HR Pay Rises Faster Than Other Jobs

October 17, 2000 ( - Base pay for Human Resource (HR) professionals continues to rise faster than overall US salaries, and incentive pay is also on the rise, according to a new survey.

HR pay rose 5.4% in the past year compared with just a 4.2% rise in overall US salaries, according to the 2000 Human Resource Management Compensation Survey sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management, and published by consultant William M. Mercer. 

A year ago, the survey found a 5.3% increase over 1998, and a 4.3% increase in 1998 over 1997 levels.  Overall salary increases in the US have remained level at 4.2% for the past five years, according to the survey.

“Outside” In

The study found that the higher pay corresponded with an increase in the required expertise of HR professionals, as well as a growing tendency to recruit operations executives into HR functions for their business expertise. 

According to Mercer, many of these candidates are coming from positions that were historically more highly compensated than HR functions, and may be driving the rate of pay higher.

While only half of the top corporate labor relations and industrial relations executives receive long-term incentives, some 86% of the top corporate international HR executives receive those incentives.  

On the other hand, some HR specialties enjoy higher base pay, with top HR management professionals with industrial relations experience topping the list at $201,500.

 On average, top corporate labor relations/industrial relations executives earn $157,000, while a top corporate international HR management executive might expect an annual salary of $149,000.

Among manager positions, average base pay was

  • $99,200 for labor relations managers
  • $86,600 for HR managers
  • $86,000 for compensation managers 

Median pay for compensation and benefits managers is $82,500, while HR generalists’ compensation in 2000 hit $49,000 – up 5.4% from 1999.

Recruiting Recruiters

The tight labor market has enhanced the need for talented recruiters, with median total cash compensation for a technical recruiter now at $55,100, up 5.9% from 1999, while general recruiters averaged a 4.8% increase to $39,400.

Median cash compensation for top corporate training executives is $124,500, $71,400 for training managers and $42,200 for trainers.

Overall, the highest pay levels are found in the utility and manufacturing industries, while the lowest pay is found in the government and nonprofit, education, and retail and wholesale industries.