Many recent college graduates are setting their sights on the rewarding (and in many cases highly lucrative world) of human resources. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment prospects for human resources specialists is very favorable and expected to grow 22 percent over the next 10 years, which is much faster than the average for most occupations. If your future plans include seeking employment in human resources, here are the “Top Five Steps Necessary for Success,” which you''ll notice includes continuing your education.

Determine if this Career Path is Right for You

A potentially lucrative salary, opportunities for advancement and the privilege of helping your fellow citizens find gainful employees might be just a few of the many reasons why you''re seeking a career in human resources. These are all valid and noble motivations; but it''s important to realize that this potentially stressful career isn''t for everyone. Here are just a few of the many attributes and skills necessary to be successful in human resources:

  • Knowledge of computers and burgeoning technology. As a human resources professional, the majority of your day will be spent staring at a computer screen. If you''re not proficient in computers or at least willing to learn, you won''t get far in this field.

  • Ability to resolve conflict. Ask any seasoned HR representative about handling employee conflicts, and he or she will regale you with an unbelievable bevy of horror stores. If you''re uncomfortable with conflict, HR is not the right job for you. Look elsewhere.

  • Integrity. As an HR specialist, you''re charged with handling an employee''s privileged information, which is often times potentially embarrassing or highly confidential. A large part of your job is knowing when to keep your mouth shut; otherwise you could face losing your job.

  • An ability to set goals and accomplish them in a team setting. Very seldom is an HR representative charged with facing a challenge alone, and a huge part of your job description will be handling conflict, updating files or interviewing a large group of candidates with your colleagues. If you have a firm “lone wolf” mentality and don''t play well with others, steer clear of human resources.

Gain “Real World” Experience

Along with a rock solid educational background, many employers are hiring candidates with at least one to two years of on-the-job experience. For most recent college graduates, this is a major issue, but doesn''t have to be if you''re creative and not afraid to work. Instead of spending your summers during college relaxing by your parent''s pool, fetch coffee and answer phones while gaining experience as an unpaid intern. Work an entry-level job in a related field, or look for employment as a receptionist or assistant to a company''s HR department. There are several ways to gain real world experience; you just need to know where to look.

Join a Professional Organization and Network

When it comes time to land your “dream” job or at least one that will pay the bills, it’s often more about who you know than the college listed on your resume. This is where joining a professional organization, including the Society for Human Resource Management, National Human Resources Association and National Association of Personnel Services, comes in handy. Joining the organization isn''t enough, you must also make the most of your time schmoozing with its senior members. Many of seasoned members of an HR or service personnel organization can give you the inside track on a hot career prospect or could even potentially be your next boss.

Earning Your Master''s Degree

Far and away, the best asset is a master''s degree in human resources. As the field becomes more competitive, and inundated with qualified applicants; many employers aren''t even giving the resumes of individuals with a Bachelor''s degree alone a second look, which was almost unheard of a few years ago. If you''re worried about the expense and time required to succeed in graduate school, consider the flexibility of attending classes through an online university.

When it comes to landing a coveted promotion, your master''s degree in human resources will enable you to go after management careers with greater confidence.

About the Author:  Judith Baker is currently seeking her Master''s in Human Resources and cannot wait to graduate.