The business world is bustling, and every organization needs a human resources professional who will facilitate hiring, firing, and maintaining employees. Human resources professionals take care of compensation, benefits, training, and even employment disputes. In order to be the top in the field, however, professionals may need to return to school for an MBA in human resources.
These degrees help current and future HR professionals focus on their field with a laser-beam intensity. Once they’ve mastered the core curriculum and have a broad view of the business world, they delve deep into a curriculum designed specifically for them. A Master of Business Administration in Human Resources can turn and student into masters of their profession.
This page is all about MBA programs in human resources, including how to discover the best programs, what is possible after graduation, and even how to make the most of those student years. Keep reading if you are an HR professional or an undergraduate student who is interested to branch out into the fascinating, and ever-evolving, world of human resources.
What is an MBA in Human Resources?
An MBA in human resources is a graduate degree that focuses on issues related to recruiting, maintaining, and terminating employees in a business environment. The HR field has become increasingly complex and corporate benefits and compensation packages now demand the attention of a professional with a master’s degree. On top of this, HR professionals need a deep-dive study into the legal issues related to workplace management, including physical safety, social interactions, and more.
Though each HR program is sure to be unique, most will require coursework in employment law, compensation packages, and training. During the course of the MBA degree, students will likely also cover leadership and other vital managerial skills. Students who are in multi-national corporations may also study international business or take courses that help increase cultural competencies.
This coursework will all add up to a well-rounded approach to human resources that helps graduates raise their professional life to a new level. In the workplace, MBAs who have focused on human resources can apply both their core training and their specialty training and become highly effective HR Managers. An MBA in human resources also enables graduates to pursue careers as consultants and even entrepreneurs.
What Can You Do With a Master of Business Administration in Human Resources?
These professionals are a sort of employment consultant also known by the term headhunters. Their job is to seek out the very best candidate for their client’s open position. When corporations use a recruiter to fill their needs, they pay them a percentage of the new employee’s salary. A Masters of Business Administration in Human Resources is valuable in this position because they are uniquely qualified to help negotiate compensation and benefits. Furthermore, since the recruiter is often seeking out top executives, their education and experience will help facilitate conversations with both the client and potential candidates.
Human Resources Manager
An MBA can help human resources professionals rise to the top of their departments. With a foundation in the core MBA curriculum and then a human resources concentration, a professional will have the sort of perspective and insight necessary to manage everyone on the team. That is, they can oversee benefit rollouts, compensation changes, and hiring practices. While the core MBA curriculum might seem superfluous, a human resources manager will find it useful to have a deeper understanding of the business. After all, HR is a critical part of any organization that relies on human labor.
While somewhat similar to a recruiter, this profession works as an outside consultant and helps various businesses meet their short and long-term staffing needs. Frequently known as temporary employment services, staffing professionals find the most qualified individuals to fill positions in environments including manufacturing, office support staff, and retail. Effective staffing professionals work as an intermediary between the on-site worker and the client or supervisor on the worksite. Thus, a great deal of management skill is required. Staffing pros also coordinate payroll matters, including benefits, overtime, and other compensation where appropriate. Given all the multi-tasking requirements needed to be highly effective in this position, an MBA is surely a boon to any staffing pro.
Every large organization needs a benefits specialist to help design the optimal benefits packages for their employees. These packages are primarily focused on health benefits, but they can include other sorts of benefits. Assembling these packages requires great managerial skill. That is, the benefits specialist must negotiate prices and benefits levels with healthcare and other providers. Once the packages have been negotiated and all the materials collected, the specialist must ensure that all their company’s employees receive a physical benefits package from which each will select their benefit level.
Human Resources Information System Analyst
Large human resources departments surely need a dedicated information systems professional to help them with their databases and more. In fact, this profession has seen growth in recent years. In addition to designing HR information systems or customizing existing software to meet their company’s specific needs, they might be involved with entering employee data into the system. While it probably doesn’t require an MBA in HR, students might consider an MBA in management information systems and perhaps a certificate, or professional experience in HR. However, there are also MBA programs that offer human resources information systems as a concentration.
