A masters degree in human resources teaches you the management practices and procedures of a company, organization or any institution that employs individuals. HR’s main functions are to assist in all areas and stages of employee relations. From creating the job posting advertising the opening of the position, to the resume selection process to the interview through to the screening and hiring procedures, HR is involved every single step of the way. HR professionals involvement after the hiring process is complete is extremely vital since they deal with all employee issues including, potential raises and bonuses, contract renegotiations, workplace issues or disagreements, and any other issues having to do with employee relations.
Jobs for Graduates of Human Resources Management Graduate Programs
Professionals with a graduate degree in Human Resources Management typically work at companies of all sizes in a diverse array of industries. Other graduates start their own companies that might provide services to smaller firms and companies that cannot afford to employ a full time human resources staff. The typical work day for a human resources manager is filled with interacting with others and finding ways to successfully and dynamically work together to achieve common workplace goals. Most human resources managers work in an office setting together with other human resources professionals and other company management. Human resources managers who were adventurous enough to form their own companies often work both at the client’s office and from their own office to ensure they implement and fully support the HR procedures of their client company.
Human resources managers work alongside other human resources professionals as well as other essential managerial departments in their organizations. Their duties require cross-functional coordination between departments to make sure that all departments are receiving and enforcing the proper HR practices, procedures, and support. Individuals who work as human resources managers must display personality characteristics evidencing integrity, the ability to tolerate stress, dependability, leadership, cooperation, persistence, initiative, and flexibility. According to ONET, a database compiled by the US Department of Labor/Employment Training, the 5 primary tasks of human resources professionals are:
- Act as a connector between the employees and management to deal with questions, understanding and enforcing contracts and resolving work-related issues (1)
- Analyze and adjust compensation and benefits policies and procedures to stay competitive and comply with legal standards (1)
- Consult with and advise managers regarding the policies and procedures of the organization regarding equal employment opportunities, sexual harassment, and suggest changes to those policies where necessary (1)
- Conduct challenging staffing duties, including dealing with being understaffed, settling wok-place disputes, terminating employment and administering disciplinary measures when necessary (1)
- Prepare and execute new employee orientation to successfully cultivate a positive outlook towards the company and its goals (1)
Human resources managers should have detailed knowledge of personnel and human resources principles and procedures, administration and management including knowledge of business and management principles. HR managers should also have a full grasp of the knowledge and structure of the English language, as well as knowledge of customer and personal service, governmental laws and regulations, the psychology of human behavior and performance and a number of other topics.
Desirable skills for professionals in the field of human resources include; active listening, management of personnel resources, social perceptiveness, speaking and communicating with others effectively to convey information, coordination, critical thinking, reading comprehension, judgment, decision making, negotiation, and complex problem solving.
Common Application Requirements
Common application requirements for students hoping to pursue a graduate degree in human resources management are similar to those of other graduate degree admissions programs. Most schools require applicants to have completed a bachelor’s degree and submit official transcripts for any and all college education completed. Some schools have minimum GPA requirements rejecting all applicants who do not possess their selected minimum GPA. This GPA requirement can at times be arbitrary and is set by the schools based on their own reasoning; such minimum requirements typically range anywhere from a 2.2 and above.
For the most part, HR Management graduate admissions applications also require the submission of either GRE or GMAT scores, however these are not a requirement for some HR management graduate programs. Schools often set minimum GRE or GMAT score requirements that applicants must meet in order to be considered for admission. Some programs require GRE or GMAT scores to be in the 50th percentile for both the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections. Other schools might specify a minimum score on the analytical writing section of the GRE.
Most HR management graduate admissions applications also require a personal statement or essay. Usually the school will provide potential students a prompting question which they must answer in their essay. However, creativity and originality is encouraged as well as thoroughness and editing ability.
Human resources management graduate programs also require applicants to submit several letters of recommendation. Most schools either require or strongly prefer that applicants submit at least one letter of recommendation from an academic reference. Students who have meaningful work experience are encouraged to include a letter of recommendation from their employer detailing their professional skills and accomplishments.
