Should I Earn a Human Resources Degree?

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A human resources degree is an academic degree that is awarded to students who have completed a college, university, or business school program with a focus on human resources or human resources management. In business, human resources refer to human capital - in other words, the employees who work for the business. A company's human resources department oversees almost everything related to employees from recruitment, hiring, and training to employee motivation, retention, and benefits.

The importance of a good human resources department cannot be overstated. This department makes sure that the company complies with employment laws, acquires the right talent, develops employees appropriately, and executes strategic benefit administration to keep the company competitive. They also help to assess employee performance to ensure that everyone is doing their job and living up to their full potential. 

Types of Degrees

There are four basic types of human resources degrees that can be earned from an academic program. They include:

There is no set degree requirement for professionals in the human resources field. An associate's degree may be all that is needed for some entry-level positions. There are not many associate's degree programs with an emphasis in human resources. However, this degree can serve as a springboard for students who are interested in entering the field or pursuing a bachelor's degree. Most associate's degree programs take two years to complete.

A bachelor's degree is another common entry-level requirement. A business degree and experience in areas of human resources can often substitute for a straight-out human resources degree. However, a master's degree in human resources or labor relations is becoming more commonplace, particularly for management positions. A bachelor's degree typically takes three to four years to complete. A master's degree program usually lasts two years. In most cases, you will need a bachelor's degree in human resources or a related field before you can earn a master's degree.

Choosing a Degree Program

Choosing a human resources degree program can be difficult--there are many different programs to choose from. The most important thing you can do is to make sure the program is accredited. Accreditation ensures the quality of the program. If you earn a human resources degree from a school that is not accredited by an appropriate source, you may have a hard time finding employment after graduation. It can also be difficult to transfer credits and earned advanced degrees if you do not have a degree from an accredited institution.

In addition to accreditation, you should also look at the program's reputation. Does it provide a comprehensive education? Are courses taught by qualified professors? Is the program in line with your learning ability and education needs? Other things to consider include retention rates, class sizes, program facilities, internship opportunities, career placement statistics, and cost. Looking closely at all of these things can help you find a program that is a good match for you academically, financially, and career-wise.

Other Education Options

Students who are interested in studying human resources have education options available outside of degree programs. There are many schools that offer diploma and certificate programs in human resources in addition to seminars and workshops related to HR topics. Diploma and certificate programs are available at nearly every academic level. For example, there are some programs designed for students who have a high school diploma or less. Other programs are geared toward students who have already earned a bachelor's or master's degree in human resources or a related field. Seminars and workshops are usually less broad in scope and tend to focus on a particular area of human resources, such as communication, hiring, firing, or workplace safety.


Although certification is not required to work in the human resources field, some professionals choose to seek the designation of Professional in Human Resources (PHR) or Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR). Both certifications are available through the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). Additional certifications are also available in specific areas of human resources.

Career Opportunities

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for all human resources positions are expected to grow much faster than average in the coming years. Graduates with at least a bachelor's degree have the best prospects. Professionals with certifications and experience will also have an edge.

No matter what type of job you get in the human resources field, you can expect to work closely with others--dealing with people is an essential part of any HR job. In a small company, you may perform a variety of different HR tasks; in a large company, you may work exclusively in a specific area of human resources, such as employee training or benefits compensation. Some of the most common job titles in the field include:

  • Human Resources Assistant - In this entry-level position, you would be responsible for assisting someone else with human resources duties. Tasks may include recruiting, staffing, benefits administration, employee orientation, employee communication, and other administrative duties.
  • Human Resources Generalist - A human resources generalist is typically responsible for a wide range of HR duties. On a day-to-day basis, you may work on recruiting, hiring, employee communication, training, benefits management, the planning of company functions, safety regulations, and much more.
  • Human Resources Manager - In a management position, you will be responsible for supervising one or more human resources professionals. You will assign tasks and take care of many duties yourself. Your office may be responsible for every aspect of staffing, benefits, retention, and motivation.
  • Labor Relations Manager - Labor relations managers almost always work for large organizations. In this position, your duties may include implementing and overseeing labor relations programs, collecting data and statistics, assisting with contracts, and negotiating collective bargaining agreements.​
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Schweitzer, Karen. "Should I Earn a Human Resources Degree?" ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Schweitzer, Karen. (2023, April 5). Should I Earn a Human Resources Degree? Retrieved from Schweitzer, Karen. "Should I Earn a Human Resources Degree?" ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).