Your Complete Guide to

Master’s in Human Resources

Online Masters Degree
on February 13, 2024

Why We Love It

  • Better Salary
  • Room for Growth
  • A Sense of Purpose
  • Career Choices

* The Why We Love It section is solely based on the opinion of's Editorial Team. Any salary & growth research or estimates should be referenced further at the Bureau of Labor and Statistics data published at for your specific desired career.

What is a Master’s in Human Resources?

People are the most important asset of almost any business.  They are managers and employees–and sometimes they are products as well.  People are what makes or breaks a business, and these businesses must have the skills and tools necessary to manage these people the best that they possibly can.

The best organizations know how to get the most out of the people working for them while still treating them well, i.e., remembering that they are people.  This is the world of human resources.

The pandemic has refreshed and expanded the functions of human resources such as businesses shifting online, leading employees and employers to a chaotic situation. In such a situation, the responsibility lies with the human resources department to plan and manage effectively.

The term “master’s in human resources” can refer to one of several degrees, but they are all designed to teach you a strategic approach to effective management of people.  And since people are such a complex and fascinating subject, many areas of knowledge are important.

Topics of study could include:

  • Training and Development: This involves improving the effectiveness of not just the individuals who make up an organization, but also the organization as a whole.
  • Employee Relations: This explores the complex relationships between employers and employees, unions, and other organizations.
  • Diversity: Having a healthy mix of employees from different backgrounds can benefit an organization greatly, and not just because it’s the law or the right thing to do.
  • Corporate Culture: Each organization has its own unique culture and subculture, which can help predict how employees will interact or react to changes within a company.
  • Organizational Behavior: It is important to understand and predict human behavior within organizations and other social settings.

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What Can You Do With a Master’s in Human Resources?

The better question is, what do you want to do?

A training specialist designs and implements a new program to help employees overcome common obstacles more easily and efficiently.  A compensation and benefits manager negotiates a group healthcare plan that offers better coverage and lower premiums.

A recruiting and staffing specialist interviews and hires new salesmen for their dream salesforce.  These are all potential futures for someone with a master’s in human resources, and they could all help their respective companies gain a competitive advantage.

The novel pandemic has also broadened the scope of human resources, with managing work models requiring adaptability, productivity, and flexibility, all while ensuring safety and health SOPs. Further, in the ever-evolving world, human resources training and activities have continued to be a major part.

These positions and opportunities are also going to be there during times of economic instability like the present. Organizations are always going to need HR professionals for recruitment, managing employee relations and benefits administration, etc., making the field a promising one.

These are only a few examples.  The possibilities are endless.  You get to choose what you’ll do, and you don’t have to know what that is right now.  A master’s in HR could give you the tools you need to do a wide variety of jobs in countless industries, so you’re not committing to a career before you even finish your degree.

Best Programs for Master’s in Human Resources

Here’s the best part: We’re going to give you the secrets to finding the best programs for adults, programs that could help you get your master’s degree in HR faster and with as few headaches as possible.

We know planning for college can be confusing, and is dedicated to helping you find the right path for you so that you can complete your degree and start your new career as soon as possible.

Why We Love a Master’s in Human Resources

  1. Better salary:  A master’s degree in HR could mean a higher salary than a bachelor’s degree alone. A higher salary that comes with this degree ensures financial stability and it is something we should always prioritize to blanket ourselves during times of economic uncertainty.
  2. Room for growth:  A master’s degree could be the deciding factor when you are considered for a promotion. This means that with a degree you can be sure that you will come across a higher no. of opportunities and this could lead to job security and a sense of long-term financial stability.
  3. A sense of purpose:  A master’s in HR could mean helping people with various problems, improving their work environment, and ultimately making it a good experience for everyone involved. This automatically means realizing a sense of purpose and higher job satisfaction.
  4. Career choices:  A master’s in human resources is useful in a broad spectrum of industries, with skills and experience that can be applied across various job roles. In the long term, this brings financial as well as mental stability.

Online vs. Traditional Campus HR Master’s Programs

Most people who think about going back to school for their master’s in HR never even get started. While this decision can be a make or break for their career. Exams, application fees, and trying to make school work around your schedule are all serious obstacles that traditionally have made it unrealistic.

Now there’s a better way.

With adult-friendly schools, there is really no reason not to go back to school and get your master’s in HR anymore.  What makes a school adult-friendly?  Here are a few key attributes:

  • Adult-friendly schools are totally online.  Online learning is best for busy adults, who have to balance their ongoing education with work, kids, and everything else that comes with being a grownup.  Online schools offering a master’s in HR allow you to work college around your life, not the other way around.
  • Adult-friendly schools can offer accelerated programs, with ongoing enrollment.  What’s better than getting your master’s in two years?  Getting it in one year.  And with ongoing enrollment, you don’t have to wait until fall or spring to start on your new journey; many schools offer monthly enrollment periods, meaning you can start whenever it works for you.
  • Adult-friendly schools can offer more support than traditional schools.  This includes but is not limited to, career services, making it easier for you to begin your new career.  Because, at the end of the day, isn’t that why you’re going back to school?

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Admissions Requirements for Master’s in Human Resources

So what do you need to go to grad school?  You need to take the GRE or another entrance exam, right?

That’s the old way.  The new way is much better.

Many adult-friendly schools do not require GRE or entrance exams.  Online master’s programs in HR generally require only a bachelor’s degree to get started, and there are no application fees to worry about.  You start when you’re ready.

Master’s in Human Resources Curriculum

As mentioned above, a master’s in HR will expose you to important aspects of human resource management such as training and development, employee relations, diversity, corporate culture, and organizational behavior.

Because humans are such complex machines, it will likely cover other topics as well, including human resource policy, corporate responsibility, performance appraisal, and employee engagement.  These areas of knowledge are all essential to the effective management of people.

