Best Master's in Human Resources

Updated November 1, 2022

Earning a master's degree in human resources can lead to new career opportunities. Here, we list the top HR graduate programs available.

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Human Resources Masters Programs

Students earning a master's in human resources learn to create action plans, follow ethical principles, and recruit top talent. Coursework often covers human resources analytics and reward systems management. Some programs feature an internship. Prospective master's degree-seekers should hold a bachelor's from an accredited school.

After earning a human resources master's degree, graduates can work as compensation and benefits managers. They can also become labor relations specialists and training and development specialists. Professionals often earn a human resources master's degree to qualify for a promotion or raise. The following sections explore the benefits of earning a human resources degree, along with typical tuition rates and classes.

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Questions About Human Resources Graduate Programs

What can I do with a master's in HR?

Human resources degree-holders can get jobs as employee recruitment and staffing specialists and training and development specialists. Learners can work with a career advisor to select a professional path.

How long is a master's program for HR?

Some accelerated programs take as little as one year to complete. Depending on their course load, students may need 2-3 years to earn a master's in human resources.

Is a career in HR worth it?

Many human resources careers feature high salaries, challenging work environments, and advancement opportunities. Employers and economic conditions impact each professional's experience.

Best Human Resources Master's Programs

true University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 100 MA in Human Resources and Industrial Relations $16,638

The flagship campus of the University of Illinois is located in Urbana-Champaign in the center of the state. UI has the second largest library in the US and contains 16 different schools and colleges, including the School of Labor and Employment Relations. The SLER offers a Master of Human Resources and Industrial Relations degree. The program can be completed in 18 months and includes 12 courses. Students can also opt to pursue the degree part-time as well. Students take required courses like Employment Relations Systems, and Quantitative Methods I Labor and Employment Relations. They also take courses like Union Management and Labor Relations Policy, International Human Resource Management, and Labor Markets and Employment. UI offers joint degrees as well so that interested students can pursue either a law degree or an MBA along with the MHRIR.

The MHRIR/Juris Doctor is managed in partnership with the College of Law and is especially useful for students who are interested in questions relating to labor or employment law. The joint MBA/MHRIR program takes three years to complete and brings together the various disciplines that shape an MBA and combines it with HR and LR theory and practice. Students in the MHRIR program become active on campus, serving as advisors to undergraduates through the Business Career Center and the Career Center on campus. They can also serve in assistantships in the Academic Human Resources and University Human Resources offices on campus. Students also join organizations like The Multicultural Student Association or the local chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management.

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true University of Wisconsin at Madison 98.67 MBA in Strategic Human Resource Management $15,910

A public research university located in Madison, the University of Wisconsin is a land-grant research university with a large student body. UW offers over 140 master’s degrees, including an MBA in Strategic Human Resource Management through the School of Business. The program brings together core areas of study like finance, marketing, strategy, and accounting, and combines them with human resource studies. Students take classes like Personnel Staffing and Evaluation, Compensation: Theory and Administration, Labor Management Relations, Negotiations, and Ethics, Integrity, and Society. The program also features applied learning experiences where students function as consultants for real-world companies. These experiences pair students with working executives who also come to campus to speak to classes. Students have participated in projects for companies in the health care industry, the marketing industry, and many others. Speakers for the program have come from leading companies like Exxon Mobil, General Mills, GE Healthcare, American Family Insurance, and Cisco.

Students are also connected to the large alumni network of UW, and the MBA program hosts an annual HR Summit, which brings alumni into contact with current students. Approximately 90% of students who graduate from the program find placement after graduation and often are averaging a starting salary close to $100,000. Students can also take advantage of events and programs at one of the numerous centers connected to the SB, including the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship, the James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate, or the Erdman Center for Operations and Technology Management. The broad research profile of the university ensures that individuals enrolled in their programs will be exposed to the best thinking and practice in the field.

