Human Resource Graduate Programs

Human Resources Graduate Programs (HR Graduate Programs) delve into the finer points of more than just how to hire (and yes—fire) personnel. Graduate human resources programs teach students the managerial skills and business savvy needed to strategically plan and enforce organizational policies.

About Human Resources Graduate Programs

Types of Human Resources Graduate Programs

Interested students could look for Human Resources Graduate Programs at the Masters, and Doctoral levels. Certificates in narrower themes within the HR field enable students to study at the graduate level without the commitment of a full degree.

Searchers could look for human resource graduate programs that cover material meant to ready graduates to sit for PHR/SPHR certification exams and others related to professional practice. Or, ones that build on a student’s current body of academic and work-related knowledge.

What Is Human Resource Management?

Human resource management (HRM) is a broad term that describes all the formal systems used to manage people (human capital) within a given organization. Further, to do this with an eye to maximize an organization’s productivity by optimizing the effectiveness of its employees.

The field of HR is vast enough that many schools with HRM graduate programs offer focuses in three major areas: (1) recruitment and staffing, (2) employee compensation and (3) benefits and employee relations.iSometimes this added focus is achieved through electives, so make sure to scan course lists and factor any professional goals into a decision.

Human Resources Degree Requirements

Graduate programs for human resources have different requirements though typically include some coursework about human capital (personnel) and organizational policy.

HR masters programs could span 30 to 48 credits in length. Most masters in human resources programs feature core courses, electives and might allow students to choose a concentration. Other requirements generally include a capstone course and final project or thesis, and possible mandatory internship.

Students who are enrolled full time might finish most programs within two years. However, some colleges and universities might offer accelerated masters in human resources degree programs which might be completed in about one year full-time.

Certificates (diplomas) in human resource management could also take around one year to complete because they tend to have fewer credit requirements (about 15).

Doctoral programs such as the PhD or DBA include an average of 60 credits and also, substantive research. Students might need an average of three or four years for coursework, but the final dissertation could extend time to completion.

What Might I Study in an HRM Graduate Program?ii

HRM grad students might take courses that explain human resource dynamics and flows, labor relations, sex roles, civil rights, human resources law and regulations. These courses often have to do with how to manage people, create a safe, respectful and compliant environment. Not to mention, profitable bottom line.

Other courses could help students more deeply grasp current tests of employee performance, and ways to either motivate or train staff to achieve better results. Beyond this, HRM graduate students might develop their business acumen, whether to serve as a strong link between employees and executives or use data and technology to inform decisions about operations and finance.

For those who want to pursue careers oriented to labor relations, salary negotiations, or business mediations, there could also be more emphasis on the inner workings of a business. See some potential topics of study below, then review course lists from individual schools.

  • Employee Testing and Assessment
  • Compensation Systems
  • Recruitment and Talent Management
  • Managing Job and Training Programs
  • Management of HR Programs
  • Employment Law
  • Career Management

What kind of graduate degree is needed in human resources?

Some higher executive positions, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “require a master’s degree in human resources, labor relations, or business administration (MBA).”iii

Earn a Graduate Degree in HR Online or On-Campus

Do you prefer to engage in coursework through live lectures and seminars? Are you excited to attend a graduate school for human resource management where you might network or take part in co-curricular activities? Does it suit your busy schedule to study remotely?

Both campus and online formats could offer the same or similar courses, but distance learners might access their classes from a laptop, desktop computer, or mobile device. Fully online hr graduate programs might suit those who don’t want to study on a set schedule, while on-campus programs could help structure a study routine.

Masters in Human Resources Management

In a typical Masters in Human Resources Management program, the aim is to ready students to manage, support, and develop employees in a modern business environment. At this level, many HR masters programs are built to fine-tune with student goals.

This is often done through a concentration – with different ones available in each grad school. These might explore aspects such as finance, accounting, and/or global business and basically allow HR students to study more specific topics like collective bargaining, employee benefits, or labor law.

Some of the main degrees conferred at this level are the Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), Master of Management (MM) and MBA in Human Resource Management.

MBA in in Human Resource Management

A Master of Business Administration – MBA in human resource management - is a professional masters degree with a focus on HRM. MBA programs are usually planned-out to help students understand the ‘ins and outs’ of business, so they might provide a slew of general classes that cover topics such as finance and accounting, public relations, marketing, and ethics.

From the compulsory core courses, MBA students then fill up their schedule with courses that fit their chosen concentration – in this case, human resources management. So, while the MBA in HRM is not 100 percent focused on human resources, students could derive broad business skills and a deeper grasp of how to apply these concepts to HR.

To this point, an MBA human resources course plan could help students gain a strategic view of the human capital and a deeper insight into the links between decision-making, management practices and business bottom lines. For instance, students might examine some of today’s modern and complex issues such as mergers, acquisitions, downsizing and globalization as they relate to managing human resources.

