Human resources is an excellent field for those with good communication, interpersonal and decision-making skills and a strong attention to detail. An HR specialist works with employers to determine staff needs, conducts interviews, manages personnel disputes, keeps employment records and answers policy questions for employees. If you want to spend significant time interacting with other members of the organization, a human resources position may be a good fit.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), human resources specialists can expect to earn a median salary of $58,350 per year, with the highest 10 percent of workers earning $99,920. Pay is slightly higher in scientific and technical fields and in the government. The BLS expects the field to grow 5 percent by 2024, which is average when compared to all occupations.

Because HR is a field with room for advancement and the chance to help others, it’s highly competitive. The right tools, however, can help you stand out.

How to Get Into HR

Hiring managers typically look for human resources personnel with a bachelor’s degree and applicable experience. While this may describe a large number of applicants, you can differentiate yourself in some key ways.

Leverage Connections

Perhaps as many as 80 percent of job vacancies are not published, NPR reports. This makes networking an exceptionally important tool in your arsenal, as making the right connections can be the difference between learning about a job opening and not being able to apply at all.

In human resources, networking is especially important. While a job seeker in any profession can gain value from good networking skills, a human resources specialist must have “the ability to build and nurture relationships, have advocates, build reputation and credibility, demonstrate openness and trust,” says HRZone.

The key to good networking is authenticity. HRZone continues: “Good and effective professional networkers, network to be remembered. They network to build a reputation and use it as a way of demonstrating their expertise. They network to help others and have an open and transparent nature.”

Seek Internships and Job Shadowing Opportunities

An excellent way to begin the process of networking while also building the technical and administrative skills required in human resources is to seek human resources internships. An HR internship acts as on-the-job training, giving you the opportunity to learn practical skills that can help make your resume more attractive.

If an internship isn’t viable because you’re already working a full-time job, talk to your employer about job shadowing opportunities. By spending some time shadowing human resources personnel within your company, you can build the skills and comfort needed to transition into such a position. Job shadowing is primarily useful for making a lateral move within a company, and it can be a great way to show your employer how invested you are in the company.

An internship or job shadow is also a valuable networking opportunity. You can use connections made during the experience to make a more permanent change, and do not underestimate the opportunity such an experience grants to practice networking skills.

Use Applicable Experience

You may already have job experience relevant to a human resources career. For example, if you have management experience, have participated in staffing and recruiting processes and have managed a budget, you possess much of the experience needed to excel in human resources.

In addition, you can gain HR experience by working with a temp agency or volunteering for a nonprofit that needs human resources work done.

Human Resources Education and Training

Human resources specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree in human resources or business, though coursework in psychology, professional writing and accounting are also beneficial, according to the BLS. Some positions require previous experience, and you should become familiar with a company’s organizational structure.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) provides a certification program for human resources personnel and, while this certification is typically voluntary, it can increase your chances of being hired and boost your compensation. The eligibility criteria indicate that a degree is not required for SHRM certification, but individuals with an undergraduate or graduate degree can attain certification more quickly.

Jefferson’s online human resources degree program provides a curriculum you can use to build your human resources expertise.