Human resources focuses on an organization's most important resource: its employees. HR professionals take responsibility for employee management and development, overseeing practices such as hiring, training, compensation, and conflict resolution.
Given the field's focus on employee relations, HR professionals need strong interpersonal communication skills, along with leadership, decision-making, and organizational skills. Most HR professionals work for private companies, but all types of organizations need employee management, including government agencies and nonprofits.
While most HR positions only require a bachelor's degree, earning a master's in human resources can help candidates progress to top positions in the field, such as human resources manager. This page offers an overview of the best human resources master's programs, including top schools, typical courses, potential career paths, and scholarships for human resources graduate students.
What is human resources?
Human resources refers to the management and development of an organization's employees. HR professionals oversee employee hiring, benefits, relations, and other personnel issues.
How long does it take to earn a master's in human resources?
Most human resources master's programs take 1-3 years to complete. Many programs offer part-time and accelerated enrollment options.
What can I do with a master's in human resources?
A master's in human resources degree prepares students for advanced roles in the HR field. With adequate experience, graduates can move into high-paying leadership positions, such as human resources manager.
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Career and Salary Outlook for Human Resources
In general, human resources managers oversee the management and development of an organization's employees. While individual department directors oversee employees' specific job duties, HR professionals oversee broad administrative processes related to staffing and hiring, employee training, compensation and benefits, employee relations, and organizational development.
HR specialists may oversee day-to-day operations related to hiring processes, benefits, and other employee relations practices. HR managers devise general HR practices and policies, determining how an organization manages its employees. Earning a master's in human resources can help candidates advance to upper management positions quickly.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for human resource specialists to grow 7% from 2019-2029 and jobs for human resources managers to grow 6%. HR specialists earn an annual median wage of $61,920, while HR managers earn an annual median wage of $116,720, demonstrating the impact that an advanced education can make on salary levels.
|Career||Lowest 10%||Median Annual Salary||Highest 10%|
|Human Resources Managers||Less than $68,300||$116,720||More than $205,720|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Accreditation for Human Resources
When researching master's in human resources programs, students should ensure that a school holds proper regional accreditation. Schools may hold regional or national accreditation, with regional accreditation generally considered the more prestigious of the two. Read more about why accreditation matters in our accreditation guide.
Individual academic programs may also receive accreditation from programmatic accrediting agencies. While no specific agency accredits HR programs, top business schools may hold accreditation from the American Assembly to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.
Courses in a Human Resources Program
Master's in human resources programs cover topics like hiring practices, employee management strategies, employee services and benefits, and legal and ethical compliance. Many programs end with a capstone that applies student learning to a major business project.
This list outlines five courses commonly found in human resources master's programs. While exact course content and titles vary among programs, these courses offer a representative sample of the average human resources master's curriculum.
Foundations of Nursing Practice
For students without previous RN training, most BSN programs include multiple foundation courses that introduce key concepts in nursing practice. Typically occurring during the first or second year of a program, this course highlights topics such as nursing assessment, therapeutic intervention, communication, and decision-making.
Nurses face assorted ethical issues during their general duties. Most programs feature a course focusing on clinical ethics and ethical expertise. This course explores professional and ethical concerns such as diversity and cultural differences, economic constraints, political and religious factors, and current nursing legislation.
Modern nursing uses evidence-based practice to offer the highest possible standard of care. This course highlights the role of research in nursing, giving students the tools to identify, assess, and evaluate various forms of research and their application to nursing practice. The course may also highlight research processes and methodologies.
Nutrition for Clinical Practice
Nurses promote health among patient populations, and nutrition plays a key role. This course emphasizes the role of nutrition both in health promotion and in medical nutrition therapy. Nurses gain the skills to perform nutrition assessments and interventions based on current dietary guidelines.
With very few exceptions, all online BSN programs include a significant clinical component. These components place students in a professional nursing environment for both observation and supervised clinical practice. Placements typically occur over multiple semesters, enabling students to gain hands-on experience in real-life healthcare settings, such as clinics, hospitals, and private practices.
Students in master's in human resources programs can apply for scholarship opportunities to help offset the cost of their degree. Offering higher education funding that does not require repayment, scholarships represent an ideal form of financial aid. This list highlights three popular scholarships for HR students.
Who Can Apply: The Society for Human Resource Management Foundation offers this scholarship for any member pursuing a graduate program in HR or a related field. Applicants need at least one semester remaining in their program.
Who Can Apply: HR systems software company Lucerna offers this scholarship for students pursuing human resources degrees at the undergraduate or graduate level. Graduate applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Who Can Apply: The National Forum for Black Public Administrators offers this scholarship for Black human resources students, preferably those attending historically Black colleges and universities. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Best Master's in Human Resources Degrees 2021
Our ranking highlights some of the country's best human resources master's programs. Offering a combination of strong academics, professional preparation, and student support, these programs prepare graduates for top positions in the field. All of the schools on this list hold regional accreditation, ensuring students receive quality professional training.
See our rankings methodology page.
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