best human resources careers

For anyone studying human resources and getting a human resources MBA, there are many areas to choose from when it comes to careers. You can stay a generalist and climb the career ladder into a management role, or you can distill the aspects of the career you like best—teaching people, negotiating, the technical aspects, etc.—and become a niche specialist.

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The jobs below represent the best of both worlds. They are the best jobs in human resources because of job satisfaction, career potential, variety, freedom, monetary compensation and more.

10 Best Careers for Human Resources Professionals

Human Resources Manager

Why this career track is great: Personal satisfaction

While higher-ranking human resources executives may oversee organizations and strategy, human resources managers get the benefit of person-to-person interaction, helping employees directly. HR managers coordinate and plan HR activities, then manage them once executed. This may involve guiding employees through the hiring process, benefits programs, training, labor disputes, and other administrative needs important to workers within a company. HR managers, unlike the people above them, have a direct influence and positive impact on the people in a company. For people who are satisfied when they are helping others, this leads to great social benefit, human connection and the satisfaction of having a real impact on your fellow human beings.

Nonprofit Human Resources Expert

Why this career track is great: You are helping people while helping the world

A nonprofit human resources expert could be a recruiter, a human resources manager, a human resources executive, or any other HR professional operating within the nonprofit field. Such an HR professional has many of the same tasks as an expert working in a for-profit role, such as recruiting, administering benefits, training and development, assisting with policies and strategy and more. The operative difference is the in the nonprofit world, the human resources professional is working for an organization that exists to make a positive impact on the world around it, whether through health, education, the arts, preserving cultures or any of the many things that nonprofits do. So the impact on fellow workers is magnified in this context. A nonprofit human resources professional truly has the opportunity to impact people directly and, more indirectly, make a strong contribution to the betterment of the world at large.

HR Consultant

Why this career track is great: You make a lot of money, when and where you want it

These days, companies are growing increasingly complicated, and human resources departments are no exception. Enter the human resources consultant, an offshoot of the management consultant who charges companies a high hourly rate to impart much-needed services. Human resources consultants may specialize in a variety of fields, including benefits, employee incentives and rewards programs, company culture after mergers and acquisitions, employee motivation, retirement plans, recruiting and even the outsourcing of any of the many functions of an HR department. This high-level individual assesses a company’s current situation and offers and helps deploy systemic recommendations that will get the company to its desired goal. The HR consultant, meanwhile, gets to choose whom he or she works with, when that work is completed, and what to charge. It is the HR path where freedom meets money.

International Human Resources Professional

Why this career track is great: You can visit countries all over the world and experience a great variety of people and cultures

The job of the international human resources professional may involve recruiting candidates into global positions, training and development standards across an international organization, implementing benefits plans as national laws allow, labor relations, employee programs and many more. This HR track involves the same kinds of tasks that a national human resources professional might engage in, but with a great variety of cultures, languages and locations thrown into the mix. International HR is an ideal field for people who love to travel, speak multiple languages and are adept at engaging successfully with a wide variety of different people who adhere to different customs. Boredom is not the operative term for this unique and exciting human resources career path.

Human Resources Executive (Chief HR Officer or Vice President of Human Resources)

Why this career track is great: Money

If you’re good at HR and you want to make enough money for a vacation home—and perhaps a boat—the human resources executive track is the best job for you. The Chief HR Officer and, one tier below that, the Vice President of Human Resources each on average make more than $200,000 per year. These executive positions require an individual to devise an HR strategy for the company, including policies, systems and goals. Every aspect of a human resources department, beginning with recruiting and moving through contract signings, training and development, benefits, and more run through the CHRO (Chief HR Officer) or, if the company does not have such a position, the Vice President of HR. With 10-20 years’ worth of experience and a proven track record of human resources success, the HR executive can have a satisfying and, above all, well-paying career.

