The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median human resources manager earned just over $110,000 in 2017, which is nearly three times the national median salary. Human resource professionals specializing in compensation and benefits earned a median salary of more than $119,000.
To qualify for these lucrative positions, you need at least a bachelor's degree. This page provides an overview of online human resource degrees, including application requirements, coursework, accreditation, and potential career paths.
Overview of Human Resources Degrees
Human resources professionals manage an organization's personnel, including hiring and training new employees, resolving workplace issues, and overseeing compensation and benefits. Successful individuals in this field possess strong interpersonal, communication, and organizational skills.
Earning a human resource degree online allows you to schedule coursework around professional and personal responsibilities, making this learning format ideal for single parents and working professionals. Most human resources positions require a bachelor's degree. Some human resource professionals seek industry certification after completing undergraduate studies.
Bachelor's programs in human resources often feature coursework in employee and labor relations, and organizational change management. Students study relevant laws and regulations, best practices for designing professional development programs, and common human resource technologies.
The BLS projects the field to experience above-average growth through 2026. Employment for human resource managers and training and development managers is projected to grow by 9% and 10%, respectively, during that period.
You must have a high school diploma or GED to earn a human resources bachelor's degree online. Many schools require a minimum high school GPA for admission, which is usually at least a 2.5 on a 4.0 scale. You may also need to submit results from the SAT or ACT.
Many schools require a personal essay outlining your goals and achievements for admission. You should also plan to submit up to three letters of recommendation from former teachers, employers, or supervisors. Give your recommenders at least two months to complete the letter.
Some schools ask to interview online applicants and may provide an adviser to help online students with the admissions process.
What Will I Learn?
A human resource management degree online typically comprises 120 credits. Students earn 40-50 of these credits through general education coursework, exploring subjects such as English composition, statistics, and history. Students take another 40-50 credits in major-specific classes, such as business administration, management principles, and professional development strategies. The final 20-30 credits come from electives.
Full-time students usually earn a bachelor's in human resources in four years, though students with an associate degree or transfer credits may graduate faster. Part-time students may take 6-8 years to graduate.
Below, are six courses commonly offered in a human resource bachelor's program.
Human Resource Management
Students examine common laws, policies, and procedures in domestic and international human resource contexts. Students also explore the characteristics of effective teams, with an emphasis on group training and development.
Total rewards represents the scope of compensation and benefits for employees, including salaries, bonuses, insurance, and pension plans. Students learn how to develop and administer total reward programs that meet the needs of employees and employers.
Human Resource Strategy and Development
This course explores staffing challenges, how to create a learning organization, and methods of motivating employees and maintaining high morale. The course also emphasizes the ethical and legal responsibilities of human resource professionals.
Employee and Labor Relations
In this course, students examine the relationship between management and employees. To prepare for negotiations with labor unions, students study laws governing contracts, collective bargaining, and union rights. The course also covers topics such as human resource policies, dispute resolutions, and employee investigations.
Managing Organizational Change
Organizational change involves the evolution of companies, whether through new strategies or new staff. Students learn to recognize change as a healthy and critical component of an organization's survival. Students study soft skill development, conflict management, and how to create environments that encourage employee engagement.
Human Resources Capstone
Capstone courses allow students to apply learning to real-world human resources contexts. For example, a student may partner with a local high school to develop a more efficient program for teachers to earn continuing education credits. Students usually take a capstone course right before graduation.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor's Degree in Human Resources?
Students who earn a human resources degree online develop skills applicable to many industries. For example, graduates can work as a benefits specialist for a large company in the private sector or a labor relations analyst for a government agency. Some human resources professionals work at recruiting firms, helping various clients meet staffing needs. Regardless of the focus area, a career in human resources often promises above-average job prospects and salaries.
A human resources management online degree teaches students decision-making, interpersonal, and negotiation skills. Human resource professionals often weigh the costs and benefits of various options to make the best decision. For example, a recruiter may need to determine whether their company should hire an inexperienced candidate at a lower salary or invest more money to hire an employee with many years of experience. When resolving employee disputes, human resource managers must also understand the ethical and legal framework for their decisions. A bachelor's in human resources provides the skills needed for success in such circumstances.
Much of the work in human resources involves interacting with other people, including current and future employees, organizational leadership, and outside vendors. Bachelor's programs often emphasize best practices for developing positive working relationships, as well as theories behind creating and supporting effective teams.
