What is the HR Manager Career Path?

Are you looking for an HR manager career path? As one of the most important HR positions in any company, human resources managers play a key role in creating and maintaining a productive and positive work environment.

What is the typical human resources career path planning for the most sought-after HR manager position? This post discusses the HR career ladder to better understand career progression to become a successful HR manager.

To learn more via video, watch below. Otherwise, skip ahead.

What is the HR Manager Career Path?

Human resources managers are HR professionals, responsible for managing human resources and the ongoing operations in the HR department. This includes both the administrative and strategic aspects of Human Resource Management (HRM).

Their administrative duties include keeping records, processing payroll, and benefits administration. Strategic duties include developing and implementing policies and procedures, recruiting and training employees, and employee relations.

In larger organizations, HR managers specialize in one or more areas of HRM. For example, a recruitment manager focuses on recruiting, while an employee relations manager focuses on managing conflict resolution.

HR managers are in high demand, and with good reason. The base pay for an HR manager is $70,282 according to Indeed. They’re the ones who make sure that employees get a productive environment at work. The human resources manager works with the HR assistant, HR specialist, employee engagement specialist, and training and development specialists to provide an inclusive work environment.

HR Manager Career Path

To become an HR manager, you need a minimum bachelor’s degree in human resources with comparable experience. We also recommend joining online courses at the HR university to help you in landing an HR manager job.

What Does an HR Manager’s Career Path Look Like?

Let’s study the best HR career path of a human resources manager in more detail.

HR Generalist

The career progression to become an HR manager starts from an entry-level position of an HR generalist. The responsibilities of an HR generalist vary depending on the size and needs of the organization.

An HR generalist handles coordinating and administering HR programs, enforcing company policy, and maintaining employee records. Other than this, they oversee employee recruitment, and payrolls, and assist senior HR professionals in employee training and development opportunities.

HR generalists progress toward human resources managers by demonstrating strong leadership and communication skills and a deep understanding of HR policies and procedures.

Looking to become an HR manager? Check out our HR management course to upskill your knowledge and excel in your HR career:

HR Management Certification

Job Responsibilities

Here are the job responsibilities of an HR generalist:

  1. Recruit and train new employees
  2. Assist the human resources manager in handling employee development, employee satisfaction, and increasing the employee retention rate
  3. Communication with employees at all levels of the organization
  4. Help the HR department in improving the benefits programs
  5. Draft and implement HR policies for productive company culture
  6. Assist HR professionals in the hiring process and talent acquisition
  7. Maintain compliance with employment law
  8. Develop and implement employee training programs
  9. Improve the HR processes, and HR administration practices

Preferred Qualifications and Skills

Here are the preferred qualifications and skills to become an HR generalist:

  • Strong communication and organizational skills
  • Solid collaboration skills
  • Good people skills
  • Bachelor’s degree in HR or a relevant field
  • 1 to 4 years of minimum experience

HR Manager

When prioritizing your career advancement in human resources career path planning, you need to demonstrate skills and expertise as an HR generalist. The company can then consider you for the senior position of human resources manager.

The human resources manager manages the organization’s staff and ensures that they are happy and productive. Their duties involve overseeing the recruitment process, handling employee disputes, and administering employee benefits. They spend their days meeting with employees, reviewing performance management, conducting interviews, and introducing efficient human resources management programs.

Journey to become an HR manager

HR managers work with the management team to develop strategies for improving employee satisfaction. They also plan and implement long-term employee initiatives such as workforce training programs. Moreover, they have a solid grip on labor statistics and draft strategies to increase human capital retention at the company. These responsibilities reflect how vital role they play in the smooth operations of the organization.

Job Responsibilities

Here is the list of job responsibilities of an HR manager:

  1. Partner with the leadership team including the chief human resources officer, HR business partner, and human resources director to understand and execute human resource and talent strategy
  2. Align the HR strategy with the HR coordinator, HR executive, and HR administrator to create a strong HR department
  3. Provide support and guidance to HR generalists, HR specialists, and HR assistants
  4. Manage company staff, including coordinating and supporting the recruitment process
  5. Create onboarding programs for new employees
  6. Provide the necessary support for payroll requirements
  7. Collaborate with departmental managers to understand requirements for training programs
  8. Create learning and development programs that provide growth opportunities for employees
  9. Oversee employee disciplinary meetings, terminations, and investigations
  10. Maintain compliance with federal, state, and local employment laws and regulations

Preferred Qualifications and Skills

Here are the preferred qualifications and skills for an HR manager:

  • Skills: Human resources managers must exhibit excellent communication skills as their duties involve communicating with all employees. They are responsible to build strong relationships with employees, listening to their concerns, and mediating conflicts.
  • Employment laws: Have a good understanding of employment law and employee benefits to ensure compliance
  • Data analysis: Leverage the power of data to make the right decisions about hiring and retention. Get comfortable using HRIS systems to track employee data
  • Education: Bachelor’s degree in human resources or a related field. To stand out, a master’s degree with certifications in HR gives your a competitive edge
  • Experience: 3-5 years

HR Director

The human resources director handles the administration, coordination, and evaluation of the HR functions in an organization. They develop and implement policies and programs related to employment, compensation, employee benefits, employee relations, and training and development.

