When businesses need help in managing relationships with workers, they often call on a labor relations specialist. These professionals resolve disputes and help negotiate bargaining agreements and other contracts. A labor relations specialist career can begin with enrolling in a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology program.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for labor relations specialists is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations in coming years. Job growth will occur as organizations turn to labor relations professionals to settle employee/employer disputes out of court and increasingly rely on these specialists’ expertise for international human resource management. Labor relations specialists with advanced education, experience and certification will enjoy the best career opportunities.
Labor relations specialists assist with implementing industrial labor relations programs. They prepare information for management’s use during negotiations for collective bargaining. They also act as liaison between workers and management when issues arise concerning salary, healthcare plans, pensions, union or management practices and other contractual grievances.
Some labor relations specialists work on behalf of a union, while others work directly with employees or employee association representatives. Dispute resolution has become an increasingly important aspect of this occupation, as companies seek to avoid litigation and strikes. Drafting contracts, compiling information and statistics on economic conditions and wages, and participating in meetings between labor and management are also part of a labor relations specialist’s job. In addition, they maintain records and prepare reports, wage and salary surveys, and correspondence.
Typically, most labor relations specialists work in offices; some occasionally travel to satellite locations to meet with employees. A 40-hour work week is customary, but longer hours can be required during contract negotiations or labor disputes.
The BLS reports that the median annual salary for labor relations specialists was $56,440 in May 2009, with the middle 50% of professionals in this field earning between $41,820 and $74,520. Salaries for the lowest 10% were around $27,360, while the highest 10% brought in roughly $94,470 per year. Recent bachelor’s degree program graduates will typically start out at the lower end of the scale and move up in salary with experience and advanced education.
The educational backgrounds of labor relations specialists vary. Most positions require a bachelor’s degree. A well-rounded education in psychology, accounting and organizational structure provides a good background for the prospective labor relations specialist.
The first step to a labor relations specialist career can be a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology with a concentration in organizational psychology. Coursework typically includes introduction to psychology, lifespan development and psychology, psychology of leadership and survey of industrial/organizational psychology.
An applied psychology education prepares graduates to:
Many employers offer opportunities for continuing education. It’s possible to gain an entry-level job with a bachelor’s degree and use an employer’s tuition assistance program to pay for a master’s degree.
For a successful career as a labor relations specialist, you’ll need skills like outstanding communication, analytical thinking, attention to detail and the ability to maintain relationships. A professional and calm demeanor, collaborative work style and respect for diverse populations are essential. If you have these attributes, a labor relations specialist job could be a great fit.