HR Generalist vs. HR Administrator: What’s the Difference?

Confused between the HR generalist and HR administrator’s roles? We’ve got detailed and clear information about these HR roles that you can read to decide for which career you want to opt. 

HR generalists are those HR professionals who are responsible to educate and train all employees in an organization about the new and updated work policies. They are also assigned to make the work environment better and healthy to work in by ensuring that there’s no bias and discrimination in the labor force. On the other hand, HR administrators support the HR department by carrying out day-to-day tasks like maintaining paperwork, and managing HR documents and employee records. They are also responsible to assist the HR managers in the talent acquisition process and helping them onboard employees. 

HR generalists are superior to HR administrators, and their duties vary based on their skills level. Human resources generalists are involved in people-related tasks, while HR administrators are associated with paper-related tasks. 

This article provides a detailed guide on the differences between human resources generalists and HR administrators. Let’s start.

HR Generalist vs. HR Administrator: What Do They Do?

As stated earlier, human resources generalists are senior to HR administrators, and their duties vary based on their job levels, skills, and technical/non-technical competencies.  

Organizations prefer HR generalists with at least a bachelor’s degree in human resources management with 2-3 years of experience working in the HR department. While the same criteria apply to HR administrators to have a minimum of bachelor’s degree in human resources with 0-2 years of experience as it is an entry-level position. 


We have written detailed information on day-to-day tasks and duties for human resources generalists and HR administrators in the sections below: 

What Does an HR Generalist Do?

A Human resources generalist is the HR specialist responsible to oversee the operations going in HR departments like:

  • Employee relations
  • Recruitment campaigns
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Employee training and development

Human resources generalists collaborate with HR managers to manage the employee training programs and work for the betterment and growth of the department. 

They are responsible to look for updates in the department’s and organization’s policies to maintain a better and sustainable working environment for the employee labor force. 

Responsibilities of HR generalist

In addition to that, they look after the most basic HR operation which is the recruitment process. They assist the administrators and managers in screening the job applications and analyzing them based on the organizational requirements and work goals. 

An HR generalist is also responsible to work for better employee relations management. They are expected to provide valuable insights that enhance the relationship between employees and their relation with the management. 

Furthermore, they are responsible for employee safety, wellness education, and welfare. Thus, they work to introduce strategies that keep organizational employees safe and enhance their wellness. 

This employee welfare and good relationship management then lead them to look after the HR processes like the employee bonus, compensation, and benefit programs. 

HR generalists also establish the organizational values and culture and communicate these company trends with the employees to maintain the culture. On top of that, they also help the HR managers in developing business strategies that work for the betterment of business growth and employee experience. 

In short, we can say that the HR generalist is responsible for people’s duties, and works to hire the best talent for the organization’s needs. 

With our HR generalist certification, you can learn the in-depth details about the role:

HR Generalist Certification

What Does an HR Administrator Do?

HR administrators are responsible to handle the employee and organizational paperwork such as managing employee work records, department progress reports, and updating employee record databases. 

Furthermore, HR administrators also take part in the employee onboarding processes by performing tasks related to the new hire paperwork and arranging new hires’ office tools like laptops, desks, and tables. On top of that, HR administrators also assist the new employees by giving them a tour of the organization, their department, and their workspace. Furthermore, they also set up orientations and team meetings for the new workforce in the organization. 

In addition to all the above responsibilities, they are responsible for the paperwork-related duties associated with the employee compensation and benefits programs. These tasks involve the processing of bonus payments, maintaining financial records, and working on employee health and safety insurance programs. 

The majority of the HR administrator’s day time is spent in employee communications and tackling employee personal information along with processing the employee benefits and compensation cheques. While less than half of their day time is spent on fulfilling duties like employee education and training programs and staffing duties. 

We can say that HR administrators do not perform any strategic or operational activities in the human resources department. They are more inclined toward fulfilling administrative duties and thus their role is not much technical in comparison to their fellow HR workers and teammates. 

To summarize, an HR administrator job description entails the responsibilities of maintaining employee records, assisting HR managers in payroll, human resource management, updating the HR databases, conducting orientations, and managing and running the human resources information system software. They assist the HR managers, and talent acquisition specialists in the recruitment processes and managing the job applications files work, they also assist the HR manager and help them with their operational duties inside the HR department. 

How Do HR Generalists and HR Administrators Collaborate for Work?

HR is a dilute department, thus it always requires teamwork from its employees.  In general, HR generalists look after people’s tasks, for example, hiring and onboarding employees. When they are performing such tasks, they often paper assistance. This paperwork is the responsibility of the HR administrators. In addition to that, recruitment processes involve administrative tasks, these documentation tasks are performed by the HR administrators, while all the physical and operational duties are the responsibility of Human resources generalists. Thus, an HR department only works with the effective collaboration of both roles. 

