Best Online Master's Degrees in Human Resources (HR)
There are many online master's degree programs available in human resources (HR), and some of the best provide unique learning experiences and flexibility for students. Find out about top programs in the field, common courses, and career options.
Best Online Master's in Human Resources (HR) Degree Programs
There is no shortage of online master's degree programs in human resources, and students can choose from several different types of degree programs. Some of the best programs help prepare students for career certification exams, offer hands-on learning in capstone courses, are accredited, and/or provide students with other unique learning opportunities, such as studying abroad. Here we examine the top 50 online master's degree programs in HR.
1. Robert Morris University
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
|Moon Township, PA||N/A|
Robert Morris University offers a fully online Master of Science (MS) in Human Resource Management degree program that totals 30 credits. It is a part-time program that students can complete in 2 years. Classes are offered in 8-week sessions, and the program concludes with a capstone course in strategic human resource management. The program has a more strategic focus than other HR programs and is designed for aspiring HR managers and executives.
2. Concordia University - Saint Paul
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
|Saint Paul, MN||$8,550|
Concordia University - Saint Paul has an online Master of Arts (MA) in Human Resource Management that is 36 credits long. The program is fully online, but the school does offer a blended format as well for students who would like to be on campus some. Students in the program also have the option to participate in a study abroad experience. According to the school's website, graduates of the program have a 95% job placement rate 1 year after graduation. Courses are 7 weeks long and fully align with the Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM) curriculum guidelines.
3. Fitchburg State University
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
Fitchburg State University provides an online Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Human Resources Management that requires 30 credits. The program can be completed in as little as 12 months and is accredited by the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE). Students in the program work in collaborative learning groups, and the program offers multiple start states for flexibility.
4. University of Scranton
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
The University of Scranton is a Jesuit university offering an 33-credit online MS in Human Resources Management program. The program aligns with the curriculum guidelines set by SHRM, which also enables students to be eligible for the Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) exam during their final year of study. The program concludes with a capstone course and offers a variety of networking opportunities to students, including membership to the university's Society for Human Resource Management student chapter.
5. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota has a fully-online MA in Human Resource Management that totals 36 credits. The program includes a capstone course, and students can complete the program in 2 years. The MA program is also SHRM aligned and helps prepare students for the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification exams. The schedule format is flexible for working professionals, and each student in the program receives an iPad to access coursework.
|Rank||School Name||Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
|6||Towson University||Towson, MD||$10,062|
|7||University of Wisconsin-Stout||Menomonie, WI||$8,341|
|8||Saint Joseph's University||Philadelphia, PA||$16,992|
|9||University of Southern Mississippi||Hattiesburg, MS||$8,624|
|10||West Chester University of Pennsylvania||West Chester, PA||$15,103|
|11||Utah State University||Logan, UT||$6,790|
|12||Fontbonne University||Saint Louis, MO||$13,896|
|13||Emmanuel College||Boston, MA||$14,319|
|14||Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College||Baton Rouge, LA||$13,023|
|15||University of Hawaii at Manoa||Honolulu, HI||$16,502|
|16||Regent University||Virginia Beach, VA||$16,179|
|17||Champlain College||Burlington, VT||$14,310|
|18||Indiana State University||Terre Haute, IN||$7,616|
|19||La Salle University||Philadelphia, PA||$25,020|
|20||Davenport University||Grand Rapids, MI||$15,126|
|21||Dallas Baptist University||Dallas, TX||$18,262|
|22||Troy University||Troy, AL||$8,506|
|23||Webster University||Saint Louis, MO||$13,500|
|24||Rutgers University-New Brunswick||New Brunswick, NJ||$19,416|
|25||Siena Heights University||Adrian, MI||$12,438|
|26||Clemson University||Clemson, SC||$10,602|
|27||Saint Francis University||Loretto, PA||$25,550|
|28||Central Michigan University||Mount Pleasant, MI||$13,804|
|29||University of North Texas||Denton, TX||$7,338|
|30||Seton Hall University||South Orange, NJ||$23,422|
|31||University of Connecticut||Storrs, CT||$17,660|
|32||Drexel University||Philadelphia, PA||$34,995|
|33||Regis University||Denver, CO||$13,177|
|34||Temple University||Philadelphia, PA||$17,378|
|35||Concordia University-Wisconsin||Mequon, WI||$10,848|
|36||Oklahoma Christian University||Edmond, OK||$11,124|
|37||Barry University||Miami, FL||$17,820|
|38||Nova Southeastern University||Fort Lauderdale, FL||$20,620|
|39||Southern New Hampshire University||Manchester, NH||$18,810|
|40||Mercy College||Dobbs Ferry, NY||$16,338|
|41||Florida International University||Miami, FL||$11,097|
|42||Stony Brook University||Stony Brook, NY||$13,007|
|43||Hawaii Pacific University||Honolulu, HI||$19,100|
|44||Saint Leo University||Saint Leo, FL||$8,498|
|45||Florida Institute of Technology||Melbourne, FL||$22,588|
|46||Villanova University||Villanova, PA||$19,005|
|47||Franklin Pierce University||Rindge, NH||$17,200|
|48||Houston Baptist University||Houston, TX||$12,200|
|49||Southern Wesleyan University||Central, SC||$10,170|
|50||National Louis University||Chicago, IL||$12,096|
All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, graduate tuition based on 2018-2019 school year.
Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.
Overview of Online Master's Programs in HR
Online master's degree programs in HR are commonly offered as an MS, MA, or MBA in Human Resource Management. These degree programs can typically be completed fully online and usually range from 30 to 36 credits. Some of these programs can be completed in as little as 12 months, while others take 2 years to complete. Depending on the program, courses may be 7 to 10 weeks in length, and some programs may offer flexibility in formatting schedules for working professionals. Learn more about common characteristics for these master's programs below.
Prerequisite and admissions requirements vary by institution and degree program. Many online master's programs in HR do not require prerequisites outside of a bachelor's degree, but some programs may inspect students' transcripts to see if a student will be required to take any specific prerequisite business courses. Usually these prerequisites are in subject areas like:
- Organizational behavior
For admissions, most online master's degree programs in HR require students to have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and meet a minimum GPA requirement, usually of 2.75 or higher. Some programs may require applicants to take the GRE or GMAT exams, while other programs do not require any standardized test scores besides language proficiency exams for international students. Other common admissions materials include transcripts, a resume, a statement of purpose, and/or letters of recommendation.
Coursework for online HR master's degrees varies by program, but usually students in these programs take some foundational business courses, core HR courses, and maybe some elective courses. Typically, these online master's programs conclude with a capstone course in HR where students are asked to apply the knowledge they have gained over the course of the program to a final project of some sort. Some of these capstone courses may also help prepare students to take their professional certification exams. Other common course topics for online master's programs in HR may include:
- HR Ethics/Legal Issues- Courses in ethics and/or legal issues in HR explore the different labor laws and policies involved in the field. Students also learn about ethical guidelines, safety policies, and various employment situations. Some courses may discuss major court cases in the field of HR.
- Training and Development- Training and development courses help train students in examining the needs of their organization and planning ways to help prepare employees to meet those needs. Students may explore different talent management strategies and other topics like forecasting workforce needs and developing an employment brand.
- Compensation and Benefits- Courses in compensation and benefits explore various reward systems and how pay structures, benefits, and retirement accounts affect employees and organizations. Students may also explore the legal issues, communication, and education factors behind reward systems. Other topics for these courses may include public policy, sales compensation, and alternative pay systems.
- Labor Relations- Labor relations courses look at the ways the market and employment laws may affect labor-management relationships. These courses further develop students' knowledge of employment laws primarily through the use of case studies. Other points of discussion for these courses may include dispute resolution techniques, collective bargaining, and external recruitment.
- Recruitment- Courses in recruitment may also cover topics in staffing, retention, and/or selection. These courses are designed to help students learn how to help their organization meet long-term goals by investing in qualified employees. Students may discuss different talent acquisition techniques, applicant assessments, employment engagement methods, and strategic staffing.
How to Choose an Online Master's Program in HR
Due to the various options of online master's degree programs available in the human resources, students trying to decide which program is right for them should first consider what type of degree they would like to pursue. For example, MS and MA degree programs in HR are fairly similar in curriculum, but students wishing to have a broader background in business may wish to pursue an MBA in HR that typically requires more core business courses.
Another factor to consider is the length and format of a program to ensure that a program fits with a student's personal schedule and goals. Many online master's programs in HR are available in part-time formats and other formats that may allow more flexibility for working professionals or other non-traditional students. Some MBA programs in HR can be completed in as little as 12 months, but MS and MA degrees usually take anywhere from 15 months to 2 years to complete. Below, we explore a couple other important factors to consider in more detail.