Training & Development Manager

Why this is a great career path: If you love teaching, this is a the corporate path for you

Training and development managers help employees improve their skill sets and careers. They do this by training employees in specially-held classes, workshops, conferences and other kinds of gatherings. Training and development managers are also sometimes in charge of designing the most effective coursework for employees, given the content that their employer wants to emphasize, while keeping training sessions entertaining and informative. If you like standing up in front of people and helping them learn and improve their lives, this career path is a very fulfilling one.

Employee Education Consultant

Why this is a great job: It combines the fun of teaching with the freedom of consulting

In a CNNMoney survey, 60 percent of education and training consultants said their job was low-stress. Such consultants do similar tasks as training and development managers—that is, they hold workshops, classes and conferences aimed at increasing employees’ skill sets and knowledge—but without the full-time commitment. Companies hire them on a contract or retainer basis to help improve their employees’ skills. This means that the companies hiring such consultants are already interested in keeping their employees well-trained and happy, so they tend to be welcoming places to work at, according to CNNMoney. The consultants work in an accommodating environment and employees are interested in what they have to say. In addition, training and education consultants can set their own hours and choose their clients. If an education and training consultant only wants to work six months out of the year, she can. Such freedom makes this job a fantastic choice for anyone who both loves to teach and train and wants independence in their position.

HR Entrepreneur

Why this is a great job—Once you build a successful company, you can hire someone else to run it and make passive income

Be it a headhunting firm, employee placement company, HR consulting firm, or a professional employer organization (PEO), which takes on the role of an outsourced HR department for a company, launching a successful HR company can be a golden ticket in terms of career choices. HR professionals with an entrepreneurial bent can set up such a firm, find a stable of clients and, with hard work and tenacity, build their firm into a successful organization. The ideal trajectory from there would be to either a) step back from day-to-day tasks, let the firm run itself, and glean a passive income from it—in effect retiring, or b) sell the firm for millions of dollars to a bigger company that wants to buy it. Either method spells one thing, early retirement, and that is the dream of many workers and entrepreneurs. If you like HR and are excellent with people, and have a killer work ethic and high risk tolerance, the entrepreneurial human resources path stands as a potentially lucrative, if difficult option. But with more and more companies choosing to outsource their HR functions, this path remains a promising one for years to come.

Executive Recruiter

Why this is a great career path: You can make lots of money while improving peoples’ careers

If you’re good with people and building relationships, a position as an executive recruiter could be one of the most lucrative ways to make friends. Executive recruiters are tasked with finding and filling job openings for senior executives, the so-called C-level executives including CEOs, as well as people in vice president positions. Executive recruiters generally get paid on retainers or paid in full after they have filled a position, and because companies are so interested in finding good senior talent, these fees can be quite high. This is where the making friends part also comes in. Executive recruiters want to build such solid relationships with companies that when an opening occurs, those companies call them first, at which point they launch their executive search, contacting other contacts in other companies—potential executives to fill that position—and trying to see if they’re interested. Because this field is so lucrative, it’s very competitive, so having a so-called Type A personality also helps.

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Human Resources IT Specialist

Why this is a great career path: With the advancing role of technology in HR, you’ll be much sought-after, highly paid and advance quickly

While some HR jobs, such as HR manager, haven’t changed too much over the years, the ever-expanding world of HR is adding new niche positions, and HR information technology (IT) specialist is one of them. Anyone with a bent for software or hardware and an interest in human resources can combine their skills to become an HR IT specialist, and enjoy the career rewards that come with it, including being sought after and more often than not paid well. HR IT experts could be software developers, systems administrators, IT architects, or have another level of technical expertise that can be applied to a company’s human resources systems, which may include calendars, databases, payroll systems and the like. Although there isn’t necessarily direct interaction with employees, this member of the IT team plays a crucial role in supporting the human resources team, while facilitating the technology that helps a company stay efficient and organized.

Further reading: Learn more about a Master’s degree in Human Resources Management.

Filed under: Best Careers for Human Resources Professionals