Human Resources Degrees & Schools Guide

Associate, Bachelor's & Master's Degree in Human Resources Options & Salary

What Does a Career in Human Resources Entail?


What your human resources career will include largely depends on what field you choose. Almost every employment area in existence has a need for a human resource department or specialist. Many skill sets in human resources apply across the board, including: recruiting, interviewing, managing benefits, providing training, and hiring and termination of employees. However, there will often be industry-specific tasks assigned to you as well. For example, if you work in the healthcare field, you will be responsible for verifying the certifications and license status of new-hires as well as periodic checks on current employees. For a career in the plumbing industry, you will need to understand local union rules and apply them to your hiring and termination decisions. If you enjoy interacting with people, having a variety of tasks, and organizing training and benefits, a human resources career might be a good fit for you.

Business Degrees & Career Paths


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Components of A Successful Career In Human Resources

A successful career in human resources is achievable if you dedicate yourself to staying up-to-date on federal, state, and local labor laws. Your job will be to protect your company from liability by ensuring these laws are adhered to. In addition, being engaged in the planning and follow-through on benefit packages, training needs, and recruiting qualified personnel, are also key components to success. Understanding the current and changing needs of whatever industry you work in will be vital to your continuing success. The ability to multitask, stay organized, and make decisions will give you a strong foundation on which to build.

How to Earn A Human Resources Degree


What can you do with a Human Resource Degree?


While a degree in human resources targets employee matters in a company, there are several different positions you can apply for once you have the degree. While a bachelor's degree will typically be fine for a specialist position, higher level goals will often require a master’s degree plus some experience in the field. Your options include human resources manager, compensation or benefits analyst, labor relations manager, and HR information systems manager to name just a few. These jobs will require that you work with employees, labor unions, data on the best compensation packages in your company’s sector of business, etc.

Typical Human Resource Degree Requirements

human_resource_degree_requirementThe requirements for a degree in human resources will vary depending on what career level you are aiming to reach as well as what area of the workforce interests you. However, human resources education will be similar whether you plan to work in the public sector or private. For example, non-profit personnel, medical field personnel, and university employees are all required to interview, train, and perform background checks for new employees. Therefore, the coursework to gain the skill sets for those tasks will be the same in all areas. Your area of concentration courses will be where the more narrowly-defined skills are learned.

In addition, if you wish to earn a master’s degree you’ll need to first complete a bachelors, however, there will be additional requirements and courses you will need to complete and you will be expected to specialize in a particular field, like healthcare or non-profits.

Typical Human Resource Degree Certifications

In addition to getting your degree, you can boost your career potential by obtaining human resource certification. Though certification is rarely required to find a position, it will make sure your resume stand out. Different certifications have different requirements. The following are examples of some of the more commonly recognized options.

  • aPHR - Associate Professional in Human Resources – You are only required to have a high school diploma or a GED to test for this knowledge-based certification.
  • PHR - Professional in Human Resources – Must have a masters or Ph.D. degree as well as at least one year of prior experience working in the industry, or two years of experience with a bachelor's degree or a minimum of four years experience with less than a bachelor's degree.
  • SPHR - Senior Professional in Human Resources - Must have a masters or Ph.D. degree as well as at least four years of prior experience working in the industry, or five years of experience with a bachelor's degree or a minimum of seven years experience with less than a bachelor's degree.
  • PHRi - Professional in Human Resources (International) - Must have a masters or Ph.D. degree as well as at least one year of prior experience working in the industry internationally, or two years of experience internationally with a bachelor's degree or a minimum of four years international experience with less than a bachelor's degree. This certification is only available for those who live and work outside of the United States.
  • SPHRi - Senior Professional in Human Resources (International) - Must have a masters or Ph.D. degree as well as at least four years of prior experience working in the industry internationally, or five years of experience with less than a bachelor's degree, or seven years of international experience and less than a bachelor's degree. This certification is only available for those who live and work outside of the United States.