Who Earns More: HR Generalists or HR Administrators?

According to Glassdoor, HR generalists earn an average of $69k per year in the United States. This salary includes base pay of $51k per year, along with some additional allowances of $17k per year. This means an HR generalist earns almost $6k per month. 

However, HR administrators earn $65k per year in the United States. This salary includes a base salary of $45k per year, with $20k as additional allowances. This means that an HR administrator in the United States earns $5.4k per month. 

Thus, based on these numbers, an HR generalist generally earns more than an HR administrator in the United States. These numbers also testify to the fact that the Human resources generalists are senior to HR administrators in the HR department. 

HR Generalist vs. Administrator: The Major Differences

Now that we have already discussed their job responsibilities, salaries, and collaboration of HR generalists with HR administrators, let’s break down their skills, career paths, and work methodologies into visible differences for your ease. Below we provide detailed information regarding the skills, methodologies, and human resources career path for both these roles:


HR generalist and HR administrator are two different roles with completely different work methodologies. 

An HR generalist follows a people-oriented work methodology, which means that major time of a day is spent handling the people that are the employees of the organization. They are responsible to onboard, guiding, and training the employees based on the organization’s requirements and culture. 

HR Generalist vs. HR Administrator

On the other hand, an HR administrator follows a paper-oriented work methodology, which means that they have to look after all the organization’s HR documentation, employee records, HR progress reports, job application handling, and maintenance of HR databases.


As stated earlier, both these roles have different duties and responsibilities, thus they exhibit different skillsets too. As an HR generalist is a bit of a diluting role, their skillset is also diluting. Here’s a list of skills mandatory for an HR generalist to exhibit:

  • Performance management skills
  • Communication skills
  • People’s skills
  • Mentorship skills
  • Proactivity skills
  • Cultural skills

From these skills, we can get a very clear idea that the HR generalist is a role that is more inclined towards dealing with people and employees to carry out the organization’s processes.

Have a look at the HR administrator’s skills to know more about the role:

  • Organization skills
  • Business administration skills
  • Time management skills
  • Flexibility and multitasking skills
  • Digital skills
  • Communication skills

Thus, from the above skills, you can very clearly get the idea that an HR administrator’s role is more of a management and organizational role. 

Career Path

If you’re looking to know the differences between how the career path for both roles looks so that you can decide about your career. In general, HR generalists can work as an HR managers based on their skills and knowledge. Here’s the written Human resources generalists career path in reverse chronological order:

  1. HR generalist
  2. Employee training specialist
  3. Employee benefit specialist
  4. HR manager
  5. Human resource director
  6. HR business partner

On the other hand, HR administrators can work as HR assistants, or HR coordinators if they have specialized qualifications and desired skills. Here’s mentioned the career path for an HR administrator in reverse chronological order:

  1. HR assistant
  2. Human resource coordinator
  3. HR recruiter
  4. Talent Acquisition Specialist
  5. Human resource management specialist
  6. HRIS specialist
  7. HR manager
  8. HR director

Keep in mind that you can advance as much as you wish if you continue upskilling your knowledge, skills, and qualifications. 


Here are answers to some of your most frequently asked questions regarding HR generalists and HR administrators: 

Which One Is Better: HR Generalist or HR Administrator?

If we compare these roles on the basis of salaries, then an HR generalist always earns more than an HR administrator. Hence, if you are deciding based on salaries, then the HR professional generalist is a good option. 

On the other hand, preferences vary based on interests, skills, and competencies for the roles. Hence, if you are a non-technical person, then the HR administrator’s job will be suitable for you in comparison to the other job. 

However, if you are social, and like to dissolve more with people, then the HR generalist’s job is a perfect choice for your nature and interests. 

Can an HR Administrator Become an HR Generalist?

Yes. If you are eager to learn and grow more than you can always aim to secure higher roles in your department. With the right learning, experience, direction, and potential, an HR administrator can become a generalist. Keep in mind that, an HR generalist must have good people and communication skills, you must work on improving these skills along with a portfolio to showcase your ability to become an HR generalist.


If you are new to Human Resources and are looking to break into an HR Generalist or HR Administrator position, we recommend taking our HR Certification Courses, where you will learn how to build your skillset in human resources, build your human resources network, craft an excellent HR resume, and create a successful job search strategy that lands you a sought-after HR Generalist or HR Administrator job.


Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter is the founder of HR.University. He's a certified HR professional and has managed global teams across 5 different continents including their benefits and payroll. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.