Earning a Master's in Human Resources Online

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Should I Pursue a Master's in Human Resources Online?

Working with organizations such as government agencies and Fortune 500 companies, human resource professionals with an online master's in human resources oversee their departments, approve hiring decisions, and make difficult staffing choices when their organizations downsize. Human resources directors also work with other senior managers to ensure their organization's future success.

Ideal online master's in human resources students already possess some experience working in a human resources department. With experience, students both understand the field and know that they want to make human resources their permanent career. Also, students who already work in human resources may receive tuition assistance from their employers.

For professionals already in the field, earning an online master's in human resources allows students to continue working -- and gaining valuable experience -- as they complete their degrees. Not only do online programs typically offer greater flexibility than on-campus programs, but they may also allow students to complete some program requirements at their job sites.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Human Resources Graduates

Master's in Human Resources Salary

Human resources managers, overall, earn excellent salaries. As with many professions, the greatest need for managers exists in the most populous states; New York and surrounding states boast the highest salaries. Although you may find the best salaries in large metropolitan areas, these areas also maintain the highest costs of living.

When planning for your financial future, keep in mind that entry-level human resource directors earn significantly less than late-career professionals. With 5-10 years of experience, you can expect to earn approximately 25% more than entry-level employees. Experienced professionals made approximately 16% more than mid-career professionals. Salary growth continues to slow over time, meaning that you should expect the greatest salary growth early on in your career.

Top Paying States for Human Resource Manager

State Employment Annual Mean Wage
New Jersey 3,740 $162,540
Rhode Island 310 $156,790
District of Columbia 1,540 $155,790
New York 10,290 $144,310
California 17,160 $139,860
United States 136,310 $123,510

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pay by Experience Level for Human Resource Directora

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):
    $61,517
  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
    $78,505
  • Experienced (10-20 Years):
    $92,115
  • Late-Career (20+ Years):
    $98,375

Source: PayScale

Master's in Human Resources Careers

After earning your online master's in human resources, you can pursue many careers, including positions in nonprofits, governments, and corporations. These careers primarily take place in office settings. Graduates overwhelmingly work for large organizations that need human resource professionals' expertise. Some professions on this list may require both an advanced degree and professional experience. As you research open positions, remember that even if a job description uses a name identical to one on this list, you may perform additional or different duties than those described here.

Human Resources Managers

Annual Median Salary: $110,120

Projected Growth Rate: 9%

Human resources managers hire and train new employees, create benefit packages to attract talent, and handle disciplinary issues. These managers collaborate with their organization's leadership teams to create budgets and streamline staff when necessary. Although many human resources managers possess bachelor's degrees, some organizations require that senior managers hold master's degrees from accredited universities.

Training and Development Managers

Annual Median Salary: $108,250

Projected Growth Rate: 10%

As the job title implies, training and development managers focus on employee training initiatives. They survey employees to determine training needs, develop courses, and lead training seminars. Afterwards, they perform research to determine the training's effectiveness before presenting their findings to senior management. An online master of human resources may allow graduates to start this position sooner than employees with only a bachelor's degree.

Human Resources Directors

Annual Median Salary: $86,240

Projected Growth Rate: N/A

Human resources directors act as the chief executive for their organization's human resources department. Unlike other professions on this list, directors can also take on managerial roles within other departments to ensure that their organization runs smoothly. Their on-the-job responsibilities resemble those that human resources managers perform. Director positions often require a master's degree and significant managerial experience.

Human Resources Generalists

Annual Median Salary: $52,358

Projected Growth Rate: N/A

Human resources generalists complete tasks that their organization's human resources directors and managers assign. On the job, they collaborate with managers and other generalists to propose solutions to problems, train staff, and analyze policies' effectiveness. A master's degree benefits generalists during the hiring process and allows them to gain promotion more quickly than generalists with only a bachelor's.

Human Resources Business Partners

Annual Median Salary: $74,348

Projected Growth Rate: N/A

Human resources business partners share many job responsibilities with human resources managers, directors, and generalists. These professionals, however, also perform tasks related to their organization's long-term strategic planning. Master's in human resource management online students interested in this career should select a relevant concentration or take multiple business strategy electives.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statstics / PayScale

What Can I Expect from an Online Master's in Human Resources Program?

In an online master's in human resources program, you can expect a rigorous curriculum that includes a core set of courses and electives. Some programs may feature a concentration or specialization. Your program may also include a practicum, internship, or capstone component. Most programs end with a thesis or final project, e.g., on-site action research. Depending on your program, you may qualify to take a certification or licensure exam after graduation.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Human Resources

Corporate Communications

Corporate communications courses introduce online master's degree in human resources students to relevant human resources issues and trends. Students analyze these issues through multiple lenses: consumerism, globalism, and even environmentalism. Students also explore the vital role human resources plays in an organization's public relations. This course and other introductory-level courses lay the foundation for in-depth, specialized coursework.

Strategic Human Resources Management

Online HR master's degree students in strategic human resources management courses learn how human resources managers direct their departments and affect their organization's overall success. Students hone practical skills such as how to recruit and train top talent. The knowledge and skills this course imparts can help students pass certification exams.

Total Rewards

Online human resources master's degree graduates must know how to draw in talent through competitive salaries and benefits. In this course, students analyze different theories regarding salaries, incentives, and benefit structures. At the end of the course, students create an original benefit and compensation program for a hypothetical organization.

Leading Change

Students earning their human resource master's degree online must know how to apply leadership strategies in the workplace. Students in leading change courses study different leadership styles and techniques by analyzing real-life examples of how leaders affected positive change in their organizations. These courses often stress Kotter's eight steps for implementing strategy.

Ethics, Law, and Politics in HR

Online HR master's programs require this course so that students understand the fine line between following the law and making ethical decisions in their future careers. Students analyze relevant laws and reflect on how they can ensure that employees in their organizations work in a safe, welcoming environment.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Human Resources Prepares For

  • Professional in Human Resources: The PHR certification assesses candidates' labor relations, business management, talent planning, and development expertise. Employers highly value applicants with this certification, as it signifies that applicants possess a firm grasp of U.S. labor regulations. To take the exam, candidates must hold a master's degree and complete at least one year of relevant professional experience.
  • Senior Professional in Human Resources: SPHR exam candidates must possess at least four years of relevant experience and a master's degree. The three-hour, 150-question exam focuses on leadership, strategy, employee retention, and talent planning fundamentals. This certification appeals to master's in HR online graduates who plan to move into senior management or advisory positions in their organizations.
  • Global Professional in Human Resources: As the name suggests, the GPHR certification exam focuses on global talent acquisition and foreign business culture. The certification requires a master's degree and two years of global human resources experience. Some online master of human resources graduates earn this certification so they can work in one of their organizations' global offices.