The benefits of earning a master’s degree in human resources are numerous. Whether you are looking to get started in the field of human resources, or if you are currently an HR professional seeking career advancement, human resources is required within every industry and offers a wide variety of steady job opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, human resource jobs are expected to grow by 22% by the year 2020. The demand for high qualified professionals that can meet the challenges of an ever-changing global business economy will allow those within the field of human resources ample room to grow their careers and provide leadership within the organizational setting.
Many professionals want to go back to school to aid in their ascent up the corporate ladder and advance their careers, but they lack the time required to sit and attend courses in a traditional classroom setting. Online education has become an attractive alternative to a traditional college classroom for many busy professionals with the ability to complete coursework anywhere during any time of day; the student sets the pace.
A flexible schedule and the ability to attend class from the comfort of your couch is not the only benefit of obtaining a degree online. Many universities offer online students in-state tuition, a tuition rate that can be up to 50% lower than those attending a university that is not housed in the same state in which they live. This gives students the opportunity to attend their school of choice anywhere in the country without the expense of travel or having to move away.
So, with so many options, how do you choose which school is right for you and your career?
Presented in this article is a list of the top fifteen schools that provide a master’s degree in human resources. Each school and program can provide a student with a different educational experience. Before choosing, it is important to have a firm understanding of how the earned degree will be utilized in your chosen career field. The schools selected for this list all provide a superior education in the field of human resources. However, each school has some unique to offer and students can choose their school of choice based on how the school’s curriculum aligns with their overall career goals.
Each school chosen to be on this list is worthy and deserving of attention. The schools are each accredited and are full-fledged universities, offering multiple degrees from an associate to a Ph.D. Schools were selected for ranking based on whether or not a master’s degree was specifically offered in human resources with a full online option. During ranking, the following factors were considered: the cost of tuition, course offerings, the involvement of faculty, program completion time, and research and unique career opportunities. Schools featuring the latter were ranked higher due to the positive impact research and gaining real-world experience can have on a graduates career. The goal of obtaining a graduate degree is to advance in the workplace, and schools that provided those opportunities for their students moved up a little further on our list. The cost of tuition was also highly considered in the overall ranking of each school. Though some schools require a much higher amount of tuition in order to attend than others, the schools with the tuition provide students with valuable learning option that outweighs the con of such a high price tag.
15. Western Carolina University
Beginning our list at number fifteen is the Western Carolina University. This school offers a 36 credit hour online Master Degree of Human Resources that began in 1984. This degree prepares students to become strategic human resource leaders for the profession by focuses on evidence-based practices, global perspective and learning through community service. Students are drawn to the program for the opportunity to work with the knowledgeable, experience, supportive, and accessible professors, seasoned professionals, internship opportunities, and the daily networking opportunities.
14. University of Houston - Clear Lake
The University of Houston - Clear Lake School of Business, is accredited by the Associate to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and is also certified by the Society for Human Resource Management. Students can earn an online Master of Arts in Human Resource Management all while maintaining affordable tuition rates. The program focuses on five core areas of human resources: general business management, human resource processes, strategic decision-making, change management, and personal mastery and influence.
All faculty employed with the university are highly trained professionals within the field of human resources and each hold a Ph.D. The University of Houston - Clear Lake gives its students an advantage when entering the workforce by providing real-world experience through internships and the on-campus student chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management.
13. Upper Iowa University
The Upper Iowa University was established in 1857 and is a fully accredited institution offering multiple undergraduates and graduate degrees. Students attending Upper Iowa University can obtain an online Master of Business Administration in Human Resource Management. The curriculum for this program is certified by the Society for Human Resource Management and explores theories and methods of managing personnel. Students will gain expert knowledge of various employment laws critical to the workplace and hiring procedures, as well as learn the importance of diversity within an organization and the various benefits of maintaining a diverse workforce.
The Upper Iowa University makes meeting individual needs a priority. This self-paced program offers flexible scheduling, and each course runs for an 8-week term. Students are also able to transfer up to 12 graduates credits from another institution.
12. Wilmington University
Wilmington University provides a 36 credit hour Master of Science with a Concentration in Human Resources Management. In this program, students will learn how to become leaders in the workplace, gaining the skills and knowledge necessary to manage an organization at the micro and macro levels while remaining flexible to adapt to a constantly changing global work environment. The emphasis on adaptability in this degree gives students a competitive edge over others entering the workforce and human resources professionals.
An outstanding benefit of choosing Wilmington University is the ability for students to transfer up to 75 credits of coursework. This is a great opportunity for students that previous began work on a master’s degree and are now looking for a program to finish their degree quickly. The program concludes with an independent project which students can use to display their ability to transfer what was learned in the classroom into the workplace.
