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The HR profession


Human resources (HR) covers a wide range of different roles and opportunities whether it be in small or large businesses, public or private sector. HR roles can be broken down into generalist, specialist or external roles.


Generalist roles

Generalist roles are those which require the HR professional to address all aspects of HR and the employment lifecycle.  HR generalists are required to have broad knowledge of HR and people matters and be able to turn their hand to different aspects from planning to recruitment, performance management to termination, reporting to evaluation.

Specialist roles

Specialist roles require the HR professional to focus on a particular area of HR or people management. Often starting out in generalist roles, specialists build their experience in a particular area and often complete specialised education to become proficient in their chosen areas. Common areas of HR specialisation include:

  • Recruitment
  • Learning & Development
  • Change Management
  • Workplace Health and Safety (WHS)
  • Industrial Relations (IR)
  • Workforce Planning
  • Organisational Development

Often HR specialists in these fields don't associate their role with HR and can exist in separate departments within an organisation e.g. WHS and IR specialists.

External roles

External HR roles can be either generalist or specialist. Often practitioners who have been in the profession for some time and have experience in a particular area or industry will choose to go out on their own as a consultant providing outsourced HR services to an organisation.

Entry to the profession

The HR profession does not currently require accreditation or registration in Australia, although some specialisations may have requirements specific to their discipline e.g. Cert IV: TAFE for Learning and Development roles.

HR professionals migrating to Australia under professional categories of visa entry may be required to have their qualifications and experience assessed in order for it to be recognised.

For more information on HR professionals migrating to Australia, please refer to our Checklist: Tips for Migrants in this section.

AHRI Model of Excellence

The Model of Excellence is a graphic representation that combines what HR practitioners should know, what they are expected to do, and what their peers expect them to be in terms of behaviours and capabilities.

The circles of the graphic sets out 10 behaviours and seven capabilities that were confirmed as essential for HR practitioners in the most recent 2014 AHRI member survey 'What is Good HR?'.

Going back ten years, the idea of the Model of Excellence was developed based on two surveys of Australian HR practitioners and CEOs. Since then it has gone through a number of iterations, having been informed by local, national and global data including inputs from the international RBL Human Resource Competency Study under the leadership of Professor Dave Ulrich from the University of Michigan.

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Frequently Asked Questions

For more information on the HR profession, please see our FAQs and other resources below.

Information sheets

Legal considerations for HR professionals

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The role of an HR professional in a modern organisation

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Tips for finding an HR job overseas

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Becoming an HR consultant

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Tips for migrants

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