25 Best Master’s in Human Resources

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Master’s programs in human resources (HR) teach the soft skills, business fundamentals, and managerial studies necessary to succeed in an HR position. Through the curriculum, students can explore technology’s increasing role in the workplace and how to fuse emerging technology with traditional practices.

Demand for HR jobs grows as companies expand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for HR specialists to grow by 7% for 2019-2029. This amounts to an added 666,500 positions. These figures suggest a ripe job market for those who want to break into the industry over the next few years.

Below, find a general guide to human resources careers, including graduate programs and jobs you can expect in the industry. Our ranking of the top master’s degrees in HR for 2021 can help you navigate graduate programs and find the right school for you.

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Top 10 Ranking of Human Resources Master’s Degrees

Rank School Location
1 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Urbana-Champaign, IL
2 University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI
3 Texas A&M University College Station, TX
4 University of Minnesota Minneapolis, MN
5 Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN
6 New York University Greenwich Village, NYC
7 Villanova University Philadelphia, PA
8 Cornell University Ithaca, NY
9 Marquette University Milwaukee, WI
10 Ohio State University Columbus, OH

What Is Human Resources Management?

Whether it’s planning or coordinating the administrative functions of an organization, overseeing policy compliance, or making sure that recruitment strategies align with larger institutional goals, human resource managers are essential to healthy businesses.

The key to being a great HR professional is understanding talent and where to find it.

HR managers often tackle an array of responsibilities. These include developing and overseeing employee benefit programs, dealing with staff issues, including conflicts, and offering advice and insight to other managers. The key to being a great HR professional is understanding talent and where to find it. For this, HR managers need a solid grasp of the culture and strategic vision of their company.

Read About HR Departments

Why Should You Be Getting a Master’s in Human Resources?

Most organizations require HR positions, so a master’s degree in HR can help students enter almost any industry. A master’s degree shows dedication to the field, which can attract the attention of employers, and graduate programs in HR often cover advanced topics, theories, and emerging trends in the field.

A master’s in HR also offers the following benefits.

  • Competitive Edge: The BLS reports a bachelor’s education as a typical entry-level requirement for jobs in human resources. Those who earn a master’s degree in human resources can gain an advantage over other applicants with lower levels of education.
  • Comprehensive Studies: General MBA programs might supply necessary business fundamentals, but a concentration or master’s in HR lets students focus on the field. A dedicated master’s program can explore nuanced topics and prepare students for lucrative HR positions down the line.
  • An Accelerated Path to Certification: Holding a master’s HR can qualify students to take the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) exams while they currently hold an HR position. In comparison, bachelor’s degree-holders must earn an additional year of experience in an HR role before qualifying.
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The Best Master’s Degrees in Human Resources

Our Ranking Methodology

    Score: 79.06

    Drake University is a private institution located in Des Moines, IA. DU has an annual enrollment of over 5,000 students, of which 2,000 are postgraduates. The School of Education offers a Master of Science in Leadership Development. The program is mainly developed for professionals who want to strengthen their leadership skills and potential. The classes are held primarily on weekends, and students can choose between a standard face-to-face format, or some courses can be completed online. The standard format is organized in a cohort model so that students will generally take classes with the same group of people throughout the program. This enables deeper friendships and networking to occur.

    The program is 30 credits, and individuals can choose one of two concentrations, either Leadership or Talent Development. Students in either track take classes like Understanding Self and Others, Leadership in Organizations, and Ethics and Leadership. The Leadership concentration offers unique classes like Global Leadership, Innovation and Future Thinking, and Inspiring and Involving Others. The concentration in Talent Development also has unique courses like Learning and Technology, Organizational Learning, Performance Consulting, and Facilitating Learning. Though a smaller local school, DU has produced several award-winning individuals and in 2019 had five Fulbright finalists including one from the School of Education. For individuals who have an interest, there are over 160 different student clubs and organizations to get involved with, many of which are often special interest oriented.  
    Net Price: $28,277


    Score: 81.60

    Columbus State University is a public university and is located in Columbus, GA. The school is part of the University System of Georgia and has an annual enrollment of over 7,000 students. The D. Abbott Turner College of Business provides a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership with a Concentration in Human Resource Management. Core classes include Global Management; Negotiations and Conflict Resolution; and MSOL Professional Exit Requirement. Available courses include Human Resource Management, Recruiting and Selection, and Employee Development. Students then have the option of taking electives, or they can choose to take two classes from the Servant Leadership concentration, which is the other concentration offered in the ATCB program.

