No matter how much the world changes, the power of interpersonal relationships is a constant. Earning a degree in human relations means developing skills needed to mediate conflicts, find common ground and strengthen bonds, both between individuals and within a broader community.
In every industry and sector, organizations succeed or fail based on the efforts of people, and professionals who have mastered interpersonal relations bring incredible value to the table. People with training in human relations are well-equipped to become leaders, directors and key people in a variety of companies.
In short, if you’re drawn to people, if you are the kind of person people lean on for support, then you have a gift. With the right education, you can hone that gift into an impactful skill. A degree in human relations will prepare you for a wide range of careers with leadership and growth potential.
What is a human relations degree?
A degree in human relations focuses on the skills needed to strengthen interpersonal relationships and improve community wellness. Human relations is a holistic, interdisciplinary field that includes communication skills, social dynamics, and diversity. In recent years, companies have increasingly come to understand that the people working for them are an investment and taking care of people has business value.
Coursework in a human relations degree program may include theory classes in group dynamics, personality theory and psychology, as well as applied classes in counseling, case management and interpersonal effectiveness. The goal of a B.S. in human relations is to prepare the student for a career in human services, the helping professions or a human relations role in any industry, or for graduate study in human relations or a related field.
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Careers you can pursue with a human relations degree
A background in human relations can prepare you for nearly any career that focuses on communication and interpersonal relationships. However, there are certain jobs where the skills you’ll learn in a human relations program are particularly relevant, including:
- Human Resources Professional
- Employee Relations Specialist
- Labor Relations Specialist
- Public Relations Specialist
- Social or Community Service Manager
Human Resources Professional
Human resources (HR) is the division of a company responsible for managing the employee life cycle. That includes recruitment, hiring, on-boarding, training, professional development, benefits administration and firing. Human resources is typically responsible for maintaining employee records, keeping company policies and codes of conduct up to date and providing administrative support to both employees and managers. HR departments are also usually tasked with mediating disputes and addressing disciplinary issues.
How to get started in this career: Most human resources jobs require a bachelor’s degree; while it’s possible to get started with a degree in a related field like business or psychology, having your degree in human relations or human resources will give you an advantage. While HR exists in some form at every business that employs people, dedicated HR departments with multiple positions are usually found at relatively large organizations. Getting started in an entry-level role at an established company will allow you to learn from veteran HR professionals and build on your degree with hands-on experience.
How to succeed in this career: Successful HR professionals are highly organized, strong communicators and passionate about employee success. In addition, strong professional boundaries are critical if you want to work in HR. Part of the job is making decisions that affect other people’s employment, and to remain objective in those decisions, you need clear boundaries with colleagues. In other words, you can have warm and amicable relationships, but you can’t really make friends at work.
Career outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for human resources specialists is $63,490 per year. Over the next decade, projected job growth is 10%, in line with the national average.
Employee Relations Specialist
Employee relations (ER) is an organization’s effort to build and maintain positive relationships with employees. An employee relations specialist’s job is to build trust between employees and the company, resolve issues that affect employee relationships and promote a physically and psychologically healthy work environment. This may include encouraging open communication between employees and managers, recognizing employees’ achievements and soliciting feedback on company policies. Employee relations specialists analyze data on employee satisfaction and make recommendations to improve the work environment.
How to get started in this career: As with any job in human resources, most companies look for at least a bachelor’s degree for employee relations roles. Demonstrating strong communication skills, professionalism, and enthusiasm for employee success is critical to be a strong candidate. While ER exists in some form at any organization that has employees, specialized employee relations roles are typically at larger organizations.
How to succeed in this career: In many organizations, ER is part of the human resources department’s portfolio, but it’s the part of HR that is focused on direct communication with employees (as opposed to behind-the-scenes functions like payroll and benefits administration). As such, communication skills are essential, both one-on-one (for individual employee counseling) and in public settings such as job fairs. Professionalism and integrity are also critical, as working in this role means having access to confidential information such as background checks, employee files and complaints.
Career outlook: The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide data for employee relations specialists specifically, but the median salary for human resources specialists overall is $63,490 per year. Over the next decade, projected job growth is 10%, in line with the national average.
Labor Relations Specialist
Labor relations, also known as “industrial relations” in some fields, is the management of relationships between the business and the employees collectively, which generally means dealing with unions. The difference between labor relations and employee relations is that the latter is focused on employees as individuals, while the former focuses on employees as a group. Labor relations specialists are responsible for investigating grievances, meeting with union representatives, mediating disputes and advising management on contracts, policies and disciplinary procedures.
How to get started in this career: As with any HR role, you generally need a bachelor’s degree in a field such as human relations, business or human resources. Companies that employ labor relations specialists usually require at least a year of experience in a more general HR role before moving into a labor relations role.
