Bachelors and Masters Programs for a Human Resources Management Career in Tennessee

Human resource specialist jobs are listed among Tennessee’s top growing occupations, with an expected average of 1,260 new jobs becoming available each year between 2016 and 2026, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. In fact, during that time period, the number of jobs for both HR managers and HR specialists is expected to grow by around 20 percent.

And they aren’t alone… other HR professionals are looking at similar or even higher rates of growth for that period:

HR Management Roles

  • Compensation and Benefits Managers6 percent increase for an average of 50 openings per year
  • Human Resources Managers: 20 percent increase for an average of 350 openings per year
  • Training and Development Managers1 percent increase for an average of 140 openings per year

Non-managerial HR Roles

  • Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialists: 26 percent increase for an average of 210 openings per year
  • Human Resources Specialists: 17 percent increase for an average of 1,260 openings per year
  • Training and Development Specialists2 percent increase for an average of 720 openings per year
  • Labor Relations Specialists: 4 percent increase for an average of 90 openings per year

HR professionals are responsible for recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and training employees, Tennessee’s overall workforce growth inherently indicates growth in the field of human resources. This is reflected in the state’s unemployment rate, which has fallen to just 3.5 percent as of 2019, and is expected to remain at the level or even lower through 2026, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor.

This drop in unemployment means that, between 2016 and 2026, the Department of Labor expects over 395,960 new jobs to be added to the Tennessee workforce.

Tennessee’s top employers, who contribute to the development and strengthening of the state’s workforce, include:

  • Vanderbilt University – 26,400 employees
  • State of Tennessee – 24,548 employees
  • Metro Nashville-Davidson – 18,820 employees
  • Federal Government – 12,891 employees
  • HCA Holdings – 10,180 employees
  • Nissan – 10,100 employees

And with tech giant Amazon announcing a newly expanded workforce in the state, demand for HR professionals in almost every sector is set to continue the boom through the foreseeable future.

Exploring Careers in Human Resources with Tennessee’s Top Employers

The field of human resources is composed of many different job titles, including, but not limited to:

  • Human resources assistant
  • Recruiting Coordinator
  • Human resources specialist
  • Employee Relations Coordinator
  • Human resources manager
  • Training and Development Supervisor
  • Human Resources Partner
  • Talent Acquisition Coordinator

Jobs such as these are necessary for the smooth functioning of federal government agencies, state and local government agencies, and in private businesses throughout Tennessee.

Human Resource Careers for the Federal Government in Tennessee

The Y-12 National Security Complex is a major federal employe in Tennessee. Human resource professionals may search for job openings through the convenient online portal.

Along with this, human resources professionals may search USA Jobs to look for other human resources careers in the federal government. USA Jobs searches job opportunities in various federal departments, such as the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of the Military.

These jobs are classified based on different educational levels from GS-04 to GS-12. For these varying job levels, applicants will need to meet the related educational requirements:

  • GS-04: associate’s degree
  • GS-05: bachelor’s degree
  • GS-07: bachelor’s degree with honors, OR one year of graduate education
  • GS-09: master’s degree
  • GS-11: PhD
  • GS-12: research position with completed PhD and one specialized year of experience

Human Resource Careers with the State and Local Governments

At the state level, the Tennessee Department of Human Resources is a large employer of human resources professionals, and consists of the following divisions:

  • Classification and Compensation
  • Employee Relations
  • Fiscal Services
  • Organizational Performance
  • Recruiting Management Services
  • Strategic Learning Solutions
  • Systems

The following job listing and requirements illustrate what level of qualifications is necessary for human resource applicants at the state level (shown for illustrative purposes only):

Associate Vice Chancellor and Vice President of Human Resources for the University of TennesseeKnoxville – Applicants to positions such as these should have a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business, or a related field, and ten years of human resources experience. Applicants with master’s degrees in human resources will be given preferential status.

Human Resource Careers in Private Businesses

Private employers have standards that are just as exacting as the public sector when it comes to hiring human resources staff and managers (shown for illustrative purposes only):

Human Resource Business Partner for Sysco in Knoxville – You should hold a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business administration, or a closely related field, plus ten years of HR experience if you plan to apply for this position. Preference will be given to applicants who hold master’s degrees in human resources and who have obtained HRCI, PHR, or SPHR certification.

Internal Director of Operations and HR for Reynolds & Reynolds in Nashville – Candidates should hold a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business administration, or a related field, plus have eight to ten years of experience (or equivalent combination of education and experience).

Human Resources Consultant for SESCO Management Consultants in Bristol – This position requires that you hold a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business, or another related field, and preference will be given to applicants who hold an MBA or SPHR certification.

Sponsored Content

Finding the Right Degree for a Career in Human Resources

Tennessee’s top employers are looking for highly qualified candidates with degrees in human resources, business administration, or a combination of the two.