Online vs On-Campus for an MBA in Human Resources
Human resources professionals who are eager to get ahead with an MBA have many choices these days. Where MBA programs have long supported working students with night and weekend classes, an entire master’s degree can be completed online. There is still a very strong argument for the on-campus option, as well as hybrid MBA degree programs.
Students who are working full-time and can’t take two years away from their work might choose the online option. This route requires a great deal of discipline, since many programs are asynchronous and thus don’t require that students log in at any particular time. Online students must be able to put all other concerns aside for their MBA coursework. For those who can maintain a sustainable schedule of work and study, the online option opens up MBA degree options that were previously impossible.
On-campus MBAs may still be the more popular option. They maintain their status primarily due to tradition and the perception that in-person education is superior. However, online education has proven to produce equal outcomes. An on-campus MBA degree does provide students with the option to connect and build a strong network among their classmates. Since the end-goal of all MBA students is to get ahead in business, this networking can sometimes prove invaluable.
Finally, hybrid MBA programs seek to provide the best of all worlds. Students have plenty of flexibility during the term to pursue their coursework as best suits their schedule. Then, programs will host special in-person events on their campus or elsewhere. This in-person time varies widely from program to program, but each allows students the chance to meet, greet, and form a new business network.
Types of Human Resources MBA Degrees
Postgraduate or Post-MBA Certificate in Human Resources
A post-graduate or post-MBA certificate in human resources can open the door to new opportunities and enhanced management abilities. To qualify for an HR certificate program, students need at least an undergraduate degree and a transcript that includes the required courses. When undergraduates apply for a graduate certificate, they frequently don't need GMAT scores, but those still might be helpful, especially for those who don't have a lot of work experience.
A certificate should only take about a year to complete, though some programs allow for a faster finish. Upon graduation, professionals should see an increase in their salary and perhaps a promotion. The added educational credential should certainly help open doors when seeking a new job.
M.S. in Human Resources
A Master of Science in Human Resources is an option that many students take when they want to focus their entire graduate degree on HR. In contrast, most MBA-HR students spend up to half of their total instructional time in general management, finance, and marketing courses prior to focusing on human resources. Considering that both an MBA and an MS take about the same amount of time, the choice to pursue one over the other depends on the student.
While an MBA might be able to open more doors across a wider field, the business world does tend to reward specialists who are focused on a single aspect of enterprise.
MBA in Human Resources
An MBA in human resources is a degree that prepares students with a full working knowledge of all aspects of business prior to immersing them in their specialty field, HR. Since human resources professionals need to work with all aspects of a business or corporation, this degree can ease interdepartmental communications as well as instilling Leadership skills and insights.
An HR MBA can take up to two years, and sometimes spills over a bit longer, depending on the program and how the student approaches their course load. Students who maintain full-time work often take a bit longer to graduate, but programs are always finding new ways to help expedite the process. That is, students can opt for online, night, or weekend classes. Some programs allow a blend of online and classroom work to help facilitate everyone's needs.
Executive MBA in Human Resources
An E-MBA is a type of graduate business program that is geared towards experienced professionals who are planning to remain at work for the duration of their studies. Most students in an E-MBA program have their studies funded by their employer, while traditional MBA students usually must fund their degree on their own. Since most of these graduate students are still working full-time, these programs seek to provide flexible class schedules and an expedited degree plan.
Sample Curriculum & Courses for Human Resources
- Compensation and Benefits
This course typically covers how HR managers balance compensation and benefits for their organization’s employees. Students learn how to use incentives to attract and develop employees in a way that maximizes their corporation's effectiveness.
- Labor Relations and Conflict Resolution
This course covers the legal and financial issues involved with collective bargaining. Thus, the course discusses how to work with union employees as well as at-will workers, and the differences between the two.
