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Human resources specialists and managers are integral in recruiting and managing employees in all industries. The field boasts a steady job outlook and a variety of opportunities, but a degree in human resources is essential to starting your HR career.

Those with a bachelor’s degree in human resources typically enter the field as HR specialists, earning a median annual salary of $64,240. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment for this position will grow 6% by 2032. Students with advanced degrees can become HR managers and earn a median yearly salary of $130,000. According to the BLS, there will be 15,500 openings for HR managers annually through 2032.

To help those interested in HR choose the best program for them, reviewed dozens of options and compiled this list of the best online human resources degree programs. This list includes undergraduate and graduate degree programs in human resources. Students can also learn more about what to expect from an online HR degree program, the career outlook for the field, and how to choose an online degree in human resources.

What Can I Expect from an Online Human Resources Degree Program?

An online human resources degree program should prepare students for various responsibilities within the HR field, including recruiting and hiring, managing employee compensation and benefits, understanding employment laws and regulations, training and evaluating employees, resolving disputes, and more.

The exact curriculum of a human resources degree will vary based on the level of the degree:

Degree level Degree title Number of credits
Associate Associate of Arts (AA)

Associate of Science (AS)

Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

Bachelor’s Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA)

Master’s Master of Arts (MA)

Master of Science (MS)

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Master of Professional Studies (MPS)



Associate degrees have the most foundational curriculum, introducing students to basic HR principles. These programs may include an experiential learning component such as an internship. Students will also likely complete some general education requirements.

At the bachelor’s level, students learn fundamental and intermediate HR skills and concepts. Most bachelor’s programs will feature a core curriculum and electives that allow students to focus on a specific area within human resources. There will also be general education requirements, although the amount varies based on the type of degree. It’s common for undergraduate students to complete an internship in HR as part of their degree.

Most online master’s in human resources programs are designed for students with previous educational or professional experience. Therefore, classes are more advanced and may include more concentrations, such as leadership and management, recruitment, compensation, and benefits. Immersive learning experiences are also common in HR master’s programs, as are thesis or capstone project requirements.

Another option students should be aware of is a five-year bachelor’s/master’s program. These programs allow students to begin taking graduate-level courses while they complete their bachelor’s degree, which can help students earn an advanced degree in an accelerated time frame.

Students should also consider whether their program prepares them for professional certifications, which are common in HR. Many employers seek job candidates with credentials to demonstrate their expertise and experience. Organizations that offer certificates include the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), the HR Certification Institute (HRCI), and the International Association for Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM).

The Top 60 Online Human Resources Degree Programs

Best Human Resources Degree Programs Badge

Franklin University

Brenau University

McKendree University

Ottawa University

Maryville University

CSU Global

Montreat College

Metropolitan State University

University of Maryland Global Campus

Immaculata University

Western Governors University

Thomas Edison State University

Temple University

Baker College

Trine University

Dickinson State University

Thomas Jefferson University

Southern New Hampshire University

Johnson & Wales University

Western Illinois University

University of Washington

SUNY Delhi

Faulkner University

Utah Valley University

Concordia University at St. Paul

SUNY Empire State College

Florida International University

Upper Iowa University

University of Michigan

Bellevue University

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How We Rank Schools

This list features some of the best online human resources degree programs in the U.S. All are offered at nonprofit, accredited institutions, either public or private, with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. This list includes programs at various educational levels, including associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees.

We evaluated each degree program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, reputation, and student resources. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared our picks to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs

Human resources is just one of several fields that may appeal to students interested in careers that value interpersonal, leadership, organization, and communication skills. Other degree program options include:

What Can I Do With an Online Human Resources Degree?

Career outlook

HR professionals are in nearly every industry, including healthcare, education, IT, business, retail, and more. Global corporations and small businesses alike employ HR personnel to handle tasks like payroll and benefits, recruiting and hiring, employee evaluations, conflict mediation, and more.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, human resources is among a cohort of business-focused occupations that are expected to see faster-than-average growth during the next decade. Hiring for HR positions within specific industries will vary somewhat based on the health of that particular industry.