    The program at CSU is designed for working professionals, and all courses are taught in the evening. Full-time students should be able to complete the degree within four semesters, while part-time students could finish the program within two years. To remain in good standing, students can have no more than two Cs in the program. Students and alumni can take advantage of the Butler Center for Business and Economic Research, which is focused on researching and developing the economy of the Chattahoochee Valley region where Columbus is located.
    Net Price: $11,334


    Score: 83.24

    The University of Colorado has three large campuses, including one in Denver. UC Denver is the largest of the universities in terms of research expenditures, drawing over $375 million in grant monies every year. UC Denver has a student body that is annually over 18,000. The Business School offers a Master of Science in Management. The program is designed to develop professionals in their human resource and organizational understanding and effectiveness. The degree is 30 credits which can be pursued on a full-time or part-time basis. All classes are taught in the evenings and are also available online. Students take core classes covering topics like managing people for competitive advantage, designing effective organizations, leading organizational change, and leading individuals and teams. The MSMO programs offer ten different specializations, including one in Human Resource Management. Individuals who follow this track will take at least four courses that deal with topics like talent management, compensation administration, performance management, and managing people.

    For students who can manage it, the MSMO program can also be pursued with a dual Master of Business Administration degree. UC Denver offers five different MBA programs, which include Executive, Health Administration, and Professional, among others. Individuals who may be looking for other employment opportunities can also consult with the Business Career Connections office, which is located on campus and has as its mission connecting students with prospective employers. The BS also regularly brings in high-profile speakers from major companies like Amazon, Ball Aerospace, Neurotech, and Kaiser Permanente. Admission requires a bachelor’s as well as GMAT or GRE test scores.
    Net Price: $14,586


    Score: 83.97

    Eastern Michigan University is located just outside of Detroit in Ypsilanti, MI. EMU is a public university with an annual student body that tops 20,000. The university is comprised of seven different colleges and schools including the College of Business which offers a Master of Science in Human Resources and Organizational Development. Required courses include Organizational Theory and Behavior, Strategic Human Resource Management, Theory and Techniques of Organizational Development, Diagnostic Techniques and Research Methods, and Human Resource Development. Among the electives are classes like Employment Law, International Human Resource Management, and HR and Technology. Admission to the program requires a 2.75 GPA in an undergraduate degree program and one’s GMAT or GRE scores, which are waived with GPAs’ higher than 3.5 

    The program at EMU has received recognition from hr.com and has been ranked No. 1 and No. two in 2017 and 2018. EMU also offers several additional certificate programs including a Graduate Certificate in Management. Law students who are pursuing a Juris Doctorate at the Cooley Law School can also pursue a dual JD/MS degree in HROD. Students can also join the local chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management, which offers a variety of professional development, networking, and relationship building experiences for students to engage.

    Net Price: $14,090




    Score: 85.43

    A private evangelical Christian institution, Azusa Pacific University is located in Azusa, CA in the larger Los Angeles metropolitan area. The school annually enrolls over 9,000 students, of which 4,500 are at the graduate level. The School of Business and Management offers a Master of Business Management. The degree program includes eight different concentrations, including one in Human Resource Management. The program is designed to apprise professionals of the various dimensions involved in HR and specifically focuses on helping students formulate strategies for dealing with various issues and challenges in HR. The program can be completed from between 12-30 months and includes 39 credits, of which nine are in the concentration. Among the required courses are Current Issues in Business and Management, High-Performance People Management, Managing Human Capital, Managing Teams and Conflict, and Organizational Performance Improvement. The concentration courses include classes like Labor Law and Negotiations for Human Resource Professionals and Human Resource Law.