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true Texas A&M University 98.18 MS in Human Resource Management $19,554

The largest school in Texas, Texas A&M University is a public research university located in College Station. The school has an extensive alumni network of over 450,000 individuals worldwide and is the second largest school by enrollment in the nation with over 69,000 students. The Mays Business School offers a Master of Science in Human Resource Management. The program is 37 credits and can be completed in 18 months. Students take an array of courses, including Financial Analyst Modeling in HR, Behavior in Organizations, and Employment Regulation. Students are required to participate in an internship. The internships are generally 12 weeks long and count for one credit.

The Center for Human Resource Management has created a formalized recruitment process for students so that partner companies can be matched with students in a streamlined process. Students can also find their internship as well, and there are other resources for helping with that process, including the Career Management Center and the MSHRM program team, which keeps track of potential interview opportunities. The CHRM also offers other opportunities to connect with industry leaders and corporate partners. Corporate partners include Lennox International, Lockheed Martin, PepsiCo/Frito Lay, Raytheon, and CenturyLink, among many others. Speakers from these and other companies are regularly invited to campus where events are held, giving students additional opportunities to expand their horizons and extend their networks. Admission to the program requires a bachelor’s degree, GRE or GMAT scores, a resume, letters of recommendation, and an interview, among other things.

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true University of Minnesota 96.99 MA in Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations $16,808

Straddling the Mississippi River, the University of Minnesota is located in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The school has the sixth largest student body in the US with an annual enrollment of over 50,000. UM is an R1 classified research university and offers a wide array of graduate degrees. The Carlson School of Management offers a Master of Arts in Human Resources and Industrial Relations. The program can be completed in two academic years, though there is also a part-time option where students meet in the evenings. The program is organized around three core areas, and classes are rooted in three key concepts. The core areas included labor relations and collective bargaining, compensation and benefits; and staffing, training, and development. The concepts are data analysis, managerial economics, and labor market analysis, and organizational behavior and theory. Through the program, students take classes like Organizational Behavior Foundations of High-Impact HRIR, Using Data and Metrics in HRIR, and Business Principles for the HRIR Professional.

The program at CSM offers study-abroad options for students who are especially interested in questions and issues in international business. Students can either take a full semester abroad or travel up to six weeks. Programs are offered in China, England, France, and Sweden, among others with multiple options in each country. The CSM also provides a dual MAHRIR and MBA program for interested students. The degree brings together the managerial foundation of the MBA program with the attunement to HR and LR issues in the MA program giving an exceptionally well-rounded option.

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true Vanderbilt University 96.90 MBA in Human and Organizational Performance $23,295

Located in historic Nashville, Vanderbilt University is a private research university with an annual enrollment of over 12,000 students. VU is comprised of ten colleges and schools, including the Owen Graduate School of Management which has a large MBA program. Among their offerings is an MBA in Human and Organizational Performance. The program is two years and consists of core courses in management and then additional course work in the concentration. The courses are seven weeks in length and students complete 62 credits worth of courses over their two years.

Among the required core courses are Introduction to Financial Accounting, Leading Teams and Organizations, The Financial Services Industry—Wall Street Trek, Essentials of Project Management, and Training Systems Management. In the HOP concentration, students take classes like Strategic Alignment of Human Capital, Leading Globally Diverse Organizations, and Training Systems Management. Unique to the program at VU is the Leadership Development Program. The LDP is laced into the program, and students can decide how much focus on leadership development they want. The LDP requires students to take the Hogan Leadership Assessment before beginning their course of study, which is a personality-based tool for leadership development used across the business world. The assessment results then become the basis for whether the areas you want to work on as a leader, and for approach, you want to take. Students can choose either to have an individualized plan with an executive coach, a small-group cohort with other peers and a coach, or a mix of the two. The program is exceptional for its ability to equip participants for growth as industry leaders.

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New York University 96.87 MS in Human Resource Management & Development $36,256

With a historical campus near Greenwich Village in NYC, New York University is a private research university with over 50,000 students enrolled annually, including some 25,000 postgraduates. NYU has an impressive list of alumni and faculty, including heads of state, inventors, royalty, Nobel laureates, Fields Medalists, and Pulitzer Prize winners. The School of Professional Studies, in collaboration with the Department of Human Capital Management, offers a Master of Science in Human Resource Management and Development. The program includes core classes as well as concentrations like Organizational Effectiveness, Global Talent Management, Learning, Development, and Executive Coaching, and Human Resource Management. Core classes include Business Writing and Presentations, Business Strategy and Ethics, and Organizational Behavior.