Depending on the degree level, studying human resources can prepare students for a variety of jobs:

  • Human resources specialist — This is a standard entry-level HR position for someone entering the field with a bachelor’s degree. HR specialists focus on recruiting, screening, and interviewing job candidates, checking applicant references and backgrounds, processing employee paperwork, and more.
    • Median annual salary: $64,240
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 6%
    • New jobs projected: 78,700 per year
  • Training and development specialist — Another bachelor’s-level position, training and development specialists oversee training and evaluation programs and initiatives at a company to ensure employees have the necessary skills and knowledge they need.
    • Median annual salary: $63,080
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 6%
    • New jobs projected: 35,400 per year
  • Human resources manager — Earning a master’s in HR can help students prepare for leadership roles in which they direct an organization’s HR department and manage tasks such as hiring and onboarding, coordinating benefits, training and talent development, and more.  
    • Median annual salary: $130,000
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 5%
    • New jobs projected: 15,500 per year
  • Compensation and benefits manager — Individuals interested in managing an organization’s pay and benefits structure and ensuring pay and benefits comply with federal and state laws may want to pursue employment as a compensation and benefits specialist or manager.
    • Median annual salary: $131,280
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 2%
    • New jobs projected: 1,100 per year

How to Choose the Online Human Resources Degree Program That’s Right for You

Step 1: Choose your area of study

At the start of your search for an online HR degree program, it’s a good idea to establish clear goals for your education and career. What type of HR job do you want, and what skills will you need to qualify for those positions? Do you want a general HR degree or a specialization in an area like talent training and development or compensation and benefits management? What degree type best suits your current education and professional experience level?

Also, take some time to reflect on practical and logistical needs. Determine if you will enroll full-time or part-time to find a program with the needed option. Online students must also decide if they prefer asynchronous or synchronous classes. Asynchronous classes provide more flexibility, as there are no set class meetings in this structure. However, students in synchronous courses may interact more with faculty and classmates through pre-scheduled classes. Another consideration for online students is whether they can accommodate in-person requirements, such as an internship.

Step 2: Research schools and programs

Before deep-diving into research on a school, students should confirm that the institution is accredited. A school’s accreditation status affects the quality of its programs, as well as students’ eligibility for financial aid and future employment and education opportunities. Students can also check if the school’s HR degree program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). These agencies specifically accredit undergraduate and graduate degree programs in business-related fields like HR.

There are several other questions students should answer as they conduct their research:

  • Who are the faculty, and what are their qualifications?
  • How do online students interact with classmates and faculty?
  • Is coursework delivered synchronously or asynchronously?
  • What does the curriculum include? Are there options for electives or specializations?
  • Can students receive credit for professional experience or credentials?
  • What support services are available for online students, such as tech support, tutoring, academic and career advising, and counseling?
  • What networking opportunities are there for online students?

Most schools will publish relevant information for prospective students on their websites. Students can also contact program representatives or admissions counselors for more information. Schools often offer virtual open houses or information sessions for online programs to allow remote students to interact with program reps. Another option is following schools and departments on social media.

Step 3: Prepare for applications and tests

This process will differ based on whether students apply for undergraduate or graduate programs. In either case, each school sets its own application procedures and policies, so it’s always a good idea to check with an admissions counselor before starting an application.

A standard application for an online degree in human resources includes the following:

  • Application and fees
  • Official transcripts from all schools previously attended
  • Personal essay
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Resume/CV

Applicants to associate or bachelor’s degree programs may have to submit SAT or ACT scores, although schools are increasingly moving to test-optional policies. Those applying as transfer students from a different institution must submit official transcripts from their previous colleges for transfer credit evaluations.

There may be additional requirements at the graduate level, such as professional experience, a bachelor’s degree in HR or a related field, a minimum undergraduate GPA, or prerequisite coursework. Applicants may have to submit GRE or GMAT scores or participate in an interview.

International applicants often have to submit additional documents, including an official transcript evaluation and ESL test scores.

Step 4: Select your program

Compare the research you’ve compiled on the different options for schools and programs. Depending on how many schools you’re considering, you should rank them according to priorities such as overall cost, curriculum, faculty, financial aid availability, and more. Doing so can help you determine which schools you’ll apply to. Some students only submit one or two applications, while others apply to multiple schools. There’s no magic number, but students should remember that if they’re applying to a high volume of schools, application fees can quickly add up.