- Staffing and Development
This course covers how to effectively staff an organization and then how to maintain that staff through proper training and compensation. The course should help students learn to identify and nurture future leaders.
- Organizational Change Management
This course covers how organizations change and grow over time. Students will study how to manage that change through effective staffing, compensation, and training initiatives. The course focuses on helping students become better, more effective leaders.
- Human Resources Management
This course provides a broad overview of the entire HR field. Students learn how to most effectively evaluate, develop, and even terminate staff. On top of leadership skills, students also learn about labor law, the global labor market, and how to most effectively define roles in a corporation.
- Additional Potential Courses
Resource Management, Training And Development, Strategic Management, Operations Management, Organizational Development
Frequently Asked Questions
What certification should I get in addition to an MBA in Human Resources?
There are many additional certifications that human resources professionals can achieve. These bolster credentials and provide a network of other HR professionals with whom to engage in discussions and more. The HR Certification Institute (HRCI), for instance, is an organization that offers eight different certifications for human resources professionals at all stages of their career. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) also certifies professionals and Senior professionals.
For those who are working as associates in an HR department or firm, HRCI’s Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR) certification is a perfect place to start. With more experience, one might take a more advanced examination and achieve a full PHR credential. There are also exams and credentials for Senior Professionals, Global Professionals, and more.
What are the differences between an MBA in Human Resources and a regular MBA?
An MBA is a very flexible degree type that can be customized to suit nearly every business career track. MBA degrees are made to suit any career by means of the concentration area a student chooses. Thus, a student can choose a program that provides a concentration in HR and then take specialty courses in that field, on top of the core MBA curriculum.
However, students can still find programs with a curriculum that does not offer a specific specialty area. General MBA graduates will still find that their degrees launch their career to the next level, but this more generalized approach is probably best suited to students with little business experience who don’t yet wish to specialize. Their general MBA may land them in an HR department where they will thrive, yet they will probably need a graduate certificate in HR to attain a position in the C-suites.
Who Should Consider Getting This Degree?
Any budding professional with an undergraduate degree in HR, management, or business should consider an MBA.
- New College Graduates
Those fresh from an undergraduate experience should pursue an MBA in order to start their careers off on a strong footing. Some colleges and universities even offer a combined BS/MBA that takes only five years.
- Mid-Career HR Professionals
After five or more years in an HR department, it may be time to return to school and complete a Master’s of Business Administration in Human Resources. The degree will help a professional attain a position in the C-Suites.
Businesses like to hire consultants who have advanced degrees. Further, HR professionals who wish to work as independent consultants will surely need an MBA on top of solid work experience.
How to Choose the Right Program
Do you have time to go back to school?
Time and scheduling are huge issues for graduate students, especially those who are still working full-time. Thankfully, many MBA programs have a long history of making courses accessible for their working students. Evening and weekend classes have long been a staple in MBA schedules and nowadays programs are adding online options, too.
Prior to enrolling, it’s vital to assess your time constraints with regards to managing work and family. You will want to devise a workable schedule that allows enough time to complete assignments, engage in class discussions, and review your instructor’s materials. If you are attending traditional classroom sessions, make sure that you will be able to leave the office in a timely manner and that your family is taken care of at dinnertime. It may be beneficial for you to find a higher learning state university that is utilizing technology and providing both campus and online degree programs.
Is this a long-term career path for you?
Before you enroll in an MBA program with a concentration on human resources, make sure that you are dedicated to making HR a long-term career. Once you have a degree in a specialized field, it might be difficult to switch to a new career without returning for another degree, taking a pay cut, or starting over again at a lower corporate tier.
Thus, when you are applying to MBA programs, seek out those that offer multiple concentrations in areas that appeal to you. This way, as you work through the core curriculum, you can be sure to choose the concentration that most appeals to you. The core work will help you refine your view of various business tracks and provide a fully informed view of your studies and ensuing career.
