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Human Resources Salary: How Much Should You Be Making?

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We have this huge thing in the U.S. where we don’t like to talk about money.

Sure, you may know what your company makes in a year or how much your talent management software suite cost, but do you know what the people around you are making? Discussing money is considered very rude, especially when it comes to questions about salary.

This can leave you wondering if you’re making a fair wage, but too nervous to ask your coworkers to help you figure it out. If you’re feeling too shy but still need to know, this post might help.

The fairness of any given salary is dependent on where you live, the style and age of your company, how much experience you have, and the cost of living in your area. With those caveats in mind, here are some factors that help determine what the average HR professional should be making.

Supply and demand

Does anyone actually need you to do what you do? In other words, is your career in demand? If candidates with your job title are flooding the market, you’re going to have a much harder time standing out from the crowd, so you might have to accept less money than you were expecting.

The trick is to diversify. A mere job title adjustment might be enough to bump your salary significantly. What’s the difference between an HR position and a talent management position? About $20,000. (Seriously, the difference in responsibilities negligible but that’s a major change in sum.)

Takeaway: Look into alternate titles and ways to spin your experience. Don’t be afraid of a lateral job jump if it still falls under your skill area.

Experience and education

Where did you go to school? How did you do? Did you hit the books hard while you were there or were you hitting the local bar a little harder? What you did in school can have a lasting impact on how much you get paid. If you graduated with honors and held an internship or two, that may make a huge difference in how much you can ask for in negotiations.

If you have less education, but a lot of experience, you can work that angle, too. While a dedicated degree is valuable, nothing can stand up to active experience. If you have slightly over what a job is asking for, you’ll have an edge in salary negotiations. Keep in mind, however, that if you have too many years of experience beyond what a position requires, you may be seen as overqualified.

Takeaway: Fretting about your lack of education? In talent management and HR, there’s a pretty awesome workaround. HR certifications are tangible proof that you know what you’re doing and you’re good at it; good enough to pass a written exam on rules, regulations, and best practices. While the cost of these tests and training programs can spike quickly, they’re still significantly cheaper than another degree.

Geographic location

Remember what I said about supply and demand? It’s important to keep in mind that some areas may have more market saturation of a particular position than another. (Once you take cost of living into consideration, a software developer might end up making more money in Ohio than California; go figure.)

The area where your job is located has a huge impact on both how much money you’ll be offered as well as how far that money goes. For example, $60k in New York City isn’t the same as $60k in Chattanooga.

This is a facet that can throw off national averages for salaries. Check the buying power in any area you aren’t familiar with before trying to determine if your job offer is paying fairly.

Takeaway: It’s worth looking into where you’re living, in addition to national averages, when determining if you should take an offered salary or ask for a raise.


You get what you pay for, right? And many positions pay for performance. This goes hand in hand with experience, since you not only need to know what you’re doing, you need to prove that you’re good at it.

Letters of recommendation and professional phone calls to your former supervisors and coworkers make a massive difference in the hiring process, as I’m sure anyone who’s worked in hiring already knows.

The performance of the company you work for or are applying to makes a difference as well. The better they’re doing, the better they can pay you. It’s one of many factors that go into determining your potential salary.

Takeaway: How you did at your last job makes a huge impact on how much money you can ask for in jobs that comes after. If you have key successes you can point to, make sure you do so!

What’s your human resources salary?

All right, you don’t actually have to tell me what you’re making. But do you feel like you’re paid fairly? Underpaid? Paid particularly well? Tell me about it in the comments below, and make sure to subscribe to my mailing list for more HR and talent management news, tech, and updates every week.

Looking for Human Resource software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Human Resource software solutions.

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About the Author

Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen writes about HR and eLearning at Capterra. She’s a graduate of Agnes Scott College and a TEDx presenter. You can follow her on Twitter @CapterraHalden, just don’t get her started about her zombie survival plan.


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