A master’s degree in HR can offer students significant education and career benefits. It can provide in-depth knowledge, advanced skills, and formal credentials to help individuals stand out in the competitive job market. However, pursuing a master’s degree in HR is challenging. The tuition, textbooks, and transportation costs can be prohibitive for many aspiring professionals, and the time commitment required to complete a degree program can be substantial.

This article will explore the pros and cons of earning a master’s degree in HR and discuss various financing options, including student loans, work-study programs, grants, and scholarships. To help you decide which path is right for you, we also examine alternative options to earning a master’s degree, including graduate certificate programs, workplace training, and mentorships.

Pros and Cons of Earning a Master’s Degree in HR

Pros Cons
Increased earning potential May be cost prohibitive
Lower unemployment rate Significant time commitment
Career advancement opportunities

Individuals with a master’s degree tend to earn higher salaries and experience lower unemployment rates than those with a bachelor’s degree or less. According to a 2021 study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median weekly earnings for graduates with a master’s degree was $1,574, compared to $1,334 for those with a bachelor’s degree and $809 for those with a high school diploma. This translates to an annual median salary of $81,848 for a master’s degree, significantly higher than the median salary of $61,368 for individuals with a bachelor’s degree.

In addition, students who graduate with a master’s degree have a lower employment rate than those with a bachelor’s degree. For example, in 2021, the unemployment rate for individuals with a master’s degree was 2.6%, compared to 3.5% for those with a bachelor’s degree and 6.2% for those with a high school diploma.

Earning a master’s degree in HR can help increase the chances of being promoted to higher-level positions, such as HR director or manager. These positions are some of the highest-paying jobs in the field, with a median annual salary of $126,230 in 2021. In addition to the lucrative nature of this role, HR managers also enjoy other job benefits, such as opportunities for career growth, job security, and flexible work arrangements.

However, pursuing a master’s degree in HR has potential drawbacks, including the additional expense of continuing education and the time commitment required to complete the program. While tuition fees vary depending on the institution and the program, pursuing a master’s degree is generally expensive. In addition to tuition costs, students must pay for textbooks, course materials, transportation, and living expenses if they attend an on-campus program. These added expenses can be significant and may require students to take out loans or work part-time to finance their education.

Likewise, earning a master’s degree is time-consuming, especially for students who are already working full-time. Many master’s degree programs in HR require students to complete coursework, projects, and internships, which can be time-intensive. Balancing work and school can be challenging, and students often sacrifice personal time and leisure activities to meet their program’s demands.

While pursuing a master’s degree can offer many benefits, it’s essential to consider the added expenses and time commitment required to complete the program. Therefore, potential students should carefully weigh the potential costs and benefits of a master’s degree in HR before pursuing this career path.

How to Finance a Master’s Degree in HR

While it’s true that the total tuition for a two-year master’s degree program in HR can be expensive, often costing as much as $100,000 or more, it’s important to note that most students do not have to pay this amount out of pocket. Many graduate programs in HR offer financial aid options, such as loans, work-study programs, grants, and scholarships. These financial aid options can significantly reduce the monetary burden of continuing education.

Student loans

While student loans can be an option for financing a master’s degree in HR, students should carefully consider the option before taking on the debt.

One benefit of student loans is that they can help students cover the cost of tuition and other expenses, such as textbooks and living expenses. This funding can be beneficial for students who do not have access to other forms of financial aid, like scholarships and grants.

However, it’s crucial to remember that student loans come with interest rates, which can add up over time and significantly increase the debt to be repaid. Too much student loan debt can also negatively impact your credit score and financial stability, which can affect your ability to achieve financial goals in the future, such as buying a home or starting a business.

If you’re considering taking out student loans to finance a master’s degree in HR, carefully consider the potential long-term costs associated with the loans and develop a plan for repaying the debt. It’s also essential to research other financial aid options, like scholarships, grants, and work-study programs.

Work-study programs

Work-study programs can be an excellent option for financing your graduate education, as these programs help students earn money while gaining valuable work experience related to HR. Students can work part-time jobs on campus or at other approved locations. The earned income can be used to pay for tuition, books, and other expenses associated with their education. These programs can be a first-rate option for students who want to minimize their debt load, gain real-world experience, and build their professional network.

However, it’s critical to highlight that work-study programs may not cover the total cost of your education, and you may still need to explore other financial aid options to fund your education fully. Additionally, work-study jobs may only sometimes be related to your field of study. Some students may need to balance their work and study responsibilities carefully to ensure they can succeed academically.

Grants and scholarships

Grants and scholarships are often the best options for financing a master’s degree in HR. Unlike loans, grants and scholarships do not have to be repaid, making them a remarkable way for students to minimize their debt load and reduce the overall cost of their education.

While grants are awarded based on financial need, scholarships are awarded based on merits, like academic achievement, leadership skills, or community involvement. Many grant and scholarship programs are available for students pursuing a graduate degree in HR, including various scholarships from The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Foundation.

The SHRM Foundation Graduate Scholarship program awards scholarships based on academic achievement, leadership potential, and commitment to the HR profession. The program offers scholarships at the graduate level ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. In addition, the foundation provides a $5,000 Veterans Scholarship for veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who are pursuing a degree in HR or a related field.

Alternatives to Earning a Master’s Degree in HR

There are several options for individuals who cannot invest the time and money required to earn a master’s degree in human resources but still want to further their education and advance their careers. Here are the most promising alternatives:

Graduate certificate programs

Graduate certificate programs can be a viable alternative to earning a master’s degree in HR, offering many benefits. For one, certificate programs are often shorter and less expensive than a full degree program, making them an attractive option for those needing more time or resources to commit to a more extended program. Certificate programs can also provide specialized training in specific areas of HR, helping students focus their studies on their interests. Additionally, many certificate programs are offered online, providing more flexibility for students who are working full-time or have other commitments.

Workplace training

While a master’s degree provides in-depth theoretical knowledge and formal credentials, workplace training offers practical, hands-on training that can be immediately applied professionally. Moreover, workplace training can be customized to an individual’s needs and cover various topics, from technical skills like payroll management to soft skills like conflict resolution and leadership development.

Additionally, workplace training can often be completed in a shorter time than a master’s degree program, allowing individuals to quickly acquire the skills they need to take on new responsibilities in their current roles or pursue new opportunities. Many organizations offer training programs tailored to their employees’ needs and goals. Some may even provide financial support for training and development activities.


Mentorships can benefit individuals seeking practical experience and guidance from seasoned professionals without spending their time and money on a graduate degree. Mentorship programs are typically designed to provide people with one-on-one advice, support, and feedback on their work, helping them to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in their careers. Additionally, mentorships can be completed alongside a full-time job, allowing them to continue gaining experience while building valuable connections in their industry.