Human Resources Degree Review

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Discover the Best Online Master’s in Human Resources

Experienced human resources professionals can earn an online master’s in human resources to advance their career. Graduates often work as human resources managers or compensation and benefits managers. Curricula cover workforce planning, ethics in the workplace, and performance management. Learners also master industry software and workplace safety guidelines.

Applicants should hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school. Some master’s in human resources programs require a minimum GPA. This guide explores the benefits and cost of earning an online human resources degree. The following sections also cover career options for graduates.

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Questions About Human Resources

What can I do with a master’s in human resources?

A master’s degree in human resources qualifies graduates to work as benefits managers and compensation directors. Job candidates may need professional experience.

Is human resources a stable career?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for human resources managers to increase 9% from 2020-2030. This is about the same as the average job growth projection for all occupations.

What is the difference between human resources and organizational leadership?

Both human resources and organizational leadership professionals attract and retain talented employees. However, organizational leadership professionals focus on their employer’s overall development and success.

Why Get a Degree in Human Resources?

Online master’s in human resources programs prepare learners to enter the growing HR field. Flexible online programs appeal to workers from various backgrounds, such as veterans. Veterans often succeed in human resources, as the career requires many of the same skills as military careers. Earning a master’s degree in human resources can help graduates qualify for lucrative positions.

Online learning can benefit recent college graduates and working professionals. Students with personal or professional responsibilities can research asynchronous programs. These programs do not require degree-seekers to attend virtual lectures at specific times.

How Much Does a Human Resources Degree Cost?

According to the Education Data Initiative, a master’s degree cost an average of $66,340 in 2021. Tuition rates vary by school. In-state public institutions typically offer the most affordable online master’s in human resources programs. However, many schools charge all online learners in-state tuition rates. Private institutions generally charge the highest tuition rates.

Degree-seekers can minimize student debt by applying for institutional scholarships and grants. Some schools consider all incoming students for financial aid, while others require a separate application. Learners with financial need may also qualify for federal grants and loans. Degree-seekers submit the FAFSA annually to maintain eligibility for federal funding.

Additional Online Student Fees

In addition to tuition, degree-seekers should budget for fees. Many schools charge online students a per-class, per-credit, or per-semester technology fee. Learners in hybrid programs pay to commute to campus or internship sites. Online students also purchase textbooks and pay a graduation fee.

Graduates may need professional certification to launch or advance their career. The Society for Human Resource Management administers a certification for early-career professionals. Candidates must pass an exam and pay certification fees. Members receive a discount.

How Much Do Human Resources Majors Make?

Human resources managers earn a median salary of $121,220 per year, according to the BLS. However, many factors impact an individuals’ earning potential. Professional, scientific, and technical services companies pay the highest median salary. HR managers in New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia earn the highest average salaries, ranging from $167,190-$177,960 per year.

HR specialists can enroll in master’s in human resources programs to qualify for promotions to managers. According to the BLS, human resources managers earn a median salary about double that of HR specialists. Professionals can also qualify for promotions and raises by pursuing certifications.

Courses in Human Resources

Students pursuing an online human resources degree learn to create HR strategies, research the latest trends, and develop inclusive and diverse workplaces. Some programs offer specialization options. Degree-seekers typically complete a thesis or capstone project.

Many online master’s in human resources programs feature the following classes. However, course availability varies by school. Curricula can impact students’ learning experiences and career options. Learners can contact an admissions advisor for information about their prospective program.

  • Human Resources Strategy

    This course introduces human resources professionals’ role in companies and organizations. Coursework explores organizational resources, holistic frameworks, and effectiveness best practices. Degree-seekers analyze challenges unique to multinational employers. This class prepares learners to promote workers’ growth in HR roles.
  • Leadership in Human Resources

    Master’s degree-holders often pursue management positions. Applicants to these roles need advanced leadership skills. This class trains students to develop leadership plans, maintain professional networks, and persuade others to change their actions or thinking. Learners practice self-reflection, an essential managerial skill.
  • Talent Management

    Human resources managers use talent management strategies to attract and retain employees. Students in this course learn to develop and evaluate these strategies, make data-based decisions, and coach other managers on retention best practices. Degree-seekers explore how group-level decisions impact promotions and performance reviews.

How to Become a Human Resources Professional

A bachelor’s degree in human resources qualifies graduates for human resources specialist positions. These professionals interview applicants, check references, and deliver orientations. The job involves extensive recordkeeping. Professionals specializing in recruitment represent their employer at job fairs. HR specialists need advanced communication and interpersonal skills.

Human resources specialists with a master’s degree or at least five years of experience often become human resources managers. These professionals oversee specialists’ work, develop benefits programs, and resolve staffing issues. HR managers also coordinate with senior managers on long-term recruitment and retention plans.

