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Top-Paying HR Positions Focus on Critical Roles, Cultural Change, Employee Support

Nontraditional HR positions have grown in importance, and this is reflected in their wages

A business woman talking to a man in an office.

Employees' greater expectations for a supportive organizational culture are being reflected in higher pay for HR professionals, new research shows.

Compensation data and software firm Payscale's Top Jobs and Skills in HR Wage Report analyzed salary profiles completed between July 2021 and July 2022 by 37,859 HR professionals throughout the U.S. Executive-level professionals were not surveyed. Among the findings:

  • Organizations are investing in training programs and professional development. Training Administrator II tops the list of jobs with the fastest wage growth, with a 21.7 percent increase in pay. Professional Development Manager III and Learning Manager are first and third on the highest-paying jobs list, with median pay of $308,000 and $214,000, respectively.
  • Nontraditional HR positions in areas such as wellness promotion and diversity management have grown in importance. As a result, wages for these positions have also grown in recent years. This shift reflects the breadth of expectations employees now hold for their employers.

"As we see the market continue to shift in the direction of being more candidate- and employee-driven, we're seeing that reflected in the roles that companies are hiring for and the value placed on positions that either previously did not exist or were considered 'back-end' type roles," said Lexi Clarke, vice president of people at Payscale.

These positions, for instance, may focus on providing professional development and career opportunities for employees, she said. Additionally, "we're seeing newer positions rise in prominence, such as Wellness Program Administrator, Diversity Manager, E-Learning Specialist and Internal Communications Writer, that can help boost employee engagement and retain key talent."

Also worth noting is that the position of Compensation Manager III ranked in the top five of highest-paid positions, Clarke pointed out.

"Compensation is a critical aspect of the employee life cycle and intricately connected to talent acquisition and business growth," she said, as these professionals are responsible for developing the organization's compensation strategy, setting pay structures and managing pay equity.

Highest-Paying Jobs

As the Great Resignation continues to hit organizations hard, even as a slowing economy stokes recession fears, HR roles have proved more critical than ever to a company's success. But these positions are susceptible to turnover, the report noted, forcing employers to pay a premium for certain roles and skills.

The analysts looked at the highest-paid HR jobs across all industries. Pay for these positions is derived from national medians, which means they will be higher for some locations and lower for others. The size of the organization can also impact these numbers, as larger companies tend to have a more stratified hierarchy.

The list is primarily made up of manager and higher job levels, excluding executive leadership positions.

Highest-Paid HR Jobs

RankJob TitleMedian Pay
1Professional Development Manager III$308,000
2Human Resources Business Partner Manager III $223,000
3 Learning Manager $214,000
4Compensation Manager III $203,000
5Talent Manager, HR II$196,000
6Organizational Development Manager II $175,000
7Labor Relations Manager II$174,000
8Human Resources Information Systems Manager III $170,000
9Human Resources Manager III$161,000
10Workforce Development Manager II$160,000
11Recruiting Manager III$160,000
12HR Shared Services Manager $159,000
13Organizational Development Specialist IV$156,000
14Benefits Manager II$151,000
15Human Resources Business Partner V $149,000
16Stock Plan Administration Manager$146,000
17Safety Manager IV $143,000
18Employee Relations Manager II$138,000
19Training Manager III$137,000
20Diversity Manager I $130,000

Source: Payscale Compensation Survey, 2022.

Positions with the Fastest Wage Growth

In 2022, the HR positions with the fastest wage growth span a variety of functions, the report showed.

Wages for the top positions have increased between 5 percent and 22 percent over the past year. Some positions making over $100,000 have grown by a significant amount, such as HR Consultant and Workforce Development Manager.

HR Jobs with Fastest Wage Growth

Rank Job Title
Median Pay


Median Pay


Wage Growth

1Training Administrator II$67,000$55,00021.7%
2Human Resources Consultant III$115,000$96,50019.4%
3Benefits Specialist III$87,100$75,50015.3%
4Employee Assistance Program Counselor$81,300$70,50015.3%
5Employee Communications Specialist II$75,000$65,40014.7%
6Wellness Program Administrator$72,500$63,20014.6%
7Technical Recruiter II$80,000$70,00014.3%
8Training Coordinator II$62,800$55,20013.8%
9Human Resources Assistant Administrator I$45,700$41,10011.1%
10Safety Management Supervisor$84,500$76,90010.0%
11Workforce Development Manager II$160,000$147,0009.0%
12Talent Manager, HR III$196,000$180,0008.7%
13Diversity Management II$81,300$75,0008.5%
14Recruitment Consultant II$74,800$69,2008.0%
15E-Learning Specialist III$81,700$76,0007.5%
16Internal Communications Writer$71,000$66,7006.4%
17Training Manager I$100,000$94,0006.3%
18Compensation Analyst I$63,000$59,4006.1%
19Organizational Development Specialist II$75,200$71,4005.3%
20Employee Relations Manager II$138,000$132,0005.0%

Source: Payscale Compensation Survey, 2022.

Importance of Career Paths

Compensation is important for all talent, including adjustments to keep pay competitive, the report authors noted. However, pay is not the only consideration that matters.

"HR professionals want to work at organizations that care about people and have mature and strategic processes to manage and develop talent," the report authors wrote. "HR professionals are also more likely to expect structured career pathing with tiered positions, where the compensation adjusts alongside performance, increased responsibility and tenure."

Recession Concerns

Given the difficulty organizations have had with hiring over the last year, Clarke expects that despite the looming threat of a major recession, many organizational leaders "will take a long-term, judicious view on what is needed to sustain their business, which will include a talent management department that knows the business and the importance of hiring the right people."

In challenging times, she noted, "the retention of key employees or talent will be critical to being able to navigate uncharted waters."

[Need real-time, HR-reported compensation reports? Check out the SHRM Compensation Data Center]

Related SHRM Article:

Salary Negotiation Strategies for HR Professionals, SHRM Online, September 2022


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