This guest post is courtesy of Nikolas (‘Nik’) Verret, student at Nicholls State University. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has acknowledged that NSU’s Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Management and a concentration in Human Resources fully aligns with SHRM’s HR Curriculum Guidebook and Templates.
With so many options to consider in high school, many students find it difficult to narrow down a specific career path for the future. Some may have a general idea; some may have a specific job in mind, while others may be clueless. It’s absolutely essential to research careers of interest to formulate a general plan for post high school endeavors. It also doesn’t hurt to talk to someone who was once in those shoes to discuss this state of uncertainty and experiences along the way. That’s why I decided to sit down one-on-one with a few students from my former high school and do some mentoring.
I met with five South Lafourche High School students to discuss the benefits of a career in human resources. To start off the discussion, I asked each of the students what job/ career they were considering upon graduating high school. Three of them stated they planned on going to college and majoring in business or biology. The other two stated that they will seek a job following high school. I then asked if anyone had considered a career in human resources. I got a negative response along questions about what the human resource field is about and that’s when the discussion commenced.
I began to explain that human resource management is primarily managing people whether it is through hiring, training, safety, or administration. Next, I elaborated on the major functions of human resources including recruiting, managing, and providing direction (organizational development). Then, I transitioned to the newer fields that have flourished in recent years including strategic management and sculpting the work environment/culture. When done effectively, human resource management can yield a productive workforce and an organization that exceeds its goals and objectives. I stated that this can be a rewarding job when you feel as if you have contributed to the success of the organization.
Perhaps the biggest reason to consider a HR career is the versatility of the jobs offered. I talked about a few of the most popular jobs and briefly summarized each of their primary roles, including:
- Human resource generalist – large range of responsibilities that varies with the specific industry
- Recruiters – engage in recruiting, hiring, and placement of employees
- Benefits manager – oversee and coordinate benefit packages for employees
- Training managers - mainly focus on developing employee skills
- Organizational policy manager – form labor policies and oversee labor relations
- HR director – in charge of all HR departments and reports to upper management to develop strategic planning
I then explained the credentials needed for the above positions. I explained that most people obtain a bachelor’s in human resources or a related business field. Some choose to seek a master’s degree to pursue advancement opportunities. However, it is not uncommon for someone to drift into this field without a HR degree and/or with years of experience within an industry. In fact, it is fairly common for experienced individuals to enter HR later on in their careers because experience is highly valued in the HR world. These individuals often take on training and safety roles within an organization.
For example, one of my professors recently told my class a story about how her husband transitioned from being a tankerman to a safety instructor. He witnessed a co-worker have his foot nearly amputated. Prior to the accident, he tried to be proactive and warn the company of hazards that needed to be addressed to avoid harm. The company ignored his comments and the inevitable happened. He witnessed the injury firsthand and assisted the co-worker to the ambulance and eventually in the settlement that followed. The dramatic event inspired him to consider safety as an area of interest. He is now employed as a safety instructor with a different company. The moral of the story is that events can change your perspective and lead you into areas that you may have never considered before.
Lastly, I spoke about the future of the HR field and its benefits. I explained that there will be about a 20% increase in employment in HR over the next decade, which is much faster than the average. The main growth areas are within safety, healthcare, retirement, and training. The average starting salary for college students with HR degrees is about $50,000. With experience and certification, potential earnings can increase to $70,000 – $107,000 depending on the industry and location.
I ended the discussion with giving the students links to websites related to HR that offered more insight into this great area. I also mentioned the HR concentration offered at my university, Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA, and the SHRM chapter that complements that program. I talked about the activities SHRM is involved in and how being a member can be beneficial to them.