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Human Resource Generalist or Specialist?

How to decide which HR career path is right for you

So you’ve received your master’s in human resource management—or you’re currently pursuing your master’s in human resources—and you’re standing at an HR crossroads: human resource generalist or human resource specialist?

But what’s the difference between a human resource generalist and a human resource specialist? And what’s the best HR career path for you?

Human Resource Generalist or Specialist?

We’ve broken each position down so you can follow your passions and put your human resource management degree to work.

Human Resource Generalist

HR generalists have a broad spectrum of responsibilities that will require you to draw upon everything you learned in your master’s in human resources program. As its name suggests, duties are comprehensive and diverse and may include:

  • Staffing and recruitment
  • Employee training and development
  • Compensation and benefits 
  • Personnel policies and procedures
  • Employee relations
  • Workplace safety and security 

If you enjoy job diversity—and you like the idea of using everything you learned in your human resource management degree program—a career as a human resource generalist may be the perfect fit for you. Every day will be different, as your duties will change with daily needs.

Human Resource Specialist

Large organizations require specialists with skills in specific areas of human resource management.

What kinds of jobs are available as a human resource specialist? Here’s just a sampling:

  • Workforce planning and employment specialist
  • HR development specialist
  • Total rewards specialist
  • Employee and labor relations specialist
  • Risk management specialist 
  • Metrics management specialist
  • Human resource information systems specialist
  • Global human resources specialist
  • Organizational development specialist 

If you like the idea of becoming an expert in a certain area, a position as a human resource specialist may be ideal for you. These jobs require tremendous attention to detail, and you’ll be viewed as an authority in a particular field.

“ My social responsibility is lived out each day as I work in the community in the poorest wards in the Washington, DC, area and throughout Maryland. I help underrepresented and unemployed citizens find work and obtain training.”
—LaShona Patton-Jones
Walden University
MS in Human Resource Management Graduate

After receiving a human resource management degree, many human resource graduates begin their careers as human resource generalists, discover an area that’s particularly interesting to them, and then pursue that field as a human resource specialist.

If you’re interested in pursuing a master’s in human resource management, Walden University’s MS in Human Resource Management program is designed to support experienced HR professionals as well as those who are newer to the field. Simply choose the path to degree completion that best suits your needs. If you are not yet certified as a human resource professional, Track I can provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to succeed and also prepare you for certification. Track II is for certified human resource professionals and allows you to tailor your courses to fit your career path.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online MS in Human Resource Management degree program as well as a Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Management. With Walden University, you can earn your degree with minimal disruption to your everyday schedule.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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