Gone are the days when people worked their way up at only one company from the mailroom to management to retirement.

Today, career change is essentiallya given in the lives of most professionals. What field is the best fit for your career advancement and satisfaction? And how can you get the experience and credentials to help make the transition?

Al Gorriaran, DBA, SHRM-SCP, a core faculty member of Capella’s School of Business and Technology, makes the case for a career in human resource management (HR), a field he entered in 1974.Here, he provides tips for a career transition to HR andabout what to look for in an MS in Human Resource Management program.

Who Should Consider a Career in HR?

Today, adults have real opportunities to pursue a professional role that might have been closed to them at an earlier period in their life.

Many former retail managers with lots of supervisory and leadership experience have set their sights on HR as their second career. They see they can make valuable contributions to organizations in all sectors and help guide and develop employees. Their background makes them great candidates for the transition into HR.

Retired or mid-career teachers are another group who have what it takes to jump into the HR field. These are mature, disciplined professionals coming to HR with something all HR pros should possess—great patience. In fact, anyone with prior experience working with or serving people may want to consider a career in human resources.

A Flexible Field

Because HR is made up of a variety of different functions, it’s the kind of field that never gets boring. Some main areas of focus include:

  • Training
  • Recruitment
  • Staffing
  • Retention
  • Employee relations
  • Compensation
  • Employee wellness
  • Policies and procedures

Bottom line: HR is all about helping people become more satisfied in their careers, and hence more productive, in their work lives.

The Right Schooling for an HR Career

An HR degree or certificate, whether bachelor’s, master’s, or beyond, will provide an important foundation for entering or boosting a career in HR. Here are a few key features that professionals—especially those new to the field—should look for in HR programs:

  • Regional academic accreditation, essential for the credibility of the degree earned.
  • Programs that offer the opportunity to get an HR professional certification, such as the Society of Human Resource Management-Certified/Senior Certified Professional (SHRM®-CP/SCP) or the Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR) certifications. While there are other certifications in the HR Certification sphere that require experience in the field, this exam does not. The aPHR provides career changers a great opportunity to communicate to prospective employers that they are ready to go to work.
  • Faculty who are also currently working in the field or who have been HR professionals before they became instructors. For career changers in particular, faculty with industry work experience can really makes a difference. They will be able to integrate theory and new techniques while reflecting on the real-world challenges they face as practicing HR professionals.
  • A solid HR master’s program aligned to Society of Human Resources (SHRM) educational guidelines and one with a SHRM student chapter. SHRM chapters usually offer HR-specific activities for both mid-career and career-changing students, including webinars, guest speakers, and networking and career development opportunities. There are SHRM chapters in almost every state and associated with many online universities.
  • Schools that offer transition support. As an example, Capella’s MS in Human Resource Management program offers education and career support through HR Compass. The program sets students up for success with opportunities for networking, resume development, certification preparation, and career support—all incorporated in coursework.

Making the Transition

Transitioning to a new career is a big step no matter what a student’s professional field or academic background. Choosing the right HR degree or certificate program is an important first decision on the path to a fulfilling career in HR.


If you’re ready to take your HR education to the next level, learn more about Capella University’s master’s in human resource management program.

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