The Wasserman Center for Career Development offers numerous opportunities for networking and internships. The SPS is especially concerned to make networking opportunities available to students and events bring in industry executives so that students can learn about new practices and theories and how they are playing out on the ground. Most full-time students also pursue an internship in NYC, taking advantage of the business context. Companies from a variety of industries have recruited students from the program, which means that there are several potential contacts for students to make.

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Villanova University 95.59 MS in Human Resource Development $35,491

The oldest Catholic institution in Pennsylvania, Villanova is located in Radnor Township near Philadelphia. U.S. News & World Report ranked VU as the No. 2 Best Value School and the business programs have received several awards over the years. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Graduate Programs in Human Resource Development offers a Master of Science in Human Resource Development. Classes are held in the evenings and run for eight weeks at a time. The program is 36 credits and includes required courses like Strategic Workforce Planning, Training and Development, and Employment Law. Students also take three electives. Students have several options to choose from, including Strategic and Global Human Resources Leadership, Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods, Diversity in a Global Economy, Organizational Behavior, and HR Technology.

Admission requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA, a resume, writing a sample, and statement of purpose and goals. Students are encouraged to join the local chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management, where they can gain access to networking and volunteer opportunities. SHRM is the industry-leading professional association which provides connections, certifications, and other opportunities for members. SHRM members are also involved with a variety of other local groups including the Great Valley Forge Human Resource Association, and the Philadelphia Chapter of the SHRM. The GPHRD hosts an annual networking reception where participants can connect with HR and business professionals, VU students, faculty, and other alumni. The program at VU is also aligned with SHRM for certification as well as the HRI.

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Cornell University 95.34 MA in Human Resource Studies $31,449

Located in Ithaca, NY, Cornell University is a private Ivy League research university. The school annually enrolls over 8,000 postgraduate students. In 2018, CU was ranked No. 7 in the QS World University Rankings for US institutions. CU’s Industrial and Labor Relations School offers a Masters in Human Resource Studies. The program is designed especially for working professionals who are already working in HR-related positions. Core courses include Labor and Employment Law, Labor Economics, and Labor Relations. There are five concentrations that students can choose from, including Dispute Resolution, Labor Market Policy, and Collective Representations. Students who focus on HRO will look at people in organizations, particularly seeking to understand the way that HR professionals contribute to organizational processes and success.

Annually ILR trains more than 20,000 professionals in areas like conflict resolution, HR, diversity, labor relations, management development, and union leadership. And the program boasts over 11,000 ILR alumni who are working at Fortune 500 companies, offering a vast network of people who can provide wisdom and guidance, as well as contacts in a variety of industries. ILR sponsors numerous events where undergraduate and graduate students meet many of these alumni as well as other outside speakers and experts in business and management in the US and across the world.

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Marquette University 93.87 MA in Management $32,377

A private research university located in Milwaukee, WI, Marquette University has an annual enrollment of over 11,000 students. The College of Business Administration and the Graduate School of Management offer a Master in Management. The program draws on several disciplines, including analytics, leadership, change management, organizational behavior and development, and human resource management. The program is structured so that each class meets both face-to-face and online. The MiM degree requires 30 credits, which include core courses as well as electives. Core classes include Concepts for Ethical Business Practices, Leading People and Change, Leadership Coaching and Development, and Managing Human Capital. Students learn how to align business and human resource strategies, and how to develop strategies using data, best-practices, and a carefully crafted vision.

Potential applications are required to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA. Students with a lower GPA can still apply, potentially using other qualifications. The CBA hosts several centers devoted to education and research in business, management, and economics, including the Center for Applied Economics, the Applied Investment Management Program, and the Blockchain Lab. Each center offers potential opportunities where students can gain additional co-curricular experience. Graduate students are also encouraged to use the Business Career Center, which provides a variety of services including resume writing, practice interviews, search strategies for employment, networking, and numerous career fair events as well. Graduate students can also participate in the mentoring program, which would allow them to come alongside promising undergraduates, investing in their future even as they pursue their dreams.

