The Complete Guide to Human Resources Degree Programs

Get the inside scoop on a Human Resources Degree! Find out what it takes, what you can do with a degree in this field, and ways to kickstart your HR career.

Human Resources Degree Program

Do you know what’s the fuel powering every successful business today? It’s people.

People are the fundamental force that drives every successful business, no matter how large or small, making human resources essential for any organization’s success. This translates into an incredibly secure career path for HR professionals.

To prepare for these roles, you might consider pursuing a Human Resources degree. Then it makes sense to ask:

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What is a Human Resources Degree?

A Human Resources degree provides the knowledge to effectively manage employee relations, recruiting and training processes, labor laws and regulations, compensation and benefits administration, evaluation systems, organizational behavior, and more.

In today’s rapidly changing business environments — especially due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions — HR professionals are in high demand as organizations look for ways to adjust their policies accordingly.

Consequently, an educated understanding of employment law has become paramount for any company looking to stay compliant while maintaining good relationships with its staff members.

With a Human Resources degree then, you can gain the skills necessary to help companies succeed in this ever-changing landscape.

What are the Human Resources Degree levels?

Before you start your educational journey, it is vital to comprehend the various degree levels accessible and which one best fits your needs.

You can earn a degree in human resources at numerous levels–from certificates to master’s degrees.
Certifications are also available at each stage – although they are not required – they may be beneficial if you want to improve your chances of getting hired into certain positions and be taken more seriously by potential employers who might hire you.

Let’s explore the various types of degrees available and how they can help your career aspirations.

Certificate Level in HR

The certificate level is designed to give you a basic overview of the fundamentals of HR. Most certificate programs require no experience in the field, making them ideal for you if you’re starting. The curriculum covers recruitment and selection, employee relations, payroll and compensation, and employment laws.

Entry requirements: 

  • A high school diploma or equivalent (GED)

*It’s essential to differentiate between a certificate and a certification. Certificates are awarded by schools for completing an academic program, whereas certifications come from professional agencies that recognize meeting specific qualifications.

HR Certification

Attaining professional Human Resources certifications is a testament to your expertise and can amplify the amount you are compensated. There are numerous recognitions within HR; however, these certifications have become increasingly sought after:

  • Professional in Human Resources (PHR) is one of the most commonly obtained certifications issued by the HR Certification Institute and offers validation for an individual’s knowledge of fundamental HR principles and practices. 
  • Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) proves that you have a solid understanding of utilizing your HR knowledge in today’s workplace, using practical behavioral competencies to help reach organizational objectives.
  • The Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD) is awarded to those in the talent development field who want to prove their experience and capabilities in multiple areas, like instructional design, learning technologies, talent management, and performance improvement.

Any of these certifications will require a certain amount of education and experience. You should take the time to determine which is most appropriate for your individual goals and qualifications.

Associate Degree in HR

Obtaining an associate’s degree is a great starting point if you want to kickstart in human resources. It typically takes two years to earn and includes general education courses such as math and English, as well as HR-specific coursework.

Plus, many associate degree professionals pursue a bachelor’s degree for further career advancement.

Entry requirement: 

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Placement tests (such as SAT or ACT)

Bachelor's Degree in HR

A Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources is the perfect way to gain specialized knowledge and skills related to HR management. This degree will equip you with the in-depth knowledge and skills to pursue mid-level positions across various sectors, including employee relations, recruitment, and selection processes.

Additionally, if you pursue higher certifications such as Professional in Human Resources (PHR) or SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP), you can expect to earn a higher salary due to the increased expertise within the field.

Entry requirements:

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Placement tests (such as SAT or ACT) 
  • Minimum GPA requirements

Master's Degree in HR

A Master’s in Human Resource Management can be a great way to advance your career if you already have some HR experience or want to switch from another professional field.

It usually takes between 16 and 24 months to complete, but the rewards are worth it. With this degree, you’ll be prepared for an executive-level role where you help companies gain a competitive advantage by managing talent acquisition and retention.

Moreover, having such knowledge under your belt will give you access to more job opportunities and higher salaries.

Entry Requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree in HR or a business-related field

Doctorate in HR

HR doctorate degrees are a great way to further your knowledge and expertise in the human resources field.

These doctorate programs will require quantitative and qualitative research techniques in addition to courses focusing on organizational and workforce development, advanced theoretical foundations of human resources, an ethical framework for HR practices, etc.

Entry requirements:

  • Master’s degree in HR or a related field
  • Minimum GPA requirements
  • Professional work experience is preferred

Disclaimer: The entry requirements for a degree in HR may vary depending on your university and state. However, here we have outlined the general qualifications that are frequently asked for.

