PhD & Master's in Human Resources (HR) Graduate Degree Programs

What is a Masters in Human Resource Management Degree?

A Masters in Human Resource Management (HRM) is an advanced business degree. It studies the ways leaders can coach, train and use personnel to meet a company's bottom line.

Some of the broad themes in HRM center around staffing, employee benefits and labor laws. Others cover the skills needed to manage people in the workplace.

PhD & Master's in Human Resources (HR) Graduate Degree Programs infographicwritten by Rana Waxman

What Can You Do with a Human Resource Management Graduate Degree?

It’s a perfect time to pursue a career in Human Resource Management. There are many unique jobs due to the variety of start-ups, global expansion and new labor laws.

Human Resource professionals have skills ranging from technical to motivational and beyond. They work in many industries and for businesses large and small. Earning a master's degree in human resource management might boost a career as:

  • Employee Relations Manager
  • Human Resources Administration Director
  • Human Resources VP
  • Human Resources Manager

It’s also a great time to earn an HRM master's degree. The predicts that human resource careers will increase by 9 % to 2026. With stiff competition, they say a master's degree in HRM is one way to push your resume to the top of the pile.

Of the 10.5 million people in the human resource management workforce, 20.2% have a master's degree. Many manage departments like payroll or recruiting.

Others may use their financial skillsets as Compensation and Benefits Managers. This is another area where a master's degree may help you stand out.

If you're more of an instructor and enjoy coaching, there is another dynamic area to consider. Training and Development Managers should see a 10% growth in job opportunity to 2026.

Do You Need a Human Resource Management Graduate Degree?

One reason to pursue a master's degree in human resource management is for the potential to earn more. Another is to refine skills and knowledge to pursue executive roles. Let's take a look at some of the data.

A good place to start is to compare average annual salaries of HR Specialists and HR Managers. Specialists have many of the same duties as managers but aren't usually administrators.

Recent reports show that HR Specialists earned $68,090 compared with $110,120 for Managers. That's a difference of $42,030.

To begin to qualify for positions like HR director, a Masters in Human Resources or MBA may be useful. Employers often look at a candidate's experience. But if you lack it, you may want to stand out by having the inside scoop on current trends, theories and practices in HR.

What Jobs can you get with a Human Resource Degree?

Most businesses need people who can plan and oversee the programs for staff and staffing. HR Managers often wear several hats in smaller companies.

One of these hats is to function as hiring managers. In this role, they may recruit, interview, hire and fire personnel. They'll also be the ones to help employees fill out benefits and salary paperwork.

As the go-to for personnel, they may also handle disputes and take charge of workplace safety. Wearing this hat, they need to stay abreast of labor laws, union and non-union issues. They’ll also need a solid grasp of company policy. How to set it, follow it and apply it.

Besides these jobs, some companies train their staff to work a certain way. To do this, they’ll often hire someone like a Learning Manager or Training Director.

In larger organizations, there is often a strong need for a broader human resource team. This group of HR professionals might each run a specific department and a staff of their own. As such, there may be opportunities for the following types of HR Managers.

  • HR Director or VP
  • Employee Relations Manager
  • Recruiting Manager
  • Payroll Manager

Besides these jobs, some organizations train their staff to work a certain way. To do this, they’ll often hire someone like a Learning Manager or Training Director.

These professionals are instructors and managers. Many have human resource and budgeting skills too. If this is your end game, a master’s degree with one of the following areas may be useful.

  • Training and Development
  • Human Resource Management
  • Organizational Development
  • Business Administration

Average Salary for Human Resources Managers


Average Salary


Compensation & Benefits Managers



Human Resources Managers



Training and Development Managers



Labor Relations Specialists



Top States for Employment: Human Resources Managers



Annual Mean Wage




New York












Top Salary Metro Areas in the United States: Human Resources Managers
Metro AreaAnnual Mean SalaryEmployment
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA$157,0901,840
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA$148,7203,820
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV$146,3304,410
Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO$144,250280
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT$140,860870

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Most HR Managers work full time and may need to travel if their company has branches. The majority (14%) work for companies and businesses. Others (13%) work in professional, scientific and technical services and (13%) manufacturing. Lesser numbers work in government (10%) and health care (9%).

Popular Human Resource Management Graduate Degrees

Human Resource Management degrees are reported by the National Center for Education Statistics under the category of Business, management, marketing, and related services. In fact, in the most recent update of the data (2013), across the U.S., there were 1612 Human Resource degrees awarded to graduate students. The majority (93%) of these programs were at the master's level.

