What Is A Human Resource Degree?

what is a human resource degree

Do you love working with people? If so, a human resource degree will give you the best career satisfaction. 

A human resource degree equips students with the necessary skills for enhancing workplace culture. It includes topics related to organizational culture, law, benefits, training, and management. The primary career pathway for graduates is HR specialist. 

According to the US BLS, a bachelors degree in human resources salary is $67,650. With experience and an advanced degree, you can apply for management roles and earn an average of $136,350. 

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HR abilities are in demand today, especially since companies increasingly prioritize workplace diversity. HR professionals have unique skills for implementing inclusive policies and resolving conflicts. 

What is a Human Resources Degree?

There are three main types of human resource degrees: associate, bachelor, and master’s. There are doctorates available for graduates who want to pursue teaching and research. The specific curriculum will vary based on the school for human resources and level.

Associate in Human Resource Degree

Associate programs are the perfect resort for students who want to enter the HR field quickly. This level includes fundamental courses in human resource management. It’s a 60-credit hour program focused on basic business and management skills. Among the courses you can expect are: 

  • English Composition
  • Introduction to Business
  • Principles of Human Resources Management
  • Introduction to Computers
  • General Psychology
  • Employment Law Fundamentals

Bachelor’s in Human Resources Degree

A bachelor’s in human resources is the minimum requirement for an HR career. This degree level includes upper-level business courses that emphasize strategic management. 

It requires 120 credits and has an average completion time of four years. Yet, those with accredited associate degrees often graduate in two years or less. These degrees are offered as standalone degrees or as a business program specialization.

Common courses include: 

  • Employment and Labor Law
  • HR Technology
  • Talent Acquisition
  • Principles of Management
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Master’s in Human Resource Degree 

Getting a degree in human resources at the master’s level allows you to earn more money. This degree emphasizes advanced-level coursework for management and leadership roles within the field. You gain better skills for setting policies and managing compensation and benefits.

Master’s in human resource programs typically last two years and require 30-32 credit hours. These programs often require applicants to have at least five years of professional HR experience. Others are more lenient with their admission requirements.

You can often pursue a specialization in a master’s degree. The most common courses include:

  • Strategic HR Management
  • Organizational Development
  • Employee Relations
  • Compensation and Benefits Administration
  • HR Analytics
  • Global HR Management
  • Leadership and Ethics in HR

Doctor in Human Resource Degree

The doctorate is a terminal degree designed for graduates who want to pursue academic and research careers. It is the highest degree that can be obtained and typically requires 60 credits. This degree takes the longest to complete, with an average completion time of seven to eight years.

HR doctor’s degrees begin with two years of intensive coursework. Students will then declare a concentration and focus for their dissertation. Common coursework for this degree includes:

  • Behavioral Sciences
  • Current Issues in Organizational Behavior
  • Organization Theory
  • Survey of Social Psychology
  • Dissertation

Why Pursue a Human Resources Degree?

The associates degree in human resource management program is a strategic first step for an HR career. These degrees are quick and affordable. Yet, you still need to pursue at least a bachelor’s degree to unlock mid-level opportunities in the field. 

Bachelor’s and master’s degrees tend to be expensive, but the ROI will be worth it. Human resources is a fundamental component of any organization, regardless of size and sector.

Businesses, organizations, corporations, and even non-profit entities rely on human resources professionals to manage their workforce effectively. HR professionals are now actively involved in the strategic decision-making process as well. They’re no longer restricted to their primary duties of shaping company culture and driving employee engagement. 

You can also apply for various positions outside human resources with a degree. You can pursue a career in consulting and business analysis. Other careers that require understanding human behavior and business principles will also need your expertise.

Understanding the College Education Worth

How long does it take to get an HR degree? The time it takes to obtain a degree in Human Resource varies. Regardless, earning an HR degree is a rewarding investment for your future. 

The job market is very competitive. A college education will equip you with relevant knowledge and skills highly valued in the workplace.