What types of specialties and concentrations can you find in Human Resources Degree programs?

As previously discussed, human resources is a fundamental element of every enterprise or corporation, as it concentrates on creating and sustaining solid bonds between employers and workers.

As such, many different aspects of HR require specific skill sets, resulting in a need for specialization.

Every specialization serves a critical purpose in ensuring businesses have the correct people to support their success and provide necessary assistance to employees throughout their employment.

Here are some of the top specialties in Human Resources:

Training and Development Specialization

Training and development are crucial in HR, as its main focus is to help employees grow and evolve professionally and personally. This includes creating and running educational programs or workshops that provide employees with knowledge on leadership, communication, customer service, and problem-solving topics.

Moreover, training and development specialists assess current employee competency levels while pinpointing areas of improvement. By doing so, they guarantee that workers possess the right skill set to succeed in their roles within the organization.

Recruiting Specialization

When it comes to recruiting, specialization is key. Recruiting specialists must be well-versed in identifying and attracting the right talent for the organization.

This requires a deep understanding of sourcing strategies, selection processes, and assessment techniques – as well as building strong relationships with stakeholders. That way, they can ensure that potential candidates are a good fit for the company’s needs and culture.

Furthermore, they need to be able to evaluate candidates effectively against these criteria. Ultimately, this ensures that only quality employees join the team.

Compensation and Benefits Specialization

Crafting attractive and compliant compensation packages for employees is the focus of Compensation and Benefits Specialization. Salaries, incentives, medical insurance, and retirement plans – all conforming to government rules and regulations are skillfully put together to create total remuneration bundles tailored to each employee’s needs.

In short, this role involves confirming all employee compensation laws are met while ensuring the organization remains competitive in salary and benefits.

Labor and Employee Relations Specialization

Managing relationships between the employer and employees is a key component of labor and employee relations specialization. This involves resolving disputes, investigating complaints, addressing grievances, and developing positive working conditions. 

Labor relations specialists are often called upon to serve as liaisons between employers and labor unions; they handle record-keeping for hirings and terminations, keep tabs on diversity initiatives, negotiate contracts with unions, answer questions about policies and procedures – in short, all matters related to unionized workplaces.

Courses & Curriculum in Human Resources Degrees

Let’s say you’ve decided to get a degree in HR. Or maybe you’re still weighing the options. Either way, you may be wondering what courses and curriculum to expect.

After all, comprehensive course education is pivotal for those who strive to become successful human resource professionals.

To help give you an idea, this article will explore some of the most common courses and curricula in Human Resources degrees.

Compensation, Benefits, and Financial Management

Digging deep into the entire compensation package, this course covers all aspects of payroll, budgeting, and employee benefits – from legally required worker’s comp insurance to retirement plans.

You’ll have a thorough understanding of the job and pay structures with our comprehensive overview, plus a solid foundation for complying with all applicable legal requirements.

Human Resource Systems and Technology

This exciting course will teach you about the application of analysis and documentation of business processes to Human Resource professionals, as well as how to design and use various information systems such as desktops, web applications, and mobile platforms.

You’ll become proficient in using multiple HRM tools for data management, personality assessments, and metrics – giving you an invaluable edge in your career.

HR Employment Law

This course dives deep into the nuances of employment laws and how to create a plan for minimizing legal risks with human resources. Every organization is different, so depending on size, location, and industry type, you must follow various regulations in place.

You’ll examine major federal laws such as HIPAA, FMLA, and ADA – discussing their application to people at all levels within an organizational structure.

Human Resource Management

Get a comprehensive understanding of human resource administration and its critical role in organizations. This curriculum covers numerous topics, including employment law, equal employment opportunities, job design, HR planning and staffing tactics, training and development strategies to maximize employee performance and retention efforts within an organization.

On-campus vs. Hybrid vs. Online Human Resources Degrees

When exploring a career in Human Resources, you have three options: take traditional on-site classes; combine online and offline elements with hybrid courses; or enroll in an entirely virtual program.

Deciding which type is most fitting for you can be tricky, but when you comprehend the various distinctions between them, settling on a decision will become much more effortless.

Let’s weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

On-Campus HR Degrees

Attending an on-campus program will give you a traditional college experience with face-to-face class time, student activities, networking opportunities, and access to campus resources. This often provides more opportunities for hands-on learning experiences that can help develop professional skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and public speaking.

However, with that comes the need to commute or relocate to attend classes on campus which could make it difficult if you have existing commitments such as jobs or families.


