Typical job duties include overseeing employee relations and compliance, supervising human resource staff members, and advising other managers on human resources issues, such as equal opportunity employment and workplace discrimination.
Top 5 Online MBA Programs in Human Resources
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A specialized business graduate degree, an MBA in human resources delivers core knowledge in management fundamentals and an in-depth understanding of labor law, employee relations, training, and compensation.
With a human resources MBA, graduates can expect solid salaries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual wage of $116,720 for human resources managers and $122,270 for compensation and benefits managers as of 2019 — significantly higher than the national median for all occupations.
Our rankings provide detailed descriptions of the best online programs in human resources. This page offers information about the benefits of a human resources MBA, what to expect as a student, and available careers in the field. We also discuss factors to consider when searching for your ideal online MBA program.
What Is Human Resources?
Human resources management can be traced back to early 20th-century Europe, where an escalating pressure to increase business profits and the need to protect workers’ welfare gave birth to the discipline of personnel administration.
While the field of personnel administration initially focused on enhancing industrial efficiency through strategic personnel management, the discipline has since evolved to include talent retention, succession planning, and industrial and labor relations.
Virtually all larger organizations employ graduates from MBA programs in human resources. Graduates with human resource MBAs find employment as training and development managers, employee experience directors, and chief people officers.
These human resources professionals identify ways to reduce personnel costs, coordinate employee development programs, and design protocols for maintaining a friendly work environment.
MBA programs in human resources appeal to aspiring business administrators interested in group dynamics in workplaces, factors that play into employee satisfaction, and the effects of organizational culture and rewards on productivity. Human resources MBAs also commonly attract seasoned professionals looking to advance professionally.
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Why Get a Human Resources MBA?
Earning a human resources MBA can help budding and experienced human resources (HR) professionals secure advanced managerial positions. A general MBA also can do this — so why pursue the HR MBA concentration?
An MBA with a concentration in human resources can help qualify graduates for corporate leadership positions that require an in-depth understanding of the field. Additional benefits of pursuing a human resources MBA include a high earning potential, job stability in an uncertain economy, and a gratifying career with a human component:
- High Earning Potential
- A human resources MBA offers a stepping stone to highly lucrative managerial posts. For example, the BLS reported a median annual pay of $116,720 for labor relations directors as of 2019.
- Job Stability in an Uncertain Economy
- Earning a degree from an MBA program in HR develops versatile skills that easily transfer across different managerial occupations. The degree’s adaptability makes it a valuable credential in a volatile financial climate.
- A Fulfilling Career with a Human Component
- Many HR managerial positions require navigating workplace bullying, sexual misconduct, and grievances procedures. Individuals with strong people skills and a knack for solving interpersonal conflicts may find it satisfying to address these unique challenges.
What To Expect From Online MBA Programs in HR
Earning an online human resources MBA typically requires 60 credits and takes two years of full-time study. Accelerated programs allow students to complete the degree in one year. Some schools provide hybrid degree options, combining distance-learning courses with a brief on-campus residency.
A typical human resources MBA curriculum comprises foundational business classes, electives in HR management, and a capstone or thesis seminar. Common core business courses include business strategy, financial management, and statistical analysis. Popular HR electives cover legal issues in the workplace, labor and employee engagement, and organizational psychology.
Although business schools usually classify human resources as an MBA concentration, most programs allow learners to specialize further through a combination of HR electives. Examples of specializations include employment law, recruitment and staffing, and industrial and labor relations.
The MBA Admission Process
Most online schools for human resources require each candidate to hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university. Some programs only accept students with bachelor’s degrees in business administration, human resources, or other related areas.
Applicants must submit materials like resumes, transcripts, GMAT or GRE scores, personal essays, and letters of recommendation. Programs also typically charge a nonrefundable application fee.
Minimum GPA requirements vary among schools, but many programs require a GPA above 3.0. Some schools waive entrance exam scores for distance learners. A 3.5 GPA or higher, GMAT or GRE scores in the 90th percentile, and professional business or HR experience can give applicants a competitive edge.
Human Resources Degree Options
Popular alternatives to a human resources MBA include a master of science (MS) in human resources and a master of arts (MA) in human resources. The main differences among the three degrees include available career pathways, program length, credit load, and STEM requirements.
MA in Human Resources
An enrollee can complete this 30-36 credit degree, often referred to as a “master of human resources,” in one year of full-time study. Graduates from an MA program in HR usually secure jobs as human resources specialists.
MS in Human Resources
An MS in human resources takes around 1-2 years to complete for full-time students and requires 24-48 credits. Some MS programs require students to take more STEM courses than typical MA and MBA programs. Graduates with this degree pursue careers as human resources specialists or human resources managers.
MBAs with a human resources focus sometimes appear in different names. Other common degree names include MBA in human resource management and MBA in human resource analytics and management.
Comparing Human Resources and General MBAs
A human resources MBA presents a popular alternative to a general MBA. The two degrees both require around 60 credits and allow for successful completion in two years of full-time study.
Both programs prepare students for general management and leadership positions. However, unlike a general MBA, an MBA program in HR provides comprehensive knowledge of human resources administration, making learners more competitive for advanced managerial positions in HR departments.