    Admission to the program requires a bachelor’s degree with a 2.5 GPA, as well as an application essay. Students without a business degree or academic work in business may be required to take additional prerequisites in management studies. Classes are offered in the evenings, and the program can also be pursued in an online option. The School of Business has 21 full-time faculty devoted to the program. Because APU is a relatively small school, students can expect individualized treatment and mentor from faculty, which is not always the case at larger schools.

    Net Price: $28,784


    Score: 87.06

    Located in Knoxville in eastern Tennessee, the University of Tennessee is a public research university. UT has an annual student population of round 28,000, of which nearly 6,000 are postgraduates. The Haslam College of Business offers a Master of Science in Management and Human Resources. The degree brings together the theoretical and practical concepts of business with human resources and leadership development theory and strategy to create a program that helps to shape future leaders in business and management. The program is 33 credits and can be pursued either part-time or full-time. Classes are always held in the evening. Coursework is divided into three primary areas: Leadership and Management, Business Skills, and Strategic Human Resources. Students take core classes in all three areas. The LM courses focus on issues in strategic leadership and the legal and ethical issues that managers can face. The BS section engages content around the use of data in making strategic decisions, as well as financial and accounting practices for managers. And the SHR courses look at issues around organizational development and behavior, as well as recruitment and retention of talent.

    Classes include Foundations in Human Resources Management, Legal and Ethical Issues in Management, Business Fundamentals: Structure, Function and Strategy, Data-Driven Decision Making, and Organizational Behavior and Development. Admissions require GRE/GMAT scores unless applicants have a degree in a business-related field. If so, they can apply for an exemption. UT has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top ten best buys in higher education, and there are numerous opportunities to apply for financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships, or loans.
    Net Price: $20,995


    WebsiteScore: 88.73

    A member of the Kentucky state university system, the University of Louisville is a public research institution which was one of the first universities founded west of the Allegheny Mountains. UL has an annual enrollment that tops 22,000 students and offers master’s degrees in 78 different areas. The College of Education and Human Development awards a Master of Science in Human Resources and Organization Development. The program can be pursued with or without a thesis. The non-thesis option includes 11 courses plus an internship or fieldwork experience, while the thesis options also include 11 courses. Core courses include Leadership in Human Resources and Organizational Development, Evidenced-Based Research in Human Resource and Organizational Development, Organizational Analysis, and Strategic Human Resources. Students take five electives, which includes classes like Ethics in the Workplace, Talent Acquisition and Management, and Diversity and Inclusion.

    There are five primary program goals which constitute the basic methodology around which the degree is organized: implement and lead change, investigate gap, evaluate outcomes, integrate foundational knowledge and skills, and produce interventions. Together these different foci offer a practical, strategic, and data-driven basis for making organizational and human resource strategic decisions. The UL program is aligned with the Society for Human Resource Management and its certification program. Students can take the SHRM exam to earn certification during their last year. Individuals and organizations with SHRM certification indicate not only expertise but also a commitment to the best practices and highest standards in the world of HR.  
    Net Price: $17,008


    Score: 89.27

    By enrollment, DePaul University is the largest Catholic university in the US. The Department of Management and Entrepreneurship is housed in the Kellstadt College of Business and offers a Master of Science in Human Resources. Students take 12 courses in the program in Human Resources and Business. There are five core courses, including Managing for Effective and Ethical Organizational Behavior, Compensation and Benefits, Training and Career Development, Strategic Management of Human Resources, and Recruitment and Selection. Students also take an additional seven elective courses in Human Resources and Business, which can include classes like Decisions in Marketing Management, Management of Information Technology, and Strategic Management and Planning.

