Top 5 Online MBA Programs in Human Resources 2021

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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.

Online MBA Programs for You

Grow your career, leadership, and business acumen with an accredited online MBA program.

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.


cap

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.

cap

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 ResourcesGeneral MBA
LengthTwo years full timeTwo years full time
Credit Load60 credits60 credits
Types of ClassesLabor law, human resources planning and strategy, organizational behavior, negotiation and conflict resolution Business analytics, marketing and consumer behavior, innovation and entrepreneurship, investment management
Student DemographicsCollege graduates and seasoned human resources employees aspiring to advance professionallyCollege graduates and business professionals who seek to climb the career ladder
Common CareersHuman resources manager, labor relations director, training and development manager, recruiting director, compensation and benefits managerFinancial manager, financial analyst, marketing manager, sales director, computer and information systems manager, research and development director
GoalPrepare students for careers as managers in human resource departmentsPrepare learners for general managerial and leadership positions
Read Our Guide to the General MBA

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.

Through a study of historical and contemporary cases, students gain foundational knowledge of topics, such as recruitment processes, labor contracts, employer best practices, grievance procedures, and employee autonomy and privacy.
Learners acquire advanced knowledge of the key stages of the managerial decision-making process: planning, organizing, directing, and controlling. Enrollees work in teams to analyze case studies of real decision-making processes.
This course covers the basic principles of human resources management, such as effective leadership styles, employment planning, talent retention, and supervision of support staff. Students also acquire the practical tools needed to recruit, train, and assess employees.
Learners gain an in-depth understanding of fundamental principles of negotiations in organizational contexts. Through teamwork, enrollees acquire advanced skills in effective negotiation and bargaining in recruitment, remuneration, intra-organizational disputes, and external multi-party conflicts.
Attendees work in teams to solve real or simulated HR problems under faculty guidance. For example, projects may focus on helping local organizations address talent retention issues. At the end of the seminar, students present their findings in research papers or presentations.

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

    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.

    • Required Education: Bachelor’s degree, master’s sometimes required
    • Job Outlook (2019-29): +6%
    • Median Annual Salary: $116,720

  • 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.

    • Required Education: Bachelor’s degree, master’s sometimes required
    • Job Outlook (2019-29): +7%
    • Median Annual Salary: $113,350

  • 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.

    • Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
    • Job Outlook (2019-29): +3%
    • Median Annual Salary: $122,270

  • 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?

    Many MBAs working in a human resources department earn six-figure salaries. The BLS reports a median annual salary of $122,270 for compensation and benefits managers, while human resources managers earned a median annual salary of $116,720 as of 2019.

5 Best Online MBA Programs in Human Resources for 2021

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 for 2021. 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:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SASCOC)
  • Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
  • International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE)
  • Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • Our Ranking Methodology

    1. University of Nebraska Lincoln
      Location

      Lincoln, NE

      Tuition

      $17315

      A Big Ten university chartered in 1869, The University of Nebraska Lincoln was one of the first universities west of the Mississippi to offer doctoral degrees. The school considers itself the birthplace of the ecology discipline.

      Business MBA

      The human resource management specialization at MBA@Nebraska consists of 48 credits spread across an eight-week course. A blended version of the program, the flex MBA, combines online elective courses with core classes at Howard L. Hawks Hall.

      MBA students who study entirely online still enjoy access to the university's career center. MBA learners must take nine credits of management courses as part of their allotted 18 elective credits. Electives focus on administration, talent acquisition, and regulatory labor environments.

      Applying to UNL

      Admission requires transcripts, standardized test scores, three references, and a personal statement. A minimum 3.0 GPA is strongly recommended. International applicants and those for whom English is not a native language must supply additional documentation.

      Program at a Glance

      School Type: Public
      Accreditation: HLC
      Tuition: $650/credit
      Required Credits: 48 credits
      Program Length: 1.5-3 years
      Delivery Format: 100% online or hybrid

    2. Purdue University Global
      Location

      West Lafayette, IN

      Tuition

      $11898

      Home of the Boilermakers, Purdue University boasts over 200 hybrid and online programs and the world's largest drum, which makes an appearance at every football game hosted at the West Lafayette, Indiana campus.