Exam/Experience Needed for a Human Resource Degree

While you will not need experience in the human resources field prior to getting your human resources degree several things should be noted about exceptions.

human_resource_degree_experience_neededIf you want to earn various certifications in the field work experience can take the place of some coursework. Most of the most common certifications allow you to either have a certain level of degree and some work experience or you can have more work experience and a lower degree. What this means for you is that working in the field will reduce the level of degree required and in many cases, this means you will be able to attain the certification more quickly. Certifications are worth money to you, as you can command a higher salary with more certifications.

In addition, if you are going to go for your master’s degree or higher, those programs are not designed for automatic acceptance. It will be important that you maintain the highest GPA that you can while getting your undergraduate degree, and if you have even some part-time experience working in any human resource capacity, it can help with your program application.

Important Questions To Ask


How long does it take to earn a Human Resource bachelor's degree online?


human_resource_bachelors_degree_onlineThe average length of an online bachelor's degree in human resources is four years. With that said, there are programs that offer accelerated coursework which allows you to complete your degree more quickly by taking classes year-round. In addition, some programs offer life and work experience credits. This means that you can apply any human resource work experience to the coursework and if you pass the final exam without taking the course you receive credit and move onto the next course.

The length of time it will take most students to complete an online human resources degree will also depend on how much time they can devote to their studies and coursework. Some colleges offer self-paced, flex scheduling, which means you can move as slowly or quickly as you want to.

How much does a Human Resource bachelor’s degree cost?


As with any other degree, the cost of a human resources bachelor's degree can vary widely depending on several factors. These include:

  • The school you attend
  • Whether you do online coursework, on-campus courses, or a combination of them both
  • How long it takes you to get through the program and graduate

A typical range of cost for this degree is $20,000 to $60,000
For example, in 2018:

  • University of Tennessee Knoxville cost just over $13,000 per year for in-state students and $31,000 a year for out-of-state students.
  • UC Berkeley – In-state, residing on campus, $30,582 annually. If you live off campus expect to spend $27,000.
  • University of Kansas – In-state tuition, $10,082 per year. Room and board, $6,500 to $14,500.

Human Resource Bachelor's Degree Coursework


human_resource_courseworkMany degree programs have similar classes due to the fact that the field has set standards of knowledge. If you know what type of industry you want to work in, you should find out if the school offers industry-specific concentrations. For example, if you wish to work in human resources in the non-profit sector, you will want a school that will offer at least a few classes about non-profits.

All in all, an associate’s degree in human resources should include about 60 credits of coursework. A bachelors will include around twice that, 120 credits. However, it may be possible to complete and associate’s and then transfer credits to your bachelor’s degree, shortening the time to obtain it while perhaps working part-time as an HR associate. This will help you gain experience in the field and make it easier to find a job or get into a graduate program later.

Does the school have the major(s) you’re considering?


human_resource_consideringThis is a deal breaker if you are seeking a human resources degree. While it is possible to go to another college and gain your general education classes, then figure out which ones will transfer to a college that offers a human resources degree, that is a risky method to try. It can get expensive finding out some of your prior courses do not transfer to the new college. It is just easier and more cost effective all around to make sure the school you choose offers a human resources degree from the start.

How many students graduate “on time,” in four years?


If the program has a low “on time” graduation rate, it is a red flag for you financially. Remember, you are going to pay for each semester, therefore, taking additional time is not a good plan. Be sure the school you choose has a high success rate of graduating students on time who sought human resources degrees. If you can’t find graduation rates on the website, you can look at the College Score Card website, which exists just for this reason, to help students find schools with the best chance of helping them succeed.

What kind of accreditation does the program hold? How is it regarded in the field?


