The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

The Higher Ed HR Workforce Report: How Does Your Team Measure up Against the Data?

Higher ed HR professionals play a central strategic role in shaping the organizational environment of their institution, but what can the data tell us about our HR teams? CUPA-HR’s latest research report, The Higher Ed HR Workforce, examines the people and positions that make up the higher ed HR workforce. The positions examined in the report come from 31 of the most common HR positions surveyed across CUPA-HR’s Administrators in Higher Education, Staff in Higher Education, and Professionals in Higher Education surveys.

The report details the demographic characteristics of the higher ed HR workforce, time in their current roles, and HR staffing ratios; provides an overview of specialization areas within higher ed HR; spotlights the CHRO position, and examines how specialization in different areas within HR impacts salary and career trajectories.

Salary by Area and Position Level

Within higher ed HR, each area has unique salary and career advancement opportunities, whether that’s a specific promotion pathway or simply a larger number of total positions within a specialty area. The graphic below explores career pathways and median salaries through each position level within these areas.

Other Key Findings

  • White women make up 59 percent of the higher education HR workforce, followed by racial/ethnic minority women who comprise 23 percent; the least represented groups in higher ed are Asian and Hispanic men, together accounting for only 2 percent of all HR employees.
  • The representation of men in higher education HR increases with position level, and women’s representation decreases with position level. Men make up 22 percent of HR leadership positions, but only 16 percent of entry/mid-level positions and 15 percent of coordinators. Despite their lower representation, men in professional HR positions (entry/mid-level and senior positions) have a median age that is three years younger than women in these same positions.
  • The HR workforce in higher education is generally stable; staffing ratios do not vary much across institutions, and the HR workforce enjoys a lower turnover rate than that of higher education faculty or staff.
  • Generalists make up 36 percent of the HR workforce, with employment (13 percent), training/organizational development (10 percent), and benefits (10 percent) specialists the next most common areas of specialization.
  • The demographics of the CHRO position paint a complex picture; although women account for nearly three-fourths of CHROs (74 percent), they are paid only $0.96 to every dollar paid to CHROs who are men. Racial/ethnic minorities, on the other hand, are paid a median of $1.21 for every dollar paid to White CHROs, although only 20 percent of all CHROs are racial/ethnic minorities.
  • The CHRO reporting relationship varies by institution type; at baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral institutions, around one-third of CHROs (34-35 percent) report to the chief financial officer, and only around one-fifth (20-22 percent) report directly to the president/chancellor. For associate’s institutions, however, 61 percent of CHROs report to the president/chancellor directly, and only 11 percent report to a chief financial officer.

In all, 11,810 incumbents from 1,145 institutions were included in this analysis.

Read the full report, The Higher Ed HR Workforce, and check out CUPA-HR’s other research publications.

This report was made possible by the support of PageUp.


The CUPA-HR national office will be closed July 4 in observance of Independence Day.