Personnel and Labor Relations Specialists


Education and Training Requirements

High School

To prepare for a career as a personnel or labor relations specialist, you should take college-prep classes combined with extracurricular activities that demonstrate negotiation or interpersonal skills. Business classes can help you understand the fundamental workings of the business world, which is also important. Finally, foreign language skills could prove very helpful, especially in areas where there are large numbers of people who speak a language other than English.

Postsecondary Training

Most employers require personnel specialists and labor relations specialists to have a college degree. College graduates who have majored in personnel administration or industrial and labor relations will fare well, while other employers prefer individuals with a general business or finance background. Another opinion is that personnel specialists should have a well-rounded liberal arts education, with a degree in psychology, sociology, counseling, or education. A master's degree in business administration is also considered suitable preparation. Students interested in personnel work with a government agency may find it an asset to have a degree in personnel administration, political science, or public administration.

Individuals preparing for a career as a personnel specialist will benefit from a wide range of courses. Classes might include business administration, public administration, psychology, sociology, political science, and statistics. For prospective labor relations specialists, valuable courses include labor law, collective bargaining, labor economics, labor history, and industrial psychology.

Work in labor relations may require graduate study in industrial or labor relations. While not required for entry-level jobs, a law degree is a must for those who conduct contract negotiations, and a combination of industrial relations courses and a law degree is especially desirable. For a career as a professional arbitrator, a degree in industrial and labor relations, law, or personnel management is required.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Some organizations for human resources professionals offer certification programs, which usually consist of a series of classes and a test. For example, the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans offers the certified employee benefits specialist designation to candidates who complete a series of college-level courses and pass exams on employee benefits plans. Though voluntary, certification is highly recommended and can improve chances for advancement.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Personnel and labor relations specialists must be able to communicate effectively and clearly both in speech and in writing and deal comfortably with people of different levels of education and experience. Objectivity and fair-mindedness are also necessary in this job, where you often need to consider matters from both the employee's and the employer's point of view. These workers cooperate as part of a team; at the same time, they must be able to handle responsibility individually.