Best Master’s in Human Resources Degrees 2021

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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.

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Top 10 Best Master’s in Human Resources Degrees

Rank School Location
1 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
2 Texas A & M University-College Station College Station, TX
3 University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI
4 Villanova University Villanova, PA
5 The University of Texas at Arlington Arlington, TX
6 Purdue University West Lafayette, IN
7 Cornell University Ithaca, NY
8 Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH
9 Baruch College New York, NY
10 Marquette University Milwaukee, WI


  • 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.

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.

  1. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    Champaign, IL



    The master’s in human resources and industrial relations (MHRIR) program at U of I consists of 12 courses and requires at least 48 credit hours of coursework. Full-time students, who take four courses at once, can complete the MHRIR program in three semesters.

    The curriculum requires students take two courses: one on employment relations systems and one on the specific ways to apply quantitative methods to both labor and employment relations. Admitted MHRIR students may choose between a thesis and non-thesis option. For the thesis option, learners replace eight elective credits with a research paper and oral exam. To qualify for the MHRIR program at U of I, students do not need prior work experience.

  2. Texas A & M University-College Station

    College Station, TX



    The 37-credit non-thesis MS in human resource management at Texas A&M focuses on four core skill areas: conceptual, technical, interpersonal, and communication. Students who attend full-time can finish all requirements in 18 months. The curriculum is broad-based, with courses covering such topics as HR analytics, talent management, and behavior in organizations. As a prerequisite, applicants should possess a general background in business.

    To apply, prospective students must hold a four-year degree from a college/university recognized of recognized good standing. For the class of 2018, admitted students held an average 3.47 GPA and hailed from various backgrounds of study, including sociology, finance, and political science.

  3. University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Madison, WI



    The UW MBA in strategic HR management boasts a core curriculum in operations, finance, marketing, accounting, and strategy and pairs these areas of business with a human resource specialization. Students gain the skills to apply HR essentials within a business model, learning how to handle situations involving compensation, staffing, negotiations, and change management.

    The core curriculum of this MBA combines coursework with applied learning experiences in HR. An integral part of the UW MBA program is affording students the opportunity to use the skills they learn immediately through real-world experiences. The capstone of the program, called an integrated company analysis or ICA, requires students to collaborate with an interdisciplinary team of peers on a common HR problem.

  4. Villanova University

    Villanova, PA



    At Villanova, the MS in human resource management (HRD) balances theory and practicum, preparing students to compete immediately in an ever-changing field. Students learn not only how to navigate employment law and regulations, but how to negotiate, mediate, resolve, and retain, depending on the situation.

    Villanova’s HRD master’s program uses an eight-week format that allows students to concentrate on one content area at a time. Founded in 1980, the graduate program in HRD continuously develops in order to keep pace with the times and industry changes in finance, technology, public administration, retail, and education. Villanova accepts new students on a rolling basis for admission in the fall, spring, or summer.

  5. The University of Texas at Arlington

    Arlington, TX



    The MS in human resource management at UTA offers students a complementary program that combines general business knowledge with a concentration in HR management. In the 30- to 36-credit program, students study theory, research methods, and practical applications as it pertains to HR, from employee selection to compensation and benefits to HR law, analytics, and consulting.

    The curriculum of this HRM master’s involves 18 hours of required work in human resource management, plus six hours focused on research and statistical methods for decision-making and problem-solving. Students may choose between a thesis (30 credits) and non-thesis plan of study (36 credits). Full-time students can graduate in two years.

  6. Purdue University

    West Lafayette, IN



    Purdue’s 48-credit hour MS in human resource management (MSHRM) combines coursework in HR, management, and organizational behavior studies with experiential learning. Twelve of the program’s credits cover business core topics, with 16 devoted to the MSHRM emphasis. Topics covered include industrial relations, staffing tools, and HR systems.

    The experiential learning project accounts for 16 credits as well. Over a 16-week periods, students work on teams of five or six to solve a problem concerning human capital. At Purdue, the class profile for the MSHRM of late has averaged 25 years old with four years of work experience and a above 3.35 GPA.

  7. Cornell University

    Ithaca, NY



    The masters in human resource studies (MILR) at Cornell University requires 48 credit hours, the equivalent of 16 courses. The courses break down to six courses in the core curriculum, six in the concentration, and four in electives. As for the concentration in human resources and organizations (HR&O), students study content areas focused on organizational success and employee well-being. Courses zero in on leadership, how to resolve conflicts, and the decision-making process.

    Cornell encourages prospective students to visit the campus prior to applying to form an accurate idea of what awaits them in Ithaca, New York. During the visit, students can also interact with current students, faculty, and staff, as well as audit a class.

  8. Case Western Reserve University

    Cleveland, OH



    The MS in positive organization development and change (MPOD) aims to strike a curriculum balance that addresses both relational and human factors involved in change. The MPOD program consists of five week-long residencies along with one tour overseas. To accommodate the schedules of as many MS students as possible, Case Western spaces these experiences 10 to 12 weeks apart.

    This MPOD program emphasizes technology and ways to apply it when it comes to expansion and growth, accelerated change, social entrepreneurship, and organization on a global scale. Among the outcomes students gain by graduation include learning how to align organizational strengths, address weaknesses and turn them positive, recognize effective leaders, and achieve economic well-being for an enterprise.

  9. Baruch College

    New York, NY



    The 20-month executive MS in human resource management (HRM) from Baruch College in New York City offers a modern curriculum and a program structure flexible enough to accommodate executive schedules. The program requires applicants bring at least five years of work experience and a drive to accelerate their careers through an advanced degree. The average student in Baruch College’s MS in HRM, however, possesses 10 years of experience.

    Core courses cover such topics as managing people and organizations, managerial statistics, and labor relations. Students learn as part of a cohort, and can complete all 30 credits in five trimesters, through evening classes on Monday and Wednesday.

  10. Marquette University

    Milwaukee, WI



    The MS in human resources at Marquette welcomes both entry-level and seasoned professionals who wish to refine their skills in HR, specifically leveraging human talent and cultivating organizational success. The core curriculum focuses on organizational strategy, with each student allowed to choose a concentration that matches their career goals. In the case of the strategic HR leadership specialization, students ready for roles of advanced leadership, which require a different level of decision-making, initiative, and partnership.

    The 30-credit program splits into nine core credits, 12 in the chosen specialization, and nine electives. For the strategic HR leadership focus, expect to take courses in change leadership, coaching and development, and managing innovation within an organization.

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.

CareerLowest 10%Median Annual SalaryHighest 10%
Human Resources ManagersLess than $68,300$116,720More 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.

  • Nursing Ethics

    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.

  • Nursing Research

    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.

  • Clinical Placement

    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.

Scholarships for Human Resources

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.

  • SHRM Graduate Scholarships

    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.

    Amount: $5,000

  • Lucerna HR Scholarship

    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.

    Amount: $1,000

  • Walter Vaughn Excellence in Human Resources Scholarship

    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.

    Amount: $2,500

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