Some HR management graduate programs also require potential students to submit a one page graduate resume detailing their academic, professional and community service accomplishments. Applications usually also include an application fee which is typically non-refundable.
Human Resources Management Education
Graduate programs in human resources management can focus on various different topics. However, the programs’ curriculums all strive to fulfill the same purpose, which is to prepare their students to work effectively as professionals in the field. Many programs have a substantial focus on business education specific to the employment relationship between employees and companies. Other programs have a strong international focus, while other programs tend to heavily cover labor relations issues or strategy in decision making. Each program has its focus, but all the programs usually cover the necessary basics and beyond of human resources management.
One of the most common degrees which potential students can earn is a master’s of human resources management also known as an “MHRM” degree or an “MA” in human resources management. Like most master’s degree programs, earning an MHRM or MA/HRM degree typically takes about two years to complete. Another common degree in the field is a master’s of science in human resources management also known as an “MSHRM” degree. The typical MSHRM program is usually three semesters long.
Graduate programs in human resources management seek to enable their graduates to efficiently manage human resources issues in the current global marketplace. Courses are geared towards teaching students problem solving and decision making skills as well as how to develop best practices, modeling, and strategy. The core goals of human resources management curriculums are to train their students to be able to create, design and implement human resources policies and practices and apply those policies to work simultaneously and effectively with the business plan of their organization.
While pursuing their master’s degree students are taught to develop familiarity and expertise in various areas of management such as economics, budgeting, innovation, payroll, diversity, and many other topics. Graduates become familiar with the changing global markets and the volatility of employment as well as the need for corporate sustainability. After earning their HR management graduate degrees, graduates will go on to either work for or advise companies on a plethora of human resources issues such as hiring, training, retaining, firing, disciplining, and cultivating talent.
Human Resources Management Courses
Although human resources management programs may call their courses different names, for the most part they all offer classes in common human resources topics. Some typical graduate courses for human resources management graduate students include strategy, employee relations, decision-making, managing, development, compensation, economics, employment law, consulting, problem solving and many other topics.
There are several types of strategy classes including introductory courses, business and corporate strategy courses, global workforce strategy courses and a few others. Introduction to strategy courses typically seek to familiarize students with an overall human resources perspective and understand the HR function within an organization. Business and competitive strategy courses usually focus on giving students an understanding of various corporate strategies such as mergers, acquisitions, dissolutions, restructuring, outsourcing and many other similar topics. Classes dealing with measurement strategy issues touch on teaching students how to process certain information to be able to use that information to develop practices and procedures and apply them in a way that both cultivates and motivates employees. Classes in global workforce strategy focus on teaching students to take what they learned in their program and apply it on a global scale and context to problem-solving on an international level.
Employee relations classes cover how to deal with relationships between employees and the organization as well as among the employees themselves. These classes also typically focus on how to deal with complaints and the importance of employee counseling options. Ethics classes focus on informing students on the importance of developing ethical policies and procedures as well as teaching students how to identify and correct deficiencies in those procedures or their enforcement. Team processes classes focus on teaching students how to work effectively with other and collaborate efficiently to achieve common goals.
There are also many types of decision-making classes offered at various colleges and universities. One decision making class common to HR graduate programs is supervision and management decision making. These classes usually focus on teaching students how to make and implement decisions that most serve the ends of organizational efficiency and how to process various divergent decision making models. Data based decision-making classes seek to enable students to collect, store, process, and apply data in creating and executing an HR strategy. Financial decision-making classes typically cover basic accounting principles like cash flow and the balance sheet. They also seek to teach students the vital skills of understanding and evaluating complex benefits packages that include stock options, 401K plans, pensions and other various retirement accounts.
Other classes focus specifically on compensation and benefits and are geared to give students an understanding of the interaction between pay and benefits and attracting and retaining the best available talent. These classes deal with behavioral tendencies and go over the process of compensation package decision making by management. Classes in managing rewards systems cover payment structures in various organizations and how valuations for bonuses and pay scales are made.
