2019 Best Online Human Resources Degrees
Aspiring HR professionals will appreciate our list of all 77 accredited human resources degrees available online. Our lists of best online bachelor's programs and best online master's programs in human resources highlight top schools, based on tuition rates and alumni salary data provided by PayScale. These lists, as well as information provided about accreditation standards, what to expect from an HR degree, and degree specializations, can help you narrow down your choices.
2019 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Human Resources Degrees
The following 25 schools provide the best online bachelor’s degree in human resources. Assumption College and New York University, known for their rigorous academics, take top spots despite having higher upfront investments. However, several schools provide an online bachelor’s degree for an investment of less than $10,000 in annual tuition: Indiana University - Bloomington, ranked #6, Charter Oak State College, ranked #11, Florida International University, ranked #14, Amberton University, ranked #16, and Missouri Southern State University, ranked #19.
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Median Salary|
Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Human Resources Degrees (72)
Annual Tuition: $9,000
|Full List||Accreditation||Annual Tuition||Recommend Rate|
|Full List (76)|
|DEAC||$7,500||100% (2 reviews)|
38 Programs, 1 Certificate in Human Resources
|SACS COC||$6,370||83% (6 reviews)|
26 Programs, 3 Certificates in Human Resources
|HLC||$6,880||71% (142 reviews)|
417 Programs, 2 Certificates in Human Resources
|MSCHE||$46,615||100% (2 reviews)|
61 Programs, 1 Certificate in Human Resources
|NWCCU||$22,642||100% (1 review)|
48 Programs, 1 Certificate in Human Resources
|SACS COC||$28,510||Add Review|
91 Programs, 2 Certificates in Human Resources
|SACS COC||$25,600||Add Review|
20 Programs, 1 Certificate in Human Resources
|DEAC||$4,725||90% (62 reviews)|
86 Programs, 2 Certificates in Human Resources
|WASC WSCUC||$18,765||0% (1 review)|
64 Programs, 3 Certificates in Human Resources
|HLC||$14,250||65% (574 reviews)|
234 Programs, 1 Certificate in Human Resources
|HLC||$23,670||67% (3 reviews)|
102 Programs, 1 Certificate in Human Resources
|NECHE||$39,818||100% (3 reviews)|
77 Programs, 2 Certificates in Human Resources
|SACS COC||$24,840||Add Review|
35 Programs, 1 Certificate in Human Resources
|HLC||$30,370||60% (10 reviews)|
101 Programs, 1 Certificate in Human Resources
|HLC||$9,000||55% (56 reviews)|
104 Programs, 4 Certificates in Human Resources
|DEAC||$6,600||80% (162 reviews)|
74 Programs, 2 Certificates in Human Resources
|HLC||$28,600||67% (3 reviews)|
109 Programs, 2 Certificates in Human Resources
|SACS COC||$27,480||Add Review|
109 Programs, 1 Certificate in Human Resources
|HLC||$17,558||100% (5 reviews)|
85 Programs, 1 Certificate in Human Resources
|MSCHE||$35,900||0% (1 review)|
46 Programs, 1 Certificate in Human Resources
18 Programs, 1 Certificate in Human Resources
|SACS COC||$53,500||Add Review|
78 Programs, 1 Certificate in Human Resources
|HLC||$29,200||100% (3 reviews)|
35 Programs, 1 Certificate in Human Resources
33 Programs, 1 Certificate in Human Resources
|WASC WSCUC||$16,095||100% (1 review)|
91 Programs, 2 Certificates in Human Resources
- Annual Tuition: $40,208
- Median Salary: $113,800
Assumption College has an online Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resource Management offered through Assumption's Continuing and Career Education program. The degree combines liberal arts and a business curriculum in the context of a "values-based" education. Applicants need a diploma or the GED. Transfer students should have a 2.5 GPA. Up to 75 credits will transfer, and up to 30 credits may be awarded for prior learning. At least 45 credits must be taken while enrolled at Assumption. Among the classes in the program are Talent Acquisition and Management, Legal Aspects of Human Relations, and Compensation and Benefits. Tuition is $691 per credit unit. Assumption is a Catholic liberal arts college, associated with the Augustinians. Founded in 1904, the school is located in Worcester, Massachusetts.
