Career Change from Accounting to Human Resources in 5 Actionable Steps

You’re probably burnt out, unhappy, and ready to seek a new career path as an accountant. Perhaps you’re considering a career change to HR and wondering what is required.

In this article, I discuss five practical steps you can take to help you successfully transition from accounting to a human resource (HR) career that is:

  • Research and validate HR as a career path
  • Network with HR professionals with an Accounting background
  • Get trained and qualified
  • Get relevant experience
  • Update professional assets

Let’s begin!

#1. Research and Validate You Want A Career In Human Resource

HR is a great career path because it attracts good salaries, great job security, numerous growth opportunities and good opportunities for career advancement.

But before making a final decision and following through with this career transition, it’s important to really ask yourself if this is the best career for you.

HR is becoming one of the fastest-growing fields in the United States. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts an additional 70,000 HR jobs will flood the industry by 2030.

There are many different areas within HR, from Recruitment and Selection, Compensation and Benefits to Health and Safety, Talent Management, and Training and Development.

With all these different options, it’s important to have a good understanding of them before making a choice.

Next is a quick overview of what HR professionals do and the different types that exist.

What do Human Resource Professionals Do?

When it comes down to aiding the success of an organization, Human resource professionals have such an important role to play. 

HR professionals are responsible for procuring the talents an organization will require to achieve its objectives through recruitment, selection, placement, induction, and training.

They manage employees, help them develop healthy work cultures and resolve any work conflicts that may arise.

HR professionals manage strategies to ensure business effectiveness while also contributing to the managerial decision-making process of the organization.

They also contribute to the growth of the company by strengthening employee satisfaction and productivity.

In summary, without Human Resource professionals and the management skills they bring with them, organizations would not be able to effectively procure and train employees, strengthen and grow their business, and maintain a conflict-free and healthy work culture and environment.

What is the human resource career path?

There is room for career progression when it comes to Human resources. In a few years, you can find yourself moving upward from HR coordinator to HR leader and even become an HR manager.

 Some organizations will have a small number of Human Resource professionals depending on their business structure and number of employees.

However, most large-sized organizations have different variations of the Human Resource department responsible for handling and managing all things employee performance-related.

There is a lot of growth potential for HR professionals depending on the type of organization they work for. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that by 2030, the HR industry will have added 70,000 jobs. And the pay is as promising as the job prospects.

According to Glassdoor and Indeed, the typical salary for an HR professional in the United States is around $70,000 per year, even for entry-level roles. Those in the top 10% of earners with a few years of experience earn more than $100,000 each year.

Entry-level HR assistants can progress into mid and subsequent higher-level roles like HR administrator, recruitment manager, benefits and compensation manager, or even Human Resource manager or director.

Regardless of their rank, most HR professionals choose between working in either a general role or a specialist role.

Generalist HR professionals perform a broad range of duties. They handle personnel recruitment, hiring, training and development and compensation. HR assistants, HR managers and chief HR officers are some of the job titles included under generalist roles.

On the other hand, specialist HR professionals have higher levels of skills applied in more specialized areas. A professional may specialize in employee and labor relations, risk management, or even workforce planning.

 Risk management specialist, labor relations specialist and workforce planning specialist are some of the job titles included under specialist roles.

Depending on what role you decide to work in, a typical HR professional’s career path may look something like this.

After a few years of gaining more experience, an entry-level HR assistant can move on to become an HR administrator or coordinator.

HR administrators/coordinators that perform exceptionally can be promoted to an assistant HR manager position. An HR manager can still climb up the corporate ladder and become an HR director, depending on the size of the organization.

An assistant HR manager can progress upward some more and bag an HR manager title.

#2. Network with Human Resource Professionals with an Accounting Background

Before taking any steps into the world of human resources, it’s important to network with professionals that share a similar background to yours.

The good news is that human resource professionals are usually open to networking opportunities.

The goal of networking with these professionals is to gain detailed insight into the challenges you are expected to face when making this career transition.

Professionals with a similar background to yours have already experienced these challenges and will be able to outline them for you.

