Individuals skilled in human resources play a critical role in the success of business.
From talent acquisition to employee motivation, HR leads the way for enterprises big and small. Human resource managers, whom the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a positive job outlook of 9% over a 10-year span (2016-26), understand not only human resource programs but employment laws, compliance, and areas like conflict resolution, mediation, and analytics. To enter the field, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s in human resources proves requisite for certain managerial roles.
The salary for HR managers reflects the importance of what they do for companies. BLS reports HR managers make a median salary of $110,120, which is 65% more than the average salary for all occupations in the U.S. Understandably, competition looks to be strong as more qualified individuals enter the field. This said, credentials and experience could set you apart from the rest. BLS notes that candidates who hold a master’s degree in human resources or a master’s in human resource management should encounter the best job prospects.
Top 10 Best Master’s in Human Resources Degrees
||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
||Texas A & M University-College Station
||College Station, TX
||University of Wisconsin-Madison
||The University of Texas at Arlington
||West Lafayette, IN
||Case Western Reserve University
||New York, NY
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What kind of Master’s in Human Resources degree should you get?
For those that already have their HR bachelor’s, we’ve compiled a list of the top 40 masters degrees in human resource management with your needs in mind. The first thing we want to know, like you, is the bottom line: how much is this going to set me back? So we’ve included the annual tuition for each school right up front for you.
We’ve also included our College Choice Score, which is computed based on each school’s reputation in the field and its return on investment. The end result is a list of schools that balance cost, reputation, and, ultimately, what they can do for you and your unique goals. You can’t go wrong with any of them, of course, but these schools are leading the way.
How much do people make with a Master’s in Human Resources degree?
We have good news: HR managers tend to be paid handsomely for their work. Recent estimates suggest that the median annual wage for HR managers is right around $105,000, and the industry is projected to grow by approximately 9 percent between now and 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
You aren’t the only one interested in this field, though, so competition for positions can be stiffer than some other occupations. Many large companies have an internal HR staff, while other companies rely on external HR agencies to do that work for them.
Either way, you can expect other qualified candidates to be in the running as well. A good degree dedicated to the practice of human resource management can give you an edge over other candidates, and a graduate degree can give you an even greater advantage.
What can you do with a Master’s in Human Resources degrees?
Human Resource managers are paid to handle the nitty-gritty details of the particular company they happen to work for. They plan, manage, and enforce the policies and rules that govern a given organization. They are also responsible for recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and, yes, firing too.
HR managers also provide a vital link between the executive management personnel and the workforce, and this cuts both ways; the workforce needs a line of communication to executives, and executives need a line of communication to the workforce. HR to the rescue!
What are the best Master’s in Human Resources degrees?
College Choice’s ranking of the Best Master’s in Human Resources Degrees is designed to provide potential students a breakdown of the top schools at the nexus of quality education and return on investment. This ranking is based on several key metrics including academic reputation (30%), tuition (25%), financial aid offerings (25%), and early career salaries for graduates (20%). Our data was derived from publicly available sources including U.S. News & World Report, the National Center for Education Statistics, and PayScale.com.
See our rankings methodology page.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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.
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.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
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.
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.
The University of Texas at Arlington
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.
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.
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.
Case Western Reserve University
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.
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.
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.
Vanderbilt’s MBA in human and organizational performance (HOP) requires 62 credit hours to graduate. Through a modular system, students may tailor their curriculum to meet both their time commitment and career goals. With a modular system, students take seven-week courses followed by an exam week. Two “”mods”” equal one semester.
Students begin study with business fundamentals, including strategy, economics, finance, and marketing. The specialization course sequence, meanwhile, builds upon prior and newly acquired business knowledge to master such areas as human capital, talent management, and analytics. Note that the specialization requires 12 credits, but for a deeper dive, students may take up to 20 credits.
University of Rhode Island
The URI MS in labor relations and human resources consists of 12 courses for a total of 36 credits. Five courses comprise the program’s core multidisciplinary curriculum, leaving seven for the student to further explore a specialization like labor relations. In the program’s final semester of matriculation, all students take a capstone seminar that pulls together all competencies.
URI’s program aligns with the curriculum standards established by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). URI considers prospective students from any discipline; it need not be business-related. Real-world experience in HR, labor, or a leadership role, meanwhile, is not a requirement, but it could help an applicant’s case.
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI
With the 36-credit master of human resources and labor relations (MHRLR) from MSU, students take on 12 courses that explore seven core knowledge areas in HR. For example, in talent acquisition/deployment, students explore what staffing involves, from recruitment to hiring decisions. In employment law, learners inspect HR policies and weigh them against the labor laws. As future HR professionals, students must decide on what complies and/or violates regulation, policy, or law when it comes to hiring, termination, and retention.
The majority of MHRLR students complete their degree in two years’ time; however, students who take four courses each semester for three consecutive semesters can graduate in little over a year.
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Students of UNM’s MHRIR degree graduate with a comprehensive understanding of six core concept areas, from HR management to labor relations to metrics. Students can choose between taking a full- or part-time course load, with part-timers needing approximately double the time or three to four years to complete all MHRIR degree requirements.
Today’s program builds upon the tradition of a UMN’s graduate program in HR and industrial relations by adding another layer for cultural barriers and achieving key goals even on a global scale. To this point, enrollment today of the MA-HRIR at UMN represents 14 countries from around the world.