MM in Human Resources

A Master of Management – MM degree is a comprehensive business degree with certain classes that focus on HRM. In some schools, the HR component of the syllabus could cover topics aligned with Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) guidelines, and so, might ready students to take certification exams.

Applicants to some MM in HR programs may need a level of managerial experience. Through the program, they might develop leadership and organizational skills to more solidly understand how to make strategic managerial decisions.

A course plan might also encourage participants to learn how to identify real-life professional challenges. For instance, students may be tasked with projects where they analyze case studies, form hypotheses, test solutions and measure results.

MA in Human Resource Management

An MA in HRM may be quite similar to an MS in that they both could cover the technical and operational aspects of HR management, including U.S. laws and regulations. In an MA program though, one may be more likely to have to present a thesis paper during a final semester. Also, there may be less of an emphasis on practical/behavioral research and more of an emphasis on history or theory.

MA students might be required to take a series of core HRM courses, management courses, academic writing or communications, and electives. A final capstone generally puts student analysis to the test with a synthesis of the theories and applications of human resource management

MS in Human Resource Management

A MS in HRM is an academically-focused masters degree which could enable students to spend time on human resources management research. Many MS in human resources management programs require students to complete a thesis as the culmination of their masters degree education, and may set course plans to line up with SHRM guidelines.

Also, MSHR programs are typically planned-out to cover fewer general topics which usually means a course plan that relates pretty exclusively to human resource topics. This could include topics in management information systems, organizational decision making, leadership and team coaching.

MSHR students might study to gain practical skills such as forecasting, financial analysis, training and development, leadership development, and legal expertise. Rather than general business skills (think MBA), this type of program might enable students to strategize in many areas that are impacted by HR. From human resources to operations, sales and marketing to finance; and production to customer service.

Graduate Certificate in Human Resources

Many of today’s graduate schools now offer short, intense certificate programs in HR. These highly themed programs usually zoom in one aspect of the larger industry such as compensation and benefits management or conflict management. Students might also study to learn how to make technology-based strategic decisions using current software and HR analytics.

Interested students may want to test the waters, or study new methods to then try and make a lateral career move from one area to the other. Some of the longer programs might include roughly 18 credits (6 courses) and might be completed on their own or concurrently with a related masters program of study. Several universities may also transfer earned credits to a masters program, should a student decide to go that route later.

Doctorate in Human Resource Management

Doctorate in human resources programs are the highest level of academic award in HRM. Most programs fuse courses in leadership, research methods, ethics and strategy along with global workforce issues.

Within these doctoral programs, several pathways may be available. Among them, the Doctor of Philosophy, or PhD and the Doctor of Business Administration, or DBA. Regardless of the degree, most HR doctorate programs require students to complete a dissertation and pass a comprehensive exam.

PhD in Human Resource Management

A PhD in Human Resource Management program is a research-focused degree that may enhance one’s knowledge of and expertise in global workforce issues. Often planned-out for students interested in scholarship, some PhD programs in HRM might also provide students with the skills and knowledge to teach, consult or lead.

Coursework could broadly cover some of the diverse demographic and cultural view points to help students gain an international and multi-disciplinary viewpoint. Other topics could discuss the influence of new technologies on the workplace, and the impact of the external work environment on human resource management practices.

Finally, PhD students might explore research and study modern practices that foster innovative workplaces and attract, develop, and retain talent. A final dissertation could harness input from coursework to more narrowly address a chosen research topic with the aim to contribute something new in the way of theory or practice to the field of HRM.

DBA in Human Resource Management

A Doctor of Business Administration is a practitioner doctorate. Usually, applicants to DBA in human resource management programs are practiced professionals who want to build on masters – or MBA – skills and their own HR managerial experience.

DBA in human resource management programs typically consist of core business strategy and executive managerial topics in areas such as finance, marketing, operations and IT. The focus is often on executive decision-making and leadership and might provide in-depth discussions of both theory and applied research. This applied research (dissertation) might aim to problem solve modern organizational issues.

What Might I Do with a Human Resource Degree?

Most careers in human resources ― including HR managers, HR specialists and compensation and benefits managers ― require a bachelors to enter the field and may require a masters degree to climb the ladder.ivFor those who want to study workplace behavior, industrial–organizational psychologists typically need a masters (or PhD). v

Given that there are complex employment laws today, HR managers, says the BLS are needed to make sure companies comply with occupational safety and health, equal employment opportunity, healthcare, wages, and retirement plans. They go on to project that employment of human resources managers could grow as fast as 9 percent from 2016 to 2026.vi

The BLS further states that candidates with certification or a Masters in HRM should have more favorable prospects. v In May of 2017, the average annual salary for HR managers was $110,120.vii

Apply to Human Resources Graduate Programs Today

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[i] bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.htm#tab-2 | [ii] nces.ed.gov/ipeds/cipcode/cipdetail.aspx?y=55&cipid=88916 | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.htm#tab-4 | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.htm#tab-8 [v] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm#tab-4 | [vi] bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.htm#tab-6 | [vii] bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.htm#tab-5

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