- Annual Tuition: $37,710
- Median Salary: $105,357
New York University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Leadership and Management Studies, with a concentration in human resource management. Offered through NYU's prestigious School of Professional Studies, the program focuses on leadership, business fundamentals, and communications. Admission requires either an associate degree with a 2.7 GPA, or 60 transferable credits with a 3.3 GPA. The degree requires 128 to 130 credits, with 60 in the core curriculum and 16 in the concentration. Courses in the curriculum include International Human Resource Management, Managing Diversity in the Global Workplace, and Talent Management and Performance Effectiveness. Tuition for 6 to 10 credits is $11,599. NYU is located in New York City.
- Annual Tuition: $11,250
- Median Salary: $101,300
Norwich University, located in Northfield, Vermont, features an online Bachelor of Science in Management Studies with a concentration in human resource management. The program focuses on communications, technical expertise, and leadership. Admission requires at least 30 transferable credits, or an equivalent level of military or professional training. Up to 90 credits can be transferred. The program requires 39 credits in core curriculum and 18 in the concentration. The degree can be completed in as little as 18 months. Tuition is $375 per credit or $250 per credit for active military members. Norwich is celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2019. Founded in 1819 as the nation's first private military academy, it now serves the civilian and military communities.
- Annual Tuition: $19,168
- Median Salary: $99,700
The University of St. Francis offers an online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Managing Human Relations. This is an accelerated adult degree completion program. The goal is to prepare students for career advancement into management positions. Applicants must have a minimum of 60 transferable college credits, and up to 90 may be transferred. 30 credits must be completed at USF. The program is in the College of Business and requires 18 credits in business core, 9 in business administration and 12 in the concentration. Online terms last 8 weeks and tuition is $599 per credit. USF is a Franciscan college, and Franciscan values are mixed in with the curriculum. Founded in 1920, USF's main campus is in Joliet, Illinois, with additional sites in New Mexico and Alabama.
- Annual Tuition: $21,330
- Median Salary: $96,157
Texas Tech University features an online Bachelor of Applied Arts and Science in Applied Leadership in Human Resources Management. The focus is on leadership skills in the context of an HR career. This is a degree completion program designed primarily for students with an associate degree. Transfer students are welcome but must have a minimum of 60 transferable credits. The program requires 36 credits in an occupational specialty related to the AA degree, and two additional specialties of 18 credits each must be chosen. The program can be completed in two years. 60 credits must be taken while enrolled at TTU. Classes include Principles of Leadership in the Workplace, Employee and Labor Relations, and Employment Law in Human Resource Development. Tuition is $430.50 per credit.
- Annual Tuition: $9,640
- Median Salary: $92,857
Indiana University Bloomington offers an online Bachelor of Science in Labor Studies. The program focuses on work, workers and the workplace. Applicants must have at least 12 transferable credits. The program is completely online, but students will be assigned a home campus, either Bloomington, South Bend, IU Northwest or IUPUI. Among the courses in the program are Survey of Unions and Collective Bargaining, Labor and the Political System, and Class, Race, Gender and Work. Tuition is $224.23 per credit for Indiana residents and $321.24 per credit for nonresidents. IU offers support services for online students that include a 24/7 real-time support contact center.
- Annual Tuition: $11,329
- Median Salary: $92,857
Washington State University offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Management- Human Resource Management. Offered through WSU's highly ranked Carson College of Business, the 130-credit program focuses on recruiting, managing and motivating employees. Admission is holistic, with GPA, test scores and class rank considered. Transfer students need a 2.0 GPA for WSU and a 2.5 for the program. Courses include Recruiting and Hiring Human Capital, and Managing Human Resources. An international experience giving insight into the global economy is required, which can be met with an internship or appropriate coursework. Online tuition is $507 per credit for residents and $565 per credit for nonresidents. Support for online students includes 24/7 tech support, free online tutoring and writing assistance.
