A human resource department takes care of an organization's most valuable asset — its people. They handle everything from compensation and benefits to training and development to labor relations and conflict resolution. HR strives to keep employees working efficiently, and happily, at their jobs.

In order to do this, HR professionals learn the vital skills needed to be effective at their jobs by earning a bachelor's degree in human resources or business administration. But if they want to get an advanced understanding of how to motivate employees, meet the staffing goals of an organization and resolve conflicts that arise among employees, professionals should consider earning an advanced degree. Pursuing a master's degree allows those in the human resources field to build on their experience and move their career to the next step — whether that means taking on a management role or going deeper with one specific area of HR.

When looking for master's programs, it's important to evaluate and compare what different schools have to offer. For example, programs geared toward HR generalists provide a broader scope of human resources topics and tend to present a more global view of how organizations run and are managed. Other programs allow students to drill down into a specific subject area like labor relations. Students looking for this sort of specialization may want to explore programs that offer capstone or thesis project opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions

No. Although different HR masters programs cover much of the same material, they may have different names. Some of these degrees may be called leadership, organizational development, strategic management or capital management.

In general, the majority of an online master's in human resources can be completed online because there is no lab component to the program. However, some schools may require that students travel to campus for capstone courses and other activities. Also, online programs may require hands-on training through internships.

Yes. Earning a master's in HR can help professionals develop an advanced knowledge of human resources that allows them to get a promotion from their current employer or land a higher-level position at another one. In addition, this degree can help you increase your earning potential and make you a more desirable candidate when you do look for a new job.

Online masters in human resources are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). Accreditation is important because it's a seal of approval that allows prospective students to enroll in a program with confidence because it's been evaluated for the quality of its curriculum and the overall impact it has on the industry.


Master's in Human Resources Program Overview

If you want to learn the finer parts of the HR field, a master in human resource management can help you take a deep dive into HR theories and practice, building on the foundation laid after earning a bachelor's degree and accumulating work experience. This can make you an even greater asset to whatever organization you choose to work for, as you can be armed with the set of advanced skills needed to excel. In fact, by the time you finish your degree, you can have expertise in structuring benefits packages, managing talent and performance, creating training and other learning opportunities within an organization and communicating effectively with all stakeholders at a company about various HR concerns.

For more information about what you can expect when you enroll in human resources master's programs, continue reading this section.

Earning an Online Master's Degree in Human Resources

How long does an online Human Resources degree program take?

Although different programs have different timelines, you can generally expect to complete a master's degree in human resources online within one and a half to two years. If you attend on a part-time basis, it can take about three years to complete.

What are the requirements to start an online master's Human Resources degree?

To find out specific admissions requirements for the schools you're interested in attending, you should consult their website. However, generally, schools that offer online master's degrees in human resources expect applicants to have at least a 3.0 grade point average in a bachelor's degree program and a certain score on the GRE or GMAT. Also during the application process, you may be required to submit a resume, letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose.

Why earn a master's online Human Resources degree?

There are numerous benefits to earning a human resources master's degree. By completing this program, you can increase her job options, pay and prestige in the industry. In addition, completing this degree program can make you more effective in your day-to-day duties — which can go a long way toward making you a valued employee and sought after job candidate.

Degree Timeline

Years one and two

The first year of the program builds on the foundation you made when you earned your bachelor's degree. In order to do this, programs offer core classes that provide advanced knowledge of different areas of the field, such as recruiting, organizational behavior, employment law and talent management. As you move into the second year of the degree, you may be able to gain knowledge about areas of human resources that you may not have studied before, as well as HR research. In addition, the second year of the program may also require a practicum or an internship.

Choose a specialization and take elective courses:

Some programs allow you to enroll in a specialization, which can give you intensive knowledge about a specific area of human resources. This is a good way to distinguish yourself in the workplace and pursue a topic that most interests you.

Dissertation/Capstone Projects:

Some programs may expect you to complete a capstone project, which is designed to demonstrate your understanding of all the course material throughout the program. This project is the culmination of your entire body of work in the program and may also require that you do original research.


In order to apply what you've learned in your program to the real world, you may have to complete an internship. This is a great opportunity to solidify your skills and further network with other HR professionals.

Master's in Human Resources Concentrations

To distinguish your knowledge and abilities, you can specialize in a specific area of human resources. Generally, master's degrees in HR online allow you to choose a concentration that can help you build your expertise in a specific part of the field. The following are examples of these specializations.

HR operations

This specialization focuses on the nuts and bolts of human resources. Students take courses designed to enhance their skills in competency modeling, succession planning, staffing forecasting and research.

Organizational leadership

The organizational leadership specialization is designed to enhance your communication, team building, decision making and presentation skills. Specific coursework may cover motivational programs, recruitment, leading change, leadership theory and corporate responsibility.

Healthcare administration

If you want to apply your human resources acumen to the healthcare field, this concentration can teach you how to specifically navigate this space. You may take classes in healthcare policy, public health law, medical ethics and healthcare financial management.