UofL’s MS in human resources and organizational development (MSHROD) helps students master such competencies as invention, lead change, and outcome evaluation. Through core and elective courses, students learn how to lead at the local, national, and global levels and foster workplace learning. In total, the program requires students earn 33 credit hours for the thesis option and 36 for the non-thesis. Once admitted, students may submit up to six transfer credits for consideration by the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies.
Electives allow students to tailor their MSHROD degree to best match their career ambitions. Courses cover such topics as global HR development, performance metrics, and diversity and inclusion.
University of Maryland-College Park
College Park, MD
Through the MBA in management and organization (M&O), students explore the dual objectives of the specialization: creating value for the organization while cultivating performance and employee satisfaction. Students can tailor their program with electives in the areas of entrepreneurship, HR, and strategy. For this specialization, students find that courses prove relevant to most every industry. For example, in Networks and Influence, students explore ways to recognize and seize opportunity around them.
The MBA at UMD welcomes over 1,000 students each year, with the majority attending on a part-time basis. Approximately 16% of all MBA students take on a full course load.
Loyola University Chicago
Loyola’s MS in HR prepares students for career advancement and taking on more leadership duties in the field. The program aligns with the guidelines set forth by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which defines the curriculum standards for U.S. schools.
Students can pursue the MS in human resources on a full- or part-time schedule. Regardless, students with three years of experience take 12 courses total while those with less experience must also complete an internship. Among the required courses, students explore such topics as compensation, HR management on a global scale, staffing, and business ethics. Quarters begin August, November, February, May.
OSU offers the master of human resource management (MHRM) program for full- and part-time students. Regardless of track, class sizes remain small to promote new relationships among peers and faculty and allow for more personalized instruction. Students work together in teams to build interpersonal skills and promote collaborative thinking.
In addition to part- or full-time study, students may choose between two formats of learning modality: 14-week sessions for three credits or 7-week sessions for 1.5. For the latter, students take two courses per semester. For convenience, OSU offers all MHRM courses in the evening. Course topics include labor relations, fundamentals of business excellence, and staffing.
DePaul’s 36-credit MS in human resources prepares students to become experts in the areas of benefits and compensation, labor relations, talent management, training, and HR information systems. In total, MS in human resources learners complete 12 courses total: five in the core curriculum, four in HR electives, and three in business electives. Upon matriculation, students have six years to graduate.
For business electives, students explore such areas as operations management, project management, and the economics involved in decision-making. These topics circle back to human capital and the challenges of recruitment and retention. DePaul accepts students into the MS in human resources program every quarter.
The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga
The 33-credit hour MS in management and HR from UK combines business strategy with leadership development and HR. The degree, which students may complete on a part- or full-time basis, concentrates on three focal areas of HR: personal leadership, managerial business skills, and strategic HR management. The core courses explore such topics as diverse as data-driven decision-making to rewards management.
This MS program welcomes students from various industries and work backgrounds. Students may choose to progress through the program at a pace that works for them, with an accelerated one-year program requiring students take 11, 12, and 10 credits in the fall, spring, and summer.
Florida International University
With FIU’s MS in human resource management (MSHRM), professionals learn to develop a strategic vision when it comes to staffing an enterprise, whether a large corporation or an up-and-coming startup. In addition, the program explores ways to cultivate a corporate culture that works in today’s society and on a global scale and accounts for organizational change.
A part-time student can complete all MSHRM requirements in two years’ time, while full-time students who take four classes per semester can finish the 38-credit program within a year. To accommodate the schedules of working professionals, the MSHRM schedules classes on Saturdays in four-hour blocks.
The MBA in human resources at UH requires students complete 36 credits, including 20 in the core curriculum and 16 in the HRM specialization (one of seven available concentrations). Students complete a class in their chosen concentration once every eight weeks, with a full-time schedule leading to program completion in 12 months.
The program welcomes both seasoned professionals and those looking to enter the HRM field. Courses in the HRM concentration cover such fundamental topics as legal considerations, talent acquisition, and compensation and benefits. The one-year program supports career acceleration for HR professionals. Hybrid courses features classes in the evening and a “flipped classroom,” where lectures are available ahead of class meetings.
Full-time students can complete the 36-credit master of human resources at USU in just over a year. A typical plan of study begins with fall and spring semesters of 27 credits total followed by a two-credit summer internship. The final semester reduces the course load to two courses in advanced strategy and HR policy.
Applicants typically bring a business background to the program; however, this is not a requirement. For those who lack a business degree, they may still apply but first take five prep courses to establish the business acumen needed to proceed with the graduate-level work. These courses cover basics in accounting, Excel, finance, and marketing.
Pepperdine offers the 39-credit MS in human resources on a part- and full-time basis. The full-time program of study begins in the fall and the part-time in the spring. Students on the full-time accelerated track can finish all degree requirements in one year.
The MS in HR focuses on the development of leadership skills, particularly in such areas as values-based change management and applying HR theory to real-world cases. Pepperdine’s Graziadio Business School features small class sizes (26 students on average) and an enrollment of over 2,000 students. There are 11 MBA program totals, nine certificate programs, and seven master’s programs.
Towson’s 36-credit MS in human resource development (HRD) program prepares students for a professional career in HR management or administration. Students receive a core overview of HR with the flexibility to choose courses that speak to their career goals. For example, one student may choose more courses in HR analytics while another may focus on organizational change.
Students may choose from one of four concentrations, each focused on a different aspect of HR: management, psychology, leadership, and training. Admitted students with three or more years of relevant managerial experience can waive the program’s introductory course. Students on average take three years of studying in Towson, Maryland, to complete the master’s degree.