You can have the right skills and determination, but without the right credentials, you might not even get your foot in the door. According to Pew Research, four in ten Americans 25 years old and older have a bachelor’s degree to be competitive. 

Regarding ROI, human resource degree graduates have significant career advancement opportunities. In May 2023, the median yearly wage for HR specialists was $67,650, with the top 10% earning more than $121,800. 

But if you want to earn more in your lifetime, you should consider earning a master’s degree. According to the NCES, master’s degree holders earn 21% more than the median earnings of bachelor’s degree graduates. Moreover, the former has lower unemployment rates than the latter, according to US BLS.

As for doctoral degrees, they represent the highest academic achievement. Yet, they can only be beneficial if you want to pursue academia or high-level research positions. For HR paths, a master’s degree is already enough to advance to leadership roles. 

Tuition Paying Tips and Financial Aid Opportunities

The cost of higher education can be daunting. Associate degrees alone, which are known to be affordable, have an average cost of $36,000. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees cost double or triple the amount. Here are a few good tips to help you manage the cost of your degree:

  1. Enroll in accredited schools. Accredited HR schools ensure you receive high-quality education and are eligible for federal financial aid programs. 
  2. Consider online programs. This learning format is typically more affordable than traditional programs. You’ll be able to save on non-academic expenses like transportation, housing, and meal plans. It also offers flexibility, allowing you to pursue a part-time job to help finance your degree. 
  3. Apply for external scholarships and financial aid. A lot of private organizations offer financial assistance to HR students. Although, this might be uncommon for associate degree learners. Some of the known organizations to provide HR scholarship and fellowship opportunities include:
  • Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
  • The HR Certification Institute (HRCI)
  • The National Human Resources Association (NHRA)

Moreover, organizations like Unigo and ScholarshipOwl offer non-essay scholarships open to all student types. If you’re employed, you can also seek assistance from your employer through tuition reimbursement programs or company-sponsored scholarships.

Career Prospects in Human Resources

An HR degree, depending on the degree level, opens up various career prospects. You can apply for positions in several sectors, from technology and startups to healthcare and finance. All these industries require professionals to acquire talent, manage performance, and ensure compliance with industry regulations.

Businesses today are encountering several challenges posed by economic downturns and the rapid evolution of workplace dynamics. The general outlook for HR for the coming years is positive. In fact, HR has never been more in demand! 

The HR sector has seen a 105.8 % growth since February 2020, making it among the fastest-growing industries. This is expected to grow in the coming years continuously.

Skills Development in Human Resources Programs

One of the most common questions of aspiring HR professionals is, “Is human resources a hard major?” Yes, an HR major can be challenging. 

Human resources is not just about managing paperwork and conducting interviews. As an HR specialist, your job is to ensure that everyone in the company, the bosses and employees, receives fair and just treatment. Your role involves many skills and knowledge, mostly acquired from earning a degree. 

Pursuing a degree in human resources equips you with transferable skills.

Soft Skills

  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Time management
  • Leadership
  • Inclusive mindset
  • Emotional intelligence

Technical Skills

  • Retention
  • Recruitment
  • Employee benefits
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Payroll
  • Employment law

Advantages of Pursuing an HR Degree

An HR career is both challenging and rewarding. It’s hard to help everyone while simultaneously supporting an organization’s success. Yet, the rewards of having HR expertise allow you to have a career in any industry. 

An HR degree offers several advantages beyond personal financial returns, including: 

  • Gaining networking opportunities
  • Obtaining skills that help you quickly adapt to change
  • Contributing to organizational success
  • Developing a global perspective that helps you understand different cultures and regions

An HR degree provides a strong foundation for continuous growth, learning, and advancement opportunities. You’ll be in demand everywhere.


The HR industry is not something you take lightly. This is why degrees are put into place to ensure that you’ll have what it takes to navigate workplace challenges. 

However, degrees are demanding and costly. A lot of students are afraid to pursue a college education because of the financial burden it may impose. But if you strategically plan how to finance your education, like exhausting gift aids, you can make higher education more accessible.