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How Much Do HR Managers Make?

A successful business relies on the effectiveness of its employees. To be good at their jobs, employees need knowledge and experience appropriate to their role in the company. But they also need a clear understanding of the requirements for their job, what their employers expect from them, and how they will be held accountable for their performance. These aspects of employee management, along with recruitment, hiring and termination are some of the responsibilities of a company’s human resources (HR) department. A good HR team is an essential part of an effective company.

Accordingly, HR specialists, generalists, managers and executives are generally well-compensated, depending on their level of experience, performance and education. Northwest Missouri State University offers a fully online Master of Business Administration in Human Resource Management degree program. This program is tailored specifically to give HR professionals the knowledge, skills and academic credentials to help them be effective in higher level HR positions.

What Are Common HR Positions and What Do They Pay?

Generally, HR staff members with higher levels of education occupy high level HR positions and accordingly command higher salaries than entry-level positions. Therefore, investing in higher education can be a smart decision for HR professionals seeking career advancement and a higher income potential.

These upper levels of HR management carry various job titles as well as roles and responsibilities. The highest positions are often considered executive level jobs, such as the Vice President (VP) of HR. HR departments of sizable companies are often run by various levels of HR managers or directors. But these departments also employ mid-level professionals like specialists and generalists. As with upper-level management, advanced experience and education can help aspiring HR professionals land these competitive jobs and command commensurate compensation.

What Are HR Generalists and Specialists?

As the title implies, HR specialists are experts in and responsible for specific aspects of the HR department. An HR specialist might be responsible for recruiting and overseeing the hiring, onboarding and training of new employees. Or a specialist might be in charge of HR payroll, including benefit and compensation packages, bonuses, and raises.

Specialists are often the avenue of communication between lower level employees and upper management. They may be responsible for employee-related management duties like reviews, evaluations and exit interviews. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), median pay for HR specialists in 2016 was around $60,000, although PayScale reported that the upper range of HR specialist salaries in 2017 ran above $70,000.

The HR generalist can hold many of the same duties as HR specialists. But they often work with HR managers at a more administrative level, helping to determine HR strategies and policies for various aspects of the department. They also may be responsible for mid-level management operations as well as disseminating new policy and other department-wide communications. The more base level HR generalist positions generally earn salaries equivalent to those paid to specialists. Yet more managerial generalist positions often require applicants to hold an MBA degree or an equivalent. Pay for management-level HR generalists is higher, more commensurate with the increased level of education, experience and responsibility involved.

What Do HR Managers and Directors Do, and What Are They Paid?

HR Managers, Directors, Senior Managers and VPs oversee every aspect of HR departments, delegating all functions of HR to mid-level managers, generalists, specialists and entry-level employees. They develop a company’s policies regarding HR, aligning those policies with labor laws and industry standards. They execute or oversee the writing of employee-related contracts. Top level HR professionals monitor the performance and effectiveness of an organization’s HR department.

The BLS reports 2016 median pay for HR managers was $106,910 annually, and 2017 Payscale reports that the highest paid Senior HR managers and HR directors made salaries of over $130,000. According to PayScale, HR VP salaries averaged around $133,000, but topped out over $200,000.

Working in HR at any level can certainly be rewarding financially. It also can be rewarding on the social level for people with a passion for working with others, leading them and helping them to reach their performance potential. With experience and an advanced degree like Northwest’s MBA in Human Resources Management, HR professionals can successfully pursue their career goals, positioning themselves for lucrative jobs in HR management and administration.

Learn more about Northwest’s online MBA in HR Management.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Human Resources Specialists

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Human Resources Managers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Top Executives

PayScale: HR Manager Salary

PayScale: Common Career Paths for HR Specialist

PayScale: Common Career Paths for HR Generalist

PayScale: Sr. HR Manager Salary

PayScale: Common Career Paths for HR Director

PayScale: Common Career Paths for VP of HR

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