Best Online Master’s in Human Resources 2021

| TBS Staff


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Earning a master's in human resources online gives students the flexibility to balance their studies with professional and personal obligations. Online learners can also attend top programs in the country without relocating.

Graduates with a master's degree in human resources can work in roles such as compensation and benefits manager, human resource manager, and top executive. These roles offer high average salaries and strong projected job growth. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for human resource managers to grow 7% between 2018-2028. The BLS also reports that these professionals earned a median annual salary of $113,300 in 2018.

Top 10 Online Master's in Human Resources 2021
#1 University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
#2 Cornell University Ithaca, NY
#3 Clemson University Clemson, SC
#4 Florida International University Miami, FL
#5 Western Carolina University Cullowhee, NC
#6 George Washington University Washington, DC
#7 University of Connecticut Storrs, CT
#8 Stony Brook University Stony Brook, NY
#9 Rutgers University-New Brunswick New Brunswick, NJ
#10 West Chester University of Pennsylvania West Chester, PA

Related Programs That Might Interest You

The Best Online Master's in Human Resources Programs

University of Southern California View School Profile Los Angeles, CA 92% 29% 18% The University of Southern California is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC).

Only 53 students attended USC during its first semester in 1880.

Students enrolled in USC's online master in human resources degree program can graduate within 1 to 2 years. The curriculum includes units on organizational culture, talent management, employee relations, and more.

Students must complete 24 units to graduate.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and should submit a resume, 2-3 letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and transcripts.

Cornell University View School Profile Ithaca, NY 95% 31% 2% Cornell University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Founded in 1865, Cornell currently teaches more than 23,000 students.

Cornell teaches its executive master of human resource management program through a hybrid format. Three one-week on-campus sessions supplement the online coursework in this 15-month program.

Students must complete 48 credits to graduate.

Applicants must already hold a bachelor's degree and should submit a resume, transcripts, 2 letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose.

Clemson University View School Profile $$$ Clemson, SC 83% 39% 26% Clemson University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1889, Clemson currently offers more than 130 graduate degree programs to over 5,500 graduate students.

Clemson offers a fully online master in human resource development program with an optional emphasis in athletic leadership. Courses include organization development, human performance improvement, and instructional materials development.

Students must complete 30 credits to graduate.

Applicants must earn a bachelor's degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. The application requires transcripts, a resume, 2 letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and an essay.

Florida International University View School Profile $ Miami, FL 58% 34% 65% Florida International University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

FIU opened in 1972 with a record-breaking enrollment of over 5,000 students.

FIU offers an online master of science in human resource management program. Courses include employment law, strategy and planning, and human resource analytics.

Students must complete 38 credits to graduate.

Applicants must complete a bachelor's degree and must submit transcripts, a resume, a statement of purpose, and 2 letters of recommendation. FIU prefers candidates with at least a 3.0 GPA in upper-division courses, 5 years of full-time work experience, and 3 years of professional experience in human resources.

Western Carolina University View School Profile $$$ Cullowhee, NC 62% 59% 35% Western Carolina University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Located near the Great Smokey Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains, WCU currently teaches more than 12,000 students.

WCU offers a 100% online master of science in human resources program. Sample courses include talent development, coaching for performance, and HR consulting.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate.

Applications require a bachelor's degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. In addition to transcripts, applicants must submit 3 letters of recommendation. The program requires a GRE, but allows conditional admission before submitting GRE scores.

George Washington University View School Profile Washington, DC 82% 36% 24% George Washington University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Established in 1821 by an act of Congress, GU currently teaches more than 26,000 students.

GU offers an online master of human resource management degree program, which students can complete in as little as 18 months. Sample courses include critical thinking skills for executive leadership, performance management and development, and conflict management and negotiations.

Students must complete 30 credits to graduate.

Applicants must already hold a bachelor's degree and should submit a resume, statement of purpose, transcripts, and 1 letter of recommendation.

University of Connecticut View School Profile $$$ Storrs, CT 85% 45% 12% The University of Connecticut is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

Originally established in 1881 as Storrs Agricultural School, UConn welcomes more than 5,000 incoming freshmen each year.

UConn offers students the chance to complete a non-thesis master of science in human resource management in a hybrid format. Sample courses include talent management through the employee lifecycle, managing risk in the workplace, and managing organizations.

Students must complete 33 credits to graduate.

Applicants require at least 2 years of professional work experience and a bachelor's degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. Applicants must submit transcripts, a resume, a personal statement, and 1professional letter of recommendation.

Stony Brook University View School Profile $$ Stony Brook, NY 74% 38% 17% Stony Brook University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Originally located in Oyster Bay, the university opened a new campus in the town of Stony Brook in 1962, just 5 years after classes first began.