    The MSHR program is designed for working professionals, and some 94 percent of students in the program are already working in a related field. This means that classroom or online interactions will be primarily geared towards real-world questions, strategies, and challenges. Though DU is a moderate-sized institution, they have a 14:1 student to faculty ratio, which means that students can expect individualized treatment and significant interaction with their professors. Students are also encouraged to take advantage of the Kellstadt Career Management Center, where graduate students can participate in job fairs, seminars, and other opportunities. DU does a great job of connecting students to alumni for mentoring and networking purposes, and there are currently over 65,000 DePaul business alumni.
    Net Price: $32,927


    Score: 89.45

    Pepperdine University is a private university located in Malibu, CA. PU is associated with the Churches of Christ and has an annual enrollment that regularly tops 7,700 students. The Graziadio Business School has been a central component of PU for nearly 50 years and offers a Master of Science in Human Resources. The program requires 39 credits and can be completed in 12-19 months on a full-time or part-time basis. Admission to part-time or full-time are dependent on work experience: full-time students are only required to have one year of work experience, while part-time students need to have between at least three years of work experience. Courses in the program include Digital Platforms for Human Resources Processes and Information Management, Introduction to the Fundamental Principles of American Law and Ethics, Preparation for Human Resources Internship and Career, Human Resources Consulting and Managing Change, and Organizational Behavior, Leadership, and Culture. The program requires neither the GMAT nor GRE for entrance.

    The GBS Career and Professional Development department is an excellent resource for both graduate and undergraduate students. The CPD offers seminars, individualized advice and guidance for resume writing and interview skills, as well as networking events and job fairs where students can meet prospective employers. Current students are also deliberately connected to the vast, global alumni network of PU. There are also 13 different student clubs and organizations associated with the GBS including the Analytics and Digital Innovation Club, the Asian Business Club; Entertainment Media and Sports Society; and the Pepperdine Real Estate Association. Students can join any number of these clubs to take advantage of a variety of co-curricular experiences which will enhance their graduate school experience.
    Net Price: $36,372


    Score: 90.59

    Located in Kingston, RI, the University of Rhode Island is a public research university with around 18,000 students, 3,000 of which are graduate students enrolled in one of 49 areas of study. The Schmidt Labor Research Center awards a Master of Science in Labor Relations and Human Resources. The program consists of 12 courses, of which five are required for all students. Included among the required courses are Labor Relations and Human Resources, Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining, Employment and Labor Law, and Strategic Human Resource Management. The remaining courses can be taken as electives in either Labor Relations or Human Resources, which allows students to specialize and tailor their course of study. HR courses include Organizational Behavior, Staffing Organizations, Global Politics of Work and Social Welfare, Consulting and Management Practice, and Total Reward Management. Students also have a capstone course which requires a major project and presentation, and which is geared to hone an individual’s communication, integrative, and analytical skills.

    The program is aligned with the Society for Human Resource Management so that students will be prepared to take the SHRM exam by the end of their degree program to receive SHRM certification. All classes meet in the evenings once a week. The SLRC has been a part of URI since the 1980s and has researched a variety of areas. Current research is focused on questions around work/life balance. The SLRC also regularly hosts conferences on topics associated with HR and LR, such as the Labor and Employment Law Conference, or the Labor Arbitration Conference. These kinds of events present students with additional opportunities to enhance their education, network, and learn from working professionals in the field.
    Net Price: $18,739


    Score: 91.53

    A private Catholic research university, Loyola University Chicago was founded by the Jesuits in 1870. The school has grown considerably and now offers over 200 degrees and has an annual student body of around 16,000 students. The Quinlan School of Business offers a Master of Science in Human Resources which has received national recognition for excellence. The program includes 12 classes, though students with no prior HR experience must also take an internship class. Required courses include Human Resource Development, Data Driven Decision Making, Global Human Resource Management, Employment Relations, and Human Resources Law. The program is aligned with the Society for Human Resource Management, the industry’s leading professional association, and offers elective courses for students who intend to sit for the SHRM certification exam. SHRM certification provides yet another excellent credential for graduates indicating their commitment to excellence.