What kind of networking opportunities are available?
Networking is one of the chief benefits of an MBA, regardless of your concentration. While you may have a great professional network from your undergraduate years, chances are those connections are more of a social variety. Graduate school friends, however, are fellow travelers in the corporate universe who can help you just as much as you can help them.
In this regard, an online MBA might be less optimal. It’s harder to get to know fellow students in the brief two years of a degree program, and they may be in far-flung corners of the nation or world. However, there are always local alumni associations, as well as hybrid MBA programs.
A hybrid program allows you the opportunity to meet in real life, fellowship, and form the bonds necessary to hold a business network together. All MBA students should seek out online programs that offer some real-world interactions.
Does earning this MBA provide a significant return on investment (ROI)?
An MBA is often seen as a golden ticket. While that is not always true, it does generally provide a substantial return on your educational investment. According to Payscale.com, the average salary for an MBA graduate is $88,000. This figure is impressive and is likely enhanced when one factors in bonus packages, benefits, and other compensation such as company cars and expense accounts. The Financial Times also released data showing that MBA graduates earn up to twice that of those with only an undergraduate degree. The compensation and benefits for having an MBA from a state university or business school is higher than that of having an undergraduate business online degree.
Consider the student outcomes for each program
When you’re looking into your MBA program, be sure to research the program thoroughly. Not only do you need to determine that they offer the right curriculum for you but that they also deliver in terms of academics. Thus, be sure to investigate and search for each program’s retention rates and ask what percentage of students graduate in a timely fashion. These numbers should both be very high, considering that graduate students tend to be more focused and ambitious. You might also look at where students are working after graduation and if there is any data on their salaries.
Make sure the program is accredited
Accreditation is of paramount importance for your MBA program. This is a stamp of approval from an independent organization that performs a thorough review of a program’s courses, faculty, and student outcomes. Seek out MBA programs that have a national accreditation from agencies such as the AACSB, ACBSP, or IACBE. It is also important to seek out a higher education college or university that has regional accreditation.
These regional accreditation and national accreditation credentials will ensure that the program delivers top academics and that it has a high standing in the higher learning business community. In fact, full-time workers may receive more tuition reimbursement when their program boasts a top accreditation. Graduates will also find that their resume receives more responses and that they have a stronger position when it comes time to negotiate salary.
- National Human Resources Association (NHRA):
Members of the NHRA are able to enjoy leadership opportunities, endless networking possibilities, and even career services. There are affiliates from coast to coast with the bulk residing in California.
- Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM):
This organization offers members the opportunity to earn professional credentials on top of their degree. Members are also able to receive the society's magazine and attend conferences.
- HR Certification Institute (HRCI):
HRCI offers members, and others, the opportunity to add to their credentials by passing exams and then maintaining their status through ongoing education.
- Professionals in Human Resources Association (PIHRA):
PIHRA is an association that focuses on HR professionals in California. They offer certifications, networking opportunities, and continuing education resources.
- International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans (IFEBP):
IFEBP members are privy to a wide range of resources including virtual conferences, online learning, certificate programs, continuing education, and more.
Potential Scholarships to Consider
SHRM Graduate Scholarships
Award winners receive $5,000 to help cover educational costs. This fund is available only to SHRM members who maintain a 3.5 GPA or who graduated from their undergraduate program with a minimum GPA of 3.0.
Susan R. Meisinger Fellowship for Master’s Degree Students
This fellowship is open only to SHRM members or those who currently hold a SHRM certification. Applicants also need to have at least three years of experience in the HR field, top grades, and stellar recommendations. The award is $10,000 which may be renewed for a total of $20,000.
NAAAHR's Excellence in Human Resources Scholarships
The National Association of African Americans in Human Resources offers African Americans an opportunity to help finance their graduate or undergraduate human resources education. The funds are further limited to those living in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area. Awards include a one-year free student membership to the NAAAHR, career management assistance, and career coaching.