Stony Brook offers a 100% online master of science in human resource management degree program, which students can complete in just one year. Courses cover topics like change management, employment law and policy, and job evaluation.

Students must complete 30 credits to graduate

Applicants must submit a personal statement, resume, transcript, and 2 letters of recommendation.

Rutgers University-New Brunswick View School Profile $$$ New Brunswick, NJ 80% 50% 26% Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Older than the U.S. itself, Rutgers currently teaches more than 71,000 students.

Rutgers offers a 100% online professional master's in human resource management degree program, which students can complete in as little as 18 months. Courses include managing rewards systems, managing the global workforce, and managing workforce flow.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate

Application requirements include at least 4 years of experience in human resources and a bachelor's degree. The application requires a personal statement of purpose, transcripts, 2 letters of recommendation, and a resume.

West Chester University of Pennsylvania View School Profile $$$ West Chester, PA 75% 62% 19% West Chester University of Pennsylvania is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Founded in 1871, WCU celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2021.

WCU teaches its master of science in human resource management program via online, asynchronous classes that last 7 weeks at a time. Courses include employment law and labor relations, compensation analysis, and managing diverse and globalized workforces.

Students must complete 30 to graduate.

Applicants must submit transcripts, GMAT scores (waivers granted on a case-by-case basis), an essay, a resume, and 2 letters of recommendation.

Johnson & Wales University-Online View School Profile Providence, RI 73% 100% Johnson & Wales University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

Founded in 1914, JWU operates four campuses in four states: Rhode Island, Florida, Colorado, and North Carolina.

JWU offers a 100% online master of science in human resource management degree program. Courses last 8 weeks, and students can complete the program in about 2 years. Courses include organizational change management, human resources in a global environment, and strategic compensation and benefits.

Students must complete 30 credits to graduate.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree. The application requires transcripts, a statement of purpose, and 2 letters of recommendation.

Tarleton State University View School Profile $$ Stephenville, TX 46% 56% 15% Tarleton State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Established in 1899, Tarleton became part of the Texas A&M System in 1917 and now operates five campuses throughout Texas.

Tarleton offers both thesis and non-thesis tracks for its fully online master of science in human resource management degree program. Students can graduate in 2 years. Courses include workforce planning and talent management, law and regulation in human resources, and global human resources management practices.

Students must complete 30 to graduate

Applicants must submit transcripts showing an undergraduate GPA of at least 2.5, a statement of purpose, GRE, MAT, or GMAT test scores.

Southern New Hampshire University View School Profile Manchester, NH 54% 68% 93% Southern New Hampshire University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

The history of SNHU dates back to 1932 when it taught primarily evening classes to students interested in accounting and secretarial studies.

SNHU offers an online master of science in human resource management degree program. Students will study topics like compliance, operations, and efficient management of staff. Alternatively, SNHU also offers an online master of business administration in human resources degree program for students.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate.

Applicants must submit transcripts. SNHU prefers applicants with an undergraduate GPA of at least 2.75. SNHU accepts up to 12 graduate transfer credits.

Averett University-Non-Traditional Programs View School Profile Danville, VA 58% 94% Averett University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1859, Averett currently offers 5 graduate degree programs.

Averett provides students the chance to earn a master of business administration with a concentration in human resources. Classes take place 100% online and explore topics like employment laws and regulations, managing conflict and negotiation, and recruitment, hiring, and training.

Students must complete 40 credits to graduate.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree. Averett prefers applicants who earned a minimum GPA of 3.0 in the last 60 hours of undergraduate study.

Temple University View School Profile $$$$ Philadelphia, PA 71% 61% 18% Temple University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Originally a night school established in 1884, Temple now teaches more than 40,000 students.

Temple offers an online master of science in human resource management program. Sample courses include leading high-performing teams, strategic reward systems, and business transformation through big data.

Students must complete 30 credits to graduate.

Applicants must already hold a bachelor's degree and at least a 3.0 GPA. The application requires a resume, transcripts, an essay, letters of recommendation, and GMAT or GRE test scores (waivers available).

Central Michigan University View School Profile $$ Mount Pleasant, MI 62% 71% 38% Central Michigan University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1892, CMU teaches half of its students online.

CMU provides students a chance to earn an online master of business administration with a concentration in human resources management. Sample courses include managing information systems in a global economy, marketing-based management, and financial analysis.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree and a minimum GPA of 2.7. The application requires transcripts, a resume, and a personal statement.

Saint Francis University View School Profile Loretto, PA 69% 50% 77% Saint Francis University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Founded in 1847, Saint Francis bears the distinction of being the oldest Catholic-Franciscan college in the U.S.

Saint Francis offers a 100% online master of human resource management degree program. Courses cover topics like labor law, benefits, and compensation. Students can also complete an optional internship as one of their electives.