    There are over 3,000 alumni of the human resources program at LU who work in the larger Chicago metropolitan area. LU is very intentional at putting current students into contact with this vast network and even has an Alumni Mentoring Program. The program is formalized and links one mentor with one current student, which means individuals will receive one-on-one guidance and advice from seasoned professionals. Because of LU’s Catholic identity and heritage, the MSHR program stresses values and ethics as central to the formation of professionals in the industry. This makes graduates of the program all the more appealing to potential employers. For enterprising students, there is also an MSHR and Master of Business Administration dual degree program. This is a unique program allowing students to pursue two highly sought-after credentials at the same time.  
    Net Price: $34,526


    Score: 91.74

    With the largest student body in North Texas, the University of Texas at Arlington is also the fourth largest university in Texas. UTA is an R1 rated public university which means that it conducts high levels of research, which is good if you are considering a graduate degree. The College of Business provides a Master of Science in Human Resource Management. The program is 36-42 credits and comes with a thesis and non-thesis option. Students who don’t have a bachelor’s degree in business or a related field may also have to take up to 12 credits of additional classes. The program includes required courses at the core and advanced level, as well as electives. The core courses include Economic Analysis, Business Financial Management, and Advanced Methods for Analytics. The advanced courses include classes like Staffing and Performance Management, Strategic Management, and Human Resource Law.

    Admission to the program requires a 3.0 GPA and either GMAT or GRE qualifying scores. Students must also provide letters of recommendation, and show proof of work experience, among other things. The program prepares students to take the exams for certification with the Society for Human Resources Management as well as the Professional Human Resources certification exam. UTA alumni can be found in top companies around the country, including American Airlines, Samsung Telecommunications America, UT Southwestern Medical Center, and Ford Motor Company. Students are strongly encouraged to tap into the alumni network and to take advantage of the Lockheed Martin Career Development Center which regularly hosts events for professional development and networking.
    Net Price: $12,533


    Score: 92.75

    Located in East Lansing, Michigan State University is a large public research university with an annual student enrollment of 50,000. The School of Human Resources and Labor Relations is located in the College of Social Science and offers a Master in Human Resources and Labor Relations. The program was developed with input from an external advisory board populated with industry leaders and innovative thinkers. The program consists of 12 courses which fit into seven distinct knowledge areas around which the program is designed. Those seven areas are Human Resource Management, Strategy and Firm Performance, International HR and LR, Organizational Change Leadership, and Workplace Law, as well as Labor Relations, and Analytical Skills for HR and LR. Students can take classes like Collective Bargaining, High-Performance Work Systems, Foundation of Employee Benefits, Human Resource Strategy, and Employment Law. Students are also encouraged to consider a summer internship. The internship program is run through the Career Development and Placement Office, which also hosts recruiter visits from companies like Amazon.com, American Express, Boeing, Anheuser Busch, and Johnson & Johnson.

    The application process includes submission of GRE or GMAT scores, though applicants with at least five years of work experience are not required to take the exams. The MSU program offers several different Study Abroad possibilities for students to take advantage of, including trips to South Korea, South Africa, China, and Germany. Each trip is focused on issues germane to the program. For interested students, there is also a dual-degree program with the MSU College of Law, so that students can pursue both a Juris Doctor and their MHRLR degree simultaneously.
    Net Price: $16,684


    Score: 92.97

    Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management offers a unique Master of Science in Positive Organization Development and Change. The program is specially designed for working professionals and draws on the insights of strengths-based approaches like Appreciated Inquiry, sustainable enterprise building, and emotionally and socially intelligent leadership. The programs unique design includes five different week-long residencies and one international tour, all of which occur over 18 months. Each residency includes two to four courses like Coaching Leadership and Executive Assessment and Development, Foundations of Strategic Thinking, Leading Change from a Complexity Perspective, Dynamics of Effective Consulting and Implementation, and Inclusive Leadership. The residencies are placed 10-12 weeks apart, and during that period, students are asked to group work, self- study, reading, and online learning.