More personal instruction from professors; access to physical library materials; ability to network with peers; familiar college environment; typically shorter completion time than online programs


Limited course selection and availability; need to commute or relocate physically; higher tuition costs

Hybrid HR Degrees

Hybrid degrees are combinations of online classes and on-site classroom study that will give you the flexibility of an online program but also allow you to interact with instructors and peers in person.

Most hybrid programs have short periods of on-site attendance that usually last up to two weeks per semester; the rest is completed online. This program provides a well-rounded educational experience while granting flexibility with your schedule.


More flexible schedule options; lower tuition costs; access to face-to-face instruction when needed; ability to network with peers


Limited course selection and availability; need to commute or relocate for some courses physically

Online Human Resources Degrees

Online degree programs allow you to study from home or other remote locations and pursue a degree without traveling or physically moving anywhere. These programs are often offered by accredited universities that have adapted their curriculums for delivery in an online format.

Many online degree programs also offer accelerated courses that give you the opportunity to complete your degrees faster than if you were enrolled in traditional on-campus or hybrid degrees.

The downside is that most online degrees don’t offer hands-on learning experiences, which can be essential when transitioning into a career in Human Resources.


Accessible from any location worldwide at any time; more flexible schedule options available; typically less expensive than traditional on-campus options due to no additional fees associated with commuting/relocating


Need strong internet connection and reliable computer/mobile device; lack of face-to-face instruction/networking opportunities

What to consider when choosing a Human Resources Degree?

As the demand for Human Resources professionals rises, a wide array of educational programs have developed in response. That means there are more options for you to pick from, making your decision challenging.

At the end of the day, no two degrees are created equal – so you should pick one that best fits your goals and ambitions.

Think of it like putting together a jigsaw puzzle: all of the pieces must fit perfectly for you to get your desired outcome.

So these are a few things you should keep in mind when choosing your HR program:

1. Accreditation

Accreditation is one of the most important factors to consider when selecting any educational program. It ensures that a school or program meets certain standards and provides students with a quality education. 

It also means that any credits earned will be accepted by other institutions if you decide to pursue a higher degree later on.

So, when searching for a business school and degree program, confirm that your program is accredited by one of the most esteemed organizations, such as AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), ACBSP (Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs), AMBA, or EQUIS

AACSB stands out as the premier level in business education, with its recognition being granted only to those institutions of the highest caliber.

ACBSP is another accrediting body you should keep in mind. It rates business programs based on their teaching quality, academic rigor, and student performance.

2. Cost and Financial Aid

The cost of tuition is another factor you should consider when choosing your human resources degree program. Thankfully, numerous schools have created financial aid plans to reward academic excellence and assist those with financial needs.

Research what types of scholarships and grants are available for students enrolling in HR programs and apply for as many as possible to reduce your overall tuition costs.

3. Career Outcomes

When researching potential HR programs, look into their career outcomes data rather than relying solely on rankings or reputation alone. A reputable school may have an impressive graduation rate but what about job placement?

Find out how successful graduates from the program have been in finding employment after graduation by looking into alumni success stories and industry placement rates at each school you’re considering.

These outcomes will give you valuable insight into which school offers the best opportunity for success after graduation.

4. Program Type

Another factor to consider when selecting a human resources degree program is the type of program offered. Most programs provide either an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources, but some specialized certificate programs might also be available.

Depending on your goals and budget, one option might be better suited than another.

5. Course Content

Finally, when choosing a human resources degree program, you should take into account the course content. Different programs may focus on different aspects of HR, such as hiring practices, employee relations, labor law compliance, compensation management, and more.

Consequently, it is crucial to research each school’s curriculum thoroughly.

What can you do with a Human Resources Degree?

We are all familiar with the anxiety that comes with selecting a career path and asking ourselves, “Will this be enough to provide for me?”

While we should always have passion and enthusiasm for our chosen profession, it’s essential to make sure that we’ll earn a comfortable living from our hard work. No one wants to invest years of study without being rewarded financially in return.

If you’re contemplating a degree in Human Resources, your question must be: what are the career prospects with this qualification?

Human Resources Degree - Career Outlook

The career outlook for HR professionals is very positive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for Human Resources Specialists is projected to grow 8% through 2031. This acceleration is much faster than the average growth rate across all occupations.

There is also an increased demand for experienced HR professionals as companies focus on recruiting top talent and retaining their current employees to remain competitive.

Human Resources Degree - Salary

Regarding salary potential, the opportunities for those with a degree in Human Resources are pretty good. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for HR specialists was $62,290 in May 2021.

Those at the top of the scale made over $108,160 annually!

You should note that salaries vary depending on experience level, job title, and location.

Top Human Resources Degree Jobs:

Human Resources Manager

Human resources managers ensure smooth administrative operations by planning and coordinating their teams; recruiting qualified candidates; interviewing potential employees; and hiring new team members.