- Annual Tuition: $13,770
- Median Salary: $87,900
Mercer University features an online Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resource Management. The program focuses on employee recruitment, benefits, safety, motivation and labor relations. Applicants need a diploma or the GED, and transfer students should have a 2.5 GPA. The 120 credit degree requires 36 credits in the business core and 18 in the HR major. Courses in the program include Employment Law, Labor Relations Management, and Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Environment. Undergraduate tuition is $1,220 per credit hour. Founded in 1833, Mercer was affiliated with the Baptist church until 2006. The main campus is in Macon, Georgia and the school is extremely military friendly.
- Annual Tuition: $15,300
- Median Salary: $86,986
Excelsior College has an online Bachelor of Science in Business- Management of Human Resources. The program is designed for working adults and covers recruitment, law, negotiation, administration and labor relations. There are no special admission requirements. Up to 117 credits may be transferred, and earned experience credits are available. Because of Excelsior's generous credit transfer policy, it may be possible to complete the program with a 3-credit capstone and a 1-credit information literacy course. Terms are eight or fifteen weeks. The degree requires 120 credits, with 51 credits in the business core and nine in the concentration. Tuition is $510 per credit, or $250 per credit for military members. Excelsior's home campus is in Albany, New York.
- Annual Tuition: $12,150
- Median Salary: $86,200
New England College offers an online Bachelor of Arts of Business Administration in Human Resource Management. The BABA provides foundational business knowledge, and the major focuses on general employee relations including recruitment, retention, and conflict resolution. Admission requires a diploma or the GED, but test scores are not required. Transfer students should have a 2.0 GPA and may transfer up to 90 credits. Life credits may be granted by evaluation. NEC also offers two online 3 + 2 programs in Human Resource Management: an MA and an MBA. Tuition is $405 per credit. Courses offered include Compensation and Benefit Systems, Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and Leading Change in Organizations. The school is located in Henniker, New Hampshire.
- Annual Tuition: $9,792
- Median Salary: $84,500
Charter Oak State College offers an online BA and BS in General Studies in Human Relations, and an online BSBA with a concentration in Human Relations. The two General Studies programs focus on professional development for HR careers. The difference between the degrees is that the BA requires 90 liberal arts credits, and the BS requires 60. Both require 39 credits in the major. The BSBA provides a solid grounding in business, requiring 45 credits of core courses and nine in the concentration. Applicants should have at least nine college credits and a 2.0 GPA. Tuition is $310 per credit for residents and $408 per credit for nonresidents. These programs have a residency requirement for the Cornerstone and Capstone projects. Charter Oak is located in New Britain, Connecticut.
- Annual Tuition: $14,970
- Median Salary: $85,143
The University of Maryland University College features an online Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management. The program is designed for people with some experience in the field. The focus is on general HR responsibilities, including recruitment, orientation, diversity, evaluation, benefits and labor relations. It is recommended that applicants have strong communication skills. Students with fewer than 24 college credits are considered freshmen. Transfer students should have a 2.0 GPA. Up to 90 credits may be transferred, and credits may be awarded for prior military or life experience. Courses include Labor Relations, and Global Human Resource Management. Tuition per credit is $294 for residents, $499 for nonresidents and $250 for active military. UMUC is the state's online university campus and is very military friendly.
- Annual Tuition: $21,780
- Median Salary: $85,300
Golden Gate University offers both a BA in Management and a Bachelor of Science in Business that have a concentration in human resources management. Both programs are online and provide a solid grounding in business fundamentals. The Management program focuses on motivation, leadership and communication. The Business degree focuses on business skills and entrepreneurship. Applicants with more than 12 credits, a 2.0 GPA, and three or more years of professional experience are preferred. Up to 93 credits can be transferred. A prior learning assessment may award credit for military or life experience. Tuition is $660 per credit unit. The average age for students in GGU's highly rated online programs is 34. The school is located in San Francisco.