Best Online Master’s in Human Resources

  1. Pennsylvania State University-World Campus

    State College, PA




    Penn State World Campus offers working professionals a graduate human resources management degree. Here, students can earn a master’s in human resources and employment relations without leaving the comfort of their home. This school is also an HRCI approved provider and in complete alignment with the SHRM’s HR Guidebook and Templates.

    Program Features

    The school is unique in that the HRER program is provided in partnership with the school’s internationally recognized School of Labor and Employment Relations. Online students receive the same education as on-campus students, and the same instructors teach the courses. This ensures that the high standard of excellence at Penn State is achieved by all students, regardless of how they study. The program requires 33 credits to graduate. The degree also comes with its own concentrations, including:

    • International Human Resources and Employment Relations
    • Ethics and Leadership
    • Employment and Labor Law

    The degree culminates in a capstone project where students demonstrate their mastery of HR issues in a written report that covers their professional interests. This project, which is personalized for each student, allows learners to showcase their knowledge of HR issues. Students can also show their ability to research and create HR strategies.

  2. Villanova University

    Villanova, PA




    Villanova University is one of the best-known schools from which to get an online human resources management degree. This school is an HR Certification Institute-approved provider as well as an SHRM preferred provider. It currently has one of the highest-rated master of science in human resource development programs in the country.

    Program Features

    At Villanova, students receive a world-class educational experience, right from the comfort of their own home. The program caters to working professionals. The degree requires 30 credit hours for completion and up to six credits can be transferred to Villanova from another accredited university. Enrollees take classes like:

    • Strategic Workforce Planning
    • HR Analytics
    • Financial and Human Capital

    Students are encouraged to study full-time, which allows them to graduate in less than two years. However, students may also choose to study part time. Students must also take and pass the SHRM Certification Exam, the SHRM Assurance of Learning Assessment, or the HRCI Certification Exam before graduating. This ensures that students who earn the master's degree at Villanova enter the workforce with the added benefit of either an HRCI or SHRM certificate.

  3. Colorado State University-Global Campus

    Aurora, CO




    Colorado State University-Global Campus (CSU-Global) is one of the three separate campuses in the Colorado State University System. This online school houses business programs, such as the human resources certification online program as well as graduate degrees. The CSU-Global master of human resource management degree is one of the best in the country.

    Program Features

    The program focuses on research, employee behavioral expectations, and strategies for resolving HR workplace issues. It was designed for working business professionals who need to get a graduate degree part-time. The degree requires 36 credit hours, which includes a capstone project, for completion. Students can finish this degree, depending on their studying schedule, within 2-5 years. This program also allows for transfer credits from a regionally accredited institution. Below we list some classes:

    • Effective Organizations: Theory and Practice
    • Managing Human Resources
    • Strategic Labor Relations

    The CSU-Global HRM capstone project is a culmination of the student’s entire educational journey at the school. Students create a written report that outlines, examines, and researches current HR issues in a business environment and drafts HR strategies to resolve those issues. Some students gain job opportunities based on their capstone project before graduating.

  4. Stony Brook University

    Stony Brook, NY




    Online adult education is taken seriously at the School of Professional Development, which is housed at Stony Brook University. The school is a pioneer in creating graduate HRM programs that are aligned with the SHRM’s HR Guidebook and Templates and has since been nationally recognized for its academic excellence.

    Program Features

    The master of science in human resource management at Stony Brook has currently gone through an update. It has been refined to reflect the six key areas as defined by the SHRM and is further improved by the rigorous standards the university sets for itself and its faculty. Take a look at a few of the stand-out classes:

    • Employee Relations and Labor Management
    • Job Evaluation, Compensation, and Benefits
    • Diversity and Global Issues in the Workplace
    • Employment Law and Policy

    The program requires 30 credit hours. There is also an optional opportunity for an internship. Students do not need to complete an internship to graduate, but it does give them 45 hours of real-world HR work experience. The internship may provide learners with a competitive advantage upon graduating from the program.

  5. Central Michigan University

    Mount Pleasant, MI




    Central Michigan University has one of the best online human resources master's degrees in the country. CMU offers an MBA with a concentration in human resource management. This program is best for business professionals who are interested in moving into an HR leadership position and want an MBA to help reach that goal.

    Program Features

    World-class faculty teach the classes, and instructors have terminal degrees and HR experience. The degree requires 36 credits, with nine credit hours comprising the human resource management concentration. Courses for the core curriculum include some of the following:

    • Global Economic Environment
    • Marketing-Based Management
    • Global Business and Sustainability

    Online students are treated to a nationally recognized virtual school, called Global Campus. MBA students, who take all of their courses online, are supported virtually by a dedicated online staff that can help them with all of their needs, including advising them on courses, setting a degree path, and finding a tutor.

  6. New York University

    New York, NY




    New York University, known as NYU, is an innovator of online education. The school’s internet portal has dozens of degrees available online, including the master of science in human resource management and development. This school is one of the few schools on this list that have a human resource online degree that comes with its own specializations. Students can complete the degree with no on-campus requirements.