Comparing Human Resources MBAs to General MBA Programs
|MBA in Human Resources||General MBA|
|Length||Two years full time||Two years full time|
|Credit Load||60 credits||60 credits|
|Types of Classes||Labor law, human resources planning and strategy, organizational behavior, negotiation and conflict resolution||Business analytics, marketing and consumer behavior, innovation and entrepreneurship, investment management|
|Student Demographics||College graduates and seasoned human resources employees aspiring to advance professionally||College graduates and business professionals who seek to climb the career ladder|
|Common Careers||Human resources manager, labor relations director, training and development manager, recruiting director, compensation and benefits manager||Financial manager, financial analyst, marketing manager, sales director, computer and information systems manager, research and development director|
|Goal||Prepare students for careers as managers in human resource departments||Prepare learners for general managerial and leadership positions|
Popular Human Resources Courses
Online MBA programs in human resources typically require foundational classes in financial reporting, organizational management, and labor law. Concentration courses include human resource planning and strategy, negotiations and conflict resolution, and personnel staffing and evaluation. Human resources MBAs also commonly offer capstone seminars, allowing learners to apply their expertise to real-world business issues.
How Much Will an MBA in Human Resources Cost?
Tuition for an online MBA program in human resources depends on the program’s reputation, prestige, and school type (public vs. private), among other factors.
Private universities tend to charge much higher tuition rates than in-state public schools. Out-of-state tuition can easily cost an additional $10,000-$20,000, making the tuition expense at public schools for non-residents comparable to private institutions. Many schools charge a flat rate to remote learners, however.
Other common costs of pursuing an online MBA in HR include book expenses, fees for on-campus residencies, and lost work income. Financing options, such as merit scholarships, federal loans, grants, and fellowships, can make a human resources MBA more affordable. The following links provide further details about financing your degree.
Jobs for MBAs in Human Resources
Earning a human resources MBA can open doors to HR managerial positions across several industries, including research and technology, healthcare and social assistance, and finance and insurance.
An MBA with this focus prepares students for many diverse occupations. Within human research departments alone, graduates can pursue managerial positions in labor relations, compensation and benefits, and training and development. Career options for MBA HR program graduates include:
Human Resources Manager
Training and Development Manager
Training and development managers direct educational programs and workshops for an organization’s employees. Typical job duties include assessing the educational needs of employees, designing and updating training materials, and overseeing instructional workshops and seminars.
Compensation and Benefits Manager
Compensation and benefits managers direct businesses’ payment programs. Typical responsibilities include administering and updating salary and benefits packages, ensuring regulatory compliance of compensation and benefits plans, and assessing how the organization’s remuneration programs compare to competitors.
Labor Relations Director
Labor relations directors manage employee relations and policies. Typical job duties include negotiating and preparing labor contracts, reviewing and updating employment policies, and handling employee grievances.
- Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
- Average Annual Salary: $124,720
Selecting Your Human Resources MBA Program
While our rankings offer a strong starting point when searching for human resources MBA programs, prospective enrollees should always perform their own research to identify their programs of choice.
Applicants should prioritize regionally accredited universities. Institutions with regional accreditation have undergone rigorous evaluation to ensure compliance with the academic standards set by the six regional accreditation bodies.
Programmatic accreditation also speaks to the value of an MBA degree. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) sets the standards for business schools. An AACSB stamp of approval signals that a business school meets industry standards.
In their quest for MBA programs in HR, prospective students should also ensure that the school provides access to a strong alumni and human resources network. Building professional relationships can help advance MBA candidates’ careers. For example, a letter of recommendation from a successful alum can significantly strengthen a candidate’s future job applications.
Why You Should Get Your MBA in HR Online
Prospective students interested in human resources MBAs may wonder whether they should pursue the degree online or in person. Distance education commonly offers greater affordability, flexibility, and convenience.
Remote learning programs can provide greater affordability, as most schools charge learners less for their online MBA degrees. Opting for an online MBA can also cut expenses like on-campus activity fees and the costs of relocating, commuting, and parking.
Online formats vary by program. Some distance learning programs run synchronously with real-time class meetings to mirror the on-campus experience. Others deliver courses asynchronously with pre-recorded lectures and virtual discussion boards.
While both online formats provide the convenience of studying from home, asynchronous programs offer greater compatibility with a full-time work schedule. However, aspiring MBAs should keep in mind that the asynchronous format requires strong time management skills and willpower to avoid falling behind.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of human resources degrees are there?
At the master’s level, an interested student can pursue a master of human resources, a master of science in human resources, and an MBA with a concentration in human resources. At other degree levels, learners can pursue associate, bachelor’s, and doctoral degrees in human resources.
Is an MBA in HR a good option?
Yes. An MBA in HR offers a strong pathway for college graduates interested in labor laws, employee relations, and conflict resolution. The degree also suits HR professionals seeking to move to a higher position.
Are online human resources MBAs cheaper?
Yes. Many schools offer online programs at a discount. Public schools commonly charge in-state tuition to online students, regardless of their location. Private universities also frequently offer reduced online tuition rates.
What can I do with an MBA in human resources?
Graduates with MBAs in human resources secure managerial and leadership positions in human resources departments. Examples of HR careers include human resources manager, labor relations director, and chief people officer.
How much does an MBA in human resources make?
5 Best Online MBA Programs in Human Resources
Given the seismic effect of COVID-19 on the workforce, HR professionals are facing new levels of demand. We ranked the best 10 online MBAs in human resources. These degrees may equip you to join top companies as they tackle the changing HR landscape.
Each program listed holds either national or regional accreditation. Some may also earn accreditation from industry-specific agencies. Institutions achieve MBA accreditation by meeting rigorous academic criteria that measure ethics, educational quality, and other considerations. For this list, relevant accrediting agencies include:
Earning an MBA should increase graduates' purchasing power, not cost them an arm and a leg. Learn more about the most affordable online MBA programs and how to apply.
Accelerated MBA programs help working professionals advance their careers without leaving work. Learn more about the top accelerated online MBA programs.
Explore our ranking to see how graduate school can grow your business career. Start your journey sooner by pursuing an online MBA with no GMAT required.
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