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As an integral part of all businesses, human resources offers a steady job outlook and many opportunities. Whether students are starting or advancing their HR careers, an online master’s degree will prepare them for the certifications and skills needed for this dynamic field.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 5% increase in human resources management positions through 2031. HR managers earn a median annual salary of $130,000. Those who work specifically as training and development managers earn a median yearly salary of $120,000, and employment is expected to increase by 6%. compiled this list of the best online master’s in human resources by comparing dozens of programs based on cost, retention and graduation rates, curriculum, and more. Students can also learn more about what to expect in an online HR master’s program, how to choose the right HR master’s program, and the career outlook for the field.

What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Human Resources Program?

Human resources professionals act as go-betweens for a company’s bureaucracy and employees. Responsibilities may include recruiting, hiring, and onboarding new staff, coordinating employee benefits, mediating disputes, overseeing disciplinary procedures, and managing other administrative functions. Because interacting with various constituencies is a key function of HR employees, communication, interpersonal, and collaboration skills are essential to success in this field.

A quality online master’s in human resources will cover all this and more. These programs can range from 30-48 total credits, including core classes, electives, and internships. Programs that require fewer credits are designed for individuals with an educational or professional background in HR. In contrast, longer programs include foundational coursework for those with little or no experience in the field.

Students have several options regarding what type of master’s degree to get. Options include a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), Master of Business Administration (MBA), or Master of Professional Studies (MPS). The different degree types have distinct theoretical and pedagogical approaches to human resources education, and they may have different graduation requirements, such as a capstone project or thesis. However, core curriculums typically cover specific concepts and skills, including:

  • Organization management
  • Critical-thinking and decision-making
  • Business strategy and ethics
  • International HR management
  • Strategic planning
  • HR law and compliance

There is also an array of options for specializations within HR, including talent development and training, recruiting, compensation and benefits, conflict mediation, and more. Students with a specific interest should seek out programs offering electives or concentration opportunities in that area.

Immersive learning experiences like internships are common in HR degree programs. Students currently employed in HR should inquire with their school about completing their internship at their current site. Online students should also ask if they can fulfill internship requirements remotely or if they are expected to attend an on-site internship.

Students should also consider whether their program prepares them for any professional certifications. While certifications aren’t necessarily required for HR jobs, many employers seek employees with these 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 49 Online Master’s in Human Resources Programs

Best Master's in Human Resources Programs Badge

Liberty University

Franklin University

Louisiana State University

CSU Global

Stony Brook University

Golden Gate University

Penn State World Campus

Webster University

Western Carolina University

University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

Cornell University ILR School

Texas A&M University

Georgetown University

Nova Southeastern University

Saint Francis University

Columbia University School of Professional Studies

American University

Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations

University of Massachusetts Global

Florida Institute of Technology

Florida International University

Concordia University at St. Paul

Indiana Wesleyan University

Pepperdine University

University of Arkansas

Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

Bellevue University

Villanova University

University of Maryland Global Campus

Dallas Baptist University

The University of Texas at Tyler

Tarleton State University

Clemson University

New York University

University of Houston - Clear Lake

National University

The Catholic University of America

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How We Rank Schools

This list features the nation’s best online master’s in human resources degree programs. All are offered at nonprofit, accredited institutions, either public or private, with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions.

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

While an online master’s in human resources may be the perfect fit for some students, others may want to focus on a specific branch of HR  or pursue education in an adjacent field. Here are other programs students may want to consider:

What Can I Do With an Online Master’s in Human Resources Degree?

Career outlook

An online master’s in human resources can help students develop the necessary skills and knowledge for various mid- and high-level HR positions.

Human resources professionals work across nearly every industry, including business and finance, healthcare, education, retail, technology, and more. Several HR specializations may appeal to students, including benefits coordination and management, recruitment, talent development, and more.

Overall, the career outlook for management positions is strong through 2032. The BLS reports that roughly 1.1 million new management positions will be available annually through the next decade. The median annual pay for individuals in management positions is $107,360.

More specifically, jobs that a graduate from an online master’s in HR program would qualify for include:

  • Human resources manager — These individuals plan, direct, and oversee various HR duties for a company, including hiring and onboarding, coordinating benefits, training and talent development, employee termination, and more.
    • Median annual salary: $130,000
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 5%
    • New jobs projected: 15,500 per year
  • Compensation and benefits manager — Ideal for those who want to focus on managing an organization’s pay and benefits structure, working with outside partners like insurance companies, and ensuring pay and benefits comply with federal and state laws.
    • Median annual salary: $131,280
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 2%
    • New jobs projected: 1,100 per year
  • Training and development manager — This position is responsible for assessing employees’ training needs and providing adequate training and development opportunities to encourage staff growth and effectiveness.
    • Median annual salary: $120,000
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 6%
    • New jobs projected: 3,500 per year
  • Human resources specialist — A mid-level job, this may be a good fit for students entering the HR field after earning their master’s. Tasks include 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

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

Step 1: Choose your area of study

If you haven’t already, reflect on what skills you need to gain from your online master’s in HR program to pursue your desired jobs. You should also consider if there’s an area you want to specialize in and if you have a degree preference (for example, an MBA versus an MS). Understanding your educational and career goals will facilitate a more straightforward college search process.