- Annual Tuition: $8,993
- Median Salary: $82,443
Florida International University features an online Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resource Management, offered through the Landon School of Business. The program focus is on recruitment, training, retention, compensation, law and personnel information systems. Admission is on the cohort system. Applicants must have a diploma or the GED, and SAT or ACT scores. Transfer students need a 2.0 GPA. Program courses include Legal Environment of Business, Recruitment and Staffing, and Compensation and Benefits. Online tuition per credit is $212.71 for residents and $299.77 for nonresidents. Online students are matched with a success coach that helps students reach their goals. FIU is the top university in the country for awarding bachelor's and master's degrees to Hispanic students.
- Annual Tuition: $16,800
- Median Salary: $83,200
Lipscomb University features an online Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resource Management. The degree requires 48 credits in business core classes and 21 in the concentration. The program focuses on personnel recruitment, staffing, compensation, and law and labor relations, within a faith-based, ethical perspective. Admission requires a diploma or the GED, and test scores. Transfer students need a 2.0 GPA. Lipscomb's evangelical orientation is reflected in all aspects of the curriculum, and all faculty and staff are practicing Christians. Tuition for students in the online adult degree programs is $525 per credit. Courses include Fundamentals of International Business, Servant Leadership, and Recruitment, Selection and Retention. Originally associated with the Church of Christ, Lipscomb is now nondenominational Christian evangelical. The school is located in Nashville, Tennessee.
- Annual Tuition: $7,950
- Median Salary: $81,700
Amberton University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Human Relations and Business. The program is interdisciplinary, combining business knowledge and the study of human behavior and communication with Christian principles. This is a degree completion program designed for mature adults who have both work and college experience. Applicants should have at least 30 transferable credits with a 2.0 GPA. The degree is 120 credits and requires 54 in the major. Courses include Sex Roles in Business and Society, Managerial Communication, and Negotiation Skills for Managers. Online tuition is $795 per 3-credit course. Amberton is nondenominational Christian with a strong evangelical orientation. The campus is located in Garland, Texas, in the Dallas area.
- Annual Tuition: $16,650
- Median Salary: $82,814
National University features a Bachelor of Arts in Management in Human Resources Management and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Relations Management; both programs are available online. The BSBA focuses on business fundamentals, marketing and employee relations. The BAM focuses on management in multicultural and global business settings. Applicants with fewer than 90 quarter credits must have a diploma or the GED, and should have a 2.0 GPA. The degree requires 180 quarter credits. The format is four-week terms, with one class per term. Classes include Survey of Global Business, Pay and Benefit Administration, and Ethics in Law, Business and Management. Tuition is $362 per quarter credit. National's home campus is in San Diego. NU was founded in 1971 by a veteran, and is very military friendly.
- Annual Tuition: $13,837
- Median Salary: $81,000
Dominican University has an online Bachelor of Arts in Human Services with an emphasis on labor relations. The program focuses on research, analysis and communication. This degree completion program, designed for working adults, may be completed in as little as 20 months. Applicants need a minimum of 30 transferable credits. Terms last 8 weeks and the major requires 42 credits. Students may add two of the following concentrations to enhance their degree: labor relations, disability advocacy, sustainability, international studies, and training and development. Online tuition for Adult and Continuing Education Studies is $461.25 per credit. The school is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Dominican order. It is located in River Forest, Illinois, near Chicago.
- Annual Tuition: $8,391
- Median Salary: $78,900
Missouri Southern State University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in human resource management. The program focuses on communication, problem solving and ethics for careers in human relations. Admission requires a 2.25 GPA or a rank of top 50% in graduating class. Transfer students need a 2.0 GPA. The 120-credit program requires 39 credits in business core classes and 21 in human resource management. The courses offered include Employment Law, Employee Training and Development, and Compensation and Benefits Management. Online undergraduate tuition is $270.70 per credit for all students. MSSU is located in Joplin, Missouri.
