The best companies to work for know the value of their employees. Human resources specialists and managers are the business operations personnel who handle the human side of business, from recruiting and training new workers to overseeing and administering benefits programs. While a college degree is necessary for most jobs in HR, what your career aspirations are in this field will affect your educational path.
Bachelor’s Degrees in Human Resources
For an entry-level role as an HR professional, you should pursue a bachelor’s degree in human resources, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This level of education will equip you with the skills you need to begin working as a human resources generalist, personnel recruiter or other type of human resources specialist. At the undergraduate level, there are specialized HR majors, like a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Human Resource Management degree, as well as Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degrees with a concentration in human resource management. Either type of program can meet the content and competency areas established by the Society for Human Resource Management’s Guidebook and Templates for Undergraduate and Graduate Programs.
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A typical bachelor’s degree program in human resources includes coursework in introductory HR principles, labor relations, organizational culture and change, organizational communication, HR management strategies, compensation management, benefits planning, employee training and employment law. Students also take foundational coursework in other areas of business, including accounting, economics, marketing, finance and management.
Human resources earn a median salary of $60,350 per year, the BLS reported. More specialized roles in HR, including training and development specialist and labor relations specialist, often start off with a human resources bachelor’s degree, as well.
Master’s Degrees in HR
When should you go to graduate school for human resources? If your goal is to work in a human resources generalist role or a specialist role that doesn’t require an abundance of specialized technical skills, a master’s degree might be overkill for your ambitions. Most HR professionals who pursue a graduate degree – like a master’s degree in human resources or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) – do so to help them move up into a managerial role. Human resources managers can make a great living, with an overall median wage of $110,120, the BLS reported. The two most lucrative of the occupation’s major employers, management of companies and enterprises and professional, scientific and technical services, both pay median salaries above $124,000.
A bachelor’s degree is still sufficient even for human resources manager jobs, according to the BLS. In fact, 74 percent of human resources managers report that a bachelor’s degree is their highest level of education. However, given the strong competition for these well-paying roles in HR management, earning a master’s degree is one way candidates can set themselves apart from other applicants for these sought-after jobs.
A master’s degree in HR usually covers advanced studies in workforce planning, employee and labor relations, training and development compensation and benefits, organizational development, employment laws and ethics and HR information systems.
Business Degrees for Human Resources Roles
If your school doesn’t offer a bachelor’s degree in human resources specifically, or a business administration degree with a concentration in HR, general business studies could be your next best option. At least some of your coursework in a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree will include topics in human resources management. You will also study the foundations of finance, accounting and marketing as well as taking classes, such as introductory business principles, organizational theory, management and business law and ethics, that round out the skills you need to work in HR.
Another way to focus your general business studies toward human resources is to look for an internship or co-op opportunity that includes an HR component. The real-world experience and networking opportunities you can through an internship are valuable.
Professional Certifications in Human Resources
One reason why the majority of HR managers have only a bachelor’s degree is because many human resources professionals choose other ways of advancing their education. In particular, professional certifications are effective methods of advancing your career in human resources. The professional organizations that award certifications in HR include the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the HR Certification Institute (HRCI), the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans and WorldatWork, the BLS reported.
While most HR certifications require years of experience, the SHRM allows for student eligibility for certification in some instances. The student must have sufficient qualifying work experience, such as an internship, and attend a program aligned to SHRM guidelines.