HR directors in the UK tend to be
less well educated than many of their peers in Europe, and the proportion with
degrees has fallen over the past decade.
In the UK, almost
seven out of 10 HR board directors have a degree, and even though it is still
perfectly acceptable not to have an academic degree, the proportion of
non-university educated HR directors has fallen since 1992. In France and Spain
it is virtually unheard of to have a board level HR director without a university degree.
backgrounds in Europe are notoriously different and this is reflected in the
differences in the educational levels of HR directors. In some countries, human
resources management is a specialist degree at university level; in others it
is a sub-section of psychology, integrated in pedagogy or seen as the remit of
legal studies. And in others yet again human resources management is not
primarily an academic qualification, but mainly the subject of professional
In the Netherlands and
Switzerland, for example, human resources management has a well-respected
structure of vocational qualifications and academic post holders are in a
Differences are also
visible in the subject of studies for those who have been to university. In the
UK, the most common subject for degree holders is business studies, but social
science or arts and humanity degrees are almost as frequently held.
Unlike the common perception
of a legalistic personnel profession in Germany, the majority of German HR
directors have business degrees, as do their colleagues in Austria, Denmark,
Norway and Ireland.
Yet the legal
tradition is still alive and kicking in many European countries. More than a
fifth of HR directors in Austria, France, Portugal and the Netherlands have
come to HR via a law degree.