The human resources field is quite versatile when it comes to employment outcomes. Those who want to get into the workplace quickly will find it usually doesn't take a four-year degree to get their foot in the door as a human resources assistant. Meanwhile, those who are interested in advancing their career may discover that a quality education can help them to become workplace managers.
Regardless of which option appeals to you, online human resources degree programs can make it convenient to get the education you're looking for. Keep reading to learn more about which institutions make the cut as the best online colleges for human resources. Also included are details about degree levels and typical careers for graduates in the field.
Best Online Colleges for Human Resources in 2018-19
Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we evaluated 100 online schools with degree programs for human resources, assessing them based on metrics such as admissions, graduation rate and tuition. Only the schools with the most impressive scores made it onto our list of the 10 best online colleges for human resources. To find out which schools made the cut, just keep reading; for details on our methodology, see the bottom of this page.
Nova Southeastern University
University of Phoenix-Arizona
University of Saint Francis
Florida International University
Saint Leo University
Interview with an Expert
via phone, e-mail or the online student commons.
Dr. Barrett Baebler
Chair of the Management Department
Dr. Barrett Baebler
Chair of the Management Department
Q: What qualities make Webster University's online human resources degree an outstanding program?
A: Our instructors are largely working within the industry. Because of this, Webster University's HR graduate courses involve practical and theoretical considerations in the professional development of men and women in the field of human resources. To help us ensure we continually offer and deliver a quality program, the MA in Human Resources Management program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. Additionally, our MA in Human Resources fully aligns with the SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) curriculum guidelines.
Q: What support does Webster University offer their online student body?
A: Webster offers a number of initial online trainings to new online students. One training is geared towards students who are new to Webster University and to online learning while another training is geared towards students who might have taken an on-campus class before and is aware of Webster's resources but is not used to the online environment.
We have an "online student commons" message board where student volunteers and staff are able to answer questions as they come in. A student success coach is on staff to ensure that everyone is having an easy path through the process. Also, our staff members are always willing to help students out via phone, e-mail or the online student commons.
Q: How does the online human resources program differ from the on-campus program?
A: We know that our students are busy adults, and we value being able to offer them flexibility throughout their education. If someone lives in St. Louis or near a domestic or international metropolitan campus that offers an HR master's degree, they would be able to seamlessly jump between on-campus or online course offerings.
The learning outcomes and program requirements are the same regardless of the delivery method. The online learning option allows students to do their coursework when it is most convenient for them, but the quality of the education is the same whether you're in a classroom for one evening a week or on your computer at a coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon.
Degree Overview: Human Resources
Whether students are thinking of beginning a career in human resources or are already working in the field, a variety of online education for human resources programs are available to help them improve their career prospects. Courses vary by degree, and what you can expect to learn varies by courses, but details on some common outlines of both are provided below.
Online Human Resources Courses
While an associate degree can certainly be quicker and easier to earn than a master's degree, that master's degree can open the door to more and higher-paying careers in your field. What can you expect to learn at different levels of a degree program? While the details will change between different institutions, here is a brief overview of some of the general subjects you can expect to see at various degree levels.
- Prospective students who want to drill down onto one particular aspect of human resources in a quick, concise manner can look to certificate or diploma programs. A half-dozen classes or more may be required, but typically are strictly focused in the field. The basics students cover may include human relations, labor relations and employment law.
- Online human resources degrees at the associate level are one of the quickest overviews for helping students to learn about interviewing, hiring procedures and recruitment. Students may be able to choose between human resources administration — which focuses on personal management of individuals — or human resources management — which looks more at overarching systems and policies — as a degree focus.
- Online bachelor's degree programs in human resources are often (though not always) offered as a specialization through a business program, rather than as a specific "online human resources bachelor's degree program." Such a specialization may touch on legal issues in human resource management; employee and labor relations; and international issues.
- Human resources degrees are even available online at the master's degree level and may address such specialized topics such as structuring benefit packages, using data in decision-making and implementing training programs.
- In a PhD program in human resources, students may be able to gain a greater perspective of the global workplace and personnel issues and to focus on workforce technologies. Research classes and a dissertation may be required in these programs, which are often rigorous.
Career-Related Skills to Develop
The human resources field requires a vast amount of skills and knowledge. When considering various online colleges for human resources, students may want to think about whether these programs help to develop the following skills.
- Decision-making: The human resource field requires tough decision-making about benefits, pay and retirement packages that may affect many employees and even their families. Personnel in the field need to be able to weigh various priorities to ensure the best decisions are made for both the organization and its employees.
- Legal knowledge: Knowing what needs to happen inside of an organization is one thing, but making sure the company is complying with local, state and federal laws is another. Human resource personnel need to understand the various legal aspects for hiring and firing and to follow all regulations at all times.
- Leadership: Human resources people are front and center when it comes to creating the type of culture that an organization possesses. They help to ensure equal employment opportunities for all people, regardless of race or gender, and to provide a safe, harassment-free workplace, both by example and by direction.
- Speaking: Human resource personnel often need to give presentations to groups of employees, whether that's about health insurance options, new programs being instituted or even internal business issues. As such, it's important for these professionals to be comfortable with both large and small group speaking.
Human Resources Career Outlook
There are a number of human resources occupations available to graduates. Some of these jobs focus on a particular aspect of the field while others are typically filled by people with advanced education and experience. Here's a look at four common choices for graduates of online colleges for human resources.
Employers may hire those with a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree may be preferred by some companies, particularly those with a large payroll to manage. Rather than a general human resources degree, compensation and benefits managers may have a master's degree in human resource management.
While a bachelor's degree may be the minimum education required for some positions, other employers may prefer to hire candidates who have an advanced degree. Online degrees in human resources management are often tailored specifically for those hoping to work at the managerial level.
A bachelor's degree in human resources is the standard education for these workers. Human resources specialists are employed by businesses in all industries, but the largest percentage work in the employment services sector. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 16 percent of jobs were in that field in 2014. Specialists may work full-time in an office, but some may also travel to job fairs and college campuses for recruitment purposes.
Since many organizations use online or technology-based learning programs, companies may look for training and development specialists who not only have a background in human resources but who are also familiar with information technology tools.
Using the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we generated a list of colleges and universities that met the following four criteria for the specific subject being ranked:
- Offer a degree or certificate program in that subject, either in an online or hybrid format
- Have at least 1% of students attending some form of distance education
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2016-17
- Have reported data for all 11 ranking variables listed below
We ranked 1,813 colleges and universities in the United States on 11 criteria, using 2016-17 data from IPEDS:
- Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded via distance education in 2016-2017 were in this particular subject
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered via distance education at any level
- Ratio of students participating fully or partially in DE to Total Enrollment
- Average in-state tuition for undergraduates
- Graduation rate
- Retention rate
- The availability of any tuition plans (Payment, Prepaid, Guaranteed, Other)
- Services (Academic/Career, Placement for Completers)
- Credit offerings (Dual, Life, AP, Military)
- Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid
- Average amount of federal, state, local, institutional, or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students
All schools were scored on a 10-point scale for each of the points listed above. Individual data point scores were then multiplied by their respective weights, and the scores were added together, for a maximum possible score of 10 points.
NOTE: Schools' tuition amounts are based on 2016-17 undergraduate and graduate data reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2017-18, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/