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What Do HR Generalists Do? A Full Breakdown

If you’re looking into HR careers and jobs, an HR generalist is sure to come up as a potential opportunity. What is an HR generalist? What do HR generalists do?

This article explores what an HR generalist does, how it compares to other HR employment opportunities, and if it’s the right fit for you. 

What Is an HR Generalist?

An HR generalist is someone who has both a broad range of skills and someone who will be required to do a broad range of tasks. A typical day for an HR generalist varies based on the needs of their team or business, and that variation requires an HR professional to have a wide range of knowledge of the HR industry. An HR generalist can find themselves hiring new employees one day, leading ethics meetings another day, and solving workplace disputes the next. 

HR Generalist vs HR Specialist

An HR generalist and an HR specialist are connected, but still quite different jobs from each other. While an HR generalist does a wide range of work within the HR field, an HR specialist is someone who has trained and certified in a specific subset of HR and only does tasks within that narrow scope. 

While the list of HR specialists is long, here are some popular ones you could consider:

  • Benefits Specialist: Responsible for designing benefits packages, such as healthcare plans, vision and dental plans, and 401(k) plans that an employer is willing to offer.
  • Payroll Specialist: Manages the software and expenses associated with payroll in a company. 
  • Compensation Specialist: Designs compensation packages for a company’s employees.
  • Recruiting Specialist: Helps with recruiting and hiring of new employees.
  • Training Specialist: Helps lead employee training programs, both for new hires and veteran employees.
  • Risk Management Specialist: Helps create and train employees on anything regarding employees’ safety. 
  • HR Information System Specialists: Responsible for maintaining the technological systems that the HR department uses, such as payroll and records software.

Is an HR Generalist Right For You?

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An HR generalist has a lot of variety in their workdays and gets to experience nearly every aspect of the HR industry. If this variation appeals to you and you want to explore the HR industry as a whole, becoming an HR generalist may be the perfect path for you. 

Many HR professionals start out as HR generalists to get a sense of what parts of the industry they enjoy the most and then become HR specialists after deciding what they want to exclusively do further in their careers. Becoming an HR generalist is a great start for someone who isn’t quite sure what direction they want to take in their career. Luckily, within the HR field, if you go in one direction and you find out it isn’t for you, you can quickly switch paths within the HR field, as long as you have the correct requirements. 

What Are the Requirements for an HR Generalist?

There are technically no certification or education requirements for HR generalist candidates, but many employers may require their own minimum qualifications. This usually includes a bachelor’s degree in business or HR, or some HR certifications, such as an aPHR (for individuals just starting out in their career), or a PHR for those who have a bit of experience already under their belt. Because an HR generalist is always doing a variety of tasks, it’s a good idea for them to always pursue continuing education within their field and keep up on their certifications so that they are up to date on all HR laws and regulations and updated best practices within the industry. 

HR Education Network (HREN) specializes in helping HR professionals and potential HR professionals get the certifications they need to propel their careers forward. If an HR generalist is the right fit for you, HREN can help you get certified and provide continued education to help you reach your full potential in your HR career.

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