Human Resources Degree Guide – Everything You Need To Know

With organizations becoming significantly cognizant of the need to reach and retain excellent prospects to be enrolled within their workforce, the necessity to operate with calculated and careful management of all resources, along with the increasing intricacies of employment law and employee welfare, proficient HR additions are incessantly being sought after.

A Human Resources career is a fast-growing career field with plenty of lucrative opportunities across all industries for both generalists and specialists. Also, an HR qualification can serve as a doorway beyond the field of Human Resources and into managerial roles. Whether you’re inclined towards specializing, honing your generalist expertise, or seeking a future career in management, an HR qualification is going to be a valuable asset.

What is Human Resources?

The term “Human Resource” was initially coined by the pioneering economist John R. Commons in his book The Distribution of Wealth, published in 1983. However, the term didn’t receive prolific admission previous to the 19th century, when notions such as organizational behavior, selection assessment, and motivation became significant. Further, the attention garnered by the value of labor relations played as a prime mover in the progression of the term.

Human Resources, as defined by the author William R. Tracey in The Human Resources Glossary, is “The people that staff and operate an organization.” Accordingly, the term “Human Resources” is mainly used to refer to all the employees working within an organization.

“Human Resource Management” is a contemporary term that describes the division within a company or an organization that’s responsible for overseeing all matters related to management and development of the human capital. The primary mission of an HRM team is therefore to maximize employee productivity and to protect the company from nuisances related to the workforce while addressing and resolving all employee-related complications.
Human Resources Management Tasks:

  • Recruitment and Training
  • Compensation and Benefits
  • Performance Management
  • Labor and Employee Relations
  • Organization Development

What are the different careers you can pursue with a bachelor’s in human resources?

There’s a broad range of career opportunities for a recent graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources. Some of the most popular career titles within the field include the following.

Chief Human Resources Officer

The chief human resources officer is the spearhead of all human resources systems and policies within a company. As one of the members of the executive management team, the CHRO reports directly to the CEO of the company and has a major influence on the strategic vision and direction of the company. The CHRO is required to devise an HR strategy for the company, which includes its policies, systems, and goals. Also, this executive position oversees all aspects of the human resources department within an organization. The position of chief human resources officer requires a level of experience that ranges between one or two decades in corporate human resources. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, chief human resources officers should expect a median annual wage of $214, 427.

Human Resources Director

A human resources director is the person who’s in charge of all activities related to human resources in a company. These activities include creating and implementing company policies, hiring and retention of employees, pensions, insurance, promotions, the termination of employees, and benefits. They also help devise programs and benefit plans that attract talent and helps keep employees motivated while taking the company’s budget into consideration. Most HR directors have around a decade of experience within the field of human resources. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, HR directors should expect a median annual wage of $142,860.

Human Resources Manager

A human resources manager is an HR generalist who oversees recruitment, training, benefits, labor relations, compensation and all other administrative functions of the human resources department within a company. HR managers coordinate and supervise the work of specialists and the support staff of the department, ensuring that all assigned procedures are accurately completed on time and complying with the company’s policies and business laws. HR managers serve as a link between the company’s management and its employees. They consult with top executives and often serve as advisors for other managers regarding HR issues. Most HR managers come from a generalist background with at least five years of experience under their belt. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, HR managers should expect a median annual wage of $110,120.

Human Resources Consultant

Human resources consultants are often contractors that specialize in a variety of fields which includes devising policies, employee incentives, benefits issues, employment structures, rewards programs, retirement plans, and the outsourcing of any of the functions of an HR department. The consultant is an independent expert that uses his expertise in the field to assess the company’s situation and offer strategic changes that will help bring the company closer to its goals. HR consultants have absolute freedom in choosing who they work with and how much they charge. However, such liberty can only be granted if one has proven to be extremely competent and well-rounded across all aspects of the field with numerous years of accumulated experience. According to, HR consultants should expect an average annual wage of $87,000.

Training & Development Manager

The role of a training and development manager is to assist employees and help enhance their overall skill sets. This is achieved by conducting workshops and conferences that focus on honing certain skills. Training and development managers are often in charge in charge of devising effective classes and coursework that include manuals and books for the employees, the content of such sessions is chosen by the employer to emphasize specific aspects that might be missing or need enhancements. Excellent social and people skills are required for this position with the ability to capture interest and to motivate others. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, training and development managers should expect a median annual wage of $108,250.

Compensation & Benefits Manager

A compensation and benefits manager is in charge of putting the compensation and benefits programs and into effect. These programs are selected based on the manager’s experience with different benefits programs and the knowledge of corporate policies. The compensation and benefits manager reviews these programs once the selection process is done to ensure they comply with the federal guidelines for compensation and benefits packages and to make sure that they’re competitive enough to attract the desired quality of workers. Generally, this position requires at least five years of experience in the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compensation and benefits managers should expect a median annual wage of $62,680.

