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A master’s in human resources (HR) degree prepares students for advanced roles in the HR field, such as HR manager, compensation manager, and benefits manager. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, HR managers have a median annual salary of $130,000, while compensation and benefits managers have a median annual salary of $131,230.It typically takes one to two years for full-time students to complete a master’s degree in human resources. For part-time students, it may take anywhere from two to five years.

For the 2020-2021 academic year, the average tuition for a master’s in HR degree was $19,749 per year at in-state tuition rates, per the National Center for Education Statistics.

How to Choose a Master’s in Human Resources Program

Choose your area of study

Human resources professionals handle a broad range of functions, such as recruiting, training, employee relations, benefits administration, and compensation analysis. Success in the HR field also requires an in-depth understanding of business and psychology. The first step in finding the right master’s in HR program is to choose a specialization.

Many schools offer specializations, also known as minors or concentrations, for students who want to focus on one specific aspect of HR. For example, a master’s in human resources program may have specializations for labor relations, learning and development, organizational leadership, or industrial psychology.

Research schools and programs

Once you choose a specialization, the next step is to research schools. It’s important to find a school that offers plenty of resources to help you succeed. For example, if you’re going back to school to improve your employment prospects, you may want to look for a school that offers résumé reviews or has career services professionals available to help you practice your interview skills.

Your schedule is also an important consideration. If you plan to keep working full-time, you may want to look for a school that has a part-time master’s in HR program. As you research your options, think about the following:

  • Is full-time attendance the only option?
  • Does the school require you to come to campus for every class, or are there online learning options?
  • Do you have to complete an internship or write a thesis to complete the program?
  • Have faculty members contributed to HR research or worked full-time in the HR field?

Prepare for tests and applications

Some schools require applicants to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examination (GRE). If your preferred school requires you to submit test scores, take the exam as early as possible. Use as many resources as possible, such as practice exams and test prep books, to get comfortable answering multiple types of questions.

Select your program

If you still have a long list of programs, take time to narrow it down to just a few options. Many schools charge application fees, so you may want to limit your out-of-pocket costs by applying to just three or four programs. Be sure to follow the application instructions carefully.

If you receive multiple acceptance letters, choose a program based on the total cost of attendance, the availability of your chosen specialization, the amount of financial aid available, and other essential factors.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

The last step is to determine how you’ll pay for your master’s in human resources degree. Your options may include student loans, employer tuition reimbursement, or scholarships. For the best chances of qualifying for need-based aid, submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible.

If you plan to apply for scholarships, start as early as possible. You may need to submit letters of recommendation, copies of your undergraduate transcript, and other materials to the scholarship commitment, so you’ll need plenty of time to gather the required documents.

Of course, you can always pay out of pocket for your master’s in HR if you have the funds to do so. Don’t forget to account for the cost of books, course fees, and other expenses.

Best 50 Accredited Master’s in Human Resources Programs

Best Master’s in Human Resources Degree Programs

Cornell University

Texas A&M University Mays Business School

University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

Michigan State University

Villanova University

Ohio State University

University of Minnesota

DePaul University

NYU School of Professional Studies

University of Houston

FIU College of Business

University of South Carolina

Pace University

Utah State University

University of Texas Arlington

West Virginia University

Loyola University Chicago

University of Richmond

Houston Christian University

Stony Brook University

Baruch College

University of Tennessee

University of Connecticut

University of Rhode Island

Towson University

Georgetown University

Eastern Michigan University

Rutgers University - New Brunswick

University of Denver

GW School of Business

Pennsylvania State University

Nazareth University

Texas State University

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

This list reflects our review of master’s degrees offered across the nation. HR positions require, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree, and management roles typically require a master’s degree. These programs are offered on-campus, online, or as a hybrid of the two.

The programs on this list have all been approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. These organizations evaluate schools to ensure they provide students with a high-quality education. Many of these options have also received programmatic accreditation from the Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which has particularly high standards for business education.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect From a Master’s in Human Resources Program?

Master’s in human resources degree programs usually offer a blend of business, psychology, and organizational development courses. For example, you may complete courses in industrial psychology, business ethics, human capital management, international management, employment law, and organizational culture.

If you choose to specialize in a specific aspect of human resources, you may complete electives in learning and development, employee health and wellness, strategic management, diversity and equity, or labor relations.

Some programs also require a thesis, a capstone project, or an internship. Before writing a thesis, you may have to take a course in research methods or statistics. A capstone project is a comprehensive project designed to assess your mastery of human resources principles and practices.

Depending on how many credits you complete each term, it may take 1 to 2 years of full-time study to complete a master’s in human resources. Part-time students typically attend for 2 to 5 years.

Potential courses you’ll take in a master’s in human resources program

Master’s in human resources programs often include these courses, but the exact curriculum depends on which school you choose:

  • Organizational leadership. Organizational leadership focuses on motivating teams to achieve shared goals. Courses in organizational leadership typically cover strategic planning, motivational techniques, principles of leadership, resource allocation, and employee engagement.
  • Strategic management. Human resources professionals must make strategic decisions related to the hiring, management, and promotion of employees. Strategic management courses cover the theories and models used to create competitive advantage in various industries. Students may also learn about integrating technology into the decision-making process.
  • Human capital management. Human capital management encompasses several important HR functions, including recruiting and workforce management. HCM courses focus on how effective human capital management can help businesses reach their goals.
  • Global human resource management. Multinational corporations have employees in several countries, making it critical for HR professionals to understand the nuances of different cultures. Global HR management courses help students understand the legal and cultural ramifications of operating in specific business environments.
  • HR analytics. Big data has revolutionized the human resources field, making it easier for HR professionals to identify concerning trends and take steps to address them. HR analytics courses focus on using data effectively. Students typically learn how to use HR data to make better decisions.

Master’s in Human Resources Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a master's in human resources degree program?

To apply for a master’s in human resources program, follow the instructions provided by the schools on your list of options. You may need to submit transcripts, letters of recommendation, and GMAT or GRE scores. It’s also common for graduate schools to request letters of intent, personal statements, or copies of your curriculum vitae.

To avoid mistakes that could delay your acceptance, contact an admissions officer to discuss the requirements for each school. Admissions professionals know exactly what you need to submit a complete application package, making them a great resource for prospective students.

How much does a master's in human resources degree cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average in-state tuition rate for a master’s in human resources degree program was $19,749 for the 2020-2021 academic year. Tuition is an important consideration, but it’s not the only cost of completing a graduate degree.

Students also need to think about housing costs, textbooks, travel expenses, and other fees. For example, many schools charge a technology fee to cover the cost of specialized course software. It also costs money to drive to campus or take public transportation to classes and internship shifts.

For students taking online classes, there may be an additional fee to account for the added cost of purchasing digital textbooks and setting up online course infrastructure.

How long does it take to earn a master's in human resources degree?

It usually takes 1 to 2 years of full-time study to complete a master’s in human resources degree. It may take up to 5 years to complete a master’s in human resources degree if you take classes on a part-time basis.

How long it takes to complete a master’s in human resources degree depends on several factors, such as how many credits you complete per term. You may also need to complete several prerequisites before enrolling in core courses, increasing the amount of time it takes to finish the program.