They manage the recruitment and selection process, as well as performance management and succession planning. The human resources director is a critical member of the senior management team, and they play a vital role in ensuring that the organization’s employees are productive and engaged.

Career advancement to an HR director is a great career move but also comes with crucial responsibilities. You must exhibit extensive experience in HR, including a deep understanding of employment laws.

You must have excellent written and verbal communication skills. It’s essential to build relationships with key stakeholders, such as business executives and the board of directors. If you demonstrate these skills and qualities, you are on the right path to becoming an HR director.

Job Responsibilities

Here are the job responsibilities of an HR director:

  1. Development and implementation of policies and procedures
  2. Management of sensitive employee records
  3. Administration of benefits
  4. Coordination of training and development programs
  5. Management of payroll and taxes
  6. Drafting and implementation of succession planning for the organization
  7. Provision of guidance and support to employees
  8. Management of organizational budgets for each department to retain top talent
  9. Introducing capacity-building programs for employees and HR executives

Preferred Qualifications and Skills

Here are the preferred qualifications and skills for an HR director:

  • Skills: Excellent verbal and written communication skills. Excellent interpersonal, negotiation, and organizational skills. Excellent time management skills with a proven ability to meet deadlines. Strong leadership skills
  • Proficiency: Thorough knowledge of employment-related laws and regulations. Proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite and related HRIS software
  • Experience: 5-10 years of experience in HR
  • Education: Minimum of bachelor’s degree or Master’s with specialization in HR

Vice President HR

An effective and efficient HR department directly impacts the organization. One can feel positive vibes in the health, security, and joy of each team and division. And the exact opposite is true when the HR department is ineffective. One can feel the negative vibes in terms of layoffs, delays in salaries, and rising concerns of insecurity among employees.

The vice president of the human resources department makes the difference in setting the overall tone for job security, benefits, and long-term retention of the workforce. As a VP of HR, you are also the chief people officer, responsible for leading the entire organization’s goals and vision. Moreover, the VP of HR supports CEOs, COOs, and other C-suite leaders in understanding the bigger picture of an organization. They don’t just work, but are passionate about what they do and have a clear vision of the company.

Job Responsibilities

Here are the job responsibilities of a VP of HR:

  1. Collaborate with C-suite leaders to define long-term mission and goals
  2. Identify loopholes in the HR strategy and close them through talent management
  3. Identify key performance indicators and implement strategies
  4. Assess organizational success and market competitiveness
  5. Lead the department by researching, developing, and implementing competitive compensation, benefits, performance appraisal, and employee incentive programs
  6. Conduct unbiased investigations and escalate them to the legal and security team
  7. Ensure compliance with OSHA (Organizational Safety and Health Administration), EEO, and other federal & state labor laws
  8. Supervise and lead the HR team in creating a cohesive employee experience
  9. Act as an employee champion and change agent
  10. Provide insightful crisis management advice
  11. Maintain complete confidentiality
  12. Improve data management, plan, and implement changes as necessary
  13. Handle disciplinary actions, terminations, or lay-offs in a professional manner

Preferred Qualifications and Skills

Here are the preferred qualifications and skills for a VP of HR:

  • Experience: ~10 years of experience as an HR Director or other senior HR position
  • Proficiency: Deep knowledge of HR functions, key performance indicators, and other metrics. Thorough knowledge and understanding of state and federal labor laws to ensure compliance. Experience in strategic planning and implementation
  • Skills: Hands-on experience in using MS Office and HRIS programs. Excellent communication, interpersonal and organizational skills
  • Education: Bachelor’s or master’s degree in HR or a relevant field with certifications


Becoming an HR manager is a great choice to excel in the HR career. It is challenging, but also very rewarding. This guide provides you with a detailed overview of what becoming an HR manager entails. Are you ready to make a difference in people’s lives? If so, then we encourage you to start learning more about HR management today.

If you are new to Human Resources and are looking to break into an HR manager’s role, we recommend taking our HR Management Certification Course, where you will learn how to build your skillset in human resources management, build your human resources management network, craft a great HR manager resume, and create a successful HR manager job search strategy.

Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter is the founder of HR.University. He's a certified HR professional and has managed global teams across 5 different continents including their benefits and payroll. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.