Companies depend on their human resources department to handle their most valuable asset – their employees. Professionals with a human resources degree have always been important to organizations for hiring, onboarding, paycheck distribution, and benefits.
Recent events such as COVID-19 and social justice movements have expanded the need for people with an advanced HR degree. Companies need experts on:
- Creating and implementing policies on remote work
- Workplace safety
- Medical leave
- Employee mental health
- Legal compliance
Completing a human resources master’s program develops industry knowledge and critical thinking skills needed in a complex, modern workplace.
What is an Online Master’s Degree in Human Resources?
An online master’s degree in human resources prepares students for leadership and decision-making positions within a business. The best thing about obtaining an HR degree online is that students can continue to work and parent while going to school.
A graduate degree helps you stand out in the job market by showing commitment to the field. Depending on the number of courses taken each term, an online master’s degree in human resources could take less than a year to complete.
Schools That Offer Online Degrees in Human Resources
Online learning has removed the need to live within driving distance of the institution. Students can now digitally explore colleges across the country to select the one that best fits their lifestyle.
The following schools offer affordable, online graduate degrees in human resources. Please note the perfect school for each prospective student varies based on personal needs.
The George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology offers MA degrees in human resources management and human resources development.
Webster is a private, non-profit institution with a history dating back to 1915. While its main campus is located in the St. Louis suburb of Webster Groves, its student body spans the globe.
Veterans should also check out Webster since the school offers reduced rates to military members and has earned national recognition for its dedication to advancing the education of those who serve our country.
Graduates of this online master of science in human resources management program enter the workforce with an international and diverse focus. They bring future employers strategies to maximize productivity, manage change, and achieve competitiveness in an increasingly complex and ever-changing world.
Globally recognized as a top-notch institution, Boston University receives a plethora of applications each year. Students no longer need to travel to Boston to study since online programs allow students to minimize on-campus living costs while maintaining their current career.
Boston University also boasts a billion-dollar fundraising effort for financial aid and other key initiatives.
Through Penn State World Campus, students can pursue a master of professional studies in human resources and employment relations. The program focuses on HR and labor, but students can choose a concentration in line with their career aspirations. Areas of specialization include:
- Benefits and compensation
- Labor and collective bargaining
- Employment and labor law
- Staffing, training, and development
- Ethics and leadership
- International human resources and employment relations
- Organization and strategy of labor unions
As Pennsylvania’s largest public university, Penn State educates over 100,000 students each year, and nearly 20,000 of them study online. Students love the asynchronous schedule in the HR master’s program because it allows maximum flexibility between studies, family, and work obligations.
The Fox School of Business at Temple offers a master of science in human resource management online. Virtual technology includes on-demand videos, live class sessions, and discussion board conversations with classmates and faculty.
The flexible timeline allows students to earn the degree in as little as 13 months. Studying from home can be more affordable than taking classes on campus, and loans and merit-based scholarships can also increase the affordability of this human resources master’s program.
The master of science in human resource management program at Moravian College aligns itself with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) HR curriculum guide, meaning that it teaches topics this industry-leading organization deems important for students to master.
Besides a thorough exploration of how to maximize an organization’s human capital in order to obtain a competitive advantage, the program offers special concentrations in leadership or learning and performance management.
Studying online increases the affordability of this private, liberal arts college. Classes begin in six different sessions each year, so students have plenty of opportunity to start their HR degree on their timeline.
What Can I Do with a Master’s Degree in Human Resources?
Earning a master’s degree in human resources can lead to many different careers. HR graduates develop strategies to attract top talent or lead the payroll department. They could focus on employee training or develop corporate initiatives to create safer and more diverse workplaces.
Master’s in Human Resources Salaries
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)1 shows the median pay for a human resources manager in 2019 was $116,720 per year. In addition to educational level, factors such as years of experience and industry can influence pay. Positions in professional, technical, and scientific services tend to rank among the most lucrative.
HR Management Job Projections
While projections do not guarantee job growth, the future appears promising for HR management grads. The BLS projects employment of human resource managers to grow 6% between 2019-2029, faster than the average for all occupations. In 2019, 165,200 people were classified under the occupational title “human resources manager.” By 2029, this number is projected to rise to 175,600.
Potential Master’s in Human Resources Management Careers
With a graduate HR degree in hand, a student is prepared to apply for a range of opportunities. Here is an overview of a few of those career paths:
|Career||Median Annual Salary||Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)||About the Position|
|Human Resources Manager||$116,720||6%||HR managers serve as a link between a company and its employees. They plan and implement hiring, onboarding, benefits, and legal compliance. Their knowledge makes them a point of reference within the organization.|
|Compensation & Benefits Manager||$122,270||3%||Compensation and benefits managers oversee, plan, and develop programs related to employee payment. Their expertise includes wages, incentives, insurance, and retirement.|
|Human Resources Specialist||$61,920||7%||Human resources specialists recruit talent, evaluate candidates, and handle onboarding concerns such as paperwork and training.|
|Training and Development Specialist||$61,210||9%||Training and development specialists work with management to determine what skills employees need to develop in order to keep the organization growing and competitive.|
Earning a Master’s Degree in Human Resources Management
Completing a graduate program in human resources and learning HR fundamentals makes students ready for any business. Focusing on a specialty area, such as employee development or labor management, can make an HR graduate even more appealing to a company.
