Human resources, the field of business that relates to the coordination and management of workers within a business or organization, is a growing career field. While you need a bachelor’s degree, at minimum, for most HR jobs, the opportunities are plentiful. Human resources management jobs are among the most lucrative, offering six-figure salaries. While these leadership roles are available to those with a bachelor’s degree, candidates with a master’s degree, professional certification or both have a better chance at attaining the most coveted job roles.

How Advanced Does My Degree in Human Resources Need to Be to Get a Good Job?


Undergraduate and Graduate Degrees in HR

If you are serious about your human resources career, then it may be worthwhile to look for a degree program that aligns to the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM’s) curriculum guidelines.  The SHRM is one of the professional organizations that offer certification programs, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and the society’s student eligibility program paves the way for a quicker certification process for students of programs that meet the SHRM’s guidelines. Whether you choose to stop your studies after completing your bachelor’s degree or go on to earn a master’s degree, you can find a human resources program that aligns to SHRM curriculum guidelines.

Generally, undergraduate programs are broader than graduate programs, which tend to be more specialized as well as more advanced. At the undergraduate level, there are Bachelor of Human Resource Management degrees, as well as Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees in HR. Some human resources students instead pursue a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) that includes a concentration in HR. An undergraduate human resources program will typically include core studies in different fields of business, including marketing, finance, management, business analysis, business law and ethics and business communications. Major coursework for HR students often includes studies in the principles of human resource management, training and development, recruitment and compensation.

Graduate degrees in HR include the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree with a human resources concentration as well as Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS) and Master of Human Resources options. MBA programs are broader in scope, because like BBA programs, they incorporate more studies in other fields of business. They also tend to take longer than specialized graduate programs in HR and are more likely to require years of professional work experience to gain admission into the program.

Without a bachelor’s degree, your opportunities in the field of HR will be limited. While graduates of associate’s degree programs in HR sometimes become human resources assistants, this occupation has an average annual wage of just $40,700, the BLS reported.

Human Resources Occupations

Professional roles in HR offer high median salaries. Human resources specialists earn a median annual salary of $60,350 per year, well above the $37,690 median salary for all workers, the BLS reported. This career path encompasses entry-level, mid-career and non-management senior-level roles with job titles like HR specialist, personnel recruiter and human resources generalist. Generalists perform a variety of HR functions, which can include posting job listings, reviewing applications, coordinating interviews, training new hires and existing employees and administering benefits. Specialists, who often work in larger organizations, may focus on one or more of these aspects of HR.

Leadership roles in human resources offer considerably higher income potential. The median salary for human resources managers is $110,120, according to the BLS. The highest-paying HR management positions are in the industries of management of companies and enterprises and professional, scientific and technical services, while jobs in healthcare, social assistance and government entities typically pay the least. Human resources managers do more of the high-level, behind-the-scenes work of overseeing a company’s HR efforts, including working closely with top executives to plan and organize administrative HR functions such as the management of recruiters, administration of employment policies and payroll operations, the BLS reported. HR managers serve as the point of connection between company management and the workforce. A bachelor’s degree is required for most human resources manager roles, but the BLS reports that candidates who have either a master’s degree or professional certification are the ones most likely to land HR manager roles for which there is strong competition.

Human resources degrees can also lead to other business jobs, such as labor relations specialist, training and development specialist, compensation and benefits manager and training and development manager.

Additional Resources

What Kind of Job Can You Get With a Degree in Human Resources?

How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Human Resources?

What Is the Benefit of Earning a Human Resources Degree vs. a Business Degree?

What Is the Difference Between a Human Resources Degree and a Business Degree?

What Is the Difference Between a Certification in Human Resources and a Master’s Degree in HR?