Human Resources Recruiter

A human resources recruiter is the one responsible for managing the incoming talent pool. A talent pool is an effective long-term strategy that ensures that job vacancies are occupied by qualified candidates. Many functions within the HR department can be outsourced, recruiting is one of those functions and is a function that is better carried out by a neutral third party to avoid personal biases. Recruiters can be a part of a recruitment company or can work as private employees for an organization or business. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, HR recruiters should expect a median annual wage of $56,110.

Human Resources Assistant

The human resources assistant position is usually the first stepping stone for graduates who are climbing the hierarchy ladder of jobs in the human resources field. HR assistants are involved in both minor and major tasks that include creating files and records, processing payrolls, verification operations, and the recruitment and training processes of the company. The human resources assistant position rapidly enhances one’s experience within the field because of its all-rounded nature and its exposure to all aspects of human resources. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, HR assistants should expect a median annual wage of $39,480.

Human Resources Certifications

A large majority of companies don’t often advertise having HR certifications as essential for applicants. However, an HR certification can rapidly boost your career, which will grant you higher job positions and salaries. The following reasons will help you further understand the benefits and the setbacks that might accompany the process of obtaining certification within the field of human resources.

Reasons to Pursue an HR Certification

An HR certification is a sure-fire way to secure a promotion and climb your way up the job hierarchy within your company, it also increases your chances of employment vastly. In a study conducted by the HR Certification Institute, it was found that 96% of HR professionals and employers preferred to hire certified applicants when filtering the results of their job interviews. While most entry-level HR positions don’t often require certification and deem having them as optional, having a certification, or multiple ones, is crucial to advancing towards a senior HR position.

The same study also discovered that employers are increasingly willing to pay higher salaries to their certified employees. It has also been noted that upper management HR-certified professionals earn high salaries, unsurprisingly. Further, another study was commissioned by showed that the annual salaries of HR-certified employees can increase up to $20,000 more than the non-certified ones. Employers correlate certified applicants as a valuable commodity and automatically correlate them with high efficiency and performance, which as a result deems them deserving of a higher pay grade.

Another reason why you should have a certification is that the HR field doesn’t require candidates to complete a pre-certification program in order to prove their competence. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) believes that the eligibility requirements in the field of HR consist of thorough education and sufficient work experience that range between one and seven years. Your level of education determines how many years of work experience you’ll need, the higher the level, the fewer the years.

Reasons to Forego an HR Certification

Materials related to HR certifications exams aren’t usually distributed for free. Companies that proctor such exams charge certain fees for the application process and for the exam itself. An SHRM exam charges members $300 and $400 to non-members. The HRCI exams vary from one exam to the other, in addition to the application fee that costs $100 for each exam. The PHR exam fee is $395, while the SPHR and the GPHR exam fees are $495 each.

Not needing to acquire an HR certificate might have you fooled into thinking that it’s an easy task. The exams mentioned above are in fact extremely hard to pass. The pass rates indicate that almost half of the applicants fail these tests every year. And even seasoned professionals find these exams extremely difficult to go through, which shows that these tests can’t be passed based solely on work experience. Your chances of succeeding increase by dedicating a lot of sleepless nights into studying and practicing similar models of these exams, which is a sacrifice that not everyone can afford to make.

Another factor you want to consider is that earning the above certifications isn’t at all an over and done process. To prove that the knowledge acquired hasn’t dissipated, obtained certifications undergo renewal phases every three years by grossing professional development credits. These credits can be received through various methods that include taking online courses, attending conferences, and partaking in webinars. Of course, the renewal process comes with a fee as well, a recertification application fee. Another option you can choose if credit collecting seems like a hassle is retaking the exam, which will bring back those sleepless nights of studying and preparation. Also, you run the risk of losing your certificate in the event of failing your exam.

Best Human Resources Certifications

After you’ve considered the positives and negatives of pursuing an HR certification program, you should now have a definite answer to whether you want to acquire one or not. If your choice is to chase after a certification, then you should know which ones are worthwhile. The following are the most acclaimed certifications within the field of human resources, as considered by industry experts.

HR Certification Institute (HRCI) – HRCI is one of the oldest and most acclaimed certification associations for HR certifications. HRCI presents both entry-level and advanced certification classifications in the form of eight credentials that vary depending on the level of expertise and work experience. These credentials are aPHR, aPHRi, PHR, PHRca, PHRi, SPHR, SPHRi and GPHRi.

Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) – SHRM is a member-based organization that offers two major certifications based on competency and work experience. The first certification is the SHRM-CP, which is geared towards candidates who have 4-5 years of experience under their belt. The second one is the SHRM-SCP, this certification is for veteran HR professionals in senior positions who want to enhance their knowledge and qualifications in the pursuit of higher leadership positions.

