Human Resources Degree Overview
Companies depend on their human resources department to oversee their most valuable asset – their employees, workers, staff. HR staff members handle a multitude of responsibilities critical to workplace operations and employee well-being. Here are just a few examples:
- Recruiting new workers
- Maintaining legal paperwork
- Issuing paychecks
- Explaining benefits
- Dealing with performance issues
But pursuing a career in human resources offers rewards beyond the satisfaction of helping workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), human resources managers posted a median yearly salary of $121,220 in 2020. Job opportunities likewise appear promising, with the BLS projecting 6% growth in employment of human resources managers between 2019-2029.
What is an HR Degree?
Earning an HR degree demonstrates to potential employers that you have the training necessary to be a valuable part of their human resources team. HR degree programs provide a solid foundation in critical areas such as business, communications, and human relations.
Many schools offer human resources degree programs on-campus, online, or through hybrid arrangements. An undergraduate HR degree opens doors to basic positions. People aspiring to leadership positions or human resources jobs with greater responsibility find that a graduate degree increases their options and the strength of their candidacy.
What is Human Resource Management?
Human resource managers oversee the activities of the entire HR department. They meet with company leaders to identify workforce needs, such as hiring more employees for a certain department or reskilling workers so the business remains competitive.
Large organizations often hire multiple HR managers. Each takes charge of a specific aspect of the department, such as legal compliance or employee engagement. HR managers at smaller companies typically assume a wider scope of responsibilities.
Some common managerial titles include:
- Median salary in 2020: $121,220
- Projected job growth from 2019-2029: 6%
- Median salary in 2020: $125,130
- Projected job growth from 2019-2029: 3%
- Median salary in 2020: $115,640
- Projected job growth from 2019-2029: 7%
(All statistics courtesy of the BLS.)
Top 5 Schools Offering Human Resources Degrees
Whether you’re looking to pursue undergraduate or graduate studies in human resources, plenty of outstanding schools offer programs. Here are some to consider:
Through its Carlson School of Management, this public institution offers both bachelor’s and master’s programs in human resources and industrial relations. Undergraduates complete core courses in the following:
- Organizational behavior
- Union organizing
- Human resource analytics
Graduation requirements also include eight HR electives plus a senior capstone on personal and organizational leadership. The master’s program builds a multi-disciplinary foundation in economics, psychology, business, ethics, and law. Employers obviously value this graduate degree – 91% of the 2020 graduating class accepted employment offers within six months of earning their diploma. Furthermore, the starting base salary for the class of 2020 was $80,000.
Capella gives students interested in an online human resources degree great control over their educational path. Choose the FlexPath learning format to take one or two courses at a time and complete as many as you want in 12 weeks for one, flat tuition fee.
Or, opt for the GuidedPath format. While you’ll pick when and where you learn, weekly assessment deadlines and message-board discussions with faculty and other students keeps learning structured and engaging. Capella’s BS in Business specialization in HR Management, MBA specialization in HR Management, and MS in Human Resource Management all fully align with the Society for Human Resource Management’s HR Curriculum Guidebook and Templates. SHRM is recognized as a leading professional organization in the HR industry.
Another program offering multiple format options is Webster’s Master of Arts in Human Resources Development. Students can study in a traditional classroom environment at more than 40 U.S. locations in major cities and military bases. Or, they can pursue the degree through online studies.
Want the best of both worlds? Try a hybrid arrangement. Regardless of the delivery method, students learn from the same faculty members who practice in the field. Graduates are ready to take what they learned in class and apply it to an assortment of work environments.
This regional campus of the prestigious Rutgers University offers HR programs through its School of Management and Labor Relations. The bachelor’s degree program in human resource management draws heavily from economics, psychology, sociology, and business strategy.
In addition to core areas pertinent to developing a career in human resources, students can take classes covering timely special topics such as diversity and inclusion, social media, and managing the 21st century workforce.
Rutger’s master’s program in human resources management has an international reputation for excellence in the areas of strategic human resource management, global employment strategies, and new approaches to worker involvement. The university also conducts an online master’s program for HR professionals with at least four years of experience who are looking to advance their career.
Through its department of human relations, this public institution conducts a program leading to a Master of Human Resources Studies. The degree attracts both people without prior experience in the discipline as well as those with HR work experience looking to further their education.
Graduation requirements include six credit hours of human relations and three of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Students leave with a greater appreciation of employee behavior and how to create a welcoming environment in the corporate world.
Human Resources Cost vs. Benefit Analysis
Before pursuing any form of higher education, it pays to take a hard look at what is involved. Only you can decide whether the outcome is worth what you’ll need to invest in time and money to earn your degree.
Human Resources Career Salary
According to PayScale.com, the average salary for an HR professional is $57,862. Realize, though, that this figure encompasses a variety of positions, experience levels, and educational attainments.
