HR assistant

An organisation's greatest asset is their people, so it's important that they get looked after properly. An assistant helps to make sure there is effective management of every employee. 

If you want to start an exciting career in human resources look no further. You can expect a wide variety of roles, insights into, and involvement in, all aspects of a business with this job.


So, what will I actually be doing?

As an HR assistant, you'll be responsible for:

  • Recruitment
  • Training
  • Employment law compliance
  • Employee benefits
  • Handling grievances
  • Disciplinary action
  • Dismissals 
  • Redundancies

You'll be working closely with line managers and individual employees.

Most new entrants will start off as HR assistants and will be largely involved with administration duties (updating personnel records, pay reviews, etc).

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The finer details...

Normally, you will work a standard 35-40 hour week. You'll be mainly office-based, although you may have to travel to other branches if it's a larger organisation. You may also visit training providers.

When you've completed your training, you can develop a career as a generalist, or specialise in areas like people resourcing, learning and development or employee relations. Classically, your career path will go from junior to senior assistant to officer to manager to director.

Money, money, money

  • As an assistant you can expect to earn up to £15,000
  • HR administrators earn around £15,000 to £18,000 a year
  • Starting salaries for HR officers can be between £18,000 and £25,000 a year
  • HR managers can earn £25,000 to £50,000 a year or more

See what people are earning in this job

The good points...

The future of the HR profession looks bright. The notion that business is only as good as the people that work for it has taken root and with it the realisation that HR professionals can make a significant difference to a companies profit.

Today, very few companies don't have an HR department and many are increasing its size. Altogether, there has never been such a good time to launch your career.

Specialising in one sector is no restriction, either. HR skills are universal, and although some aspects may change from company to company the core HR elements don't.

...and the bad

You may be required to work extra hours at busy times.

Is there study involved?

It is possible to begin a career in human resources before being qualified, but it is a highly competitive area.
Most employers will look for a human resource related degree, however management, psychology, and business related qualifications may also be relevant. Don't worry if you have an unrelated degree as it's no bar to a career in this sector, people and organisational skills are more of a priority.

You can gain relevant work experience during vacations, or choose appropriate work placements on sandwich courses and unpaid work shadowing can also give candidates the opportunity to hone their office administration and IT skills.

Graduating from an approved CIPD - Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development - course is a good route.

Most human resources assistants are trained on-the-job. Many companies will provide you with the opportunity to gain CIPD membership while you work, and offer financial support and possibly study leave to help you achieve your CIPD qualifications.

These include the Certificate in Personnel Practice, that (CPP) provides you with a practical grounding in basic personnel skills. There are no minimum entry qualifications.

The Certificate in Recruitment and Selection (CRS) gives specialist knowledge.

The Professional Development Scheme (PDS) has four parts:

  • Core management
  • People management and development
  • Specialist and generalist personnel and development
  • Applied personnel and development

You can complete one module to gain Licentiate membership of CIPD; complete of all four modules for Graduate membership.

NVQs/SVQs are available at Level 3 in Personnel Support, at Level 4 in Personnel Management, and at Level 5 in Personnel Strategy. These are alternative qualifications for meeting some of the standards for CIPD membership.

Some BA Business Studies or similar degrees, and some postgraduate qualifications will give you exemption from the CIPD Professional Qualification Scheme. Contact CIPD directly for a list of these courses.

OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?

To be an HR assistant you should:

  • Enjoy working with people
  • Be patient, tactful, diplomatic and approachable
  • Be able to stay calm in difficult situations
  • Have good commercial awareness
  • Have good spoken and written communication skills
  • Be confident about gathering facts and statistics
  • Respect the importance of confidentiality, as you will be dealing with employees' personal details
  • Have good organising skills
  • Have problem solving skills
  • Be able to work as part of a team
  • Be able to work accurately, with good attention to detail
  • Be able to use databases, spreadsheets, word processing and accounts packages


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