Although preference is given to applicants with master’s degrees, many human resource professionals begin their careers by obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

Both bachelor’s and master’s degrees offer online, on-campus, and blended options, options that allow classes to fit easily into the schedule of working human resource professionals.

Choosing the Right Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources

Students in human resources are faced with choosing from among a wide variety of degree options, such as:

  • Human Resource Management
  • Human Resources
  • Business and Human Resource Management
  • Labor Studies and Employee Relations
  • Business Administration in Human Resources

Among these decisions, students must choose whether to get a bachelor of arts or of science, whether to focus on human resources or business, and whether to become a generalist or a specialist.

Bachelor of Arts vs. Bachelor of Science

In the field of human resources, bachelor of arts degrees are more likely to focus on theoretical concepts, while bachelor of science degrees will focus on more concrete research concepts.

For example, a bachelor of science in human relations is likely to include courses such as:

  • Employment Law
  • Research Methods
  • Statistics
  • Work Experience or Internship

On the other hand, a bachelor of arts in human relations will to include courses such as:

  • Introduction to Labor Studies
  • Work and Society
  • Perspectives in Labor Studies

Human Resources vs. Business & HR

Bachelor’s degrees in human resources will include a broad-based liberal arts education with specialty courses that will focus on pure HR concepts, such as:

  • Workforce Development
  • Recruitment
  • Compensation
  • Employee Development
  • Employee Benefits and Rewards

On the other hand, bachelor’s degrees in business or business administration and human resources will include both business and human resource courses, such as:

  • Business Management
  • Business Communications
  • Accounting, Finance, and Economics
  • Marketing Strategies
  • Quantitative Analysis for Businesses
  • Fundamentals of HR Management
  • Change Leadership
  • Human Capital Risk Management

Generalist vs. Specialist

Human resource generalists will obtain a wide-ranging degree such as that in HR or business, and they will be prepared to manage all HR duties in a small business. They will be prepared to apply for jobs with titles such as:

  • Human resources generalist
  • Human resources coordinator
  • Human resources manager

Large businesses, however, generally have more specific roles, and human resource professionals who have a specialized degree, such as one in payroll, recruitment, or finance, will be prepared to apply for jobs with titles such as:

  • Recruitment coordinator
  • Payroll and compensation coordinator
  • Labor relations specialist

Advancing to a Master’s Degree in Human Resources

Human resource professionals who advance to a graduate degree in the subject will be able to offer more insight, depth of knowledge, and expertise to their company.

Applicants to master’s programs in human resources generally either hold a bachelor’s degree in the field with superior academic achievement, or they are human resource professionals already working in the field as generalists, specialists, analysts, recruiters, or managers.

When considering master’s degrees, students get to choose from a wide variety of degrees, such as:

  • MA in Human Resources
  • MA in Human Resource Management
  • Master of Management (MAM) in Human Resources
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Human Resources

A master’s in human resources will cover strictly human resource concepts, such as:

  • HR Development
  • Strategic and Global Human Resources
  • Organizational Change
  • Human Resource Planning
  • Compensation and Benefits
  • Organizational Training
  • Project Management for Human Resource Professionals

On the other hand, business degrees, such as an MBA in human resources, will cover a blend of business and HR concepts, such as:

  • Financial Management
  • Strategic Management
  • Operations Management
  • Multinational Corporate Environment
  • Strategic HR Management
  • Leading Organizational Change
  • Rewards and Benefits
  • Business Law
  • Organizational Human Behavior

Obtaining a master’s degree prepares human resource professionals to become leaders in their field, ready to take on the challenges of supervisor, director, analyst, and partner roles.

Professional Certification

Some of Tennessee’s top employers look to certification as a measure of employee distinction and dedication. Human resource professionals may obtain certification from a variety of different certifying agencies, including:

Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

  • SHRM-CP (certified professional)
  • SHRM-SCP (senior certified professional)

HR Certification Institute (HRCI)

  • Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR)
  • Associate Professional in Human Resources – International (aPHRi)
  • Professional in Human Resources (PHR)
  • Professional in Human Resources – International (PHRi)
  • Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)
  • Senior Professional in Human Resources – International (SPHRi)
  • Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR)

International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR)

  • Certified Professional (IPMA-CP)
  • Senior Certified Professional (IPMA-SCP)

Tennessee’s Human Resources Associations and Staffing Firms

As a resource, human resources associations, major departments, and staffing firms are listed here.

Professional HR Associations in Tennessee

Major HR Employers and Departments

Tennessee Staffing Firms


Sponsored Content

Examples of HR positions were taken from a survey of job listings in the state at the time of this writing and are shown for illustrative purposes only. These examples do not represent job offers or positions that are currently available.

Job growth projections sourced from the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development and published in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2016-2026) database – Employment conditions in your area may vary.

All salary and job growth data accessed in October 2019.

Back to Top