How Can a Person Transition into HR for a Mid Level Career?

With Years of Experience, a Masters Degree, and Market Ready Skills

A mid career transition to a mid level job in HR requires advice.
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Dear Susan:

For the past 10 years or so I have been employed as a Paralegal specializing in Family Law Litigation. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Masters of Arts in Public Administration; with a public leadership emphasis.

For a couple of years, I have investigated transitioning into HR. My goal is not to relinquish my experience, but to transfer those skills, education, and experience. Specifically, I would like to focus on Employee Relations. I do have management experience, within a law firm.

Also, I currently work with in-house counsel for a bank. I have seen a number of internal positions as an Employee Relations Consultant available. I would like to secure one of those positions. In doing so, have considered securing an HR Certificate; along with the  formal PHR.

Do you think utilizing the local community college is the best option? Also, I would like to, at a minimum, retain my current salary. What is a reasonable salary request? Please provide any additional information you believe useful. I thank you in advance for your assistance.

I receive hundreds of notes like yours each year, so I finally wrote what I would recommend to anyone who is thinking of transitioning into HR. You can find jobs in HR management.

Dear Gayle:

My problem in answering all of the diverse personal questions that I receive is that the answers depend completely on:

  • where you live and want to work,
  • the size of the company you want to work for, and
  • what your market competition looks like where you live.

Even the question about whether a PHR would help you depends on what is commonly expected where you live or if your goal is large companies which are prone to liking certifications more than smaller companies. It can't hurt, plus in the studying for it, you will gain knowledge.

But, I can't guarantee that it will help with employment above entry level. If your goal is Employee Relations, however, you may be headed on the right path to prepare for a role in a larger company.

You've asked also about attending a local community college. If you seek an HR certificate, in preference I'd seek out a nearby Masters program in HR to see if a certificate is offered. You may be able to take the equivalent coursework there or in an undergrad program. Contact the HR Certification Institute. They or related organizations offer training for certification all over the country.

Your truly best source for answers to the questions that you are asking me is to talk with local resources who work in HR. In doing so, you also build a network that may one day employ you, too. Information interviews have proven helpful for many in learning what is needed in your local community. They are also helpful in building an HR network.

A reliable source for salary information that is on target for most of the country is Many of the sites online are way off, from my Midwestern perspective but I use in my company.

Here are transition stories that may give you ideas about how others made the transition, too.

More Related to Career Change

Because of the volume of email I receive, I am sorry that I am unable to personally respond to all questions or provide individualized resume review, research, or school recommendations.


Susan Heathfield makes every effort to offer accurate, common-sense, ethical Human Resources management, employer, and workplace advice both on this website, and linked to from this website, but she is not an attorney, and the content on the site, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality, and is not to be construed as legal advice.

The site has a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country, so the site cannot be definitive on all of them for your workplace. When in doubt, always seek legal counsel or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. The information on this site is for guidance, ideas, and assistance only.