Breaking things down by degree, PayScale reports the following:
- Associate Degree in Human Resources Management, average yearly salary $53,000
- Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources, average yearly salary $54,000
- Master’s Degree in Human Resources, average yearly salary $65,000
- MBA in Human Resources Management, average yearly salary $69,000
Aspiring HR professionals also may be interested in seeing averages for various positions. Here are BLS figures for some of the discipline’s most common careers:
- Human resources assistant, average annual salary $44,170
- Human resources specialists, median annual salary $63,490
- Compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists, median annual salary $67,190
- Human resources managers, median annual salary $121,220
How Long Does It Take to Earn a Human Resources Degree?
Like other standard undergraduate programs of about 120 credits, earning a bachelor’s degree in human resources takes most students four years of full-time study. Accelerated programs, credit from Advanced Placement Exams, attending summer school, or already possessing an associate degree can reduce this time.
Realize that not all classes in an undergraduate program in human resources are devoted to HR topics. Students must fulfill general education requirements along the way, as well.
Earning a Master’s in HR requires 36-48 credits, depending on the school. This translates to 1-2 years of full-time study. Many people seeking a graduate HR degree are adult learners with career and family obligations. They often opt for part-time enrollment, which increases the length to 3 or more years. Part-time students may find online human resources degrees attractive because of their flexible scheduling options.
Please note that MBA programs with an emphasis in HR require 48-60 credits. Such a degree typically takes longer to complete than a Master’s in Human Resources.
How Much Does It Cost to Earn an HR degree?
Various factors influence how much it costs to earn a human resources degree, and institutions vary widely in what they charge as well as in how much financial aid they offer.
Attending a public university in your state of residency often helps to keep expenses down. Likewise, some students take courses, like general education credits, at a community college before transferring to a four-year program to save money, especially if they can live at home instead of paying for room and board.
Data from U.S. News and World Report shows the average tuition and fees per year to earn a bachelor’s degree as:
- Public, in-state: $9,687
- Public, out-of-state: $21,184
- Private, $35,087
Some students opt to earn an online human resources degree as a way to save money by eliminating housing and transportation costs. An online human resources bachelor’s degree runs anywhere from $43,000-$64,000 in total tuition ($360-$500 per credit).
Accelerated study programs offered by some institutions may help with saving money by enabling students to take as many courses as they want at a given time for one, flat price.
Tuition and fees for master’s HR programs likewise vary considerably. For instance, here are the fees at the previously mentioned master’s program in human resources and industrial relations at the University of Minnesota:
- Roughly $10,540 per semester (plus fees) for full-time study for residents
- Roughly $17,490 (plus fees) per semester for non-residents
- Whether a resident or non-resident, part-time students pay $1,066 per credit (and fees based on the number of credits taken).
Capella University, on the other hand, charges tuition of $435-$805 per credit in its master’s programs. Its FlexPath option runs $2,400-$2,800 each 12-week session for as many classes as you wish to take within that time frame.
All students concerned about paying for an HR degree should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). That information is used to determine what you may qualify for in terms of student loans and grants.
For people currently working in the field of HR, it pays to look into reimbursement from your employer. Some companies encourage employees to seek higher degrees because the organization benefits from what they learn.
Pros and Cons of Pursuing a Human Resources Degree
Before pursuing an HR degree, it pays to weigh the negatives and positives.
HR professionals make a difference both to the whole organization and to individuals who work there. If you like influencing company culture, interacting with others, and helping employees progress along their career paths, human resources can provide a great deal of job satisfaction.
If you’re interested in progressing up the ladder in an HR department, your employer may require an HR degree. Getting one demonstrates your commitment to the discipline and signifies a strong foundation in relevant HR topics.
Earning an HR degree qualifies the recipient for a greater range of well-paying jobs in the discipline.
Being a student involves devoting an appropriate amount of time to studying and taking classes. People with a wealth of other obligations may find it difficult to add school to the mix.
While many students look at pursuing an HR degree as an investment in their future, the fact remains that shelling out money for tuition, books, and the like can pose a financial hardship.
An HR degree sets up the recipient for a career in human resources. Undergraduates who aren’t sure if that career route truly suits their interests may want to consider majoring in a broader discipline, like management or marketing, and pursuing graduate studies in HR at a later date if they discover they want to make that their career path.
It depends on the type of HR position desired. Employers generally consider a bachelor’s degree in human resources or business sufficient for entry-level or general jobs. To be competitive for leadership positions such as human resources manager, applicants usually need a master’s degree in human resources or an MBA with a concentration in human resources.
HR classes draw from a variety of disciplines, including business, law, communications, and psychology. Depending on their background and aptitude, students may find one or more of these areas challenging.
According to Payscale.com, the average salary for an HR professional is $57,862. Realize, though, that this figure covers a range of educational and experience levels. People with master’s degrees and an extensive work history often find positions paying well over $100,000 per year.
Someone with only a high school diploma may land a position performing basic office tasks in an HR department. Modern employers, though, prefer to hire people with some college experience or an associate degree whenever possible for these roles. Job ads tend to require a bachelor’s degree or higher for the majority of HR positions.
An organization’s HR staff performs activities that deal with human capital. They assist workers through actions such as explaining benefits, issuing paychecks, and serving as a knowledge base regarding company policies. They help the business fulfill its workforce needs through recruiting and hiring new employees, setting performance standards, identifying training needs, and ensuring compliance with employment laws.