Online HR Graduate Programs

Online Human Resource Graduate Programs explore issues such as complex employee benefit plans, new labor laws, and employee rights for working adults. HR graduate programs often discuss the finer points of recruiting, performance evaluation, and dispute resolution. Online programs usually follow a self-paced schedule, making them a good option for students with family and/or job responsibilities.

Online Human Resource Graduate Programs: Overview

Students could look for Online Human Resource Graduate Programs at the masters, doctorate or certificate levels, depending on prior education and goals. Human resource management – HRM online programs meld core classes with electives and research to problem solve or define an area of thought leadership.

Some programs prepare students to pursue a certification process such as a Senior Professionalism in Human Resources (SPHR) exam. A university might follow guidelines set by agencies that cover specific competencies needed by those who want to take credential exams. If this is the case, students may want to follow up with individual agencies to see what any next steps could include. The HRCI and SHRM are two such certification organizations.

What Is the Meaning of Human Resources?

Human resources are people (human capital, human assets, employees) within any organization. Human resources management (HRM) is a function within an organization. It has to do with the systems that are in place to maintain a productive workforce and compliant work place, all while maximizing company profit and growth.

How Long Will It Take to Earn an Online Human Resources Degree?

Keep in mind that there may be accelerated, part-time, and full-time options which will affect program length. On average, here are some general rules of thumb:

  • Masters/MBA in Human Resources: 2 years full-time
  • Graduate Certificate in Human Resources: 1 year full-time
  • PhD/DBA in Human Resources: 3 – 6 years +

What Could I Learn in HR Online Courses?

While Online Human Resource Graduate Programs do focus on the issues, concepts and practices of today’s HR professional, some programs have more wide-ranging course plans.

These might draw core content from general business and managerial processes with HR as a concentration. Here are some examples.

Human Resource Management Strategy – Students might examine HRM in the context of business policy and competitive strategy. Topics could include organizational change, labor markets and labor union to help students learn to form HR policies to support business goals.

Organizational Measurement – A course that could include predictive analysis. Students might examine assessment and evaluation tools used to hire, manage employee performance, career development, retention, and termination processes.

Talent Management – An examination of recruitment, appraisal, development and strategies that could optimize employee talent and company success.

Employment Law – A deep look at employment law practices and trends, the statutory framework, major court cases, how the law of contract and tort apply to employment situations, and anti-discrimination laws.

Labor Relations – Students could learn about collective bargaining and how it has adapted to economic, social, political, technical, and sector specific needs. Various ways to resolve disputes negotiation strategies may be examined.

Online Masters in Human Resources Management

An online masters in HRM teaches how to help businesses meet major goals by optimizing staff management. Applicants typically have earned their bachelors degree, and some programs only consider experienced candidates.

This level of program often addresses an organization’s key needs and how to meet them by effectively managing a company’s employees. Participants might also learn how to strategize and collaborate with other business executives.

Masters fall into two categories: (1) a Master of Science—which focuses on technical and career-related subjects; and (2) a Master of Arts—which offers more liberal arts and humanities (history, theory) studies. Additionally, many Master of Business Administration programs allow students to earn a concentration in human resources.

Let’s take a look at a few options.

An Online MBA in Human Resources

Students who pursue an MBA in Human Resources online enjoy the flexibility of this professional masters program. You can choose your core courses from a broad range of functional business applications—from accounting and finance to information systems, marketing, operations, and strategy.

Concentration courses in HRM cover subjects such as workforce planning, management of employee compensation, and organizational behavior. Students might also study the recruitment, development, and retention of human capital with an eye to understanding how to make managerial decisions about the bottom line.

A final MBA in HRM capstone helps students think critically through research and the application of analytical methods that transform raw data into useful information.


According to BLS, Some upper management HR positions might require a master’s degree in human resources, labor relations, or business administration (MBA).i

Online HR Graduate Programs written by Rana Waxman

Online MPS in Human Resources

An online Master of Professional Studies in Human Resources and Employment Relations (HRER) degree program melds advanced theory with practical knowledge. It targets professionals already at-work in the human resources/employment relations field or those with a strong, fundamental grasp of HRER.

Coursework is less introductory and focuses more on concepts, processes, and real-world issues such as labor law, contract administration, diversity, and workplace behavior. Students might be tasked with a final supervised research project.

In schools where the course plan aligns with HRCI guidelines, students might earn credits from their program towards PHR, SPHR, and GPHR re-certifications. If this is a goal, make sure to follow up with your university.

Online MS in Human Resources Management

An online Master of Science in Human Resource Management could provide a holistic course plan which may also include a component of scholarly research. MSHRM online core courses and electives are all about the technical and practical skills needed to manage HR processes.

Students in an online MSHR program (as with the MPS) usually have some prior experience and want to advance in their career. However, there are programs where work history may not be a determinant of admissions.

Courses emphasize hands-on, real-world projects that provide direct application to the field. Different schools might offer concentrations in related areas, such as:

  • Human Resource Leadership
  • Workplace Learning and Performance
  • Negotiations and Conflict Resolution

Online Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Management

A graduate certificate is a stand-alone, credential that showcases student proficiency in a specific subject. Certificates could also stack onto a graduate degree to add some level of expertise.

Some programs entail about 4 courses (12 credits). Because of its shorter course plan, a certificate in HR might stress the key skills to strategically manage, train, and develop human resources for enhanced organizational performance.

Online Doctorate in Human Resource Management

Online Doctorate in Human Resource Management programs are terminal degrees that prepare students to teach, consult or lead. Most programs at this level require students to have a bachelors and masters degree, and some also expect applicants to have experience in business and human resources.