11. Central Michigan University
The Central Michigan University was established in 1892 and offers an online Master of Business Administration in Human Resources Management. It is the third largest university in the state and serves more than 20,000 students, 7,000 of whom attend the school through one of their online programs. The school is large, it prides itself on maintaining a student to teacher ratio of 21:1.
The 36 credit hour online Master of Business Administration in Human Resource Management program is Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accredited. Courses consistently go under review to ensure they are aligned with current business trends. This degree is designed for those that wish to be trainers, recruiters, compensation and benefits specialists, or talent management professionals. Students learn how to create a more efficient work environment and enhance productivity. The curriculum also focuses on employee retention, an important aspect of human resources and a skill needed for a lasting career within the field.
10. The University of Texas at Tyler
At number 10 is the University of Texas at Tyler. Ranked as one of the top schools by TheBestSchools.org, the University of Texas at Tyler allows students to complete an online Master’s of Human Resources at their own pace. With a fully involved faculty, students can interact with instructors via online chat or Skype. For this master’s program, a thesis is not required, an attractive feature of this degree plan as it allows for more flexibility within a student’s schedule, especially full-time working professionals. Students complete the requirements through online coursework and research based projects.
Upon completion, students with a Master’s in Human Resources from the University of Texas at Tyler will be able to connect the functions of human resource development to organizational and business strategies. The curriculum focuses on organization needs analysis, task analysis, and designing, implementing and evaluating training programs. Students can expect to obtain a job as a human resources generalist, corporate trainer, or consultant.
9. University of Maryland
The University of Maryland offers a Master of Science in Management with a Human Resources Specialization. The degree aligns with the Society for Human Resource Management. Therefore students can prepare for the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certifications. The program curriculum covers staffing, training, compensation, and change management. Each student enrolled in online courses receives in-state tuition at the University of Maryland University College, providing outstanding higher education at an affordable price.
The ideal student is one that is already working as an entry level human resources business professional or is familiar with the field of human resources and wants to advance their career. Students will learn the knowledge and skills required to properly manage employees within an organization, and, through the human resource specialization courses, will gain an understanding of the theory, research, and procedures required to become a top human resources executive, generalist, or specialist.
8. Cornell University
Students seeking to advance their career in human resources can obtain an Executive Master in Human Resource Management from the esteemed Cornell University. This program is ideal for those with eight or more years of working experience in the field of human resources and are seeking to move into senior HR roles. The program is fifteen months long and includes three, one-week sessions of on-campus instruction. Though students will have to attend campus for three weeks, the program is very exclusive, limiting admission to fewer than fifty high-potential candidates. The faculty within this program are results driven and take a hands-on approach to educating students, sculpting them into becoming elite professionals within their organization.
Though this program comes with a much higher price tag, Cornell is a highly respected university with faculty who are regarded as experts in their field. This program is not for the graduate student that is looking to break into the field of human resources. However, it is for those seasoned professionals that are aiming to claim the top executive spot of their corporation, and this degree can provide the education and skills needed to advance one’s career. Due to the advantages that this degree can do for a student’s career, we believe it deserves a spot on our list.
7. Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Saint Mary’s University has a vast array of online programs, including a Master of Art in Human Resource Management. Students enrolled in this program will learn how to approach organizational issues from a strategic viewpoint, along with analyzing and making the best decisions for the organization and employees. Saint Mary’s master’s degree focuses on people and multi-department cross training, and the development of each area's employees.
The program curriculum is aligned with the Society for Human Resource Management and prepares students for PHR/SPHR certification. Within this 36 credit hour program, students will gain the skills needed to relate to every department and bring forth a positive change. Coursework is focused on real-world scenarios and interactive exercises.
Saint Mary’s emphasizes the importance of staying up to date with the latest technology, including in the workplace, and prides itself on the utilization of the latest technology and mobile platforms in the classroom. Each student enrolled in the Master of Art in Human Resource Management program will receive an iPad loaded with a mobile program so students can take their coursework with them anywhere. This accreditation and technology come with a higher price tag of $32,00 per year, and on average, students graduate from Saint Mary’s with a master’s degree in 26 months.
6. University of Arkansas
The University of Arkansas’ Global Campus offers a Master’s of Education in Human Resources and Workforce Development featuring small class sizes and a low student to faculty ratio for a personalized learning experience. For the past 12 years, the University of Arkansas has been successfully offering this completely online master’s program which prepares students to implement integrated training, organizational development, management, career planning and evaluation of programs to improve individual and overall organizational effectiveness.
Upon completion, students will be able to pursue careers in training, customer service, management development, and total quality management. While many master’s degree programs require students to complete a thesis, students enrolled at the University of Arkansas can either choose to complete their degree with a master’s thesis, or skip the master’s thesis option in exchange for completing a final comprehensive exam which is built into a capstone course presented during the final year of study.