    The international tour – Global Citizenship and Multicultural Organization Development – is ten days and takes place outside the North American context. During the trip, students have an in-depth experience with OD practitioners and students from other contexts, which includes site visits and a comparative study of OD practices. Students are also connected to the larger network of WSM alumni, offering numerous possibilities for networking and relationship building. Admission requires a bachelor’s degree, five to seven years of work experience, and full-time employment.
    Net Price: $34,973


    Score: 93.08

    Located in Greater Miami, Florida International University is one of the largest universities in the US program-specified as an R1 institution for its high research activity. The school has an annual enrollment of over 55,000 students, of which 8,000 are postgraduates. The FIU College of Business offers a Master of Science in Human Resource Management. Students learn how to align an HR strategy with their organization’s overall business strategy, plan for organizational change, and address the unique cultural or other dynamics met when managing multinational organizations. The program includes 38 credits and is designed to be completed in 12 months. Courses are held on Saturday and include classes like Critical Thinking in Human Resource Management, Human Resource Knowledge Management, Labor Issues and Conflict Management, High-Involvement Human Resource Management, and Employment Law and Human Resource Management. Students also take three professional development seminars to help hone skills essential to breaking into the field and enjoying a successful career.

    Admission requires a bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 in upper-division courses, as well as full-time work experience preferably in human resources. Students are also required to take the GRE or GMAT unless they have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. There are several program-specific scholarships available to help defray the costs. Students are also encouraged to get involved in the local chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management, which sponsors events on campus for networking and professional development.
    Net Price: $12,219


    Score: 93.30

    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.
    Net Price: $18,042


    Score: 93.87

    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.
    Net Price: $32,377


    Score: 95.34

    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.
    Net Price: $31,449


    Score: 95.59

    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.
    Net Price: $35,491


    Score: 96.87

    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.
    Net Price: $36,256


    Score: 96.90

    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.
    Net Price: $23,295


    Score: 96.99

    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.
    Net Price: $16,808


    Score: 98.18

    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.
    Net Price: $19,554


    Score: 98.67

    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.
    Net Price: $15,910


    Score: 100

    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.
    Net Price: $16,638

What To Expect From Master’s in HR Programs

Master’s programs in HR emphasize strong interpersonal skills and business fundamentals. HR programs also develop essential soft skills such as communication and leadership. Curriculums might prioritize behavioral studies over business courses or vice versa, though often there is a mix of both.

In general, earning a master’s degree can take 1-2 years, but the time frame varies according to course load and curriculum. Many programs require a minimum of 30-40 credit hours. Some schools award degrees with a concentration in human resources rather than a master’s in HR.

Requirements for a Master’s in Human Resources

Each school sets different admission standards for its programs, but the process often requires similar materials. While applying, a student might need to supply a resume, letters of recommendation, personal statements, and undergraduate transcripts from accredited schools. In some cases, students must submit essays or complete an interview.

Due to the competitive nature of graduate school, many programs necessitate minimum GPAs or test scores to enroll. Brandman University offers multiple options for admission to its MS in human resources including one that requires a GPA of 2.5 or above paired with minimum scores on tests such as the GRE or the Miller Analogies Test. However, institutions like the University of St. Francis forgo scores for requirements like professional experience.

Students might need to apply separately to a specific program after they successfully enroll in graduate school. Interested applicants should check each school’s website for step-by-step instructions.

Degree and Concentration Options

Students can earn several types of HR related master’s when they graduate, such as an MA, MS, MBA, or master’s in human resource management (MHRM). Some schools list degrees that feature a concentration in HR. For increased specialization, a joint master’s program at schools like the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign allows students to pursue HR alongside other studies, such as law.

MBAs can offer several concentrations within the degree, including human resources. These programs often provide a stronger foundation in business topics and operations. However, the strong focus on business courses might leave less room for dedicated HR studies in the curriculum.

