused on improving the quality of labor, like human resource jobs. After all, they work to hire, train, and recruit a qualified and talented workforce, increasing productivity and efficiency and leading to better margins. It is important to keep in mind that human resource departments are not homogeneous; they can serve several different functions within an organization, and can be small departments, even one individual, or many positions focused on what can be a business’s greatest asset – its people.


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