- Annual Tuition: $15,696
- Median Salary: $79,600
Pittsburg State University features an online Bachelor of Science in Workforce Development with a concentration in human resources. This degree completion program is designed for students with an associate degree, or those who have experience working in HR related fields. Applicants must have 64 or more credits in their associate program. The curriculum emphasizes preparation for career advancement in human relations. The program is offered through the Department of Technology and Workforce Learning. Among the courses offered are Talent Management, Basic Interviewing, and Trade and Jobs Analysis. The recommended sequence of courses takes three years to complete. Tuition per credit is $298 for residents and $640 for nonresidents. Pittsburg State is located in Pittsburg, Kansas.
- Annual Tuition: $23,580
- Median Salary: $80,443
Portland State University features an online Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management. This is a degree completion program developed primarily for students who have an associate degree from community colleges in Oregon and Washington, and have taken a pre-business curriculum. The program prepares students for careers in the human resources field. Courses offered include Human Resource Management, Staffing and Employee Selection, and Reward Systems and Performance Management. Tuition and fees for three credits is $2,219.10 for residents and $5,815.50 for nonresidents. The school is located in Portland, Oregon. PSU is known for being one of the most innovative colleges in the country.
- Annual Tuition: $11,183
- Median Salary: $78,614
Midwestern State University has an online Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences with a concentration in human resource development. The program focuses on improving the performance of employees and prepares students for careers in management, training and employee development. Applicants must have a minimum of 24 credits and are required to have an interview with the director or a program counselor before admission is granted. The degree requires 120 credits, with 36 in the concentration. Program courses include Human Resource Ethical Issues, Employee Assistance Issues, and Trends and Issues in Training and Development. Tuition and fees for three credits is $1,062.20 for residents and $1,257.20 for nonresidents. MSU is located in Wichita Falls, Texas. The school is very military friendly.
- Annual Tuition: $14,070
- Median Salary: $78,929
Colorado Christian University features an online Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management. The program combines an HR curriculum with biblical principles. Its focus is on recruitment and training, labor law, evaluation and compensation. Admission requires a diploma or the GED. Transfer students should have a 2.0 GPA. With transfer credits, the program may be completed in four semesters. Credit policies for prior experience and training are generous. CCU states that all programs are "taught from a Christian worldview." The program courses include Human Resource Administration, Compensation and Benefits, and Labor and Employment Law. Undergraduate online tuition is $469 per credit or $250 per credit for active military members. The school is located in Lakewood, Colorado, near Denver.
- Annual Tuition: $9,640
- Median Salary: $77,700
Indiana University- South Bend features an online Bachelor of Science in Labor Relations. Offered by the Department of Labor Studies, the program centers on the history and current status of labor. The program is unique in that it explicitly focuses on promoting respect for work, workers, and helping existing trade unions cope with change. Admission requires a diploma or the GED. Transfer students need a 2.0 GPA. The 120 credit degree requires 27 credits in the concentration. Courses in the program include Union Organizing, Survey of Unions and Collective Bargaining, and Globalization and Labor. Tuition is $224.23 per credit hour for residents and $321.34 for nonresidents. South Bend is in the northern part of the state, near Chicago.
- Annual Tuition: $10,633
- Median Salary: $77,057
SUNY Empire State College offers six online degree programs in Labor Studies and two in Human Relations Management. The programs are a BA, BS and BPS in Labor Studies, a BA, BS and BPS in Labor Studies and Labor Management Relations, and a BA and BPS in Business Management and Economics with a concentration in human relations management. Applicants need a diploma or the GED, and transfer students should have a 2.0 GPA. Up to 93 credits may be transferred. The Labor Studies programs focus on work, employees and worker organizations. The Human Relations programs focus on managing the workplace. Online tuition is $286 per credit for New York residents and $343 per credit for nonresidents. Empire State's main campus is located in Saratoga Springs.