By comparison, an MA, MS, or MHRM usually entails a more intense focus on HR topics and theories. While the curriculum can still include business courses, the HR classes form the core. Some dedicated HR programs can directly prepare students to take the SHRM-Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) exam.

Explore HR Specialties

Popular HR Courses

The courses offered in an HR master’s curriculum can vary depending on the school and type of degree. While many curriculums might look different, all programs provide several core courses with elective options to flesh out topics of interest. Some electives cover HR fundamentals and more advanced topics in the field. Others can explore niche studies where HR theories and other industries collide, such as the collective bargaining in sports class listed below.

These four courses represent a small chunk of the various topics that a master’s program in HR can include:

  • Workplace Dispute Resolution

    This course examines scenarios that students can encounter in the workplace. Along with maintaining procedures, the class tackles topics like different forms of arbitration, mediation, and how to hunt down facts amid disputes. The seminar pays particular attention to the role of third-party intervention in the workplace and remaining neutral.

  • Project Management for HMRS

    This project management lecture teaches students to apply HR metrics to projects and analyze the results. This class covers Intentional Change Theory and other fundamentals so students can confidently introduce changes to their future workplace. Learners also engage subjects like complex systems and communication strategies within the seminar.

  • Collective Bargaining In Sports and Entertainment

    As a specialized elective, this class allows students to pursue topics related to their desired career paths. The course combines basic collective bargaining strategies with the heavy anti-competition laws inherent in sports and other media. Students learn to analyze player drafts, exclusive rights, and strict regulations within the National Labor Relations Act.

  • Capstone Experience

    A capstone for HR graduate programs can come in several forms. The traditional method allows students to gain experience through internships or real-world projects. Some SHRM-Aligned programs can designate earning the SHRM-CP credential as passing a capstone course. Other exams, such as through the department, might also apply toward capstone credit.

How Much Will a Human Resources Master’s Cost?

The price varies depending on several factors including public versus private status, in-state or out-of-state tuition, and delivery methods (online, hybrid, or on campus). Master’s programs can include additional costs for textbooks, software subscriptions, and required technology.

The average cost of tuition and fees for in-state graduates at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an affordable entry among the top 10 master’s programs, comes to $12,197 annually for the 2020-2021 academic year; out-of-state students pay $25,523. By comparison, New York University’s average cost sits at $36,892.

Students can apply financial aid such as scholarships, grants, and loans. If the school holds an accreditation recognized by the Department of Education, learners can apply for FAFSA. While students must pay back loans (and often with interest), they do not have to pay back gift aid such as scholarships and grants.

FAFSA, individual schools, and state programs can offer forms of financial aid. HR students can apply for industry-specific scholarships and grants along with other aid. Professional organizations for human resources like SHRM also offer financial aid opportunities for those pursuing an education in HR.

Learn About Scholarships in Your State

Jobs for Master’s in HR Graduates

Earning a master’s in human resources can open a career path not bound by industry lines.

Even small organizations need an HR position to handle conflicts, regulate compensation, and hire new employees.

Many HR jobs revolve around handling, directing, and teaching other employees. As a result, the soft skills developed in a master’s program can lead to lucrative promotions and managerial roles. The positions below embody some of the main career paths available to those who hold a master’s degree in HR.

  • Human Resources Specialist

    Sizable organizations from any field often include one or more of this popular HR position. As a more general title, this job includes recruiting and screening applicants along with handling employee relations, benefits, and training. HR specialists can break down to further specialized roles, such as recruitment specialists dedicated to talent acquisition.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
    Job Outlook (2019-29): +7%
    Median Annual Salary: $63,490

  • Training and Development Managers

    These managers create, update, and distribute training materials and courses to other HR employees. Those in the role can spend 40 hours or more each week surrounded by people. This position requires HR employees to accrue several years of experience (often as a training and development specialist) before earning a promotion to the managerial level.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
    Job Outlook (2019-29): +7%
    Median Annual Salary: $115,640