ProgramInstitutionDegree Awarded
Doctor of Philosophy in Human Resource Management Northcentral UniversityPhD
M.B.A. in Human ResourcesPurdue University GlobalMBA
Master of Science in Human Resource Analytics and ManagementAmerican UniversityMS
Master of Professional Studies in Human Resources and Employment RelationsPennsylvania State UniversityMS
Ph.D. in Management - Human Resources ManagementWalden UniversityN/A
MS, Human ResourcesBrandman UniversityN/A
MBA: Human Resource ManagementSaint Leo UniversityN/A
Master of Science in Human Resources ManagementThe University of ScrantonMSHR
Master of Science in Human ResourcesLasell UniversityMSHR
M.B.A.: Strategic Human Resource ManagementGrand Canyon UniversityMBA
MBA - Human Resource ManagementColumbia Southern UniversityN/A
Master of Business Administration: Human ResourcesLiberty University OnlineMBA
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Master of Science in Human Resources vs MBA in Human Resources

What is the difference between an MBA in human resources and a Master of Science in human resources? Actually, quite a bit.

An MBA in Human Resources is a business graduate degree with a handful of courses in HRM. Because of this focus you'll take a broad array of core business and managerial themes. These often touch on strategy, marketing and global finance. As such, an MBA may provide the flexibility to pursue other business positions than HR.

The business skills you build may apply to many areas. With extra courses in HRM, you may learn how to manage and keep a talented and productive workforce. Such topics may provide you with a working knowledge of employment law and HR strategy.

A MS-HRM is a graduate degree in human resources. As such, it has a singular focus. The heart of the program covers managerial topics related to human resource divisions. You’ll likely study things like strategic staffing, workplace diversity and organizational leadership.

Within an MS, there may also be room to tailor the program to your specific HR goals and interests. This may be a good move if you plan to devote your career to human resources.

To sum it up, an MBA degree offers general business skills that may get you ahead in any area. A MS-HRM may suit you if you have a business background and want to focus on human resources. The degree you choose depends on your career goals

Human Resources Degree Guide

MS in Human Resource Management*

MBA in Human Resource Management*

Master of Science in Human Resource Management

MBA: Human Resource Management

Length of Program: 26 months, 39 credits

Length of Program: 12 months, 36 credits

This program aligns with SHRM’s curriculum standards. It covers practical issues in the workplace and ethical conflict resolution.

There's also a strong focus on staffing as a strategic aspect of building a business.


This program offers a well-rounded business core. It also exposes students to the decision processes related to managing human resources.

Themes include training, selection, compensation, and legal issues

  • Employee and Labor Relations
  • Ethics in HR
  • Organizational Behavior & Leadership
  • Workplace Learning & Performance
  • Applied Human Resources
  • Managerial Economics
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Financial & Managerial Accounting
  • Administrative & Personnel Law
  • Recruitment, Selection, Placement

Regional accreditation through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

SHRM-aligned program


Regional accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCC)

Program accredited by the Council for Business Schools & Programs (ACBSP)

*Sponsored Degree

Can’t decide? Want solid executive skills plus an in-depth understanding of HR? There’s another option. Study to earn an MBA with a specialization in human resource management and an MSHR degree. Check into schools like Loyola University Chicago who offer a dual MBA/MSHRM degree.

What Requirements Are Needed for a Masters in Human Resources Degree?

A typical MS-HRM program thus studies how to manage, support and train employees. Often, part of the study plan focuses on a wide range of human resource themes:

  • Developing Human Capital
  • Reward Systems
  • Internal Consulting in HR
  • Employment Law
  • Personnel Psychology
  • Finance for HR Professionals
  • HR Analytics

Managing people often requires a knowledge of labor relations and laws. Side topics may include how to negotiate salary in a competitive marketplace. You'll also study the finer points of acquiring talent

You may also come to understand how to mediate conflicts. These types of classes often look at workplace behavior and ethics. Plus, you'll likely study some of today's hot button topics. Unequal pay, harassment, overtime and labor unions are examples.

Apart from managing people, you may learn some methods of assessing employees. This may expose you to HR software tools. These may have several uses. For one, how to achieve better results through training programs. Also, how to forecast staffing needs.

Other topics may cover general leadership and managerial principles. As such, your classes may help you make informed decisions about your workforce. You may also get to select electives and finally, work on a capstone project. Or complete an internship.

What Classes Will I Take?

The classes you take will vary by school and your interests. Most programs range from 33 to 39 credits. Some line up their curriculum with Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) guidelines.

This type of program may serve as a study guide for professional certification. We’ll walk you through some of the common classes and concentrations.

Strategic HR Management:

This course looks at the staffing function of management. Often, this means looking into issues that affect HR managers. From unions to labor laws and organizational growth. Other topics look into tactical things. For instance, how to select, recruit, motivate, pay and assess employees.

Employee Relations:

This course looks at the links between employees and a company's output. It will also cover things like incentives. Looking at current tools and practices, you may learn how to keep employees engaged. This is crucial to maintaining loyalty and productivity.

