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

What separates an HR specialist from an HR generalist? Find out here.

An HR specialist specializes in the HR basics and processes and thus performs that specialized task. However, an HR generalist is an all-rounder who works from recruitment to payrolling to employee benefits.

This article covers in detail the difference between an HR specialist and an HR generalist. This includes their day-to-day responsibilities, salaries, skills, path trajectory, and certifications for each role.

To learn more via video, watch below. Otherwise, skip ahead.

Let’s start.

HR Specialists vs. HR Generalists: What Do They Do?

The human resource specialists as clear from the name are specialists in HR processes like employee satisfaction, recruitment, retention, employee relations, and workplace policies. Although their day-to-day responsibilities include handling other human resources tasks.  They assist HR directors and managers with application scanning and recruitment.

On the other side, a human resource generalist is more of a general role. They are responsible to manage multiple HR functions, like recruiting the staff, screening and scanning applications, onboarding employees, maintaining employee records, and ensuring good people relations.

Let’s understand each role in detail.

What Does an HR Specialist Do?

An HR specialist is responsible for screening, interviewing, recruiting, and placing employees in an organization.

They specialize in HR functions and are responsible for the tasks like handling employee relations, and looking after employee compensation, and benefit programs. HR specialists carry out the assigned task like preparing progress reports with detailed statistics and analytics, and thus are crucial for the HR department’s growth and success.

Organizations hire candidates who can contribute to a specific HR area through their skills and expertise. 

HR Specialist Responsibilities

Moreover, human resource specialists assist the senior management in developing and implementing the right strategies for candidate selection, and application interviewing processes. They provide advice on intricate HR matters and ensure that these practices comply with legal rules and labor statistics.

Other HR specialists’ responsibilities include supervision, coordination, and collaboration with other HR workers to carry out all the tasks. Human resource specialists analyze both the long and short-term business requirements after analyzing the goals, and then work on the fulfillment of those needs.

What Does an HR Generalist Do?

An HR generalist assists human resources professionals to keep the HR department functioning and going. They take part in the fulfillment of a broad range of HR functions instead of focusing on one task, unlike a human resource specialist.

HR generalist is an entry-level role, and they handle a variety of HR tasks that range from recruiting employees to handling their data. They also screen job applications, interview candidates, onboard employees, and assign them their workplaces.

Moreover, human resources generalists train employees, introduce them to the workplace and organization’s ethics, handle employee relations, and manage payroll. 

HR generalist career path

They exhibit complete legal knowledge of labor laws and workforce rules.

HR generalists typically assist HR professionals and seniors in decision-making processes. They play a major role in the organization’s professional development and ensure whether the employee’s duties and work traits comply with organizational policies or not.

How Do HR Specialists and HR Generalists Work Together?

HR specialists and HR generalists are entry-level roles and they collaborate with each other to carry out HR tasks.

As human resources specialist specializes in a task, for example, employee satisfaction and relations, they perform it with greater efficiency with the help of a human resource generalist.  HR Generalist carries sound skills to implement the instructions forwarded by the specialist for the employee-benefitting programs.

Human resource specialists draft the strategies for the task, however, the HR generalist is responsible for implementing those strategies and instructions. This is how both these roles collaborate with each other to carry out human resources programs.

Who Earns More: HR Specialist vs. HR Generalist Salary

According to Glassdoor, an average human resource specialist earns $63,000 per year in the United States. This total salary entails a base salary of $43,000 per year and additional increments and bonuses of $20,000 per year. The general salary range starts from $40,000 and ends at $105,000 per year.

On the contrary, a human resources generalist earns $69,000 per year in the United States as per Glassdoor. This figure includes $51,000 as a base salary and an additional $18,000 in the form of increments and bonuses. However, a human resources generalist’s salary can fall anywhere in the range of $42,000-$117,000 per year in the United States.

Becoming an HR Specialist vs. HR Generalist

Let’s have a detailed look at what career paths look like for both these roles, and what skills they need to function. Moreover, a brief guide on certifications for both these roles is also available in the last section of this article.

HR Career Path

When it comes to the HR career trajectory for these roles, both these roles start from an entry-level position and advance towards senior and executive HR roles.

A human resource specialist promotes to senior human resource specialist or an HR generalist. However, human resource generalists promote to HR managers or assistant human resources managers based on their technical, practical, and leadership competencies.

Here’s provided a career path for a human resource specialist in order:

  1. Human resource specialist
  2. Senior human resource specialist
  3. Human resource generalist
  4. Human resources manager
  5. HR coordinator
  6. HR director

On the contrary, below is provided the career path for an HR generalist’s role in order:

  1. Human resource generalist
  2. Junior human resource manager
  3. Assistant HR manager
  4. HR manager
  5. HR director

Both these roles proceed toward the same executive roles. However, the original trajectory is different in each organization based on their policies and promotion rules.

Both a human resource generalist and a human resource specialist require at least a bachelor’s degree in human resources along with 0-2 years of HR experience. However, you can leverage the salary benefits by specializing through certifications and obtaining higher education.


Human resource generalists and human resources specialists hold proficiency in digital skills like familiarity with human resources information systems. However, specialized knowledge of their job field is also mandatory. Let’s have a look at the detailed skills required for these roles.

Below are provided human resource specialist skills:

  • Data analysis and performance reviewing
  • HR skills
  • Legal knowledge
  • Employee benefitting
  • Interpersonal intelligence
  • Attention to detail
  • Technical HR skills
  • Verbal and non-verbal communication
  • Cultural awareness
  • Commercial awareness
  • Employee experience
  • Accounting and budgeting

Below are provided human resource generalist skills:

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Time management
  • Skills to work in a fast-paced environment
  • Excellent HR knowledge
  • Strong human resource management and employee handling skills
  • Technical HR skills
  • Recruiting, screening, interviewing, workforce planning, and onboarding skills
  • Administrative skills
  • Managing priorities
  • Advising
  • Analytical and data-driven skills

Explore our top-rated HR generalist certification program to nourish and upskill your knowledge to become better human resources professional. Enroll now to master human resource generalist and HR specialist skills:

HR Generalist Certification


Courses and certifications can lead these roles to a promotion or a salary increment. Also, if you’re a newbie, and looking to jump into HR, getting a certification in an HR course will not only enhance your resume but will increase your chances of selection.

However, note that certifications for a human resources generalist, and HR specialists are different as these two demand different skills. However, some small or startup organizations may hire one person to perform both roles.

Below are provided some options for courses that you may scroll through and enroll in based on your needs. Take a look at some of the best and top-rated HR courses that you can take to learn the actual difference between these roles and to enhance your skills:

  1. HR Management Certification: With this course, you can explore the management side of your HR career. It is a perfect choice for HR generalists and HR specialists who are looking to enhance their human resource management skills so they can progress toward the human resource manager’s role in the human resources department.
  2. HR Generalist Certification: This HR Generalist certification is one of the best-rated courses that allow you to master HR generalist skills. Any HR professional looking to excel in their career as an HR generalist must enroll in the course to get the benefit of its unique course learning outcomes and to master the fundamental HR generalist skills.
  3. Diversity and Inclusion Certification: This diversity and inclusion certification allows you to learn the diverse side of HR to build a better and healthy workspace and enhance labor relations. This course is a great choice for HR generalists as it teaches diverse HR skills that are a must-have for the role.


HR generalists and HR specialists are two different roles but a great career starts to step into the HR field. Most HR specialists are trained as HR generalists before they specialize in a specific HR discipline. Both of them have their own set of job duties, and the roles demand continuous upskilling and knowledge for one to excel in their HR career.

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