Consulting classes teach students methods of how to best start and develop professional contacts and how to best evaluate HR issues in companies that engage their services. Courses in developing human capital aim to teach students how to understand the values of employees to an organization and how to cultivate and motivate employees. Training and development classes focus on giving students an understanding of how to best design and implement training programs to foster employee growth. Classes in managing workforce flow are geared towards providing students an in-depth understanding of how companies decide when to downsize, when to ramp up in hiring, when to make a concerted effort to step up practices geared towards employee retention, and when to employ an outsourcing strategy.
Some graduate master’s degree programs in human resources management include an internship or training component. Students participating in an internship or practicum are usually required to work at an HR department at an organization while they pursue their degree. Some programs require students to complete several internships at different companies before they can earn their degree.
There are also some mandatory prerequisite classes that graduate human resources management students might be required to complete prior to starting their graduate studies. Some programs require students to complete certain business classes like economics, statistics and other similar business focused classes. Other graduate programs require students to complete certain math and writing courses with a minimum grade achieved.
Earning your Graduate Degree in Human Resources Management
There are many different ways a potential student can earn their master’s degree in human resources management. Students can pursue their degree on-campus as part of a full-time program; students can also earn their degrees through evening programs geared towards working professionals. Students can also earn their degrees at a faster pace with accelerated degree programs. Students can also earn their degrees entirely or partially through online classes.
A master’s degree program in HR management typically takes two years to complete when attending full-time. Some part time HRM programs that meet mostly at nights and on weekends can also be completed in two years. However the workload to be able to complete the degree program in this time frame is quite heavy. Some schools have accelerated master’s degree programs in human resources management that usually take about one year to complete and which meet daily and on the weekends. Students also have the option of earning their master’s degree entirely online which can take anywhere from one year in an accelerated program, or two years or more in a full or part time program.
Students can also pursue the highest level of academic accreditation available in human resources management by earning their Ph.D. Most Ph.D. programs require original research projects, comprehensive examinations, and a teaching component as part of their degree program. Different degree programs each have their own set of requirements that students must complete to earn their chosen degree. Some graduate master’s degree programs in human resources management require an internship or training component. Other programs include a practicum, a thesis, or utilize examinations as part of the degree requirements. Schools sometimes let students decide whether they would rather complete a master thesis based around a subject in the field of HR management or if they would prefer to take examinations to earn their graduate degree in human resources management.
Selecting a Human Resources Management School
Once you decide that you’re interested in pursuing a degree in human resources management you need to think about how you’re going to pick the program that’s right for you. When making your selection it is important consider a variety of different criteria. First, interested students must consider the curriculum of the program and what courses they feel are essential for them to be able to participate in. Prospective students also must consider whether the programs offer internship or placement opportunities, whether there is any geographic advantage to attending certain programs over others, and many other important factors.
An important factor to considering when selecting the program for you is what topics or areas you want to focus on and whether the schools you’re looking at offer coursework in those topics. Some schools focus more on the financial and economic implications relating to human resources management, other programs are geared more towards an international impact and scope of HR management. Meanwhile other programs deal primarily with employee relations and understanding behavioral patterns. Depending on which area you’re most interested in and what kind of career path in HR you desire to pursue, it will be extremely important to makes sure the graduate program you choose offers classes in your chosen areas of interest.
Programs that require or offer internship opportunities provide degree students invaluable hands on experience in the field that they could never experience solely from academic study. Additionally, a lot of companies consistently hire permanent employees from their pool of interns. Attending a graduate program with internship placement could put you in a position to use that internship as a stepping stone to earning full time employment after graduation at the same company. Also, graduate programs in HR management sometimes even offer a partial employment placement program where the school attempts to place graduates at full time jobs with local companies after they’ve earned their degrees.
Another important factor to consider is whether there are any geographic based benefits in choosing one graduate program over another. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”) the states with the highest employment level of human resources managers are California, New York, Texas, Illinois, and Ohio(2). Other states with high employment levels of human resources managers are Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia and Florida(2).
The BLS also shows that the top paying states for human resources managers are New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York(2). These geographic factors might be an important consideration as part of the process of selecting a school that’s right for you.
