Best Online Master’s Degrees in Human Resources: 2016

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Human Resources Programs, Job Prospects & Potential Salaries

Students who choose to advance their education and career by pursuing an online master’s degree in human resources should find that they have a greater competitive edge when searching for more specialized jobs as administration service managers, compensation and benefits managers, labor relations specialists and training specialists. Many graduates find that they not only have more job opportunities, but also higher earning potential.

Online Master’s in Human Resources Timeline

Getting in: The Application Process

To be selected for admission from a competitive field of applicants, students should put together an application that showcases their talents and experience in human resources. Students who plan their applications according to the deadline and submit impressive scores, essays and letters of recommendation run a greater chance of being considered for admission. Here are some of the general requirements most programs request with the application to the online master’s program in human resources:

  • GRE scores

    Prior to applying to grad school, all prospective students must take the GRE, or Graduate Record Examination. Higher scores almost always mean higher consideration. Luckily, students can retake the exam to improve their scores.

  • Transcripts

    Applicants should request official transcripts to be sent either by mail or electronically to the schools they are applying to. Many online master’s programs require a minimum GPA for admission.

  • Undergraduate performance

    Most schools require students to have completed a bachelor’s degree and to have met minimum GPA requirements. Some, but not all, schools also require the undergraduate degree to be in human resources or a related field.

  • Resume

    Potential students should submit a current and relevant resume showcasing their previous education, related job experience and HR-related skills. Experience working in human resources bodes well for candidates, especially if they can demonstrate growth and skill attainment at their jobs.

  • Letters of recommendation

    Applicants should ask professors, employers or other contacts to write an honest, impressive letter of recommendation. A glowing reference can make all the difference in the application process. For someone seeking a master’s degree in human resources, strong relationship-building skills, organization and proficiency with administrative tasks are points that letters should highlight.

  • Financial support documents

    Because programs vary in tuition and other costs, it is important for applicants to consider financing options, meet with a financial advisor and apply for financial aid, grants and scholarships early in the process. Schools often want to see how applicants plan on paying for the program.

  • Video, phone or in-person interview

    Some schools conduct an interview either before or upon admission. Applicants must be prepared and professional during the interview.

  • Essay or writing sample

    Prospective students must submit a well-written essay or writing sample as requested by the school. Those who do best give themselves ample time to compose and edit their essays and also ask others to proofread.

Year 1

The first year of an online master’s degree program in human resources focuses mostly on the core curriculum. Students meet the broad requirements first before gradually beginning to take more specialized courses in relation to their concentration. Typical first year courses for online human resources programs include Corporate Communications, Managing Workplace Learning and Human Resources in Global Contexts.

Year 2

At the start of the second year of the program, students work closely with an advisor or committee chair to confirm their area of concentration and begin working on a capstone project or thesis. In the final semester, most or all of the student’s work consists of the capstone project or thesis. Online master’s students also have the option to choose their elective courses during the second year, delving into topics that can prepare them for work in specialized workplaces and professional certification exams.

Testing & Graduation Requirements

A master’s in human resources is about more than just taking and passing courses. Schools want to see that students have absorbed what they learned during their studies and can apply it to their careers going forward. This can be shown in several ways:

  • Capstone Project or Thesis

    For this intensive project, students combine classroom-gained knowledge with original research and theory to devise a project plan based on a case study, including timelines, measures of success and outcomes. Most human resources master’s programs expect students to build their capstone around a real business context. The project is presented at the end of the second year.

  • Internship

    Some programs require students to acquire a position as an intern in a human resources-related position. The goal is to help students begin to implement their classroom learning to real-life situations, and many interns are able to parlay the experience into a job after graduation.

Search Online Master’s Degrees in Human Resources

With so many factors at play — program length, tuition cost, degree level, location, school type, and even student population — it can be overwhelming to research all the available online human resources master’s programs and choose the best one. This search tool makes it easy to filter program and school features so you can find the right program for you.

Student Population:
School Type:
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Careers & Salary Potential with a Master’s in HR

By earning a master’s degree in human resources online, graduates open doors to more job opportunities, higher pay and leadership positions. Choosing a concentration can help students hone specific skills and become more qualified for certain careers. Here are some of the most common concentrations within the human resources master’s degree and the careers they can lead to.

HR Compensation and Benefits

This concentration focuses on pay administration policies, such as leave guidelines, range of pay and overall compensation practices compliant with U.S. legal code.

Compensation and Benefits Manager
Compensation and Benefits Manager

Responsible for everything involving a company’s total compensation and benefits package, including salaries and payroll, bonuses, health and life insurance benefits, and pensions.

Compensation Specialist
Compensation Specialist

Deals primarily with compensation and its facets: job descriptions and classifications, market research, compliance and budgets, staffing needs, and compensation packages.

Payroll Manager
Payroll Manager

Works with payroll systems and is responsible for distributing payments to employees, balancing payroll accounts, maintaining payroll guidelines, and adhering to local, state and federal payroll regulations.

HR Development

In this specialization, students come to understand the learning processes at play in the workplace so they can help employees and management develop personal and organizational skills to perform better. Students learn advanced skills in employee training, career development, performance management and other relevant areas.

Human Resources Director
Human Resources Director

Responsible for total HR operations within a company, from managing organizational infrastructure to developing a culture of success for all employees. May also supervise compensation and benefits and manage employee training and professional development.

Performance Management Specialist
Performance Management Specialist

Responsible for researching and implementing programs to improve performance measures for operations within a company, including developing procedures for employee review, collecting employee performance indicators, preparing accountability reports, and establishing best practices for performance measurement systems.