Students must complete 30 credits and maintain at least a 3.0 GPA to graduate.

Applicants must submit 2 letters of recommendation, a resume, and transcripts.

Concordia University-Wisconsin View School Profile Mequon, WI 59% 64% 36% Concordia University - Wisconsin is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Part of the Concordia University system established in 1881, CUW blends its educational programs with Lutheran values.

CUW offers an online master of business administration in human resource management. Sample courses include managerial economics, strategic management, and corporate finance.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate.

Applicants must submit a statement of purpose, a resume, 2 letters of recommendation, and transcripts showing successful completion of a bachelor's degree.

North Park University View School Profile Chicago, IL 60% 69% 19% North Park University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1891 as a Christian university, NPU teaches over 3,000 students.

NPU offers a 100% online master of human resource management degree program that students can complete in as little as 21 months. Sample courses include ethical leadership and decision-making, diversity and conflict, and talent development and retention.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate.

Applicants must first earn a bachelor's degree. The application requires a resume, short essay, 2 professional letters of recommendation, and official transcripts.

Baker College View School Profile Owosso, MI 19% 65% 58% Baker College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Baker formed when the Baker Business University merged with Muskegon College in 1965.

Baker offers an online master of business administration in human resource management degree program. Most students graduate in two years. Courses may include labor relations and conflict resolution, strategy in a global environment, and compensation and benefits.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate.

Applicants must submit transcripts, an essay, and a resume.

Regis University View School Profile Denver, CO 69% 47% 63% Regis University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1877 on Jesuit principles, Regis operates three campuses in Colorado and teaches nearly 7,000 students.

Regis teaches its master of science in human resource management degree courses in an online format. Courses last 8 weeks and cover topics like employee relations and performance management and strategies in compensation and benefits.

Students must complete 30 credits to graduate

Applicants must submit transcripts showing completion of a bachelor's degree, as well as a resume.

Florida Institute of Technology View School Profile Melbourne, FL 60% 35% 11% The Florida Institute of Technology is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded over 60 years ago, Florida Tech boasts an alumni network of more than 60,000.

Florida Tech offers its master of science in human resources management degree program online. Required courses include financial accounting, business law, and business ethics.

Students must complete 33 credits to graduate.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with at least a 3.0 GPA and must submit transcripts and a resume.

Concordia University-Saint Paul View School Profile Saint Paul, MN 59% 60% 65% Concordia University - Saint Paul is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1893, CSP provides a liberal arts education from a Christian perspective.

CSP offers a fully online master of arts in human resource management degree program. Courses last 8 weeks and cover topics like leadership and ethics, compensation and benefits, and recruitment, selection, and retention.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate

Applicants must submit transcripts showing completion of a bachelor's degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. The application also requires an essay.

Brandman University View School Profile Irvine, CA 47% 92% Brandman University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC).

Founded in 1958, Brandman focuses primarily on educating non-traditional students and adult learners.

Brandman offers an online master of business administration in human resources degree program. Courses include conflict and negotiation, total rewards, and talent management.

Students must complete 36-48 credits to graduate.

Applicants must submit transcripts.

Regent University View School Profile Virginia Beach, VA 59% 80% 91% Regent University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1978, Regent teaches from a Christian perspective.

Regent offers an online master of arts in law degree with a human resources concentration. Topics covered include contracts, negotiations, and strategic human resource management.

Students must complete 30 credits to graduate.

Applicants must first earn a bachelor's degree and should submit transcripts and a resume, plus an admissions questionnaire.

Best Online Programs

Online Master's in Human Resources Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Choosing an Online Master's in Human Resources Program

Students interested in earning a master's in HR should consider several factors when researching prospective programs, including length, available concentrations, and cost. For example, public schools typically offer lower tuition rates than private schools, and in-state students at public schools generally pay the lowest tuition rates. However, many programs allow all online students to pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency.

Most online master's in human resources programs take four years of full-time study to complete, but some programs offer accelerated timelines that allow students to graduate faster. Additionally, students with transfer credits should ensure their chosen schools offer generous transfer credit policies, which may save money and expedite graduation.

Students should also consider their career goals before choosing a program. Many programs offer concentrations that prepare for specific careers after graduation. Common concentrations include project management, organizational leadership, and recruiting and staffing.

What Is a Master's in Human Resources?

With a bachelor's degree in human resources, professionals can work as human resource assistants or specialists. A master's degree prepares students for more advanced roles with more responsibilities and potentially higher pay, such as human resource manager, compensation and benefits manager, and top executive.

During a human resources master's program, learners expand upon the knowledge and skills they developed at the bachelor's level, studying advanced concepts like organizational strategy, employee hiring and retention, and employment law. Many master's in HR programs also offer concentrations that allow students to tailor the degree to their interests and career goals.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Human Resources

Online master's in human resources programs typically offer knowledge and skills in the following areas.