  • Administrative Services and Facilities Managers

    These managers view an organization holistically and develop plans to keep it running smoothly. The role includes maintaining a safe workplace and keeping up with regulations and environmental standards across day-to-day operations. This lucrative HR position can also spearhead changes in procedures or policies to improve efficiency. Employees in this role should exhibit strong organizational skills to keep track of multiple moving parts.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
    Job Outlook (2019-29): +6%
    Median Annual Salary: $98,890

  • Compensation and Benefits Manager

    Positions in compensation and benefits account for one of several rising specializations within the field. These managers take an active role in company finances by researching competitive pay rates and updating salaries and benefits according to market values. This position manages contracted vendors related to finance and ensures that all laws and regulations are followed.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
    Job Outlook (2019-29): +3%
    Median Annual Salary: $125,130

Choosing the Right HR Graduate Program

While a rankings list jump-starts your search for the right graduate program, other factors should be taken into consideration. For example, a school’s reputation can weigh in on an employer’s decision when choosing to hire an applicant. Two applicants might hold similar degrees, but an employer might value the degree that comes from a prestigious program compared to a lesser-known program.

All quality master’s programs should carry some form of accreditation, a credential that schools receive for meeting a minimum educational standard. Most schools earn regional accreditation, which can carry more weight than national accreditations.

Applicants should also consider these factors before selecting a school:

Individual programs or schools under a university can earn industry-specific accreditations for providing educational excellence in that field. Earning a degree from an accredited program can add value to resumes. Keep an eye out for accreditations from these organizations:

  • Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
  • Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI)

The top two accreditations listed here only apply to business programs, but some HR degrees fall under business schools as a type of MBA.

While SHRM does not bestow accreditations, this globally recognized organization awards programs that prepare students for its CP exams. As a powerful and longstanding organization in the profession, SHRM’s credentials and awards carry weight in the industry.

Should You Get Your Degree Online?

With the recent wave in distance education, many schools offer online degrees and provide distance learning options. Accredited online programs achieve the same level of academic excellence as on-campus counterparts.

Earning a degree online can provide several benefits. With online learning, students can save money by eliminating expenses on housing, meal plans, and various fees. The format’s flexibility can open the path for busy learners who need to balance education with other obligations.

With online learning, students can save money by eliminating expenses on housing, meal plans, and various fees.

With the increase in remote and hybrid jobs, an online program can introduce students to remote work practices. Online education can mirror the digital communications, online presentations, and workflow strategies that remote workers encounter. Even if a student fills a non-remote position, they may end up handling cases involving remote workers within the company.

Even with such benefits, online learning requires self-motivation and organization. Students with certain learning styles can struggle with distance learning, such as kinesthetic learners, people who retain information through direct experience more easily compared to reading, writing, or listening to lectures.

The Best Online Master's in Human Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What should I major in to become a human resources professional?

    To start a career in human resources, students should major in HR or seek degrees with a concentration in HR. Concentrations in HR can spend less time on specific HR topics in exchange for other degree-related fundamentals, such as business for an MBA. Those with preexisting foundations can major in HR for a focused study of the field.

  • Is a master's in human resources worth it?

    Yes. The degree prepares students for entry-level jobs and can accelerate their paths to earning the SHRM-CP certification. HR master’s degree-holders can bypass some qualifications to sit in the exam compared to bachelor’s degree-holders.

  • What is an online master's in HR like?

    An online master’s in HR can last 1-2 years and often involves some business fundamentals. Course topics and materials look similar to that of on-campus programs, but online education might not suit all learning styles. Distance learning can require high levels of organization and self-discipline.

  • What can I do with a master's in human resources?

    With a master’s in HR, students can sit for the SHRM-CP certification (while currently holding an HR position) and apply for various jobs in the field. A master’s degree can also lead to lucrative promotions and managerial positions in the long run.

  • Is HR a good career path?

    Yes. A career in human resources offers versatility and opportunities in nearly any industry. However, HR’s status as a good career depends on the person. Someone with developed interpersonal skills who enjoys working with others would be well suited for HR positions.

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