Employment Law:

This course looks at the rules in place for employee-employer relations. It may touch on areas like contracts, privacy and human rights. Some issues may relate to a company policy how to apply it. Others may look at unions and labor laws.

Master of Science in Human Resources and Organization Development

A MS - HROD program may help HR professionals who want to advance their career gain new skills and knowledge. The core courses look at evidence-based research in HROD. You'll also take a class in organizational analysis. An array of electives allows you to study talent acquisition and more.

Master of Professional Studies in Human Resources and Employee Relations

An MPS degree in Human Resources and Employment Relations (HRER) is for those at-work in HR. It may ready you to help top execs factor human resources into their strategic plans.

This type of program often comes with a choice of concentrations. A potential asset for those who want to guide their HR career track. Employment and labor law, staffing, labor unions and benefits are some options.

Master of Business Administration – Strategic Human Resource Management

An MBA may help you build a range of managerial skills. Strategic human resource management is a proactive way to develop talent. With a focus in strategic HRM, you'll study the ways employees may help a business succeed.

Doctor of Business Administration – Human Resources

A DBA is a terminal business degree with select courses in the HR focus. It often appeals to current execs with a master’s or MBA who want to refine skills as problem-solvers.

Courses usually focus on advanced business topics. As such you may hone leadership and strategy skills. In tandem, a DBA may help you gain expert knowledge of labor markets, legal issues and benefits. But if you prefer research, check out a PhD in HRM to see how the course material stacks up.

Human Resource Management Accreditation

Accreditation is a quality control. Many schools have the initial credential from a regional agency. This means one may apply for federal aid and that the school passed a peer review for standards.

That said, a myriad of schools offer masters and MBA in human resources degrees. So how do you tell them apart? One way is to look at program accreditation. These agencies look at the curriculum. They assess whether it teaches relevant and up-to-date skills and information.

As HR is a sub-division of business, there are a few agencies who approve business programs.

  • The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • Accreditation Council for Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
  • Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)

Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

The SHRM is not an accreditation agency for HRM degree programs. But it is an industry leader that sets standards in human resources.

Often, it works with individual schools to help them cover crucial content areas. When this is so, you may learn the things you need to know when you pursue post-degree certification. Many of today's employers prefer candidates with that extra credential.

To sit for these exams, you’ll need to earn your degree at a college or university with approval from SHRM’s Academic Initiatives staff. They check if the school lines up with SHRM’s curriculum.

How Long is a Masters in Human Resource Management Degree?

A Masters in Human Resource Management may take one or two years to complete, if you study full-time. Many programs ask students to complete from 30 to 39 credits. If you have fewer credits to do, you may need less than 2 years.

Some schools also let students earn their degree on a part-time basis. If this sounds like you, find out what time frame the school gives you. Some give 4 years, but it varies.


# of Credits Required

Starts Per Year

Minimum Months to Complete

Saint Joseph’s University

33 credits

Fall, Spring, Summer

24 months

Capella University

48 credits


24 months or less

Sacred Heart University

33 – 39 credits

Fall, Spring, Summer

24 months

Rochester Institute of Technology  

33 credits


24 months

How Much Does it Cost to Get a Masters in Human Resources?

The average cost of a of a graduate degree from a public institution is $11,617 per year. This means you will be able to find programs both more affordable and more expensive than the average.

To give specific examples, this visualization shows graduate tuition costs of 4 institutions with Human Resource Management Graduate Programs as reported by the NCES. We have then compared those costs to the typically most affordable and most expensive college options, also as reported by NCES

$11,617 Average Public Institution University
$14,784 Average Private For Profit Institution Tuition
$26,551 Average Private Nonprofit Institution Tuition

What are the Costs per Credit for Masters and PhD in Human Resources Management?

Cost per credit of course is different at every College or University. State Universities are also likely to have in state costs vs out of state costs. Below are a few examples of the cost per credit as reported by each one of these institutions.


# of Credits Required

Cost Per Credit

Total Tuition Cost

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

39 credits



Northcentral University

30 credits

$2,836 per course


Lasell College

36 credits



University of Louisville

33 credits

$2142 per course


Best 55 Human Resource Management Programs Here:

  • No application?fee for April & June terms
  • Some of the nation's most affordable tuition rates, from a private, nonprofit, NEASC accredited university
  • Qualified students with 2.5 GPA and up may receive up to $20K in grants & scholarships
  • Multiple term start dates throughout the year. 24/7 online classroom access
  • Eligible new or returning students can save $3,000 on tuition with the Master’s Scholarship.
  • Strayer University is an accredited institution with a proud history of 125 years in quality education.
  • With the help of dedicated personal support and AI technology, earn your degree online or on campus.
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