An online human resources degree also teaches negotiation skills. For those involved in hiring and onboarding new staff, negotiation skills are critical to success. Students in these programs learn to prepare for negotiations, maintain situational awareness during negotiations, and ensure that both parties feel satisfied with the outcome.
Potential Careers and Salaries
Human resource professionals enjoy diverse opportunities as most organizations need to hire, train, and compensate employees. If you work as a human resource generalist for a smaller company, you can work on a variety of issues and projects, such as creating an employee professional development program or choosing a health insurance plan that meets the needs of staff. If you work at a larger firm, you may specialize in areas like recruitment, compensation negotiation, dispute resolution, or labor union relations. Other human resource professionals work as consultants and serve multiple clients.
According to the BLS, most jobs in human resources pay significantly above the national median. Below, are five common occupations for graduates with an online human resources degree.
Human Resources (HR) Manager
Annual Median Salary: $110,120
Human resources managers oversee administrative functions related to personnel. They may hire staff, develop training programs, or handle disciplinary cases. At larger organizations, managers often supervise human resource specialists. The majority of these jobs require at least a bachelor's degree.
Annual Median Salary: $119,120
Benefits managers specialize in administering and explaining benefits to an organization's employees. Benefits may include retirement plans, dental insurance, leave policies, or staff wellness programs. Benefits managers usually work closely with outside vendors, and they typically must hold a bachelor's degree.
Annual Median Salary: $60,350
Recruiters identify, screen, and interview applicants for open positions. They collaborate with hiring managers to understand the needs of a department or role, build a pool of applicants through advertising and outreach, and contact references and conduct background checks on promising candidates.
Annual Median Salary: $62,680
Compensation analysts specialize in setting salaries. They must understand an organization's financial position, the market rate for the services required, and laws and regulations that govern the compensation of employees. Compensation analysts may also act as negotiators during the hiring process.
Education Program Coordinator
Annual Median Salary: $60,360
Education program coordinators, also known as training and development specialists, plan and administer programs that help employees gain new skills and knowledge. They may assess training needs through employee surveys or monitor spending for a development program. Coordinators usually work under the supervision of a specialist or human resource manager.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Human Resources?
You generally do not need a graduate degree for most entry-level and mid-level roles in human resources. To qualify for managerial and leadership positions, you may want to consider earning a master's degree or an industry certification.
Certifications demonstrate your expertise and credibility to future employers. Some advanced and specialized positions in human resources may require candidates to hold a certain certification.
The Society for Human Resource Management offers two levels of certification for recent graduates and established professionals. These credentials indicate that you possess relevant skills and knowledge, understand the latest technologies and best practices, and adhere to ethical standards. Other organizations, like the HR Certification Institute, also offer formal credentials.
Accreditation for Human Resources Bachelor's Programs
When choosing an online human resources degree, make sure to select an accredited program. By participating in the voluntary accreditation process, a school demonstrates that it meets high academic standards and provides adequate career preparation for students. Accreditation expands financial aid, employment, and education opportunities.
Nonprofit and public universities typically hold regional accreditation from an organization like the Higher Learning Commission. For-profit schools may hold national accreditation from a group like the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, a nonprofit that accredits many online programs in the United States.
Programs within a higher learning institution may earn programmatic accreditation. The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs is the primary accreditor for human resource programs.
To confirm that your school or program holds accreditation, check the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's online directory.
Human Resources Professional Organizations
Online human resources degree students and graduates benefit from joining professional organizations. These groups often host regional and national networking events, allowing you to meet colleagues, share best practices, and learn about professional opportunities. They may also provide online and in-person professional development resources, including certification programs required by some employers. Additionally, many of these organizations offer assistance to recent graduates, such as advice on finding your first job or formal mentorship programs.
With more than 300,000 members in 165 countries, the SHRM is the largest professional organization for human resource professionals in the world. It offers two industry credentials and a variety of professional development resources.
The ATD supports the work and professional growth of training and development professionals. Members can attend events, participate in online affinity groups, pursue certifications, and access an online library of training resources. The ATD also maintains a job board on its website.
The HCI serves talent management and development professionals. It offers updated research on topics such as strategic workforce planning, values and culture, and onboarding. It also administers a certification program, organizes networking events, and provides consulting services to corporations.