After Graduating from a Human Resources Management Program
After graduation, the desired outcome for most students is to have a position lined up from an internship you participated in while in school or from the career development department at your school. Make sure to network during and after your graduate studies, connecting with other people is one of the most common ways that individuals find employment in today’s overcrowded marketplace.
One of the most common and successful ways that graduate students obtain positions after graduation is through internships they held while at school. Internships not only give students invaluable hands on experience in the HR management field, they also allow students to make contacts with the companies at which they intern and foster those relationships into professional contacts. A very common way companies and firms hire new staff is by recruiting them from students who have performed well while working their internship.
A must in terms of preparing and executing your job search is to be vigilant and constantly update and improve your resume. It is important to recognize weaknesses in your resume before you start your graduate program and use your time at school to wisely to fill them with great new experiences that will both impress and interest potential employers. It is also important to make sure that each resume that you send out is geared towards the potential employer to whom you are sending it.
Although no certification or licensing requirements apply to human resources managers working in the field, there is a certification that HR managers who meet certain minimum professional and educational requirements can attempt to achieve: the professional in human resources certification. The professional in human resources also known as the “PHR” is a certification awarded to individuals who meet the qualification requirements and successfully complete the examination for the PHR(3). Students who wish to sit for the exam can do so during two designated time periods each year(3).
A Short History of Human Resources Management
Human resources management has been known by many names throughout its rich and varied history. Even in in the primitive times human resources management principles were in existence as evidenced by tribal organizational structures and delegation of duties. The first modern incarnation of HR management began with the industrial revolution where mass production and factories became a common staple. During this time in the 1800’s HR management began in factories where some employees were appointed as managers in charge of making hiring selections. Additionally, new regulations called for mandatory inspectors to be hired to oversee the safety and welfare of factory workers. During this time the core ideas of training and transitioning employees to adjust to their positions began to take shape. (4)
While employee safety was a focus of labor relations at the time, other issues such as workplace productivity began to arise. Frederick Taylor was extremely influential on the issue of productivity in the workplace. Taylor also had a profound influence on the entire field of HR management and developed the term “scientific management” also sometimes called “Taylorism.” Taylor’s ideas focused on making manufacturing jobs more economically viable and proficient. Taylor’s theories had a great impact in achieving an optimal level of workplace productivity. (4)
After some time, unions began to develop and became extremely influential in helping management see things from the employee’s perspective. Labor Unions also greatly influenced the development of HR management as a whole. Once unions formed and new rules came into effect, there became a need for human resources management departments having to deal with current labor standards against the backdrop of the political issues of the times. The first corporate employee department for human resources emerged at the B.F. Goodrich Company. Their human resources department focused a great deal on taking and resolving employee complaints. Other companies soon followed suit and formed their own internal departments to deal with internal complaints, wage issues, productivity and many other issues. (4)
During the rise of unions, benefits such as medical and educational benefits became available to some employees. Influenced by unions, congress began passing laws geared towards dealing with issues in the workplace. The Wagner Labor Relations Act, the Social Security Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act were some of the earlier laws creating mandatory workplace standards and regulations. The enforcement of these new regulations and policies were delegated to the HR management departments of most companies. (4)
Subsequent laws like the Equal Pay Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and a few other laws also created more laws and regulations that had to be implemented and adhered to in the workplace. Once these laws came into effect most companies gave the responsibility of overseeing workplace policies and procedures such as hiring, screening, training, retention, safety, ethics and many other workplace standards to their human resources management departments. (4)
Today human resources management is one of the most integral and vital departments in any organization. The HR department is involved in all aspects of the employment process from beginning to end. Today’s HR professionals are well trained and educated with most of them having either college, graduate, or in some cases even post-doctorate degrees.
Human resources management is a varied and developing field with a rich history and an intriguing future. HR professionals act as the connectors between the employees and other management and play a vital role in companies and organizations. Students interested in pursuing their graduate degree in human resources management have a lot of factors to consider when making their decisions such as curriculum, location and cost. Students also have a large pool of programs and program types from which to choose such as full-time, part-time, accelerated or online programs. After earning their degrees graduates will have to use their contacts from school and internship opportunities to try and obtain professional contacts and pursue potential employment opportunities.