You have heard the saying, “location, location, location” with regard to real estate, right? The phrase for a human resources degree should be “accreditation, accreditation, accreditation!” Accreditation is a process that colleges go through to prove that they meet the academic standard expected nationwide with regard to the education and training they provide. If you do not choose an accredited school, you have no idea if you are going to be taught the skills needed to succeed in a career in human resources. In addition, while reputation isn't everything, it definitely counts when it comes to choosing a school. Employers often know which colleges graduate the most ready-to-work students. They are aware of which school have high standards for passing grades. Choose a school with a good reputation, especially if you plan to work in the area where you went to school. Locals will have the scoop on your college of choice, so choose one with a solid reputation.

Associates Degree


An associate degree typically takes two years to complete and, in many cases, can be done completely online. With an associate degree you can look forward to working in an entry-level human resources position.

Example courses include:


  • Business Ethics
  • Training and Development
  • Business Law
  • Compensation

Bachelor's Degree


This degree averages completion in four years. You can get it done sooner by attending summer school. It will take longer if you go less than full-time. With a bachelor's degree you can find a wide range of jobs in human resources, including heading up the HR department in smaller establishments.

Example courses include all of the above and:


  • Business Management
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Compensation and Benefit Systems

Concentrations


Medical, Human Resources IT

Master’s Degree


This two-year degree opens doors to management and gives you job opportunities in all industries, including the public sector. Many government entities want the human resources manager to have a master’s degree.

Example courses include all of the associate and bachelor's coursework plus:


  • Compensation Analysis
  • Workforce Planning
  • Strategic Labor

Concentrations


Public Sector, Non-Profits, Military

Human Resources Occupations


  • HR Specialist
    A human resources specialist typically works under the supervision of a human resources director or manager. Your primary duties will include recruiting employees for your employer. You will then be expected to conduct at least the preliminary interview and narrow the candidates to those most qualified for the position. In some companies you will have the authority to offer the job, while in others you will set up interviews with managers and department heads who will then choose from the few you send to them.
  • HR Manager
    As a Human Resources Manager, you will typically oversee a human resources specialist staff. Your primary duty will be supervising the staff's day-to-day activities. This might mean approving any training programs, sitting in on classes to determine their value to the company and signing off on employee termination paperwork to be sure all legal rules were followed so that the company is protected from liability. Though specialists will usually handle unemployment claims, you might be expected to step in and represent the company if a former employee appeals a rejection for benefits and a hearing is scheduled.
  • Compensation or Benefit Analyst/Manager
    As a Compensation or Benefit Analyst/Manager you will be charged with analyzing past data for the company as well as industry data to devise reports that reflect trends and suggestions for the future. This will apply to hiring, attrition, benefits, and employee compensation packages. You will also oversee programs that have been implemented. This position is typically available in large companies, not small ones.
  • Labor Relations Manager
    If you choose to put your human resources degree to use by working as a labor relations manager, you will serve as a bridge between your company's workforce and outside organizations such as a worker’s union. You will be expected to take part in collective bargaining agreements, mediate disputes between the organization and the company, and suggest equitable and fair practices that stay within the bargaining agreement.
  • HR Information Systems Manager
    As an HRISM your job will involve the company's automated payroll system as well as providing software for employees to use to check vacation time, clock in or out, change personal information, and other things. While this position typically attracts those with an IT degree, you can major in human resources with a concentration on IT and combine these two skill sets.

Earning Potential for Human Resources Occupations


OccupationEntry-LevelMid-CareerLate-Career
HR Specialist$46,800$52,000$90,700
HR Manager$56,500$65,600$72,800
Compensation or Benefit Analyst$61,200$68,800$77,700
HR Information Systems Analyst$60,000$69,200$84,500

Human Resources Scholarships


  • The Society for Human Resource Management Foundation
    Awards: Various
    Deadline: Various

    These scholarships can be applied to both undergraduate and graduate work. There are 80 scholarships of $750 each and 20 scholarships of $2,000 each. You must attend an accredited school and be in a certificate or degree program for human resources.

  • Gillete/National Urban League Scholarship
    Awards: $5,000
    Deadline: January 15

    Provides a $10,000 scholarship to students who are juniors or seniors in college. They must be working toward a degree in one of several named fields including human resources.

  • Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College
    Awards: $2,000-$5,000
    Deadline: Various

    This college offers scholarships in many areas of study, including human resources. This can be applied to both undergraduate and graduate work. Scholarship awards amounts vary.

  • Hispanic Scholarship Fund/Exxon Mobil Scholarship Program
    Awards: $500-$5,000
    Deadline: February 15

    Any Hispanic- American student enrolled in an accredited program, seeking a degree in the field of human resources (or engineering and other programs) can apply for this $2,500 scholarship. The program provides several each year. Applicants are expected to have a 3.2 GPA.

Professional Human Resources Organizations


Once you are working in the field, there are many professional organizations you can join. These will not only give you the opportunity to meet new friends but will also provide you with plenty of networking opportunities to advance your career.

  • SPHRM
  • LERA
SHRM-logo

SPHRM

Society of Professional Human Resource Managers

Membership to this society offers you a multitude of education opportunities through articles and seminars. In addition, the SPHRM certification is widely respected and the site provides lots of advice.

LERA_logo

LERA

Labor and Employment Relations Association

This association focuses on keeping up to date with the ever-changing employment and labor laws across the nation. By providing educational seminars and conferences across the country, it keeps human resource professionals on the cutting edge of new developments. It also has an interest area where each member can choose areas of concentration to receive additional information and networking opportunities.

Choosing an Accredited College


Okay, you have decided that you definitely want to get your human resources degree. It is time to choose an accredited college. In addition to the school being accredited and having the coursework or concentrations you seek, also consider things such as whether you will be happy living there for a few years if you are doing the on-campus classes. Are there things to do, what is the cost of living like? Will you be leaving family to attend and if so, will it be relatively easy for you to get back home to visit periodically? While these factors are not as important as the accreditation and appropriate coursework, they can make your college experience more enjoyable.

Online vs. Ground vs. Hybrid


Online programs are designed to be easy to use for those who need flexible schedules. Though they will have deadlines for certain tasks, they often allow you to log in any time of the day or night for you to watch lectures, take tests, and complete other necessary tasks. You may regret missing out on some of the cultural and networking opportunities on a college campus, but if you need the freedom to complete your courses on your own time, this is the choice for you.

On-campus, or traditional, programs require you to move either onto or near the campus of your choice and the school decides your schedule for you. This can make it difficult to impossible to hold down a job or accomplish much outside of school unless you have an excellent support structure in place. However, if you’re just out of high school, with no family or job obligations, you will appreciate the in-person time with your professors and other students and the networking and fun opportunities you will have on campus, as well as the library and other learning resources you’ll have access to.

A hybrid program would require you to spend some time on campus. This might be a couple short residencies per semester for specific lectures or you might take one or two classes on-campus while finishing the rest of your work online. You’ll have to work with whatever college you choose to find out if this type of program is available to you.

Deciding whether to go to an online college, an in-person college or combination the two will narrow your choices for you by default. Once you decide this important factor, make a list of 5-10 colleges that offer the type of program you have chosen. Then you can do a side-by-side, apples-to-apples comparison.

Additional Questions


Does the College Have Post-Graduate Job Placement Help and Assistance?

Last but not least, find out of the college you choose as a post-graduate job placement office. If not, do the counselors attempt to help you prepare for interviews and point you toward possible job opportunities prior to graduation? Again, this is probably not a deal breaker, but if in your apples-to-apples comparison, all things being equal, one has a job placement program and the other does not, it might help you make your decision. Also, career services can be a great source of resume help, interview assistance, and job placement opportunities including internships.

Why You Need to Consider That School Ratings Can Affect Your Salary

Lastly, please do consider the rating and reputation status of any college you plan to attend, be it online, in person, or a combination of the two. It could potentially impact your salary and job offers. If you graduated from a school with a great reputation for sending graduates into the human resource field armed with a strong foundation, you will have a leg up on the competing applicants. All else being equal, use ratings to help you make your final college selection.

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