Breaking Into the Field: How to Become a HR Generalist

Breaking Into the Field: How to Become a HR Generalist

Are you interested in pursuing a career as a HR generalist? This comprehensive guide will provide you with all the essential information you need to break into the field and start your journey towards becoming a successful HR professional. From the necessary education and skills to the job outlook and salary expectations, we’ve got you covered. Read on to discover everything you need to know about becoming a HR generalist.

Education and Training

When considering a career as a HR Generalist, education and training are essential components to your success in the field. Here are some key steps to help you prepare for this role:

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources or related field

One of the first steps to becoming a HR Generalist is to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources or a related field such as Business Administration, Psychology, or Labor Relations. This foundational education will provide you with a strong understanding of HR principles and practices.

Consider pursuing a Master’s Degree for advanced roles

While a Bachelor’s Degree is often sufficient for entry-level HR positions, obtaining a Master’s Degree can help you stand out in the field and qualify for more advanced roles. A Master’s Degree in Human Resources Management or a related field can provide you with specialized knowledge and skills to excel as a HR Generalist.

Obtain relevant certifications such as SHRM-CP or PHR

In addition to formal education, obtaining relevant certifications can further enhance your credentials as a HR Generalist. Consider pursuing certifications such as the Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) or Professional in Human Resources (PHR) to demonstrate your expertise in the field and increase your job prospects. These certifications require passing exams and meeting certain experience requirements, but can significantly boost your credibility as a HR professional.

Gain Experience

To become a successful HR Generalist, gaining relevant experience is crucial. Here are some steps to help you build a strong foundation:

Start as an HR Assistant or Coordinator to build foundational skills

Starting as an HR Assistant or Coordinator is a great way to get your foot in the door and learn the basics of HR. In these roles, you will gain experience with tasks such as managing employee records, assisting with recruitment processes, and handling administrative tasks. This will help you develop a strong understanding of HR fundamentals and build essential skills.

Progress to roles like HR Specialist or Analyst for more in-depth experience

Once you have some experience as an HR Assistant or Coordinator, consider progressing to roles like HR Specialist or Analyst. In these positions, you will have the opportunity to dive deeper into specific areas of HR, such as compensation and benefits, employee relations, or talent acquisition. This will allow you to develop specialized skills and gain a more in-depth understanding of HR functions.

Seek opportunities for cross-functional experience in different HR areas

To become a well-rounded HR Generalist, it’s important to gain experience in a variety of HR areas. Look for opportunities to work on cross-functional projects or take on responsibilities outside of your usual role. This could include collaborating with other departments on employee training programs, participating in diversity and inclusion initiatives, or assisting with HR technology implementations. By gaining experience in different areas of HR, you will develop a broad skillset and be better equipped to handle the diverse responsibilities of a HR Generalist.

Develop Key Skills

As you work towards becoming a HR Generalist, it is crucial to develop key skills that will help you succeed in this role. Some of the essential skills to focus on include:

Enhance communication and interpersonal skills

Effective communication is a cornerstone of HR work. As a HR Generalist, you will need to communicate with employees, managers, and other stakeholders on a regular basis. Improving your communication skills will help you convey information clearly, resolve conflicts, and build strong relationships within the organization.

Refine problem-solving and conflict resolution abilities

HR Generalists often deal with various issues within the workplace, ranging from employee disputes to policy violations. Developing strong problem-solving and conflict resolution skills will enable you to address these issues effectively and maintain a positive work environment.

Stay updated on HR laws and regulations to ensure compliance

HR laws and regulations are constantly evolving, and it is crucial for HR professionals to stay informed about the latest changes. By staying updated on HR laws and regulations, you can ensure that your organization remains compliant and avoid any potential legal issues.

By focusing on developing these key skills, you can position yourself for success as a HR Generalist and make a valuable contribution to your organization.

Networking and Professional Development

  • Join HR associations like SHRM or HRPA for networking opportunities: Being part of HR associations can provide you with opportunities to meet other professionals in the field, attend events, and stay updated on industry trends and best practices.

  • Attend industry conferences and workshops to stay informed: Conferences and workshops are great ways to learn from industry experts, gain new insights, and expand your knowledge base. They also provide valuable networking opportunities and a chance to connect with peers.

  • Seek mentorship from experienced HR professionals for guidance: Having a mentor in the field can provide you with valuable insights, advice, and support as you navigate your career. Look for experienced HR professionals who can offer guidance and help you develop your skills and knowledge.


Becoming a HR generalist is a rewarding and challenging career path that requires a diverse set of skills and knowledge. By following the steps outlined in this article, individuals can successfully break into the field and establish themselves as valuable HR professionals. From gaining relevant education and experience to developing strong communication and problem-solving abilities, aspiring HR generalists can set themselves up for success in this dynamic and important field. With dedication, perseverance, and a passion for helping others, anyone can embark on a fulfilling career as a HR generalist.