How to Become a Human Resources Manager

Illustration of two businesswomen shaking hands with a man in front of a large CV and PC monitor

Becoming a human resources manager means becoming the bridge between management and staff. It’s important for people interested in this career path to possess an extroverted personality and excellent people skills. To see if your skills, abilities and inclinations match those needed for this career make sure you take an aptitude test.

If this is your dream career you need to understand that it’s becoming a very competitive profession as more and more employers are beginning to realise the value of HR departments. To help you out we have gathered together everything you need to know and do to become an HR manager.

1. Research the profession

Successful businesses rely on the skills of their people to achieve their goals, and they understand that keeping staff happy and ensuring that they are in an environment that allows them to perform is imperative. A HR department can provide this for a company because they are responsible for staff recruitment, retention and motivation

Job description

What human resources managers do is extremely complicated and varied. But essentially, HR professionals are responsible for the staff, but not in an administrative manner. Rather, their job is to ensure that they get only the best employees, and have everything they need to perform. This includes compensation, perks, benefits and motivation.

Human resources managers are often tasked with doing industry research to find out where to locate the best recruits for the company. To ensure that employee talents are used as efficiently as possible, HR managers also need to evaluate each hire’s skills and personality.

In many SMEs, human resources managers are also responsible for the recruitment process as there isn’t a specifically designated team for this purpose, while they are also often responsible for doing the payroll.

It’s important to know that these professionals are responsible for their organisations’ regulatory compliance as businesses must adhere to employment laws.


Unlike translators who just need to be quick on their feet and be good at languages or event coordinators who simply need to be good at conceptualising and planning events, human resources managers need to possess a diverse skill set.

Most importantly, they need to have excellent people skills as a huge part of their work entails being sensitive to other people’s needs and feelings and taking measures to satisfy them. Having a pleasant disposition and being able to get others to talk and trust you are therefore crucial.

It’s a very structured job as you need to understand legal obligations and be able to follow through with policies consistently and to do that you need to be very organised. It’s important to note that a lot of these policies and regulations have to be developed by you so taking the initiative to lead is necessary.

HR people often offer counselling services as well, so being able to help someone relax and lower their stress levels is essential.


As this sector is on the rise, average HR salaries are much higher than they were a decade ago.

Entry level positions usually pay inexperienced graduates between £15,000-£19,000. With a few years of experience the average salary rises to £35,0000. Individuals working in high performing organisations can earn up to £50,000, while professionals with sufficient experience can become HR directors, a position that pays an average of £66,000.


It’s usually 9 to 5, although depending on the size of the organisation, you many need to work extra hours and even catch up on work during weekends and evenings.

2. Get the qualifications

Entry into this profession is possible through various routes, and not all of them require university education. But, it's worth mentioning that as human resource management is becoming incredibly popular, competition is becoming fiercer which means that having a degree could give you an advantage over the competition.

Higher national diploma

The minimum requirement to become a human resource manager is through a HND. Specialisation in business and management, psychology and social administration can equip you with the skills required to get your first job.

Undergraduate programmes

Many universities offer undergraduate accredited programmes in human resource management. Apart from learning and gaining skills that will allow you to excel in the workplace and manage demanding situations, you’ll also be able to learn more about implementing corporate social responsibility strategies and diversity management. These will allow you to take more initiative and be essential when requesting more specialised work responsibilities in the future.

Training schemes

Training schemes are widely available for human resource graduates and considering all the benefits and perks graduate schemes offer it may be worth looking into them. There are many employers that you can look into for such schemes, including KPMG, Barclays, Tesco and BP.

Postgraduate programmes

Postgraduate programmes can offer a competitive edge to candidates who are interested in entering large organisations. Many universities across the UK offer postgraduate courses in human resource management, so you won’t have trouble finding a course that’s right for you. And if you don’t have time to go to university you can always take an online masters degree. Keep in mind that many of these courses are highly specialised so if there’s an area you particularly enjoy consider pursuing an advanced qualification in that specific area.

CIPD qualification

The CIPD is the professional body for HR and people development. Although getting registered with them is not required to enter the field, it’s recommended that you do as employers often prefer it. Also, note that for mid and high-level positions a CIPD qualification is necessary.

3. Land your first job

To land your first job in human resources, you are going to need to demonstrate expertise. Even if the company already has a well-established HR department, you will still have a lot of responsibilities and most employers will need you to demonstrate reliability before they hire you. Previous work experience is important so don’t expect to get hired for a competitive job if you don’t have any.

Get work experience

There are lots of ways to get work experience, so it’s important to develop a strategy that will allow you to work in this sector before you start looking for full-time employment.

Course placements are one way to go as they are very well structured and they allow you to develop links with a company that may be interested in hiring you after you graduate. Internships are also a great option as they allow you to gain work experience before graduating and increase your potential.

Volunteering is another possibility as many non-profit organisations need people to help them manage their volunteers. You can even offer your services pro-bono to small businesses who may not have the funds to pay you, but which will be willing to write you a recommendation letter.

Where to find work

You can look for HR positions on job boards and career websites like Monster, Indeed, Reed, CareerAddict, etc. However, there are also two HR specific websites you can use:

  • People Management Jobs: is a product of the People Management Website which is published by the CIPD. It lists hundreds of HR positions that are divided between human resource roles and contract or interim positions. You can set up an account to receive jobs that match your criteria, and you can also submit your CV to get headhunted.
  • Personnel Today Jobs: hosts hundreds of HR positions which are divided by speciality. You can also upload your CV and set up an account to get alerts for jobs that match your criteria.

4. Develop your career

There’s a lot of room for growth in this discipline, but to do that you’ll need to continue your education. There are many courses you can take which will help you remain up to date with industry trends and also allow you to specialise in a particular area.

A CIPD qualification and membership is essential if you’re interested in a mid or upper level position, so make sure that you include this in your career plan. Many employers will be willing to sponsor your CIPD qualification so talk to your boss before you get yourself in debt. Of course, expect that your boss will want you to sign some kind of a contract stating that you are not interested in leaving the company as soon as you finish your course.

Talent acquisition and talent management are two areas of this discipline that are on the rise, and although they are slowly becoming their own disciplines, there are some strong links with human resources that will allow you to leap into these specialised areas if they are of interest to you.

It’s uncommon for people to abandon the field entirely after they’ve gained experience as there’s still a lot of potential. But, many people leave full-time employment to start their own consulting services and offer external HR services.

Becoming a HR manager means dedicating your career to helping businesses and people reach their full potential. So, despite the high-stress levels that usually accompany roles in this sector, it can be an incredibly satisfying career.

Would you be interested in pursuing a career in human resources? Let me know in the comment section below.


This article was originally published in September 2014.