Two of the commonly conferred degrees at this level are the PhD and DBA in Human Resource Management. Below is a brief synopsis of what is required of students in each program. Refer to individual course plans to learn more and see below for a few examples of doctoral topics.

Strategic Partnership – Students will evaluate buy-build alternatives and B2B partnerships. They might also explore a range of alternatives, such as service agreements, contract negotiations, and management of fully outsourced services .

Business Strategy and Innovation – This course is devoted to the ins and outs of how business strategies are created and implemented to maximize competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Advanced Topics in Performance Management – Students will take a deeper look at the strategic issues and approved practices in employee engagement, leadership development, succession planning, evaluative performance feedback, and compensation models.

Online PhD in Human Resources

An online PhD in Human Resources is a research doctorate. Typically, these programs cover broad areas of business administration. For instance, there could be courses that discuss business systems, leadership styles, financial management, organizational behavior, global economics, managerial strategy, and social responsibility. These core classes define the broad context within which students could anchor their research in HR.

To help with their research initiatives, PhD in HR programs usually cover suitable methods to test a hypothesis, document and present data. Then, a final dissertation asks students to be thought leaders and contribute original material to their chosen milieu. For instance, a person may want to come up with a new theory that explains pay inequality among genders. Or, how to handle language barriers in multinational companies.

Students may come to a PhD program with a focused curiosity, or at a point in their career trajectory where they have a scholarly interest in a particular angle of HR. Because inquiry is at the heart of a PhD, applicants may need to show a fit with a program faculty’s active pursuits to gain admission.

Online DBA in Human Resources

An online Doctor of Business Administration is a practitioner doctorate. While students are tasked with research it is applied in nature which means a student might address a real issue to study all the ways it might be solved through executive decisions, strategy and an extensive review of management theories.

Since business practice is the focus, online DBA students might study all the functional areas of business – like an MBA – only with an eye to establish a global mindset and the tools to apply theory to practical issues.

Coursework might examine modern organizational issues such as succession planning, processes to create and manage strategic partnerships, and HR planning for the organization’s strategic business direction.

Tpics include managerial finance, global marketing strategy and business operations from a systems point of view. Graduates should be able to analyze the impact of business decisions on the quality of the deliverables and the risk impact on both the HR department and the organization.

Apart from seminars, online DBA students might learn how to conduct extensive literature reviews, analyze case studies, write, and present. Students may also need to create an annual HR operating plan (AHROP) as part of the degree requirements.

Why Earn a Graduate Degree in HRM Online?

Online Human Resources Graduate Programs may be 100% online or ask students to come to campus periodically.

Some classes meet asynchronously – no set log ins. Study when you are able. Other times, students might take part in live, online class sessions that meet at a designated time.

Sessions are usually recorded and can be downloaded from a user-friendly platform. Blackboard is one example of a platform where students can read required course materials, submit papers and assignments, check their grades and more.

Schools with Online HR Graduate Programs and Degrees

ProgramInstitutionDegree Awarded
Doctor of Philosophy in Human Resource Management Northcentral UniversityPhD
Master – Human Resource ManagementColorado State University GlobalN/A
MBA: Human Resource ManagementSaint Leo UniversityN/A
MBA w/conc in Human ResourcesSouthern New Hampshire UniversityMBA
M.B.A. in Human ResourcesPurdue University GlobalMBA
Master of Arts in Diverse Community Development LeadershipCalifornia State University, NorthridgeN/A
Ph.D. in Management – Human Resources ManagementWalden UniversityN/A
Master of Business Administration emphasis Human ResourcesKing UniversityN/A
Master of Science in Human Resource Analytics and ManagementAmerican UniversityMS
MBA HR ManagementCampbellsville UniversityN/A
Doctor of Business Administration: Human ResourcesLiberty University OnlineDBA
MBA – Human Resource ManagementUniversity of the SouthwestN/A

Accreditation for Online HR Graduate Programs

Both regionally-accredited traditional and exclusively online universities offer online HR graduate programs.

Specific business-centered programs have their own accreditation bodies, such as the ACBSP (Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs) and the AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business).

Top States for Employment for Human Resources Specialists
StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
New York35,260$68,030

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Top Salary Metro Areas in the United States: Human Resources Specialists
Metro AreaAnnual Mean SalaryEmployment
California-Lexington Park, MD$85,990160
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV$82,38022,600
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA$81,07012,040
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA$76,7405,110
Kennewick-Richland, WA$72,680380

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Take the Next Step with our List of 96 Online Human Resources Management Graduate Programs

Now you’re equipped with the information you need to start your search for an online graduate program in human resources management. The academic path you choose may depend largely on what you plan to do after you complete your degree. To a certain extent, you want to not only prepare yourself with an education but also the ‘right’ education for the type of career you want to lead.

Don’t be shy, reaching out to more than one human resources management school may increase your chances of achieving your goal. Just click request info, fill out the for, and be sure you understand the ins and outs of each program.

Why wait? You future Online Human Resources Management Graduate Program could be one click away!

  • Some of the nation’s most affordable tuition rates, from a private, nonprofit, NEASC accredited university
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  • Strayer University is an accredited institution with a proud history of 125 years in quality education.
  • With the help of dedicated personal support and AI technology, earn your degree online or on campus.
  • Northcentral University

  • Colorado State University Global

  • Saint Leo University

  • Southern New Hampshire University

  • California State University, Northridge

  • Purdue University Global

  • Walden University

  • King University

  • American University

  • Campbellsville University

  • Liberty University Online

  • University of the Southwest