Now is also an excellent time to think about logistics, including whether you’ll enroll in a program full-time or part-time. Only some programs offer both options.

You’ll also want to decide what content delivery method you prefer for your online program. Students in asynchronous programs don’t have pre-scheduled class meetings and can complete their lessons and assignments according to their schedule. This option is the most flexible but has limited interaction with classmates and faculty. Meanwhile, students in synchronous programs have scheduled virtual class meetings, which can provide more interaction and support.

Step 2: Research schools and programs

One of the first things students should always check when they begin their research is whether the schools they’re considering are accredited. A school’s accreditation status affects the quality of its programs and students’ eligibility for financial aid and future employment and education opportunities. Some organizations specifically accredit human resources programs, such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).

Other questions that students should seek answers to during their research process include:

  • 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?
  • Are there networking opportunities 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

The admissions procedures and requirements will vary by school. Therefore, it’s a good idea to contact a school’s admissions office to confirm that you have accurate information before starting an application.

Some online master’s in human resources programs may have specific requirements regarding undergraduate degree or coursework, minimum GPA, or professional experience.

A standard application for an online master’s in human resources program includes the following:

  • Application and fees
  • Official transcripts from all undergraduate schools attended
  • Letters of recommendation from faculty, employers, or colleagues
  • Personal statement or essay
  • Resume/CV
  • GRE or GMAT scores

If there are specific application deadlines, submit all application materials promptly to ensure your decision, and potentially your enrollment, is on time.

Step 4: Select your program

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.

The number of applications you submit is a personal choice. Some students apply to one or two programs based on their specifications, while others apply to several schools to increase the odds of admission. If you’re admitted to multiple schools, you can again compare them to your priorities to find the best option.

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

If you haven’t spoken to a financial aid representative at your school, now is the time to do so. The financial aid office can provide information about your program’s total cost and options for paying for the degree. Inquire about gift aid, such as merit- and need-based scholarships, grants, and fellowships, which don’t require repayment. Students should explore these options first, as they can significantly reduce the cost of a degree without creating debt.

For students to be considered for any need-based aid, including student loans and work-study, they must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Schools use the information from this application to determine eligibility for need-based loans, grants, and scholarships. Although private education loans are available, federal student loans have more favorable terms, interest rates, and repayment options.

Individuals working while earning their online master’s in human resources should inquire if their employer offers tuition assistance benefits. Veterans and active-duty military members can research GI Bill benefits and military tuition discounts. All students can check to see if their school offers tuition payment plans.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Master’s in Human Resources Programs

Should I get a master's in human resources degree in person or online?

This decision ultimately depends on the student’s individual needs, as there are many quality master’s in HR programs available online and in person.

Online master’s programs attract students with maximum flexibility to accommodate jobs, caregiving responsibilities, and other obligations. They also make education more accessible to students who may not live near a school with a master’s in HR degree program. However, students in these programs are expected to learn more independently and may have few opportunities to interact with faculty or classmates.

Students who thrive in interactive learning environments and need additional accountability may be better suited to an in-person program or a hybrid curriculum that includes online and in-person instruction.

How do I apply for an online master's in human resources degree program?

Contact the school’s admissions office for the most accurate information about their application procedures.

Generally speaking, students will apply for an online master’s in human resources through an admissions portal on the school’s website. Students can use this portal to submit an application and any required fees, as well as supplemental materials like letters of recommendation, essays, and resumes. 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, such as a minimum undergraduate GPA or a specific undergraduate major.

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

The Education Data Initiative reports that the average cost of a master’s degree in the U.S. is $65,134. However, what an individual student pays for an online master’s in human resources will vary depending on multiple factors. For the most accurate information on the cost of a specific program, students should speak to a financial aid counselor at the institution.

A key factor is whether a school is public or private. Tuition tends to be highest at private schools. However, many public universities charge different tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students. Online students can inquire whether tuition is the same regardless of where a student resides.

Students must also consider expenses like school fees, books and supplies, and reliable internet and technology.

How long does it take to complete an online master's in human resources degree?

Based on the number of credits the program requires, an online master’s in human resources can typically be completed in 1-2 years of full-time study. Part-time students may take an extra year or two to finish the program.

Some schools offer accelerated master’s programs, in which students complete all required coursework in a compressed time frame. These programs are usually available to students with previous educational or professional experience in human resources.

Is an online master's in human resources degree worth it?

From an ROI perspective, an online master’s in human resources is a solid investment, especially for those who want to build their skill set quickly. The job outlook for the field is steady, with average growth projected through 2032. Management positions in the HR field are relatively high-paying. The top 10% of HR managers earn upwards of $224,360 annually, while the bottom 10% of earners make around $76,610 per year.

Depending on a student’s background, there may be other routes besides a master’s degree to help them achieve their goals. For example, a graduate certificate in human resources can provide targeted coursework to help students enhance their skills without committing to the full cost and time commitment of a master’s degree.

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