A reader asked a tough question about whether she will qualify for a Human Resources career with a two-year degree. She said, "I am currently working toward my Associate's degree in Human Resources. I have spoken to a few people who work in HR and they tell me that without a Bachelors degree, I have no chance of getting hired in the HR department.
"The college I'm attending, assured me that I would be able to obtain employment with an Associates degree. I'm a little confused as to who I should believe. I wasn't planning on going for my Bachelor's degree when I finish with my Associates. Now I don't know what I should do. Anyone out there who could help me?"
The response was not entirely positive but helpful for many readers. Here's the bad news. You don't say it outright but you are likely attending a community college. What people who want professional careers should do at the community college level is to take all of their basic, core courses such as English and math.
Many accredited colleges will not accept two-year degree business credits in HR from a community college or similar college. They want you to get the basics there and then attend the four-year college for the actual degree credits.
The worst part of it is the nightmare you will have transferring the HR course credits, as a substantial four-year college may not accept them. You could be forced to turn to an adult-friendly, generally, less-respected institution that gives "life credit" and sometimes college credit for your courses.
These degrees are less respected by employers who are familiar with the major colleges in their region—and their strengths and weaknesses. They don't have the prestige of an accredited major university program but they are an excellent option for working adults. In fact, they are often a working adult's only option. So, this is a heads-up, not an effort to discourage you.
A two-year degree will not qualify you for a job in HR. An individual with a two-year degree might get a job in recordkeeping and administration.
In the world of job searching, a posted job for an HR Administrator (beginning HR job), that requires a bachelor's degree and two years of experience, pays $30,000, if you're lucky and attracts 100+ qualified applicants.
Many of these applicants have the degree plus experience, internships, and more, so most are unlikely to consider an applicant with a two-year degree. The applicant pool is large enough that the two-year degree would be an elimination factor in competition with the other applicants.
So, you may be a smart, qualified individual, with years of work experience, but you would likely not be considered beyond a cursory glance at your résumé.
It is probably going too far to say that you will never get a job in HR because your other credentials, your work experience, your skills, your circumstances and so forth may qualify you. But, it is getting much harder these days to get into HR without a degree.
In the old days, many people worked in accounting or another field before moving into an HR position—and some of them were successful in HR. Over the years a number of HR VPs who did not have a degree and were promoted have been known. The problem is that the field has grown more complex and the organization's expectations about what HR needs to contribute have changed.
You now need to be an expert in employment law, organization development, technology use, management, employee relations, and more. Personnel departments were made to pay people, enroll employees in benefits, and keep records. The HR role has changed.
Especially if you want to eventually sit at the executive table, many of your fellow execs will have degrees. In a job as an HR Director for a client company, the executive team had two master's degrees, three M.B.A. degrees, and two bachelor's degrees.
Competition for HR jobs is fierce and many applicants have degrees. In this day and age of applicant tracking systems and keyword finding HRIS systems, getting invited for an interview is difficult.
Many employers don't hire anyone for a beginning position in HR these days with less than a bachelor's degree. A lot of employers are just the same.
Here's what you need to do next. Employers near where you live and plan to work may see the situation differently, but this is the recommendation we offer.
Meet with and talk with HR people where you live. Then, you'll have a better idea about your direction and options. Second, try to get HR experience with your current employer.