The University of Arkansas is the state’s flagship University; home of the Arkansas Razorbacks. Also, according to the Carnegie Classification, the University of Arkansas is classified as a Research I university, dedicating a high priority to research and research education.
5. Louisiana State University
Next on our list at number 5 is Louisiana State, which provides a Master of Science in Human Resource Education with a concentration in Human Resource and Leadership Development. This program prepares students to be able to provide leadership development and change management skills to a variety of organizations including education, business, healthcare, information technology, hospitality, community development, and manufacturing.
The program is accelerated, meaning students can continue to complete their coursework on a flexible schedule, but will graduate from the program faster than a student completing a traditional master’s track. With twelve courses to complete (thirty-six graduate hours total), a student will be in a new course every seven weeks.
Upon completion of this accelerated program, students will learn how to capitalize human resource efforts to enhance the organizational effectiveness of business through strategic goal planning, consulting, and change initiatives. Louisiana State offers an advanced degree at a very affordable rate that also allows students to graduate and begin their career at a faster pace.
4. Texas A&M
The online Master of Science in Human Resource Development has an educational approach and focuses on lifelong learning, training, and organizational development. This degree is geared toward students that want to become corporate trainers, directors, faculty members, and primary, secondary and postsecondary curriculum designers as well as administrators. An option to specialize in adult education is also available.
Students within this program have the opportunity to travel internationally, conduct professional presentations at conferences, and write for publication. This 37 credit hour program does not require a master’s thesis or final exam, but students are required to complete a professional portfolio, a compilation of coursework and professional experience gained throughout the time spent earning the degree. At $7,000 per year in tuition cost, Texas A&M ranks as one of the most affordable schools offering an online master’s degree.
3. Florida Institute of Technology
The Florida Institute of Technology offers a Master of Human Resource Management. Courses in this program prepare students to understand the issues of multicultural work environments, alternative work styles and changing political and economic conditions about the workplace. Upon completion of the 33-hour degree plan, students will be able to effectively recruit, interview, hire, and train employees.
Students enrolled in this program will experience various learning techniques and approaches with the traditional lecture and discussion, individual and group work and case study analysis. However, the Florida Institute of Technology also offers several non-traditional ways of learning such as actual case-study analysis, role playing, and organizational consulting activities.
An opportunity to gain hands-on experience is provided for students during the final year of the program as part of the capstone course. Students are assigned to a team and will provide human resource consulting to an organization that is partnered with the program. This unique opportunity to gain real-world experience in the field of human resources can give the Florida Institute of Technology’s graduates an upper hand over the competition in the job market, and is the reason why it has gained the number 3 spot on our list.
Entire Cost of Tuition: $26,000
2. Colorado State University - Global Campus
With a Master of Human Resources from Colorado State University, students are prepared to enter the workforce in a variety of leadership roles in human resources by implementing legal and ethical decision-making, performance management, and strategic planning. This master’s degree is also aligned with the Society for Human Resources Management’s Curriculum and Guidebook Templates. Colorado State University Global students receive a discount of almost 90% on SHRM training materials to prepare students for certification exams.
Colorado State University also offers 13 specialization areas for this master’s degree that encompass a broad range of industry, from accounting to criminal justice and information technology, just to name a few. This allows students to focus their degree on a specific industry, such as their current field or a field in which they are looking to advance. Even with the specialization options, the program can still be completed in 36 credit hours and comes at an incredibly affordable price.
Entire Cost of Tuition: $18,000
1. Penn State World Campus
In the number one spot is Penn State World Campus. With the option to choose from seven concentrations, students can customize their degree to fit within their career goals, providing a unique educational experience.
Penn State offers a Master of Professional Studies in Human Resources and Employment Relations online through their world campus. This program balances advanced theory with practical knowledge and prepares students to assist business executives in factoring human resources into their strategic plans. Upon completion students will be able to assess complex employee benefit plans, stay up to date on new labor laws, and meet the challenges of employee rights more efficiently.
This program is offered in partnership with Penn State’s School of Labor and Employment Relations, a school that has been designing exceptional degree plans since 1942. The Master of Professional Studies in Human Resources and Employment Relations program is in alignment with the Society for Human Resource Management HR Curriculum Guidebook and Template and was granted Approved Provider Status by the Human Resources Certification Institute.
Each faculty member employed to instruct in this program has years of real-world experience working in the field of human resources. Students within this program will also gain access to Alumni Ambassadors, a program allowing current graduate students to connect with former graduates of the program to answer questions or help guide the students to completion. The program also offers seven concentrations within the area of human resources from which students can choose, giving students the ability to completely individualize their education.
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