Online Human Resources Degree Overview & Career Information
Associate degrees provide students with a foundation of both general education courses and human resources topics, such as employee compensation and benefits, creating job advertisements, and labor relations issues. Graduates with a two-year associate degree may qualify for some entry-level HR positions, but many jobs require at least a bachelor's degree.
Bachelor's programs require four years of study and include both general liberal arts requirements as well as core classes and electives in HR subjects. Classes directly related to majors in HR include industrial or labor relations, industrial psychology, and organizational development. Other classes that may be required of students include information technology, business management, finance, and different subjects in education.
Master's degrees are required for HR professionals seeking advanced positions that involve supervision and management. These graduate programs usually allow individuals to specialize in a certain area of human resources management. In addition to earning a master's degree in HR, candidates can also qualify for advanced positions in this field by pursuing a master's in labor relations or business administration.
Scholars or business professionals with a master's degree may pursue a doctorate in human resources areas such as management, workforce development, and organizational leadership. Doctoral programs encourage students to use current research theories to solve complex HR management issues. Graduates will be prepared for HR leadership positions or postsecondary teaching and research careers.
The associate degree in human resources provides students with a solid introduction to the major concepts of human resources management, including organizational behavior, training and development, and employment law. These programs typically take two years to complete and are comprised of 60 credit hours of coursework. Community colleges and career training institutes offer both terminal Associate of Science and transferable Associate of Arts degrees. Applicants need a high school diploma or GED.
The curriculum in the associate program may be completely focused on HR issues, or it may include a business core with a human resources specialization. In a program with a business core, students learn about basic business principles in accounting, management, finance, and marketing. This foundation is useful for applying human resources concepts in a strategic way, with the entire business’s goals in mind. Human resources classes discuss employee selection, recruitment, training and development, compensation and benefits, and diversity in the workplace. Graduates understand the basic skills for increasing the performance and morale of a team of employees.
While a bachelor’s degree is usually required for human resources specialist or management positions, the associate degree can be used to enter human resources assistant roles. These workers assist with employee files and data and information systems. With professional experience, HR assistants can move into specialist or management roles. In larger organizations, human resources specialists focus on a particular area of HR, while those in smaller organizations may perform a variety of tasks related to recruitment and development.
The human resources bachelor's degree teaches students how to manage employee relations in order to boost productivity within an organization. Prospective HR bachelor's students need a high school diploma or GED. Applicants may also need SAT/ACT test scores and a particular high school GPA. This degree program typically requires 120 credit hours and four years of full-time work.
The HR bachelor's degree typically includes a core of business classes, along with a specialization in human resources topics. The business core includes courses in accounting, statistics, business information systems, finance, business law, operations management, and business communication. Future human resources workers are thus able to perform their roles with a vision of the entire organization's success in mind. The human resources focus in the degree discusses the skills for recruiting and retaining the best employees. Students study labor economics, human resources management, employee development, and compensation and benefits planning.
A bachelor's degree is the typical entry-level requirement for human resources specialist positions. At small organizations, human resources specialists may oversee all areas of employee relations, while those in larger organizations might specialize in recruitment, placement, or labor relations. After gaining professional experience, specialists may be able to enter human resources management positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that job seekers with a relevant bachelor's degree and professional experience are likely to have the best HR job prospects. (BLS)
Human resources master's programs train students to integrate the practices of employee selection and retention with a larger understanding of business operations. Master's programs are typically available as a Master of Science (MS) or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in HR management. In some cases, human resources is not a major, but rather a specialization within a general MBA in management. Most programs require about 10-15 courses. When enrolled on a full-time basis, students can complete this 30-credit master's degree in about two years. To learn more about online master's programs in human resources, see our master's overview which includes a list of the best programs.
