Overview of a Bachelor’s in Human Resources
Human resources is a growing profession, with the number of job opportunities expected to rise in the coming years and an above-average median income. This profession is ideal for the person who wants to use their soft skills to help others, while also thinking strategically about labor relations, program development, and resource planning within their organization.
Students interested in entering this field may wish to pursue a bachelor’s degree in human resources as a logical first step toward a promising career, though related fields like business, psychology, sociology, and others may be reliable alternatives. While a bachelor’s degree is usually the minimum price of entry, many employers prefer candidates with additional certifications, a master’s degree, or both, along with years of experience for managerial roles or specialized positions.
Business Degrees & Career Paths
According to the BLS, human resources managers typically need a bachelor’s degree to work in this field. While you can find work in HR with degrees in things like business, psychology, or IT, an HR specific degree may help you stand out in a pool of entry-level applicants, allowing you to start building experience right away.
While many of the skills needed to succeed are soft-skills like leadership, organization, and interpersonal skills, earning a bachelor’s degree that requires students to take classes that talk about employee benefits packages, conflict resolution, and organizational management can give students a leg up and set the stage for earning the certifications needed to stand out and move up in your career.
Generally speaking, earning a bachelor’s degree in human resources is a smart investment, as compared to other degree programs where there’s a less tangible employment goal waiting after graduation. However, if you don’t plan on continuing your education after earning a bachelor’s degree, you may find that the opportunity for advancement is somewhat lacking.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that you may find yourself in an administrative role that feels more like you’re there to process paperwork rather than jumping right into a leadership role. That’s par for the course with many entry-level jobs, but newer HR professionals may be “paying their dues” for the first few years.
Certificate vs. Bachelor's
What Human Resources Bachelor’s Degrees are Available?
Students thinking about earning a bachelor’s degree in human resources have a few options. You can get a BA or a BS in human resources, specifically, or you can earn a business, psychology, communications, or IT degree and take some additional classes in this area.
- Bachelor of Science in Human Resources Management
A Bachelor of Science in human resources will provide students with a curriculum that focuses on human resources principles and strategies, as well as business management courses like marketing, accounting, and organizational management. Students will be expected to complete roughly 36 credit hours of general education courses including math, science, English, and social science, plus HR-specific coursework spanning compensation and benefits, employment law, labor relations, negotiation, training, and company culture.
- Bachelor of Arts in Human Resources
A Bachelor of Arts program will cover many of the same foundational work as a Bachelor of Science in HR. The difference is, students will focus on humanities more than math and science in their general education requirements.
Bachelor’s in Business Administration in Human Resources
This degree typically covers the study of human resources within a broader context of general management. Students will learn more about contract negotiation, employee compensation, training development, organizational theory, employment law, accounting, and a foundational background in business strategy and management theory.
While this degree type focuses on many of the same core principles you’ll find in a BA or BS human resources program, it’s important to note that the emphasis here is more on managing people than the administrative side of the field. Still, a bachelor’s degree holder will likely apply to jobs like HR generalist or benefits assistant like graduates with an HR degree.
Admission requirements for a human resources program include high school transcripts or a GED. Other requirements vary based on the institution. Most traditional schools will ask students to submit ACT or SAT scores and may have a minimum GPA requirement.
How long does it take to earn a Human Resources Bachelor's?
In most cases, it takes about four years to earn a bachelor’s degree in human resources or any other subject matter. Students may take more time to complete their coursework based on how many credits they enroll in per semester or whether they’re working while earning their degree. In other cases, students may take a heavier course load so that they can complete their degree in less time.
Additionally, while not required to enter the field, many human resources professionals voluntarily get certified through organizations like the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the HR Certification Institute (HRCI), or the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, which are all organizations that, according to the BLS, signify expertise in the field. With that in mind, aspiring HR professionals may need to factor continuing education and credentialing fees into their decision to pursue this type of work.
Potential Careers in Human Resources with a Bachelor’s
- Human Resources Manager
Human resources managers oversee policies, procedures, and compliance related to employees and personnel within an organization. In this role, you’ll deal with things like paid leave and benefits packages, as well as vacation days, and making sure internal activities comply with federal and state laws. Human resources managers typically need a bachelor’s degree at a minimum to enter the field and they should have excellent leadership skills, be strong problem-solvers, and great communicators.
Aspiring HR managers should note that it may take a few years in the field to become a manager. While a bachelor’s degree may be the minimum educational requirement for this role, those professionals with certifications in the area, and potentially a master’s degree may be given preference.
Average Income: $66,000
- Recruiting Manager
A recruiting manager typically works in a larger company to help that organization attract and retain quality talent. This person is usually the first point of contact between job applicants and a company and works to find recruits that match job descriptions laid out by department heads with positions to fill.
Average Income: $71,600
- Compensation and Benefits Managers
This HR professional focuses on developing and implementing a company’s benefits and compensation policies. This includes establishing a salary structure, factoring in things like performance bonuses, cost of living increases, commission structures, and non-monetary perks like vacation days and paid leave. This person might also work with insurance companies to put together medical insurance packages, life insurance, dental, vision, and flexible spending accounts. This job typically requires 5+ years of experience in HR, and you’ll likely need to earn certifications within the compensation and benefits specializations to qualify for this role.
Average Income: $88,400
- Training and Development Manager
Training and development managers are HR professionals that conduct and supervise employee training programs. This person might work as a consultant or for a larger company if there’s a need for ongoing training, onboarding, and professional development initiatives. To qualify for this role, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree and a few years of HR experience under your belt. In some cases, you may need a master’s degree, particularly if you’d like to work in a consultant role, advising businesses on how to best manage and improve employees’ job skills.