MBA in Human Resources

If you are more interested in developing your business skills so you can use them in an HR environment, you can enroll in an MBA program that concentrates on human resources. These degrees focus on strategic human resources management, collaboration problem solving and leadership, so when you finish your studies, you'll be able to tackle HR challenges from a business theory perspective. For more information about the MBA in HR degree, click here.

Career Outlook

What Can You Do with Master's in Human Resources?

A master's degree in human resources can prepare you for a variety of roles, no matter what your specific professional interests are. Below you can find some of the job choices available to you when you graduate.

Human Resources Managers

People in this career are responsible for all of the administrative activities related to the human resources functions of an organization. Daily duties include creating and managing benefit programs, dealing with issues concerning discrimination and sexual harassment within the company, handling the hiring and onboarding process, and budgeting for hiring and training initiatives.

Training and Development Managers

These professionals are charged with planning and coordinating the training and development of an organization's employees. In order to do this, they determine what the training needs are; create programs to meet those needs and draft materials that can help them accomplish this; teach best training practices to instructors and management; and study whether training programs are effective and make adjustments as needed.

Compensation, Benefits and Job Analysis Specialists

Compensation, benefits and job analysis specialists use their human resources expertise to ensure that an organization's benefit plans are cost effective and adhere to relevant state and federal laws. In addition, these professionals evaluate job descriptions for accuracy, and conduct research on benefits and compensation programs to draft reports.

Labor Relations Specialists

These workers manage contracts related to wages, pensions, healthcare and management practices. To do this, they are required to provide insights on how contracts should be handled based on applicable labor laws. Also, they investigate grievances and oversee meetings between a company's management and employees in order to resolve them. These professionals may also be responsible for providing labor relations education to the leadership of an organization.

Training and Development Specialists

To ensure that an organization's employees have the knowledge and skills they need to perform their jobs, people in this position create and administer the training programs that are used. Their specific duties include conducting research to determine training needs, evaluating the effectiveness of training materials and monitoring how much an organization spends on these programs.

Human Resources Salaries by State

State NameAverage SalaryAnnual Job OpeningsProjected Job Growth Potential
New Jersey$172,0603508.2%
District of Columbia$165,4801606.3%
New York$158,8301,04012.4%
Rhode Island$154,410309.1%
Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Financial Aid for a Master's in Human Resources

Financial aid is an important consideration for any student advancing their education. In order to fund your HR master's degree, you may want to explore your financial aid options. The table below has information on different education financing choices.

Source: Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of CollegeXpress, a division of Carnegie Dartlet. Copyright © 2020 by CollegeXpress.

Master's in Human Resources Certifications

SHRM Certified Professional

The SHRM-CP is for professionals who are responsible for operational human resources activities, such as creating policies and procedures in an organization.

Requirements: At least a bachelor's degree and one year of experience

Exam format: 160 knowledge and situational judgment questions

How long does the certification last? Three years

Global Professional in Human Resources

Offered by HRCI, this credential is designed for people who have expertise in multinational human resources.

Requirements: At least a bachelor's degree and three years of professional experience

Exam format: 140 multiple choice questions

How long does the certification last? Three years

Certified Professional in Talent Development

The Certified Professional in Talent Development, or CPTD, is a designation offered by the Association for Talent Development to professionals who have expertise in capabilities like cultural awareness, collaboration, emotional intelligence, and coaching and talent management.

Requirements: Five years of experience

Exam format: Multiple choice and case management questions

How long does the certification last? Three years

Senior Certified Professional

This credential is for senior human resources professionals who are responsible for creating HR strategies based on an organization's goals and analyzing the performance metrics.

Requirements: At least a bachelor's degree and four years of work experience

Exam format: 160 knowledge and situational judgment questions

How long does the certification last? Three years

Associations for Master's in Human Resources

Earning a master's in human resources can help you thrive in a rewarding career, but in order to continue growing as a professional, you need to be a life-long learner. One way you can continue honing your skills is by joining an industry association, which can give you the opportunity to participate in regular professional development. The following are some of the organizations you can participate in.

Since 1951, the National Human Resources Association (NHRA) has provided career development and networking resources to human resources professionals. Member benefits include access to a live hotline, an HR resource center, career services and meetings that allow people to connect with other members.

The Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM, offers a variety of HR solutions to its 300,000 members around the world. Some of the services that HR professionals receive include access to compliance resources, HR news, an online community, and customizable templates and forms.

The AHRD is dedicated to advancing the human resources profession through strong research. In order to help keep the HR field abreast of the latest developments, the association publishes four journals — Human Resource Development International, Human Resource Development Review, Human Resource Development Quarterly and Advances in Developing Human Resources. In addition to subscriptions to these publications, members participate in special interest groups and events.

ATD (the Association for Talent Development) is for professionals who nurture the skills and knowledge of employees in their organizations. The group, which has memberships in 120 countries across the globe, offers conferences, research, publications, webcasts and certifications.