Types of HR Management Degree Programs
The schools listed above show examples of the different master’s degree in human resources options. Common degrees include:
- Master of arts in human resources management
- Master of science in human resources management
- Master of arts in human resources development
- Master of professional studies in human resource studies
All of these degrees prepare students for advancement in an HR career. Many of the classes will align with specific careers, and some degrees may require the completion of a thesis or capstone project.
Graduate HR Management Degree Coursework
Programs generally require 32-48 credit hours to graduate, and specific classes can differ by institution. The following is a list of some of the most common courses students encounter when seeking a human resources management master’s degree online:
- Human and organizational behavior
- Financial management/economics/accounting
- Training and development
- Employment law
- Labor relations management
- Project management
- Career management
- Quantitative and qualitative decision-making
- Managing employees, groups, and teams
- Strategic business
- Diversity in the workforce
- Organizational strategy, planning, and responsibility
- Global talent management
Skills Learned in an HR Management Program
Whether it’s career advancement or continuing education, an online human resources degree program provides students with invaluable skills. Some of those skills include:
- Interpersonal skill
- Understanding of HR tools and programs
- Organizational skills
Choosing the Best Online Master’s Degree in HR Management
As students weigh the decision about pursuing an HR master’s degree, plenty of factors will influence that decision.
- Choose a respected program that meets their career goals
- Find a degree program flexible enough to meet personal and professional needs and scheduling
- Find the best ways to pay for the program
Online vs. On Campus HR Management Degrees
Depending on the institution, HR management degrees can be obtained on-campus, online, or a hybrid of both. The lack of a campus commute and flexible schedule make online learning a desirable choice for students who already juggle personal and professional obligations.
Choosing an institution with regional accreditation from an agency approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)11 provides peace of mind that the place has met established educational standards.
Prospective students should look for programmatic accreditation as well. Many human resources programs receive accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)12.
Likewise, a college or university may also boast that it aligns its curricula with standards set by The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)13 or the HR Certification Institute (HRCI).14 Employers recognize these two groups as leaders in the HR industry, which makes a degree with this accreditation more attractive for students looking to improve their career.
Applying to Masters in HR Management Programs
Entrance requirements vary by institution, and prospective students should familiarize themselves with the factors schools take into consideration when admitting students.
- Undergraduate degree, including GPA and major (Note that individuals frequently come into a human resources master’s program with a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business, or a similar discipline. Candidates from other fields may have more of a challenge getting accepted or may need to take some additional classes to fill in gaps before starting the master’s coursework.)
- Work experience
- Scores on graduate exams such as the GMAT or the GRE
- Industry certifications achieved
Paying for a Master’s in HR Management
Prospective HR graduate students have many options when it comes to financing an HR management degree.
- Complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as well as any other financial aid paperwork your school may require. Information presented is used to determine what you may qualify for in terms of student loans and grants.
- If currently employed, look into corporate reimbursement for higher education. Some employers will contribute money toward seeking a higher degree because the organization benefits from what their employees learn.
- Compare costs for obtaining the HR degree online vs. on-campus. Many students find the cost of a graduate education is less if pursued online. Learning at home instead of commuting or moving into campus housing can cut expenses.
- With a flexible program, continuing to hold a job while pursuing a master’s in human resources degree can help lessen the financial burden.
Scholarships for Master’s in HR Management Students
Scholarships are a great way to finance graduate studies, because the money does not need to be paid back! Civic, cultural, professional groups, and schools themselves sometimes offer scholarships, so don’t forget to ask!
A few scholarship opportunities for students interested in pursuing a master’s degree in human resources management are listed below:
Current SHRM members (professional or student) can be considered for up to $5,000 toward graduate studies. The online application asks for material such as a resume, transcripts, a letter of recommendation, and short answers to questions about academic, volunteer, and work experience.
Awarded by Zonta International, women of any age pursuing a degree in human resources management can apply for $2,000 scholarships aimed at helping women progress into leadership positions.
Based on factors such as GPA, participation in school programs, and a 100-word essay, this $2,000 award recognizes outstanding student members of the SHRM.
Career Resources for Human Resources Managers
For more information on human resource degree programs and career options, see the following:
The degree qualifies the recipient for HR careers involving leadership, management, decision-making, and strategic planning. Individuals may choose to be generalists involved in many aspects of HR or focus on a specialty, such as recruitment or labor relations.
The choice to pursue a graduate degree is a highly individual decision based on factors such as career aspirations and current life situation. In general, higher education expands roles for which you are qualified – including positions with more responsibility and pay.
The length depends on the pace you choose. Some programs can take as little as a year to complete. Others will take two years or more.
Besides building an arsenal of general knowledge about HR operations and perhaps specialization in a particular area, students become better at communicating, leading groups, developing connections with employees, organizing, and making decisions.
A good GPA and a true passion for HR impresses any employer. Practical experience turns heads, so build a work history through employment and/or internships. Membership in professional associations can aid in networking, which could help with the job search later on.
- Webster University
- Boston University
- Penn State University
- Temple University
- Moravian College
- BLS: Human Resources Managers
- BLS: Compensation and Benefits Managers
- BLS: Human Resources Specialists
- BLS: Training and Development Managers
- Council for Higher Education Accreditation
- Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
- Society for Human Resource Management
- HR Certification Institute (HRCI)