A mentor will have more experience than you in the field of human resources and will be able to provide personalized guidance to you.

They can share insight on the best programs to enrol in or qualifications to earn; they can also share their ideas and can even alert you of any mistakes to avoid when preparing to make this transition.

A good rule of thumb before meeting with any professionals is to have already drafted a list of possible questions to ask them. You can try asking what they love about human resources or even what they hate. 

Working hours, work-life balance, and compensation are other great questions.

Their insight will help you paint a clearer picture of how possible it is to change from a career in finance to human resources and will also alert you of all the good and bad things to expect with this career change.

If you’re wondering where you can find these professionals, here are some ideas:

  • Facebook groups: search for groups dedicated to HR professionals. Join the group and friendly ask the group for anyone with an accounting background.

    Be honest and share you are looking to transition to become a Marketer and are looking for someone with some tips.

    Reach out privately to whoever responds to your message and build the relationship further.
  • LinkedIn: Search for HR professionals and use the filter to find engineers with unique qualifications or experiences that tie them to accounting.

    Send a connection request with an added note asking for tips and advice.
  • Forums: Go on Quora and Reddit forums that have a congregation of HR professionals and reach out privately to anyone willing to share their knowledge with you.

#3. Get Training And Qualifications in Human Resource

Human Resource professionals usually possess bachelor’s degrees in disciplines like human resources, psychology, business administration, management or other related fields. 

The minimum educational requirement for an entry-level position in HR is usually a bachelor’s degree in business administration, marketing, public relations, advertising, communications or other related fields. 

The degree will allow you to build the necessary skills and develop a firm understanding of the role of a human resource professional.

However, as someone who has already earned a bachelor’s degree and is coming from a previous career, a great way to get a formal HR education is by enrolling in an accredited Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Human Resource Management program. 

They are usually just like traditional MBA programs but with a human resource specialization that prepares students with a business foundation and a human resource focus.

MBA programs often provide a competitive edge over other candidates when searching for a job; they may also offer HR work experience through internships.

An MBA will qualify you for roles such as human resource manager, senior human resource consultant, manager of HR operations and other senior-level roles. It will also open up future management opportunities and pay increases down the line in your career, depending on what your future plans are.

Acquiring a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Certification will also look good on your resume and will present you as a competent candidate who is capable of independent learning.

Alongside an MBA, the SHRM is meant to enhance an individual’s effectiveness in the workplace. Students learn how to apply theoretical knowledge to their workplace.

There are different human resource certification programs, so make sure to do your research and find out what certifications prospective employers in your field of interest prefer.

Enrolling on human resource training and qualification programs is an area where networking with similar professionals in the field can easily come in handy; they will be able to better help you navigate through the proper programs, training and certifications that will make your career transition possible.

#4. Acquire Human Resource Experience.

Alongside earning your qualifications and certifications, acquiring actual work experience in the field is a great way to prepare you for a career in human resources.

Firstly, acquiring work experience is a prerequisite for gaining entry into an MBA program. Although this professional experience does not have to be strictly human resource-related, having both human resource and finance experience will show that you have knowledge about business. 

Work experience can also prove useful when approaching professionals in the field. It will show that you are dedicated to this career change and can even help you grow your network some more.

Work experience will also help you gain some necessary soft skills you’ll need to excel in the profession. These include; strong interpersonal skills, good communication skills, expert problem-solving abilities, critical thinking skills, attention to detail, organization and ethics.

Lastly, work experience in the field will let you stand out among other candidates when applying for jobs in the human resource industry.

The best way to acquire work experience is by indicating interest in the human resource department of your current organization if they have one. Working alongside the human resource department will not only give you experience but could also possibly lead to a lateral promotion to the human resource department.

 Volunteering to shadow one or more human resource professionals already working in the field and assist them with their daily tasks. This is another area where networking will prove very useful to you.

When networking with these professionals, do not be afraid to indicate that you wouldn’t mind shadowing them at their jobs. You would be surprised at the number of people who enjoy teaching and mentoring opportunities.