      Online Master's Degree in Business Administration

      Purdue Global's online MBA offers multiple start dates and features six-week terms. Its human resources track explores topics including recruitment practices, employee training, and change management.

      The Society for Human Resource Management lauds Purdue's human resources MBA as aligning with its curriculum guidebook. Purdue Global honors transfer credits from prior institutions. Tuition reductions are available for international students, veterans and active servicemembers, and applicants currently employed with a Purdue partner organization. Online students may access faculty members and tutoring services.

      Applying to Purdue

      Start by creating your student profile. Enter your prior education. Purdue requires applicants to hold a bachelor's degree before they can join the online MBA program.

      Program at a Glance

      School Type: Public
      Accreditation: HLC, ACBSP
      Tuition: $485/credit
      Required Credits: 60-76 credits
      Program Length: 2 years full time
      Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)

    3. Pittsburg State University
      Location

      Pittsburg, KS

      Tuition

      $13906

      Named after the Pennsylvania city, Pitt State is best known for its athletics and being the only college in North America with a gorilla as a mascot. Nearly 7,000 students call this sprawling 600-acre campus home.

      Master of Business Administration in Human Resources Online

      Pitt State's online MBA in human resources offers a slate of classes in subjects like employee education and quantitative business analysis. The concentration focuses on personnel development and the foundations of human resources.

      Placement rate for graduates of this program approaches 90%. Tuition stays the same for students regardless of their state of residence. Learners can choose from multiple start dates. Depending on their schedule, students may complete the program within a year.

      Applying to Pitt State

      To apply to Pitt State, you need transcripts, a minimum 2.7 GPA, and a resume. At least three years of managerial experience is also required. The application portal is available online, but applicants should mail their transcripts.

      Program at a Glance

      School Type: Public
      Accreditation: HLC, AACSB
      Tuition: $375/credit
      Required Credits: 30 major credits
      Program Length: 1 year minimum
      Delivery Format: 100% online

    4. University of North Texas
      Location

      Denton, TX

      Tuition

      $12600

      One of the largest universities in America, UNT educates nearly 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The Denton-based university is committed to sustainability and offers 94 master's programs.

      Accelerated Online MBA

      Run through the G. Brint Ryan College of Business, the organizational behavior and human resource management MBA includes seminars on compensation, placement, and selection. The program focuses on how HR adds to a firm's competitive advantage.

      With 24 credits of core curriculum, UNT claims learners can earn their MBAs in as little as 14 months, entirely online. Spring and fall courses run eight weeks. Summer courses total five weeks. Students choose from six program start dates.

      Applying to UNT

      Prospective students must apply to both UNT's Toulouse Graduate School and the G. Brint Ryan College of Business. Applicants should mail their transcripts and submit a personal essay, three letters of recommendation, a resume, and GMAT/GRE scores.

      Program at a Glance

      School Type: Public
      Accreditation: SACSCOC
      Tuition: $278/credit (in state); $687/credit (out of state)
      Required Credits: 36 credits
      Program Length: 14 months minimum
      Delivery Format: 100% online

    5. Penn State World Campus
      Location

      University Park, PA

      Tuition

      $21678

      Proud home of the Nittany Lions, Penn State's main campus is best known for housing the world's largest university creamery (which trained a certain Ben and Jerry). Over 47,000 students attend Penn State.

      Master of Business Administration

      Penn State requires grad students to complete a three-day residency on campus to kick off their virtual semester. Throughout the Penn State Global course, students access career coaching and personal advising from faculty experts at the internationally ranked Smeal College of Business.

      Human resource students focus on courses like diversity leadership and organizational behavior and well-being. The MBA core is 39 credits. Nine human resources credits round out the discipline. Penn State highlights that every core MBA course includes teamwork.

      Applying to Penn State Global

      New Penn State applicants must create an online account, hold a baccalaureate or postsecondary degree from a U.S. institution, send their transcripts, and prove an English proficiency.

      Program at a Glance

      School Type: Public
      Accreditation: MSCHE, AACSB
      Tuition: $1,236/credit
      Required Credits: 48 credits
      Delivery Format: Online with some in-person requirements

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