Cost and Financial Aid
The cost of a program can also play a major role. Tuition rates vary by institution, but some online master's programs in HR may range from about $420 to $640 per credit hour, or about $12,500 to about $25,000 for the entire program. Some programs may offer the same tuition rates for in-state or out-of-state students, while others may vary tuition rate by location. Students should also be sure to check for any additional fees, such as application fees, course materials, and/or technical requirements for online study.
Students may wish to look for programs that offer any kind of discounts or other financial incentives, like financial aid and scholarships. Some programs may offer discounts to U.S. service members and/or spouses, while other programs may accept employer reimbursement for working professionals. Many schools also offer tuition assistance through private loans, grants, scholarships, and/or corporate partnership programs. Some programs may also provide technical equipment, such as iPads, for online students.
Accreditation is different for each online master's program in HR, but it is important that students look for an accredited school and program to ensure that the program is of high academic quality. For instance, some programs, especially MBA programs, may have accreditation from business organizations like the IACBE.
Students interested in HR programs may also want to look for a program that aligns its curriculum with SHRM. The SHRM, while not technically an accrediting body, created a handbook of guidelines and templates for HR curriculum that is routinely updated to stay current in the field to help colleges and universities follow the same set of standards. SHRM-aligned programs are more likely to help prepare students for professional certifications in the field of HR, including the CP, PHR, and SPHR certifications.
Career Options for Graduates with a Master's in Human Resources
Graduates with a master's degree in HR are qualified for a variety of positions within the human resource field. Some of these jobs may specialize in a particular area of the field, such as compensation and benefits or career development, but master's degrees in HR typically prepare graduates for leadership and/or managerial positions in the field. Some examples of job titles for graduates with their master's in HR include:
- Human resource director
- Human resource manager
- Labor relations specialist
- Training and development manager
- Compensation and benefits manager
- Human resources consultant
- Employee relations manager
- Chief learning officer
Human Resource Managers
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), human resource managers have a faster-than-average job outlook of 7% for 2018 to 2028 and had a median annual salary of $113,300 in 2018. The BLS grouped job titles like payroll managers, recruitment managers, and labor relations directors under human resource managers. These managers are responsible for working with top executives of an organization and the employees of an organization to help meet the goals set by the organization. Human resource managers also oversee the administrative duties of an organization pertaining to employees, such as training, conflict resolution, compensation, and other human resource issues.
Compensation and Benefits Managers
Compensation and benefits managers had a slower-than-average job outlook of 3% from 2018 to 2028 and a median salary of $121,010 in 2018, per the BLS. These managers specialize in managing the compensation programs of an organization and may handle any issues that arise with wages. This requires these managers to understand current laws and policies regarding pay and benefits and set pay structures. These managers must stay within their allotted budgets and may need to adjust programs as needed.
Training and Development Managers
The BLS reported that training and development managers had a faster-than-average job outlook of 8% for 2018 to 2028 and an annual median salary of $111,340 in 2018. These managers are responsible for helping increase the skills of an organization's employees through programs and training. This requires them to develop curriculum that meets the needs of the organization, manage training budgets, and teach new methods and techniques to managers and/or employees. Training and development managers usually need to update their training to stay current with the organization's goals and changes in the field.
Certifications and Licenses
HR professionals have a wide range of options for professional certifications that can help distinguish them from other professionals in the field. While most of these certifications are not required, they may help professionals take on more advanced leadership positions and/or demonstrate excellence in the field. There are several different organizations that offer HR certifications, such as SHRM, the HR Certification Institute, the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, and the Association for Talent Development. Below are the details for a few of the many professional certifications available.
Students with a master's degree in HR can take the SHRM-CP exam if they currently hold a job in HR. The CP credential is designed for HR professionals in operational roles.
The PHR exam and certification is offered by the HR Certification Institute, and applicants with a master's degree must have 1 year of HR experience. The certification is designed for those with responsibilities specifically in HR and experience with program implementation.
The SPHR exam and certification is also offered by the HR Certification Institute. Those applying must have a master's degree and 4 years of experience in the field. The credential is designed for leaders in the field more interested in planning policies than implementing them.