How to succeed in this career: Successful labor relations professionals have strong foundational knowledge of labor relations topics and the skills to implement that knowledge to protect their employer’s interests. You need to be organized and detail-oriented to draft and review contracts for language that ensures the employer’s rights are protected. Even more importantly, labor relations specialists need excellent interpersonal communication skills and plenty of patience to remain level-headed in often intense negotiations.
Career outlook: The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 4% decline in labor relations specialist roles over the next decade. The national decline in union membership means fewer organizations have a need for labor relations roles. However, in industries that are still highly unionized, this remains a viable career path. The median salary for a labor relations specialist is $73,240 per year.
Public Relations Specialist
Public relations (PR) specialists are charged with maintaining positive relationships with the media and the public on behalf of the organizations they represent. They write press releases, respond to information requests, arrange interviews and monitor social media and other communication channels to keep an eye on their company’s image. In addition to formal PR efforts, public relations specialists advise management and employees on how to stay on-message and effectively promote the company’s brand.
Depending on the industry, PR specialists may also be called communication specialists or, in government roles, press secretaries.
How to get started in this field: PR roles generally require a bachelor’s degree in a field such as communication, journalism or human relations. Most organizations prefer PR specialists with some work experience, such as an internship with a public relations agency.
How to succeed in this field: Obviously, excellent written and verbal communication skills are essential in a public relations role, since you will be responsible for both writing and editing documents like press releases and responding to inquiries in real time. Successful PR specialists are detail-oriented and exceptionally disciplined, able to stay on-message even in difficult situations.
Career outlook: The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 11% growth in public relations specialist roles for the next decade, faster than the national average. The median salary is $62,810 per year.
Social or Community Service Manager
Social and community service managers are leaders in organizations that support public well-being. They direct programs, coordinate outreach, supervise helping professionals such as social workers and implement improvements to programs and services. They may also provide services directly to clients from time to time.
Social and community service managers may work for government agencies or nonprofit and for-profit social service organizations in a wide variety of settings, such as substance abuse programs, mental health treatment facilities, community-based programs and youth programs. At small organizations, service managers may have administrative responsibilities such as fundraising and managing the budget; at large organizations, the manager’s role is typically to run a single program or department under the direction of senior leadership.
How to pursue this career: Most management jobs in social and community services require at least a bachelor’s degree as well as some relevant work experience. Depending on the type of organization, you may need experience as a social worker, direct care worker, substance abuse counselor or similar. The fastest way to move into this role is to earn your degree and your work experience simultaneously.
How to succeed in this career: As in any management position, problem-solving and leadership skills are critical for social and community service managers. Perhaps even more importantly, you need an abundance of patience and empathy to effectively manage people whose own jobs can be both physically and emotionally exhausting. The best social and community service managers are communicators and empathetic listeners who work tirelessly to support the people they supervise as well as the population they serve.
Career outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for social and community service managers is $69,600 per year. Growth in the profession is projected to be 15% over the next decade, well above the national average.
The future of human relations
The first few years of the 2020s could broadly be described as a universal crisis in human relations, highlighting the need for exceptional work in the human relations field. As the world continues to change, human relations professionals will be at the forefront of organizations’ response to issues that affect interpersonal relationships.
The nature of work is changing, and as flexible schedules and remote work become the norm, businesses will need human relations professionals to coordinate remote workers and gig workers. Whether remote or on-site, employees will need support from their organizations to minimize distractions, remain connected with their teams and maximize productivity. Training in human relations will be vital to support these efforts.
As organizations continue to emphasize diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), people with human relations training will implement diversity initiatives across industries. On a broader scale, people with a background in human relations will make key contributions to addressing crises and critical issues of the 21st century ranging from climate change to systemic racism. Training in human relations means understanding how structural problems affect people, both individually and collectively, and that understanding will help shape solutions.
Getting started with a B.S. in human relations
It’s clear that a background in human relations can equip you for many careers, both today and tomorrow. Earning a human relations degree means learning what makes people tick, what factors shape relationships and how those relationships can be improved. Just as importantly, a B.S. program in human relations includes applied knowledge ranging from communication to counseling to case management.
Of course, all the theory in the world will not fully equip anyone to manage interpersonal relationships. Hands-on experience in communication and problem-solving is essential. The most efficient way to prepare for a career in human relations is to get your education in a flexible format that also allows you to get real-world work experience and take care of the important relationships in your life.
If you’re already the type of person who friends and family rely on, a degree in human relations can help you cultivate those talents into the foundation of a flourishing career as well as a full and meaningful life. Get started with the online B.S. in Human Relations program at Point University.