    Program Features

    There are 24 core credits required for completion, and each specialization requires 16 credits. Students have up to five years to complete the degree, although many finish in as little as two years. This master of science in human resource management and development degree has four specializations:

    • Human Resource Management
    • Organizational Effectiveness
    • Learning, Development, and Executive Coaching
    • Global Talent Management

    An online degree from NYU features a similar educational experience an on-campus degree. The school strives to impart the same education to each of its students, which is why nearly all of its online courses are taught by the same instructors who teach it on campus. Along with tutoring and student services available online, working professionals receive a world-class education from home.

  7. University of Houston-Clear Lake

    Houston, TX




    The University of Houston at Clear Lake is one of the South’s best online schools for people interested in getting a graduate degree in human resources. The school, which has regional accreditation by the SACSCOC, is also accredited by AACSB for its business programs. Additionally, UHCL’s online graduate HR programs are certified by SHRM, a distinction only given to 150 institutions worldwide.

    Program Features

    This school is dedicated to excellence among HR professionals. It provides its master of human resource management entirely online and is taught by world-renown faculty. The program requires 42 credit hours and can be completed in as little as 18 months. Part-time students have up to five years to finish the requirements. Learners can look forward to classes like:

    • Employee Planning, Staffing, and Selection
    • Compensation and Benefits
    • Legal Environment of Human Resource Management
    • Training and Development

    UHCL is also proud to be one of the nation’s first competency-based HRM programs. This means that students move from one course to another after demonstrating competency in a subject. This is perfect for a student who has prior experience in HR issues and is looking to expand their knowledge of advanced subjects.

  8. Florida International University

    Miami, FL




    Florida International University has one of the most comprehensive, online graduate HR programs available today. The school, which is accredited by SACS-COC, is known for requiring excellence from both its students and teachers. It is one of the best schools for an HR degree in the country. The Master of Science in Human Resource Management is a substantial and rigorous degree program.

    Program Features

    The school has aligned itself with the SHRM’s HR Guidebook and Templates, ensuring that students have mastery over the subject matter while simultaneously preparing them for SHRM certification. This is a benefit that students who wish to be certified will not be able to pass up. The program requires 39 credits for completion. Seminars are included in the required credit hours and must be passed in order for a student to graduate. Additionally, students are also required to complete an internship, which can be completed in the student’s area of residence pending approval by the faculty. Classes include:

    • Labor Issues and Conflict Management
    • Reward Systems Management
    • Staffing Organizations

    The M.S.-HRM is a program that is for self-motivated and ambitious working professionals. It does not offer part-time study, so students are encouraged to apply only if they have the flexibility needed in order to fulfill all degree requirements. Advisors are also available to aid students in deciding if Florida International is right for them.

  9. Western Carolina University

    Cullowhee, NC




    Western Carolina University has one of the oldest human resources master’s degree programs in the country, having established its program in 1984. Now the school has brought that respected program online in the form of the M.S. in Human Resources. This school is regionally accredited by SACS-COC. The MSHR is a 36-credit hour program that can be earned entirely online.

    Program Features

    An internship with a designated organization is also required for graduation. It is designed specifically with working HR professionals in mind and so is best suited for students with prior HR knowledge. Students can finish this degree in as little as 18 months with full-time study. Part-time students can take up to two years to finish all the requirements needed. WCU also offers professionals the chance to transfer credits from a regionally accredited university, pending approval by the faculty. The curriculum includes classes such as:

    • Organizational Acumen for HR Leaders
    • HR Consulting
    • Coaching for Performance
    • Talent Acquisition and Retention

    At WCU, students will be partaking in a program that has been recognized as being aligned with the SHMR’s HR Guidebook and Templates. This distinction is reserved for only 201 institutions worldwide and is a mark of HR academic excellence. Serious HR professionals who are interested in moving into leadership positions will be well-served by this degree.

  10. The Catholic University of America

    Washington, DC




    The Catholic University of America houses its online HRM degree under the Metropolitan School of Professional Studies. This program is well-respected in the human resources field and is currently affiliated with HRA-NCA, SHRM and the Montgomery County Chapter for SHRM. It is regionally accredited by MSCHE.

    Program Features

    This school offers a Master of Arts in Human Resource Management, as well as a free and optional course so students can prepare for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP certification exams. The degree is highly sought after both for its first-class faculty and for its alignment to the SHRM’s HR Guidebook and Templates. This is the best degree for working professionals who are looking to move into top management positions in organizations. You'll jump into classes like:

    • Human Resource Management and Strategy
    • Managerial Decision-Making: Finance and Budget
    • Labor-Management Relations
    • Legal Environment of Human Resource Management

    Students will find that this degree is a practical and applications-based education. Simulations, lectures, team projects and other activities provide a diverse education that allows students to put into practice the concepts and skills they have learned. While this degree is challenging, it is no doubt a great way for HR professionals to understand how and why human capital affects the workplace.

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