Talent Management Institute (TMI) – TMI offers three talent management credentials that are designed to help you speed up the growth of your career, which are TMP, STMP, and HTML. The main focus behind these certifications is to enhance your talent management skills and implement it into systems of Human Capital Management. TMI is a favored choice by HR professionals aspiring to become qualified leaders.

Different Levels of Human Resources Degrees

Pursuing a degree in Human Resources will depend on your future aspirations and goals. There are four different degree levels you can achieve: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate. The following will give you an overview of what each degree has to offer.

Associate’s Degree in Human Resources

An associate’s degree in human resources qualifies graduates for entry-level job positions, especially within the generalist field. Those who acquire an HR associate’s degree can also enter into specialized HR roles such as HR clerks, HR assistants, and HR assistant recruiters. A human resources associate’s degree usually requires 60 semester credit hours and are offered by technical schools, junior colleges, and community colleges. High school diploma students who major in human resources can expect to receive degrees such as Associate of Arts (A.A.), Associate of Science (A.S.), or Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.).

Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources

A bachelor’s degree in human resources equips you with the required instruments that will broaden your view of HR principles and qualify you to pick from an extensive range of mid-level HR careers in various business settings. Most HR bachelor’s degrees require 120 semester credit hours within colleges and universities. Students should expect a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree, a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree, or the more broad Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree.

Master’s Degree in Human Resources

A master’s degree in human resources is one to three years worth of advanced studies for holders of a bachelor’s degree. Most masters are presented with plenty of fruitful upper-level job positions within established organizations. A master’s degree offers its students the opportunity to focus on specialized aspects of human resources. Another track you should consider is an MBA in HR. Holders of a Master of Business Administration degree often have a broad set of skills and leadership capabilities that allow them to attain positions such as directors or vice presidents of human resources.

Ph.D. in Human Resources

A doctoral degree is the way to go for those seeking an academic career in a university. It’s often rare to acquire a Ph.D. in human resources. However, there are several accredited colleges that pave the way for their graduates to receive a doctorate in human resources. A Ph.D. in HR takes three to five years of thorough studies and analysis of common workforce complications after the master’s phase.

What do you typically study in a Human Resource program?

Business Communications & Critical Thinking – The main focus of this course is to develop aspects such as critical thinking and decision making within a bachelor’s degree student through various forms of written communication such as emails, reports, and business letters. This course also touches on other topics such as cross-cultural communications and personal communication.

Fundamentals of HR Management – This course includes everything a student needs to know about the human capital and how to develop it through ways of retaining and developing talent that lives up to the standards of the organization. This course is crucial for understanding the basics of building a talent pool and the critical implications that surround modern day businesses.

Management Theory & Practice – This course is geared towards the different aspects of management as a theory and as a practice from a scientific and artistic point of view. This course will grant its student the ability to evaluate and take the correct action when faced with workspace issues.

Organizational Development – This course is primarily focused on studying and analyzing individual behavior in organizational settings, as well as group behavior. Further, students will also learn about workforce diversity, organizational behavior, and hone their effective communication skills.

Strategic Human Resource Management and Emerging Issues – The goal of this course is to show students how to integrate the human resources management aspect with business strategies, and how to resolve the issues that a business might face. This course is a strategic approach towards business and an ideal guide to achieving ideal leadership skills.

Prerequisites for a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources

The main prerequisites to begin a human resources management bachelor’s degree program include a high school diploma or GED with an ACT or an SAT score. These programs typically take four years to complete from the day of admission.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean to have an accredited HR degree?

Having an accredited HR degree shows that the program or the institution you enrolled in meets the standards of quality that an accrediting agency sets, and is always seeking to enhance the quality of its education and practice. Accreditation is classified into two types, institutional and specialized.

Institutional accreditation is granted by national and regional accrediting bodies of schools and colleges, The Higher Learning Commission is a prime example. Renowned specialized HR accrediting agencies include Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (ACBSP), The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), and International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE).

How long does it take to get an HR degree?

An associate’s degree program usually takes two years, while a bachelor’s degree program takes four years. MBAs and master’s degrees generally take one to two years. Your dedication level also plays an important factor in how long it takes to attain an HR degree.

Should I get my HR degree online?

You should expect the quality of education in an online human resources degree to be of the same caliber as a traditional campus program. The coursework for an online HR program will include general or advanced studies of human resources policies and procedures, depending on your degree level. Some of these courses include compensation and benefits, employee relations, contemporary HR issues, organizational psychology, and legal issues in the workplace. An online HR degree qualifies its students to fill job positions such as compensation or benefits managers, training and development managers, HR generalists, or employee relations managers.

Final Words – There’s a lot to consider when planning to pursue a degree or a certification in human resources, but it’s definitely worth the struggle. Having a clear vision of the accomplishments you want to achieve and the person you aspire to become post-graduation will keep you motivated and help you determine the right program and classes that you need to start your career.

References: Human_Resources_Operations_Manager/Salary Bachelor_of_Business_Administration/Salary 01/07/what-is-human-resources-management/