HR Management & Compliance, Talent

Do You Need a Degree to Work in Human Resources?

When people talk about their potential career paths, they might mention becoming doctors, lawyers, or teachers. They’re clear-cut jobs that make it easy to figure out how to land your first position and turn that into a lifelong pursuit.


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Working in HR is something you might also hear. Every business needs an HR department, but it can seem like a hard thing to get into. While it’s good that there are so many ways to work in HR, it also makes it difficult to figure out how to get a foot in the door.

If you’re interested in a future with HR, read on to learn if you need a degree to work in this space. Depending on your professional interests and dreams, you’ll figure out where to start your career in this field.

How a Degree Can Help

College has become a standard in the new American dream. Once you pick a degree, there’s pressure to stick with only that career until you retire. It’s an unspoken expectation, but it doesn’t match reality.

Plenty of people get a degree in one thing and do something else. You might have earned a degree in literature or business only to end up working somewhere unexpected.

HR is a field with opportunities that give you all kinds of job experience. To get there, many people think you have to get an HR-related degree. The truth is that any degree can help you get an HR job, depending on what you learned and what job experience you have.

Earning a degree shows you are dedicated to long-term commitments. You learn and adapt easily and don’t give up. That’s what employers want from HR candidates, so pitch yourself that way even if you have an unrelated degree.

What You Can Do Without a Degree

It’s not impossible to get into HR without having a degree. Before you start applying for management positions, approach your future career from a different perspective.

What kind of education or training do you have? Different skills will fit some roles better than others. If you’re excellent at math, you could be qualified for an entry-level payroll processing position. Someone who’s an expert in communication could fit right in with more written or verbal roles.

Sara Morgan, the CEO of BuzzARooney LLC, elaborated on the importance of communication when she spoke with people interested in HR. She said HR employees “communicate with people at all levels, both inside and outside the organization.” Strong verbal and written communication skills are more important to a company than having a communications degree and little ability.

The biggest difference between people who have degrees and those who don’t is the amount of opportunity in advancing their career. No matter which department you start in, your next step up the ladder will eventually be a management position. Those are harder to get without a degree, even if you work for years at the same company.

Potential Future Job Roles

Right now, focus on your possible future job roles. What experience do you have that would relate to an HR position? After you make a list of your skills and previous posts, look at entry-level positions to see if any catch your eye.

The most useful role for someone with a bit of experience who’s looking to grow would be a general HR assistant. In that position, you’ll help people in all departments. You’ll receive informal training and get experience in every department, which will help you figure out where your interests lie.

Types of HR Degrees

You might want to eventually pursue a degree or get one after you start an entry-level job. Make sure you pick a specialized degree that will benefit your career in HR.

You can start with a Bachelor of Science in HR, which is what gets many people into an HR position. You may choose to minor in a subject like health services, community outreach, or even substance abuse, depending on where you want to work.

If you already have an undergraduate degree and want to advance your education, a master’s degree will help you earn an HR manager job or climb the corporate ladder even higher.

Check out Master of Science degrees in HR administration or HR and counseling. These will help you get a higher-paid position for work with community outreach, leadership, and research.

Learn What You Love

There are many ways to spend your career in the HR field, so learn what you love. Find an entry-level position or a degree that interests you. HR employees help take care of people and run the business they work for. It’s a rewarding way to earn a living, no matter how you get started.

Do you have a degree in HR? How has having or not having a degree changed your HR career? Tell us in the comments below!

Kayla Matthews, a technology journalist and human resources writer, has written for TalentCulture, The Muse, HR Technologist,, and more. For more by Matthews, follow @KaylaEMatthews on Twitter or visit her blog, Productivity Bytes.

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