Doctoral degrees in human resources management provide a foundation in HR theory and practice for future careers in academia, the private sector, or government. Depending on the program, applicants need a bachelor's or master's degree; many schools also require at least one year of work experience, GRE or GMAT scores, and letters of recommendation. Doctoral programs typically take three to five years to complete, depending on the applicant's highest degree. The degree requires information-based coursework and a dissertation project.
The HR doctorate coursework generally covers human resources quantitative methods, theory, and practical applications. Common first-year courses look at HR research methods, statistics, and software packages. Other foundational courses include diversity in the workplace, employee well-being, and performance in non-profits and government organizations. Students also study strategies for integrating HR into an overall business strategy to make a business more competitive. The dissertation is a major part of the HR doctoral program. This research project must be carefully written and defended before the student's degree will be granted. Students work with a faculty advisor to devise and develop their project.
Human resources doctorate graduates can become human resources instructors at the college level. Other career opportunities include research and policy work in government or management in the private sector. Graduates should be well situated to pursue careers in academia or the private sector, as a doctorate is the terminal degree in this field.
Human resources certificates provide introductory and advanced training in the skills for managing an organization's human capital. These programs are available in general HR areas, as well as focused topics like HR management or benefits and compensation. The prerequisites for HR certificates depend on the program level; entry-level certificates typically require a high school diploma, while advanced programs require a bachelor's degree. Certificates generally require 6-12 courses and can be completed in one year or less.
The courses in an HR certificate depend on the certificate level and specialization. Entry-level certificates provide an overview of the human resources field, including classes in human resources practices, organizational development, employee relations, and compensation and benefits. Graduate-level certificates tend to focus in a particular area of human resources. For example, a benefits and compensation certificate would require classes in benefits design, labor and employment law, and communication, while a program in HR management might include coursework in organizational behavior, recruitment, and diversity management.
HR certificates can be used to land entry-level or supervisory roles in human resources. Undergraduate certificates can lead to work as a human resources assistant or payroll assistant. Those with a bachelor's degree can use the HR certificate to launch a human resources career or to advance into management positions. Advanced HR certificates can be used to specialize in particular areas of the field, such as recruiting, labor relations, or placement.
Prospective human resources students are encouraged to research online degree programs that are offered by accredited institutions. Accreditation means that a school has voluntarily gone through a comprehensive evaluation process by an outside agency and been deemed acceptable by that agency. While some disciplines have field-specific accrediting agencies to evaluate individual degree programs, the human resources discipline does not. Instead, students may choose a human resources program at a school that has been accredited for its overall academic offerings.
Attending an accredited school will help students meet eligibility requirements for federal financial aid and for transferring credits among other accredited institutions. It can also help students feel confident that they are investing their time and money in a degree program that meets high academic standards. The US Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation both recognize several regional and national accrediting agencies and list them on their websites. Please visit our accreditation hub for more information about the benefits of accreditation.
Deciding upon a major is not just about deciding if the degree will lead to a rewarding career or education. Whatever you decide to major in will change your schooling experience significantly and can mean the difference between being satisfied or unsatisfied with your education over the next few years. Therefore, it is important to understand what courses you will be taking if you choose to study human resources. Below are some areas of study that you are likely to encounter if you study human resources:
Accounting/Finance: When working in HR, you will come across situations where you will influence the finances of the company you are working for, including issues dealing with employee compensation, payroll, and staffing needs. Classes in finance and accounting will provide you with the tools to understand how to make these decisions and to predict the impacts they will have on a business as a whole. These classes will involve some math and logic skills.
Law: Whether you are making a decision about hiring contractors, firing an employee, or dealing with employee misconduct situations, as an HR professional, it's important to understand the basics of employment law. While you won't need to understand law to the same extent that a lawyer would, it's important for HR professionals to be able to analyze laws and rights as well as determine how to best comply with them. HR professionals are in charge of coordinating with attorneys to ensure that their company is implementing lawful policies. Courses will typically cover legal basics and employment law, among other topics.
