While not common, there are a few degree programs in labor relations that are available online at the associate, bachelor's and master's degree levels. Labor relations studies may be part of human resources management degree programs. Many of these programs utilize a hybrid format, combining online and on-campus coursework. For instance, in some programs, students may be required to take face-to-face courses, participate in weekend visits or attend faculty advising sessions.
In associate and bachelor's degree programs, students learn about the foundations of labor relations history, law, and contemporary issues. Master's programs usually emphasize the global, political and technological issues that influence labor relations.
Associate Degree in Labor Relations
Online labor relations associate degree programs equip students with knowledge of labor-management relations and current issues confronting organized labor. Associate degree programs provide students with a background in the history of organized labor, as well as political and social implications of the movement. Labor relations programs are interdisciplinary, often incorporating elements of historical, political, women's, African-American and sociological studies. Upon completion of the program, graduates have an understanding of how the economy impacts labor, contract bargaining and enforcement, labor movement theories and labor organization functions.
Program Information and Requirements
Associate degree programs in labor relations typically run around 60 credits and include a combination of general education and core courses. Some associate degree programs can be completed entirely online. Students discuss assignments and other issues with fellow classmates and instructors through online discussion forums. Students can also communicate via email and telephone.
Online labor relations students across all degree levels should typically have basic computer skills, such as the ability to download software and plug-in updates, send email messages and format documents. Recommended technical requirements include a computer not older than three years and an updated Internet browser. Software requirements may include Microsoft Office, Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Reader.
Associate degree coursework provides students with a basic overview of the interaction between workers, employers and labor unions.
Societal Impact of Labor
An online course covering labor's impact on society often serves as an introductory course to labor studies. The course explores the role organized labor has played in the development of social policies and impact on workers.
This course provides an overview on the history of the labor movement, exploring the origins and progression of labor unions. Students learn about various struggles workers have faced over the years, as well as the political impact of labor unions.
The online labor law course provides students with a background on federal labor relations law. It covers collective bargaining agreement enforcement problems, unfair labor practices, employee rights and representation elections.
Bachelor's Degree in Labor Relations
Labor relations bachelor's degree programs emphasize interactions between workers, unions and management. Graduates are well-versed in the role of labor in a global context, role of politics in labor, social impact of labor unions, employment relations, employment law and labor history. They're also able to view employment relations from the perspective of both a worker and employer. In addition to a strong background in labor studies, online bachelor's degree labor relations programs emphasize the development of research, writing and communications skills.
Program Information and Requirements
Distance education bachelor's degree programs in labor relations are commonly around 120 credit hours. While some bachelor's degree programs can be completed entirely online, some programs are hybrid and require weekend campus visits and in-person work with faculty advisors. Students can access discussions, assignments, library resources and self-assessments all online. In some cases, coursework can be completed either over an entire semester or in a more intensive, compressed format.
Online and hybrid bachelor's degree programs in labor relations or labor studies cover much of the same information introduced as part of an associate degree program. More in-depth topics on the inner workings of labor unions, employers and the interactions between the two are also covered. For example, students learn about the processes behind grievance procedures and collective bargaining agreements.
Contemporary Labor Problems
Students enrolled in a contemporary labor problems course study the various challenges facing both workers and the labor movement, including globalization and international trade, health care, increasing unemployment and environmental issues. Minority and women's rights, union democracy and international union alliances may also be explored.
In this course, union organizing in both the public and private sectors may be explored. Innovative strategies and traditional approaches to labor organizing, such as committee building, are covered. Additional topics covered may include organizing theories and community organizers.
Grievance Procedures Representation
The grievance representation course provides students instruction in workplace union representation. Topics explored include labor law and the role the union steward plays in writing and investigating grievances. Examples of grievances may include labor-management conflicts surrounding issues such as sexual harassment, workplace safety and worker insubordination.
Students taking part in a collective bargaining course study the negotiation and administration of collective bargaining agreements. Topics covered may include negotiation tactics, collective bargaining patterns and legal considerations in collective bargaining agreements.
Master's Degree in Labor Relations
Distance learning master's degree programs, which are available in hybrid format and, more rarely, entirely online, commonly attract trade unionists, union officials, labor arbitrators, journalists, political advocates, contract negotiators and human resource management workers looking for advanced knowledge of labor-management relations or career advancement. Master's degree programs may also provide students with the opportunity to focus on areas such as community and labor leadership, labor market public policy, diversity and workplace governance.
Program Information and Requirements
Hybrid labor relations programs often necessitate that students complete some coursework on campus, with some online course options. The distance learning environment is made easier for students through online orientation sessions and courses tailored to accommodate varying levels of computer savvy. Students undertaking studies via distance education formats also often have the opportunity to work with advisors to develop their online program. Reading, listening, writing and discussion assignments are all required. Although there are usually no set class times for online courses, they do have set start and end dates, as well as set assignment deadlines.
Master's degree programs covering labor relations tend to place more emphasis on global, technological, political and social issues impacting the relationship between employers and their employees.
Comparative Labor Movements
Students in this course explore and compare the development of unions and industrial relations throughout the world. Topics covered may include union interactions with political organizations, resolution of workplace issues and national labor policies.
Labor and the Global Workplace
This course focuses on the impact of globalization on workers and unions and covers the lot of workers in the U.S. as compared with other nations. The harmful and beneficial impact of free trade agreements, global competition, technological innovations, sweatshops and other third-world working conditions are covered.
Associate, bachelor's and master's degree programs in labor relations prepare graduates to work as human resource and labor relations professionals in settings such as labor unions, government agencies and non-profit organizations. A bachelor's degree program can better prepare graduates for more advanced positions, such as labor relations or employee benefit managers, but completion of a graduate program incorporating advanced study in law and industrial relations may be necessary for positions as arbitrators, mediators or contract negotiators.
At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, online labor relations programs are multidisciplinary, combining coursework in the history of labor movements with explorations of current issues in the field and strategies to address them. To be successful in a distance learning program, students need to have a basic familiarity with modern communication technologies and software programs.