What Courses Will I Take in My Master’s Program?

A master’s program could cover a wide range of knowledge, as there are many important facets of human resource management to consider.  Examples of common courses could include:

  1. Behavioral Science: This borrows from psychology, sociology, and anthropology to understand human behavior in society.
  2. Organizational Theory: A subset of sociology, this deals with managing people in such a way that they meet the needs of an organization.
  3. Performance Assessment and Management: It is essential for an organization to evaluate an employee’s skills, growth, and achievements so that they can be effectively managed.
  4. Compensation and Benefits: These are major expenses with clear goals for any company, but there are also intangible effects to consider such as work-life balance, desirable scheduling, and recognition.
  5. Legal Issues in Human Resources: This would likely cover topics such as equal pay, discrimination, harassment, and confidentiality.

Related Degrees

Depending on your school, program, and personal preferences, there are many degrees that could be considered a “master’s in human resources.”  These include:

  • Master of Science in Human Resources (MSHR)
  • Master of Science in Human Resource Management (MSHRM or HRM)
  • Master of Science in Human Resource Development (MSHRD or HRD)

These are usually focused on explicit human resources knowledge and could be used to begin a career in HR or to continue on to a Ph.D. program in HR.

Alternatively, you could opt for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Human Resources.  This is often a more general overview of HR geared toward businesspeople and career advancement.

Master’s in Human Resources Program Length

Most master’s degrees in HR require between 36 and 48 credits to graduate.  Normally, a master’s in human resources program takes between two and three years to complete.  An accelerated plan, however, could take as little as a year. This is where adult-friendly schools really excel, in understanding the constraints their students face, handling jobs, and financial limitations, and meeting family needs.

With so much on their plate, it can make it difficult for the learners to put up with a conventional school schedule. Hence, the best adult-friendly schools make the process as convenient as possible, and they could get you into the workforce as fast as possible because they know that’s what adults want.

Choosing the Right University or College Master’s in HR Program

Choosing the right school for you can be exciting, but it can also be a hassle.  Tuition costs, application fees, accreditation, enrollment windows, and entrance exams are just some of the variables to consider.

That’s why we created the Smartplan.  We want to help people go back to school, to make college more accessible and affordable for everyone.  With our Smartplan, we make it easy for you to start on your path towards your master’s in human resources.

Here are just some of the benefits of your Smartplan:

  • No application fees
  • Accredited colleges and universities
  • No entrance exams or testing
  • Faculty and professors who understand adults
  • Discounts and scholarships available
  • Open enrollment dates

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Best Jobs for Those With a Master’s in Human Resources

What can you do with a master’s in HR?  What kind of salary can you expect?  Here are some common careers for master’s in HR holders, with salary data estimates provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Compensation and Benefits Manager: This is someone who oversees work activities, structures pay and benefits, and ensures that compensation remains competitive. You could make anywhere from $77,040 to well over $208,000 per year.
  • Labor Relations Specialist: This is someone who acts as a mediator between management and labor, addressing worker grievances and ensuring that HR policies are consistent with union agreements. You could make anywhere from $22,880 to $126,330 per year.
  • Employee Recruitment and Staffing Specialist: This person specializes in interviewing and hiring employees, as well as overseeing their orientation and keeping records.  You could make anywhere from $37,680 to $108,160 per year.
  • Training and Development Specialist: Some organizations employ people whose entire job involves training employees, including developing training materials and programs. You could make anywhere from $31,340 to $103,240 per year.
  • Human Resources Manager: This person handles administrative functions of a company, including hiring, strategic planning, and handling staffing issues. You could make anywhere from $75,000 to well over $208,000 per year.

We’ve compiled some of our favorite careers, but this degree does provide you with broad skills to work in a variety of positions in a variety of industries.

It provides professionals with a competitive advantage, with a more advanced set of skills and knowledge that helps adapt to the changing market demands. There are endless possibilities you can choose from once you have your master’s in human resources.

Cost and Tuition

Cost and tuition vary from school to school, and you’ll want to speak with each of your prospective schools directly.  Fortunately, online schools are generally more affordable than their in-person counterparts.

Adult-friendly colleges understand that people are struggling in an ever-increasing unstable economy and they want to save. Such colleges could even help you with financial aid if you’re eligible. You’ll definitely want to speak to a few schools, and can help you with that.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Do I need to know what job I want before I start a master’s program?

A: No!  A master’s in human resources could prepare you for a wide variety of careers.  You certainly don’t need to know what job you want today.

Q: Will I make more money with a master’s in human resources?

A: That depends on a variety of factors.  But as you can see above in the “Best Jobs for Those With a Master’s in Human Resources” section, your master’s in HR could mean excellent earning potential.

Q: How long will I be in school?

A: That could depend on you, your current job, and any other obligations you might have.  A master’s in HR could take anywhere from one to three years, but our Smartplan is designed to help you find the right degree for you, so you can finish as quickly as possible!

How to save time and money

Our mission is to help you to avoid paying full price for college. We want your Master’s in Human Resources degree to be affordable and accessible. Here’s how you could save:

Create Your Free SmartPlan

There are many ways to make college affordable and accessible.

That’s why we created a helpful tool called SmartPlan.

It’s free, and helps you find potential ways to save and tons of information about each school you’re considering

Think of it as your “college blueprint”, to help you instantly craft a path to your degree:

  • Which Colleges Match Your Needs
  • Ways You Could Save Time & Money
  • Free Courses You Could Take for Credit
  • Valuable Data and Insights on Each College
  • Detailed Steps You Should Take!

See what’s possible for you and generate a free plan within just a few minutes

Create My SmartPlan

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About the Author
Grant founded with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.

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