Average Income: $75,200
- HR Generalist
The HR Generalist works as part of an HR team and works with upper management to come up with strategies aimed at maintaining positive employee relations. This person does a little bit of everything, as the name suggests. They might play a role in a company’s recruiting efforts, handle payroll, coordinate employee training, or put together insurance packages.
Average Income: $53,100
Options to Advance
As mentioned, most work in this field requires a bachelor’s degree as the minimum barrier to entry. There are some exceptions, but this is a blue collar, middle management occupation (for the most part) and in today’s landscape, there’s an expectation that incoming applicants have earned a bachelor’s degree.
Often, recent graduates will start their career as an HR specialist or assistant and can climb the ladder by moving into specializations, earning certifications, or accumulating work experience. In some cases, HR professionals may wish to return to school for a master’s degree or an MBA with a concentration in HR. We’d recommend this path if you’d like to become an HR director, VP, or move into a business consulting role.
Best Bachelor of Science in Human Resources Programs
New Brunswick, NJ
With a low student to faculty ratio and a $44,000 average starting salary for HR grads, Rutgers is a solid choice for students seeking out a human resources management degree with a high return on investment. According to the university’s website, this degree is a multi-disciplinary major that brings together economics, business, psychology, and sociology, along with current HR best practices and strategies.
- Bachelor’s in Human Resources
University of Oklahoma
UO offers a few options for aspiring HR professionals. There’s a human relations major, which is something of a combination of communications studies and human resources. Students may choose to minor in human resources to develop a more specific skill set, or they can opt for a Bachelor of Business Administration degree that focuses more on HR strategy, leadership, and management skills, as well as business basics like finance, economics, and business writing.
- Bachelor’s in Human Relations
- Bachelor’s of Business Administration with an HR specialization
The University of Texas
The University of Texas at Tyler is a top choice for aspiring HR professionals looking for an on-campus experience in a mid-size city. The school offers a human resource development degree that aims to prepare students for a career path in an HR leadership role. Students will learn to design and develop human resource management plans and are required to join the SHRM and complete an internship before graduation.
- Bachelor’s in Human Resources
University of Minnesota
Twin Cities, Minnesota
The University of Minnesota offers a bachelor’s degree in human resource development, with the option of choosing a secondary concentration in industrial psychology, communications, or management. The program is designed to give students the skills needed to develop and implement work training programs, an understanding of organizational development, and the ability to teach adults in a workplace setting. Students will be required to complete an internship before graduation and the school provides access to a career counseling center there to support your professional goals.
- Bachelor’s in Human Resource Development
University of Washington
UW’s Foster School of Business offers an undergraduate degree in Human Resource Management, aimed at preparing students for roles in recruiting, benefits and compensation, training, and management. Students will be required to take a blend of traditional business courses, as well as those focused on HR strategies like recruiting and hiring, interviewing best practices, leadership, psychology, and more.
- Bachelor’s in Human Resource Management
Traditional Schools Offering a BS in Human Resources
While you can easily find a traditional bachelor’s degree program in an on-campus setting from accredited schools across the country, finding an HR bachelor’s program that is all online is a bit more challenging. The critical thing to be aware of here is for-profit programs that might not offer a recognized bachelor’s degree. As you conduct your research, make sure you select a school that is regionally accredited.
University of Arkansas
The University of Arkansas offers an online bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Development Education. It’s a 120-credit bachelor’s degree that, according to the website, takes between two and four years to complete. This degree does require students to have three years of work experience under their belt, so it’s unlikely that recent high school grads will be accepted into the program. Students can expect to learn how to develop talent; designing coursework and workforce development initiatives for training new employees and developing existing talent.
- Bachelor’s in Human Resource Development
Pennsylvania State University, World Campus
Centre County, Pennsylvania
Penn State’s Online University offers a few concentrations for aspiring HR professionals. There’s a bachelor’s in Organizational Leadership - an HR program that combines business strategy and theory with social science, humanities, and human resources. There’s also the Labor and Employment Relations program, which prepares students for careers in workplace diversity, labor relations, recruitment, and compensation. Both programs are available as a bachelor of science or a bachelor of arts. The critical difference between the two is that the BS options are more math-focused (think accounting, finance, and analysis), whereas the Bachelor of Arts approaches HR with more of a communications/humanities bent.
- BA/BS in Organizational Leadership
- BA/BS in Labor and Employment Relations
University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa
The University of Iowa offers an interesting approach to distance learning. Majors fall under loose general categories, Bachelor of Applied Studies or Bachelor of Liberal Studies. But they do have an Enterprise Leadership program designed to give students a background in management consulting, project management, and communication with some flexibility for choosing your areas of interest. For example, you can choose to take courses focused on managing people, negotiations, and so forth, essentially allowing undergrads to design a curriculum where they learn the skills needed to get started in a career.
- Bachelors in Enterprise Leadership
Regis University offers an online degree in human resource management where students will take business courses, along with general ed courses such as English composition, social sciences, math, and humanities. HR-specific classes focus on labor relations, compensation policy, organizational management, and labor/employee relations. You can choose to complete a minor for further specialization.
- Bachelors in Human Resource Management
Temple University offers an online Bachelor of Business Administration with a choice of six majors—including Human Resource Management. According to the website, online classes are taught by the same faculty that teach in-person classes, and you’ll have access to the school’s resources, such as the Center for Professional Development. The HRM program prepares students for a leadership role in HR—covering a range of industry specializations such as training and development, compensation and benefits, performance reviews, and employment rules and regulations.
- Bachelor of Business Administration: Human Resource Management