Decide on a setting you will be comfortable working in and ask your network if any of them are willing to have you. Remember that there are different areas of human resources, so ideally, you should try approaching a professional that works in an area or areas that interest you.

Another great thing is that your work experience will give you a more personal look into the day to day happenings of the field and may serve to harden your resolve.

#5. Update Your Professional Brand Assets

At this point, you have all the ingredients required to build and update your professional brand assets.`

Your professional brand assets are your CV, your LinkedIn profile, and your personal website.

I call them professional brand assets because they are resources that you own and control that are able to provide you with a future economic benefit, i.e. a job as a HR professional.

Building and polishing these professional assets will position you and make you attractive to recruiters and hiring managers.

  • Your CV/Resume: Take all your newly acquired knowledge, skills, and experience and include them in your resume in a way that fits the requirements of an HR professional.

    Analyze at least 10 HR live job vacancies that you would like to apply to. Review the requirements, i.e. the section that says ‘your responsibilities’ or says ‘in this role, we are looking for….’

    This is essentially the business telling you what they’re looking for in an ideal candidate. Analyzing 10-15 vacancies will uncover some patterns and keywords.

    Ensure these keywords are featured on your CV/Resume.
Pro tip: Matching your CV/resume to actual job roles is a great way to get through the ATS (Application Tracking System) system. 

Your CV is an effective way to show employers how you will be a great asset for the position you’re applying for.

  • Your LinkedIn Profile: Most recruiters and hiring managers use Linkedin to fill job positions. Actually, Over 90% of them do this!

    At the very minimum, make sure the information on your Linkedin profile matches what is on your CV.

    As someone moving into a new career an HR, it’s also essential to let recruiters know that you’re open to hiring and looking for new opportunities.

    Connect with recruiters and follow mentors and new colleagues on Linkedin.

    Optimize the headline section of your profile by listing major skills that will be required in your new profession.

    Also, optimize the summary section of your profile by highlighting your work experience, certifications, technical skills, and expertise.
  • Your Personal Websites: Your personal website gives you the opportunity to show your work rather than just talk about it.

    In today’s competitive employment market, job searchers must do all they can to differentiate themselves from the competition, and having a personal website is one of the most effective methods to do so.

    I believe in the philosophy of showing, not telling. Use your personal website to advertise your work.

Bonus Tip: Take Action

Changing careers will always be a scary and daunting thing to follow through, but the good news is that it is very doable. You will not be the first or last accountant to make a career transition into a human resource; others have done it ahead of you, and others will attempt it after you. But you still have to do your own part to make this work for you.

Make time to further research the areas available within the profession and determine which area best suits your interests, personality, skillsets and wants.

Now that you’ve decided that an accounting career is no longer for you and you’re interested in pursuing a human resource career, it’s time to follow all the tips listed in this guide. 

Be committed to making this career change actual reality. Be confident in yourself but not arrogant. Motivate yourself and surround yourself with like-minded people who are ready to support you.

After using this guide to draft your action plan, the only thing that’s left for you to do is to focus and give it your best. 

Need to do more research into the field? Start now, Need to decide the best course of action for you? Run it by your network and make a decision already. Connect with professionals in the field and start acquiring all the work experience you’ll need as soon as possible.

Be patient with yourself, but also give yourself a timeframe for achieving this dream of yours.

Final thoughts

Changing careers can be a difficult thing to do, but with the right tools and attitude, you can make it happen! The six tips in this article are tested and proven when making the action plan that’ll you’ll need to make this career change a successful one for you.

Do some research into how a human resource career best fits your experience, skills, personal needs and wants.

Network with professionals who have a similar accounting background to you, and build on your foundational knowledge by acquiring more work experience, skills, technical degrees and qualifications you’ll need for your new role.

Update your professional brand assets to align with the requirements for a human resource specialist and begin marketing yourself as a perfect candidate for opportunities in your new career path.

 Finally, take action and treat your career change as a job in itself. Make sure to invest your time, energy and any other resources you require into turning this dream of yours into a whole reality.

Human Resource is a great career choice, equipping yourself with all the experience, skills and qualifications that are needed to succeed will help you do things right and will make the transition much smoother for you.