Any student who’s majoring in human resources or thinking of doing so is likely to be wondering about the typical starting range for a human resources salary. The starting salary can be influenced by numerous factors.

Other than academic credentials, one of the most important factors in an HR professional’s starting salary is the applicant’s previous work experience. Another exceptionally important factor is the industry in which the applicant chooses to work; there are some industries that pay their HR staffers substantially better than others do. Location is also highly influential in determining what an applicant’s paycheck will be. Let’s take a look at these factors and how they could be expected to influence a new HR graduate’s starting salary.

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A Typical Career Path in Human Resources, With Salary Ranges

Human Resources Specialist — A typical entry-level HR job title is that of human resources specialist. As of 2017, the median salary for this job was $60,350, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest-paid HR specialists in 2017 earned salaries of less than $35,810. The highest-paid HR specialists earned more than $103,570. Depending on individual circumstances, these are the likeliest salary ranges for a new graduate in the field of human resources.

Human Resources Managers — While a human resources manager typically gets promoted to that position after substantial amounts of work experience as an HR specialist, there are exceptions. It is possible for some applicants to land HR management jobs right out of school if they have prior work experience or credentials that could qualify them for this sort of responsibility. A previous supervisory role in the military, a long-running internship with a major corporation or a Master of Human Resources Management degree are a few of the types of credentials that could help to fast-track a recent graduate’s HR career from the start.

In some major corporations, there’s a hierarchy among HR management professionals:

  • Human resources manager
  • Director of human resources
  • VP of human resources

The BLS does not differentiate between these titles when quoting salary statistics, but there can be a substantial difference between the salaries HR managers, directors and VPs earn. The median annual salary for all HR managers as of 2017 was $110,120. The lowest-paid HR managers were earning less than $65,040, and the highest-paid in the group were earning more than $197,720. New graduates who are able to land jobs in HR management could generally expect to get paid at the lower or middle end of this range; the salaries at the upper end of the range are typically reserved for directors and VPs of human resources.

Top-Paying Industries for Human Resources Specialists

According to the career experts at the BLS, the top-paying industry for human resources specialists is the crude oil pipeline transportation industry. HR specialists working for oil pipeline transport companies were earning mean annual salaries of $90,110 as of 2017. The finance industry was the second-highest paying industry, with mean annual HR specialist salaries amounting to $87,980 in that niche.

Clearly, HR is a field that offers numerous opportunities for advancement and corresponding pay increases. The variables mentioned above all work together to influence the human resources salary range a new graduate could expect to receive in the beginning, but talented HR professionals will likely find numerous opportunities to earn more as their careers progress.