HR Degree and Education Options

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Qualified human resources professionals are able to effectively manage and motivate employees in order to bring out their best performance. But being qualified is a tricky prospect, as human resource management strategies are always changing and evolving.

One of the challenges of today’s businesses is establishing HR teams capable of addressing the opportunities and challenges of the evolving, modern business environment and attracting and retaining the best and brightest talent.

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Featured Programs:

Capella University offers100% online DBA, PhD, MS, and BS degrees in Human Resources Management

Benedictine University offers an Online Bachelor of Arts in Management in Human Resources Management

University of Scranton's offers an Online Master of Science in Human Resources Program

Saint Joseph's University offers an MS in Strategic Human Resource Management Program

If recent job posts serve as a reliable indicator of requirements for human resource management jobs, then it is clear that companies are, more often than not, requiring their human resource management professionals to possess a bachelor’s degree and even a master’s degree, particularly for senior-level leaders like HR directors and labor relations managers.

It is possible—although rare—to find an entry-level job in the HR field without at least a bachelor’s degree. Anything less than a bachelor’s degree can prove to be a significant limiting factor when it comes to job advancement.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Human Resources

Because human resources departments operate in a business environment, most bachelor’s degrees in HR are found in a college or university’s school of business. Human resource programs offered in other schools/departments may lack the business emphasis required of today’s HR professionals.

Voluntary standards currently exist for HR degree programs as a way to assure students that the program they choose adequately prepares them for the challenges of today’s modern human resources environment.

The Society of Human Resource Management has developed the SHRM Human Resource Curriculum: An Integrated Approach to HR Education, which details a list of HR topics that should be part of any comprehensive HR undergraduate program. Although not universally implemented, a number of colleges now use this publication to determine if their program curriculum is aligned with current HR industry needs and legislative issues (Set forth below, with slight modifications, are recommended content areas developed by SHRM and originally published in the SHRM Human Resource Curriculum: An Integrated Approach to HR Education.):

  • Compensation, benefits
  • Employee/labor relations
  • Employment law/job analysis/job design
  • Ethics
  • Globalization
  • HR’s role in organizations
  • Managing a diverse workforce
  • Organizational development
  • Outcomes: metrics and measurement of HR
  • Performance management
  • Staffing: recruitment and selection
  • Strategic HR
  • Training and development
  • Workforce planning and talent management
  • Workplace health, safety, and security

These topics may be integrated into a number of required courses and may not appear separately in a program’s course list.

Bachelor’s degrees in human resources or human resource management may be designed as:

  • Bachelor of Science (BS)
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA)

Foundational courses of a bachelor’s degree program are usually in line with the design of the program BA (liberal arts foundational courses), BS (scientific foundational courses), and BBA (business foundational courses),

BS or BA degree programs are most often designed as:

  • BS/BA in Human Resource Management
  • BS/BA in Management with a concentration in Human Resources

Because of the business focus of most human resources degree programs, bachelor’s degrees are often designed as:

  • BBA with a concentration in Human Resources
  • BBA with a concentration in Organizational Behavior
  • BBA with a concentration in Industrial Relations
  • BBA with a concentration in Management and Leadership

The goal of a bachelor’s degree in human resources is to prepare students to effectively identify and select the best personnel for specific roles, as well as retain the best people for organizational effectiveness. Bachelor’s degree programs are designed to prepare students for entry-level positions in any number of HR areas, such as:

  • Employment and recruitment
  • Training and development
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Employee services
  • Employee and community relations
  • Personnel records
  • Health and safety strategic planning

Graduates of bachelor’s degree programs in human resources are therefore prepared to meet the needs of a business in the dynamic landscape of corporate culture and to understand the impact of economic trends on hiring, personnel practices, and organizational behavior.

Master’s Degree Programs in Human Resources

Because the human resource management profession has evolved beyond traditional administrative functions, organizations are now seeking highly skilled HR professionals who can take an active role in building the strategic vision of an organization.

Therefore, master’s degrees in human resources are more popular than ever, with programs preparing students with a focus on core principles like (Set forth below, with slight modifications, are core principals developed by SHRM and originally published in the SHRM Human Resource Curriculum: An Integrated Approach to HR Education.):

  • Compensation
  • Employee benefits
  • Hiring
  • Outplacement
  • Performance
  • Recruitment
  • Relocation
  • Termination
  • Training

Many programs allow students to either complete a generalist course of study in HR management or pursue an HR specialization, such as labor law, labor and collective bargaining, equal opportunity employment, and benefits and compensation.

Master’s degrees in human resource management build on undergraduate studies in human resources, as well other business-related undergraduate majors. Although specific undergraduate courses of study are not generally required for admission into a master’s-level HR program, most institutions require applicants to have completed a number of undergraduate business courses prior to admission.

It is also typical for experienced HR professionals to pursue master’s degrees in human resource management (often structured as masters of professional studies programs). Therefore, online programs, blended programs, and part-time study are commonplace among HRM graduate programs.

Human resources master’s degree options may be structured as Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), and Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs and offered as:

  • MA in Human Resource Management
  • MS in Human Resources
  • MA/MS in Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • MA in Management with an HR concentration
  • MBA with a concentration in:
    • Human Resource Management/Organizational Leadership
    • Leadership Development with an HR concentration
    • Human Capital Development
    • Organizational Behavior
    • Labor Relations
    • Industrial Relations

Master’s degree programs provide students with the opportunity to address a number of executive-level issues in HR, such as:

  • Ethical scrutiny
  • Global volatility
  • Corporate sustainability
  • Emerging web-based technologies

Therefore, graduates of master’s degree programs in HR are able to serve as global business partners and HR innovators who are fluent in human capital management strategies, and that have the ability to meet the critical needs of today’s businesses.

Doctoral Programs in Human Resources

PhD programs in human resource management are designed for the HR professionals interested in careers in academia or research. Typical titles for doctoral programs in human resources include:

  • PhD in Human Resource Management
  • PhD in Human Resources and Industrial Relations
  • PhD in Human Resources and Workforce Development
  • PhD in Human Resources and Leadership Development
  • PhD in Human Resources and Organizational Behavior

Doctoral degrees in human resources provide a solid foundation for academic careers in research-oriented universities. Students are exposed to research methods, cutting-edge theories, and analytical techniques in order to develop the skills necessary to conduct impactful research.

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