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Best Graduate Degrees for Human Resources

May 29, 2018

Graduate programs that can lead to higher-level human resources positions include master's degrees in human resources management and public administration. We'll explore these programs including their course content and entry requirements.

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The right graduate degree program helps to prepare students for higher-level human resources (HR) jobs, such as management and specialist positions. The following are the top graduate degree choices if you're looking to establish or advance your HR career.

Master's Degree in Human Resources Management

A master's in human resources management is the most directly applicable type of graduate degree. Classes cover a broad range of information related to the field including communications in business settings, compensation and benefits packages, workforce planning and talent development. These programs have a usual range of 30 to 48 credits, or one to two years of time to complete. Some programs offer more customized tracks to those who already hold a professional HR certification. A bachelor's degree is usually the minimum requirement to begin the program, though it does not necessarily have to be in a field related to human resources.

Master's Degree in Business Administration

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) program provides students with fundamental management-level business training. Since MBA programs are general by nature, students usually focus on a concentration (such as human resources) in their selection of elective classes. Core subjects taught in an MBA program include statistics, marketing, leadership, business ethics, micro and macroeconomics, and operations. Expect an MBA program to consist of 36 to 60 required credits (one to two academic years), though some students can get below 36 credits with various exemptions. MBA programs usually require a bachelor's degree, though it often does not have to be in business, and some programs will consider applicants who do not have an undergraduate degree if they have strong and related work experience. Unlike many other graduate degrees, MBA programs usually expect applicants to have spent at least a couple of years in the workforce before applying.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Human Resources Development
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  • Labor Studies
  • Organizational Behavior

Master's Degree in Public Administration

A master's in public administration is a viable path for those who want to do HR work for a government agency or a non-profit. This degree is effectively a version of the MBA that focuses on the unique aspects of doing business in government settings. Coursework in this degree program usually covers financial administration and management in government settings, applied statistics and relevant research methods among other topics. As with the MBA, students can opt for a human resources concentration in their elective classes. Expect this program to require about 36 to 60 credits. A bachelor's degree is often required, and while programs are flexible on the major they often require some amount of social sciences credits and at least one statistics class to have been a part of it.

Master's Degree in Organizational Development

Organizational development is a behavioral science field that focuses on addressing performance in business and similar organizational settings. Classes have some overlap with the human resources management degree but place an increased focus on things like organizational theory, methods of learning and data-driven research methods. These programs generally require 33 to 48 credits spanning one to two academic years. An undergraduate degree is often required; the major often does not matter, but students can expect to have to complete at least one statistics class before being accepted.

General Admission Requirements for Graduate Degrees in Human Resources

Admissions for all of the graduate degrees related to human resources tend to stress high scores on the GMAT or GRE. Some programs may require some years of experience in the workforce and the inclusion of a professional resume with the application. An undergraduate degree is generally a prerequisite, but often the subject does not matter. The completion of at least one statistics class is very helpful in qualifying for the widest range of programs possible. International applicants should expect the additional requirement of passing an English proficiency exam.

The best graduate degree programs for human resources positions generally require you to have some sort of bachelor's degree, but pursuing an MBA with an HR concentration is one potential way to get in without an undergrad degree. If you already have an undergrad degree you might consider human resources management, public administration and organizational development programs. Expect all of these programs to take one to two years to complete.

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