Training and Development Specialist
Training and Development Specialist

Manages and directs all training and development programs in an organization. Works with employees and managers to improve performance by training, orienting, motivating and supporting all employees.

HR Information Systems

Students who choose HRIS as a concentration learn how to automate, manage, support and administer key HR functions like payroll, compliance, recruiting and software-based training. They are exposed to the latest HR software and dive into tools such as enterprise systems, social networking and cloud computing.

Human Resources Information Systems Analyst
Human Resources Information Systems Analyst

Develops and maintains HR databases to collect, store and analyze organizational data.

HR Policy

Students in this concentration learn to establish, implement and maintain policies in the workplace that benefit both the organization and its employees. Some of the areas of study include managing personnel systems, improving employee productivity and dealing with ethics and workplace professionalism.

Labor Relations Specialist
Labor Relations Specialist

Handles dispute resolution by negotiating collective bargaining agreements and managing grievances between management and employees. Also serves in an advisory role to management, unions and employees.

Human Resources Consultant
Human Resources Consultant

Typically works as an independent contractor, providing HR services and counsel to companies on issues such as human capital, benefits, internal communications, recruitment, or training and development.

HR Staffing

The staffing concentration teaches students how to find, recruit, hire and place employees in positions that benefit both the organization and the individual. Students study staffing laws and regulations, the principles of recruitment, management controls and workplace diversity.


Helps to develop a recruitment strategy for an organization, and uses an array of recruitment tools to assist in finding, hiring and placing new employees.

Potential Salary Increases with a Master’s Degree

With so many jobs available in human resources, many students choose to advance their careers with a master’s degree. How much more do master’s degree holders earn compared to those who just hold a bachelor’s degree? These numbers from give some indication: Employees with a BS in human resources management — who commonly find jobs as human resources managers — reported earning between $35,718 and $74,716 annually; professionals with an MS in human resources pulled in $41,290 to $102,439 a year.

Growth potential 13%
Average Salary $102,780

Additional Resources & Links

  • International Public Management Association for Human Resources

    IMPA HR is “the leading public sector human resource organization in the world.” Professionals can find HR industry news, jobs, policies, resources, education and professional development opportunities on the site, as well as conference and event dates.

  • National Human Resources Association

    At NHRA, members can find and post job openings, discover resources for career development and advancement, get meeting and event information, take part in networking forums, and access news and tools for HR development and leadership.

  • Professionals in Human Resources Association

    PIHRA is a resource for networking, learning and advocacy. On the site, people can find information about HR ethics, meetings and events, jobs and personal advising.

  • Society for Human Resource Management

    SHRM is a comprehensive resource website with information for HR professionals on industry news, ethics, education, strategy and legal issues. With more than 575 local affiliate chapters, professionals can find additional programming and networking opportunities near them.

Best Online Master’s in Human Resources

When choosing an online human resources graduate program, it’s important to choose the program that best fits your occupational and educational goals. Compare program features as you decide, and check out our rankings of the Best Online Master’s in Human Resources Degrees for 2015-2016.

Read more about our methodology here.

1 University of Hawaii at Manoa 100.00 13:1 56%
2 Catholic University of America 98.75 7:1 67%
3 Clemson University 98.25 16:1 82%
4 Western Carolina University 98.00 16:1 58%
5 New York University 97.75 10:1 83%
5 University of Scranton 97.75 11:1 80%
7 Siena Heights University 97.50 11:1 51%
7 Fitchburg State University 97.50 15:1 57%
9 Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus 97.25 17:1 86%
10 University of Denver 97.00 11:1 76%
11 Webster University 96.75 13:1 64%
12 Villanova University 96.25 12:1 89%
12 University of St Francis 96.25 11:1 56%
12 Fontbonne University 96.25 11:1 48%
15 Drexel University 95.75 10:1 67%
15 Belhaven University 95.75 12:1 50%
17 Florida Institute of Technology 95.25 9:1 55%
18 North Park University 95.00 12:1 53%
19 Emmanuel College 94.75 12:1 45%
20 La Salle University 94.50 12:1 66%
20 Franklin University 94.50 11:1 14%
20 Concordia University-Wisconsin 94.50 13:1 61%
20 Brenau University 94.50 11:1 47%
24 Pittsburg State University 93.50 19:1 50%
24 Marygrove College 93.50 9:1 18%
24 Boston University 93.50 13:1 85%
24 Southern Adventist University 93.50 14:1 52%
28 University of Saint Mary 93.25 9:1 35%
28 Saint Joseph’s University 93.25 13:1 73%
28 Saint Francis University 93.25 14:1 72%
31 Rochester Institute of Technology 93.00 13:1 63%
32 University of Wisconsin-Stout 92.00 20:1 53%
32 Indiana Wesleyan University 92.00 16:1 63%
32 Central Michigan University 92.00 20:1 56%
35 Seton Hall University 91.75 14:1 66%
35 Robert Morris University 91.75 15:1 62%
35 Gardner-Webb University 91.75 13:1 54%
38 Baker College Center for Graduate Studies 91.50 13:1 20%
39 Troy University 91.25 15:1 35%
40 Briar Cliff University 91.00 12:1 47%
41 Davenport University 90.75 14:1 40%
42 Tarleton State University 90.50 19:1 45%
43 Concordia University-Saint Paul 90.00 15:1 46%
44 Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota 89.50 16:1 65%
44 Roosevelt University 89.50 11:1 30%
44 Franklin Pierce University 89.50 12:1 46%
47 University of North Texas 89.25 23:1 50%
48 Saint Leo University 88.75 15:1 45%
49 The University of Texas at Tyler 88.50 21:1 45%
50 Indiana State University 88.00 20:1 40%