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Ohio State University 93.10 MA in Human Resource Management $44,864

Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business offers a Master of Human Resource Management. Courses for the program are offered in the evenings, and a central emphasis is to link theory and practice. Students travel through the degree in a cohort so that they learn with others and receive individualized treatment. Courses are offered in two different formats, either a 14-week or a seven-week session. Students take 43.5 total credits, which includes core required courses like Foundations of Labor and Human Resources, Markets; Organizations and Human Resource Management; and International Human Resource Management

Each year the program hosts a case competition where students compete in teams to think through and strategize solutions to HR problems. The competition is sponsored by a corporate sponsor, and winners are often invited to an external competition where they can compete against other master’s levels students in HR at other institutions. The Human Resources Association of Central Ohio works with the MHRM program to provide mentors to interested students. The program is primarily one-to-one and allows working professionals to work with current students, providing guidance and advice, and allowing students to extend their network. The MHRM program also boasts a great ROI as 87 percent of graduates have a job offer within three months of graduation.

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Why Get a Degree in Human Resources?

Master's in human resources degree-seekers prepare for high-paying careers in a growing field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for human resources managers to increase 9% from 2020-2030. The BLS projects a 10% growth in employment for human resources specialists during the same time. Both professions offer median salaries above the median for all occupations.

Online learning can help professionals earn a master's in human resources while working. Many online programs offer flexible asynchronous classes featuring recorded lectures.

How Much Does a Human Resources Degree Cost?

A master of science degree cost $62,300 in 2021, according to the Education Data Initiative. The average cost of a master of arts was $72,800. In-state public institutions typically charge the most affordable tuition rates. Some schools offer discounted tuition rates for accelerated programs.

In addition to tuition, degree-seekers should budget for school fees, commuting costs, and technology. Some online students must purchase a new computer to meet technology requirements. Additionally, recent graduates may earn professional certification, which requires a fee.

How Much Do Human Resources Majors Make?

According to BLS data, human resources managers earn a median salary of $121,220 per year. Human resources specialists earn a median annual salary of $63,490. Earning potential depends on factors including employer and geographic location.

HR managers working for professional, scientific, and technical service companies earn a median salary of $138,030 per year. Human resources managers in New Jersey and New York earn an average annual salary of $177,960 and $169,290, respectively.

HR managers with a master's often earn significantly more than those without a graduate degree. As a result, a master's in human resources can be a wise financial investment.

Courses in Human Resources

Human resources degree requirements prepare learners for management-level positions. Typical coursework covers professional ethics and global human resources best practices. Students also learn talent development basics. Degree-seekers generally complete an internship, and graduates often pursue professional certification.

Many human resources master's degrees require the following classes. However, available courses and concentrations vary by school. Program curricula can impact a student's academic experience and career options. Prospective learners should consult with a career advisor before selecting a program.

  • Business Foundations

    This class surveys business fundamentals, including best practices, terminology, and operations. Participants master accounting systems and learn to analyze complex financial statements. Many programs require this course as a prerequisite to core HR classes.
  • Managing Through Communications

    Human resources professionals must effectively manage employees. Students in this course develop communication skills through active listening exercises. Learners provide feedback on peers' work and deliver mock presentations.
  • Human Resources in Global Contexts

    The trend toward globalization means that many companies use a multinational workforce. This class explores cultural competencies and international security. It also teaches cross-cultural management fundamentals. Students practice developing effective human resources plans that leverage diversity.

How to Become a Human Resources Manager

Although many human resources managers hold only a bachelor's degree, some employers prefer applicants with a master's. To stand out, job applicants can also earn certification from the Society for Human Resources Management. An advanced degree and a certification demonstrate advanced communication, interpersonal, and leadership skills.

Human resources managers' typical responsibilities include planning benefit programs and interviewing applicants. They also investigate employees' improper behavior. These managers coordinate with senior managers about employee recruitment and retention. Many human resources managers specialize in an area such as payroll, recruiting, or labor relations.

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