Once you’ve completed your research, compare the programs based on your priorities. These priorities may include cost, program completion time, specialization options, or available financial aid. Select the program or programs that best meet your needs and submit your applications.

Step 5: Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Cost is something students should think about throughout the college search process. Gather information about the total cost of any HR degree programs you’re considering and available resources for paying for the degree. Aid can include institutional aid, such as need-based and merit-based scholarships and grants, assistantships or fellowships, work-study, and student loans.

To determine eligibility for most aid types, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is a requirement for federal student loans, which are available for undergraduate and graduate students. Private education loans are also available, although students should carefully consider loan amounts and repayment terms before borrowing money for school.

Other options include military tuition discounts and GI Bill benefits for veterans or current military service members. Individuals who are working while earning an online degree should check if their employer offers tuition assistance benefits. All students can check to see if their school offers tuition payment plans.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Online Human Resource Degree Programs

Should I get a degree in human resources online or in-person?

This decision is a personal decision based on an individual student’s needs and preferences. Quality human resources degree programs are available in various formats, including fully online, fully in-person, and a hybrid of both.

The benefits of an online human resources degree program include flexibility, accessibility, and affordability. Because they allow students to learn from anywhere at any time, online programs can be helpful to those with jobs or caregiving responsibilities. However, remote learning requires that students be comfortable with independent learning and have strong time management and organization skills.

Meanwhile, some students learn better through hands-on activities and interaction with classmates and instructors. These students may find that an in-person or hybrid program meets their needs better.

How do I apply for an online degree in human resources?

For the most accurate information about how to apply to an online degree program in human resources, speak to an admissions counselor at the school. Each college sets its own requirements for applications, fees, and deadlines. If you’re applying to multiple schools, consider keeping a spreadsheet or checklist to keep track of this information.

Most schools accept applications and supplemental materials through admissions portals on their websites. Undergraduate students can use the Common Application to apply to multiple schools simultaneously. In addition to an application, students typically must submit letters of recommendation, essays, and a resume. Students should send official documents like transcripts directly to schools. Some programs may require an interview with applicants as well.

Before starting an application, students should confirm that they meet the basic eligibility requirements for the program, especially at the master’s level. Eligibility requirements may include a minimum undergraduate GPA or a specific undergraduate major.

How much does an online human resources degree program cost?

Several factors influence the cost of an online human resources degree, including the type of school the student attends, where the student resides, and what financial aid they receive. For the most accurate information on the cost of a program, contact the school’s financial aid office to speak with a counselor.

For undergraduate students in the 2021-22 academic year, average tuition at public universities was $9,596, while private university students paid an average of $37,222. Meanwhile, tuition for graduate students averaged $12,394 at public schools and $26,621 at private institutions.

When budgeting for an online degree, it’s essential to consider additional costs beyond tuition. These costs can include fees assessed by the school for virtual classroom technology, student services, and academic resources; books and supplies; and personal technology like a computer and reliable internet.

How long does it take to complete an online human resources degree?

The duration of an online human resources degree program primarily depends on what type of degree a student is earning and how many credits it requires.

A standard bachelor’s degree program is 120 credits and can be completed in four years of full-time study or five to six years of part-time study. A master’s degree, which typically requires 30-36 credits, can be completed in one year of full-time study, or two years for part-time students.

Other factors include whether students already have credits they apply to their human resources degree program. Many schools offer degree completion programs that allow students to transfer in maximum credits, shortening the amount of time it will take to complete their degree. Another option is an accelerated program, which condenses coursework into a shorter time frame so students can complete their degree as quickly as possible.

Is an online degree in human resources worth it?

For students seeking careers in human resources, having a formal education or a degree in the field will likely be necessary to enter or advance in the field. Most entry-level human resources jobs, like HR specialist or training and development specialist, seek candidates who have bachelor’s degrees. For management-level positions, employers may require candidates to have an advanced degree.

There are also financial incentives to earning an online degree in human resources. According to the BLS, individuals with a bachelor’s degree earn a median weekly salary of $1,432, while those with a master’s degree earn $1661 per week. Unemployment rates also decrease based on an individual’s education level.

Online degrees are becoming widely accepted, with employers recognizing that they provide quality training and can prepare graduates for working in remote or hybrid environments.

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