Furthermore, HR managers collaborate with leadership on strategic plans to help them reach organizational goals.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$126,230 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level


Compensation and Benefits Managers

Compensation and Benefits Managers create programs that help employees receive their payments and work with the highest-ranking members of staff, managers from other HR departments, and financial officers.

As experts in this field, they use their knowledge to suggest compensation and benefits policies, schemes, and plans that benefit everyone involved.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$127,530 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level


Labor Relations Specialists

Labor relations specialists are the referees of labor contracts, managing wages and salaries, healthcare provisions, and pensions, as well as amicable practices between unions and management.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$77,010 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level


Human Resources Specialists

Human resources specialists are responsible for identifying and hiring qualified individuals to fill requisite positions.

With their assistance in the hiring process, from recruiting to interviewing potential candidates, these professionals ensure that organizations have a talented workforce capable of meeting their goals.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$62,290 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level


Training and Development Specialists

Training and development specialists are responsible for designing, planning, and executing training sessions to meet the specific needs of organizations.

Before customizing each program, they assess organizational requirements from online programs to classroom lectures or on-site training.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$61,570 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level


*Please be advised that the average salary provided by the BLS may deviate significantly from state to state and occupation to occupation, depending on various factors.

Popular colleges with Human Resources Degree Programs

Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University’s Olin Business School offers a top-ranked program in human resource management that prepares students for careers in HR, talent management, and organizational development.

The program emphasizes hands-on experience, and students have opportunities to work with local businesses and organizations.

Cornell University

The School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University offers a comprehensive human resources degree program that combines theory, research, and practice. Students learn about labor law, employee relations, compensation and benefits, and other important HR topics.

The Ohio State University

The Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University offers a human resources management program designed to prepare students for leadership roles in HR. The program focuses on HR strategy, talent management, and organizational development.

Yale University

The Yale School of Management offers a human resources management program emphasizing leadership, teamwork, and analytical skills. Students learn about talent management, organizational design, and HR strategy.

University of Chicago

The Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago offers a human resources management program that focuses on data analytics, HR strategy, and leadership. Students learn about the latest trends and best practices in HR and gain hands-on experience working with local businesses and organizations.

Featured Colleges

FAQ about Human Resources Degree Programs

Yes, a Human Resources degree is definitely worth it if you want to become an aspiring professional. There are many advantages to having an HR degree, such as the ability to work in any field or industry and the valuable skills and knowledge you will gain that can be applied to various jobs.

Managing people and resources efficiently is an invaluable asset in any profession.

With an HR degree program, you will become well-versed in human resource management strategies, laws governing Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), diversity issues, recruitment techniques, benefits administration processes, and other organizational social dynamics.

However, you’ll also gain the following skills:

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Analytical
  • Interpersonal
  • Problem-Solving
  • Organizational

As with most college programs, the time required to complete your HR degree depends on various factors, including the human resource degree type, the number of courses you take, transfer credits accepted by your school, and any individual requirements set forth by the educational institution.

The cost of an HR degree varies depending on the type and length of program you choose and whether you are taking the program online or in person.

Once you have earned your HR degree, there are many opportunities for professional development and continuing education. Many schools offer postgraduate programs in human resource management or related fields such as business administration, organizational psychology, or labor relations.

Additionally, professional organizations offer certification courses and seminars to keep current on the field’s best practices and new technologies.

In addition to working directly with HR departments, those with an HR degree may be well suited for positions such as labor relations specialist, talent manager, or employee development coordinator.
Other career options include management consultant, recruitment officer, compliance specialist, or organizational development coordinator.

The possibilities are virtually limitless, depending on your skills and interests. With an HR degree, you can pursue various career paths that offer unique professional growth and advancement opportunities.


  • People are the fundamental force behind every successful business, making Human Resources essential to any organization’s success.
  • A Human Resources Degree provides knowledge to effectively manage employee relations, recruiting and training processes, labor laws and regulations, compensation and benefits administration, evaluation systems, and more. 
  • When Choosing a Human Resources Degree, consider accreditation, cost/financial aid, career outcomes data, program type, and course content. 
  • Career Outlook for HR professionals is positive, with a median annual salary of $62,290; top jobs include Human Resources Manager ($126,230), HR Specialists ($62,290), Compensation & Benefits Managers ($127,530), Training & Development Managers ($61.570), Labor Relations Specialists ($77.010).

In a nutshell, if you want to make your mark in human resources, consider getting an appropriate degree. With highly specialized insights and skills gained from such studies, you’ll open yourself up to more job prospects and be renowned among your peers.

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