  • Employment Law: Human resource professionals need a strong understanding of employment law because they must adhere to laws, procedures, and regulations to ensure fair, ethical treatment of employees across their organizations.
  • Human Behavior: Human resource professionals must understand human behavior to effectively work with a variety of employees. This understanding helps HR professionals manage conflicts and ensure employees are treated appropriately.
  • Business Tools: HR professionals can take advantage of various business tools to help them better manage employees and the functions of their organization. These tools may include effective communication methods, organizational software, and training programs.
  • Compensation and Benefits Management: Human resource professionals in managerial roles often oversee compensation and benefits packages for employees. To ensure fair treatment of employees while adhering to an organization's budget, they need a strong understanding of the best methods for choosing and administering these packages.
  • Conflict Resolution: Human resource professionals often manage a variety of employee conflicts, including sexual harassment claims, employee complaints, and disputes among employees and supervisors. Therefore, these employees must understand best practices for resolving conflicts in diverse scenarios.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Human Resources Degrees

When researching potential programs, students should check accreditation status. Accreditation indicates that a school meets high standards with respect to faculty qualifications, student learning outcomes, and academic rigor. Schools may receive national or regional accreditation. Regional accreditation typically applies to nonprofit, degree-granting institutions, while national accreditation applies to for-profit, vocational, and technical schools. Regional accreditation is generally considered the more prestigious of the two.

Accreditation benefits students in several ways. First, only learners at accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid, and many schools only recognize degrees and transfer credits from accredited institutions. Additionally, many employers prefer or require candidates to hold an accredited degree.

Programs within a school, such as teaching, social work, and business schools, may also receive accreditation. Human resource programs taught within a business school may hold accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Learners can verify a school's accreditation status through the Department of Education's database.

Human Resources Certifications and Licensure

Human resource professionals who deliver human resource services and are the main point of contact for stakeholders and staff can benefit from earning the SHRM certified professional credential.

Candidates for this credential must meet education and experience requirements. Candidates who hold a master's degree in HR and currently work in HR automatically qualify to sit for the exam, which comprises 160 questions and takes four hours to complete. SHRM members receive a discount on exam fees.

PHR certification demonstrates expertise in the technical and operational aspects of human resource management, including employment laws and regulations and HR program implementation.

Candidates for certification must meet experience requirements, which vary by level of education. Candidates with a master's degree need one year of experience in an HR position to qualify to sit for the exam. The exam comprises 150 questions and takes three hours to complete. Candidates must pay an application fee and an exam fee.

Human Resources Jobs

Earning a master's degree in human resources prepares graduates for advanced human resource roles such as human resource manager, top executive, and compensation and benefits manager. Below, we cover several common roles and potential salaries for graduates of master's in human resources programs.

Human Resource Managers
Median Salary (2019): $113,300 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 7%

Human resource managers direct, coordinate, and plan the administrative functions of an organization. They oversee employee recruitment and hiring, mediate disputes, and determine disciplinary procedures. Human resource managers also oversee employee benefits programs. They often oversee a team of human resource professionals and work with other managers in the organization.

Human Resource Specialists
Median Salary (2019): $60,880 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 5%

Human resource specialists work with employers to identify employment needs and help organizations recruit and interview potential employees. They may contact references, screen candidates and inform them about potential job duties, and conduct new employee orientation programs. They also maintain employment records and process paperwork.

Compensation and Benefits Managers
Median Salary (2019): $121,010 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 3%

Compensation and benefits managers plan, develop, and maintain employee compensation and benefits packages. They often research competitive rates and packages, prepare program budgets, and keep business operations within budget. These managers also identify appropriate outside vendors and partners, including benefits vendors, investment managers, and insurance brokers. They may also oversee HR specialists and other staff.

Top Executives
Median Salary (2019): $104,980 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 6%

Top executives devise policies and strategies to help organizations meet long-term goals. These professionals direct and manage the budgetary activities of their organizations, often analyzing financial statements, performance indicators, and sales reports to improve business operations. They may also conduct contract negotiations.

Human Resources Professional Organizations

Human resources students and professionals can benefit from joining professional organizations. These organizations often offer scholarships, career search assistance, and mentorship opportunities. Members may also benefit from professional development, continuing education, and networking events.

SHRM represents and supports more than 300,000 HR professionals and business executives across 165 countries. Members have access to career development tools, networking opportunities, discounts on professional services, various SHRM publications, and legal and compliance resources. NHRA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the careers of human resources professionals. The association provides networking and professional development opportunities in addition to HR publications and webcasts. HRPA aims to advance the human resources profession and protect public interests by ensuring ethical HR practices. Members have access to professional development opportunities, annual conferences and trade shows, career planning tools, and information on HR best practices and salary data.

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