Management: Throughout your study of HR, you will likely come across multiple classes in management and leadership. These classes will teach you everything from communication skills and human behavior to employee training principles and labor relations. Some classes will teach you practical skills that you can take directly into your first HR job, while others will teach you abstract concepts to help you solve problems. These classes will be integral to your education and will provide you with a set of skills to take into your first HR position.
Human resource management is the part of an organization that recruits and manages the people who work within that organization. HR duties are performed by specially trained individuals who act as a liaison between different departments of a company and ensure that the approach to managing employees is strategic and uniform. HR professionals may oversee everything from recruiting and payroll to employee misconduct and training, as well as legal issues. A job in human resources can be incredibly varied (as with an HR generalist) or quite narrow (as with a college recruiter). The following list represents just some of the areas that HR professionals may specialize in:
Benefits Administration: Providing employee benefits, such as insurance or retirement, creates a need to manage the plans associated with those benefits. This includes selection of providers and negotiations, which is often an annual process. Many organizations track usage of benefits and survey employees on their preferences related to benefits; they then use the data from these sources to design a benefits strategy that will maximize employee satisfaction while managing costs. An HR education or a general business education is very helpful in this specialty.
Compensation Management: Many companies make an effort to ensure uniformity in the wages paid to similar employees performing comparable work. Reviewing the classifications of employees and ensuring that all employees are accurately categorized can be handled by a compensation expert in human resources. Such reviews (typically performed annually) may also involve review of outside salary surveys to ensure that the organization’s compensation is competitive enough to attract qualified candidates.
General HR Management: As organizations become larger, the issues associated with their workforces get more complicated, and the risk associated with inconsistent policies increases. A human resources manager is typically involved in running processes that ensure that a company is in compliance with the law and consistent in its treatment of all of its employees. An organization may create policies around situations such as employee complaints of harassment, discrimination or other behaviors covered by law or statute, employee misconduct, employee requests for time off due to medical issues, performance appraisals, or separations (voluntary employee departures, terminations, and layoffs).
It is possible to learn these skills on the job -- particularly in companies that have someone with a legal background crafting and communicating policies. However, a specialized HR education can greatly improve someone’s ability to carry out these functions, many of which involve nuanced understanding of legal concepts such as at-will employment, protected classes, and legal precedents related to them. Typically, in order to land a general HR position, a candidate will be required to have earned a bachelor’s degree or have prior HR experience.
Payroll and Record Keeping: At the most basic level, human resources requires careful record keeping. Any time an organization adds a new employee, there are official federal and state forms that need to be collected, recorded, and filed. Throughout the tenure of any given employee, there can be numerous updates to those records (for example, certain federal tax forms must be updated annually, and employees can typically make changes each year to their health insurance and retirement plans). For hourly employees, someone in either the accounting or human resources department will review and finalize time records before payment is issued. Payroll also requires filing and payment of certain taxes.
Recruiting: The human resources department of an organization will often provide support to managers in the hiring of employees. This support can be as simple as placing advertisements and doing paperwork associated with formally opening the position, or it can involve active recruitment (sometimes referred to as “headhunting”): proactively reaching out to individuals who may be a fit for the role and working to get them interested in the role. A human resources professional can also provide training for managers on how to interview prospective employees -- both how to ask good, insightful questions that lead to a beneficial hire and how to avoid topics that might create the risk of a discrimination claim if the candidate did not get hired. Recruiters may find themselves traveling a fair amount for their job.
Training and Development: Some organizations recognize that organizational effectiveness is best supported by providing consistent training to employees. Identifying the topics, frequency, and participants for such training and ensuring that such training is taking place is sometimes handled by a human resources department. It can also come out of a dedicated training department, a training professional within an operations team, or other areas of an organization. An education in human resources with a concentration in training and development is important to a job in this area.
- Human Resources Managers. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published January 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.htm.
- Human Resources Specialists. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published January 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/human-resources-specialists.htm.