Most HR professionals do not see formal educational qualifications as necessary to begin or advance an HR career. However, professional certification is seen as critical to success.
This is according to a survey by Personnel Today's sister publication, IRS Employment Review, questioned 135 senior HR practitioners in public and private sector organisations on their views about the best route to a top position, and how they got there.
In fact, educational qualifications are ranked last when HR respondents were asked to indicate the three factors considered most important for an individual wishing to advance in HR.
Martin Rayson, head of strategic HR at Lincolnshire County Council, believes that although professional HR qualifications are useful in demonstrating that a certain level of knowledge has been acquired, hands-on practical experience gained through working in the field is equally important. "Professional certification is a recognised kite mark, but in order to progress to a senior level in HR, people should be able to demonstrate practical know-how. It is background and experience that ultimately determine whether or not a candidate is appointable," he said.
Just under half of the survey respondents have a degree, while three-quarters hold a postgraduate qualification of some kind.
Degrees held by survey respondents straddle a wide range of disciplines, with business studies the only prevalent subject of any note, studied by 15 per cent of undergraduates. Only 7 per cent studied HR at undergraduate level.
Not surprisingly, the relevance of the discipline studied to HR increased considerably at a postgraduate level.
In all, just 10 per cent of those surveyed said they chose HR as a career path because it is well respected as a profession, and just 3 per cent said the reason they chose HR is because it pays well.
IRS also asked HR professionals about the barriers they faced in advancing their own HR career - a line of questioning that revealed further negative perceptions about how they believe the profession is viewed by organisations and society in general.
The fact that HR is not viewed as important enough by employers emerged as the second biggest barrier to career progression, according to nearly half (49 per cent) of the 59 respondents who had encountered obstacles. Sixteen respondents (27 per cent) indicated that a further barrier resulted from HR not being not viewed