What is a Human Resources Management Degree?

People are the lifeblood of organizations. Human resources (HR) managers are the professionals entrusted to build teams of people to execute organizational strategy. Their responsibilities are to understand employment relationships, improve corporate culture, increase employee productivity, and create great workplaces.

Degree programs in human resources management (HRM) are founded on the basics of business. Foundational courses, therefore, include business math, economics, accounting, organizational behavior, and business information systems. More advanced classes cover finance, strategy, and consulting skills and focus on the HR functions of health and safety, compensation and benefits, training and development, recruitment and hiring, employee onboarding and retention, human resources management systems, performance measurement, HR planning, and labor relations and conflict management.

In short, an HRM degree prepares students to deliver best practices in human resources, to work at the interface of people and business.

Program Options

Diploma or Certificate in Human Resources Management – Up to Two Year Duration
While diploma programs offer a more in-depth curriculum than certificate programs, both are designed to provide an accelerated introduction to the human resources field.

Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources Management – Four Year Duration
The bachelor’s degree is the most common degree held by human resources professionals, and the one that is generally required for entry into the field. The curriculum is comprehensive and prepares students for positions ranging from entry-level to middle management.

Despite the differences described above, courses like the following are at the heart of all undergraduate human resources management programs:

  • Business Information Systems
  • Business Communication
  • Microeconomics
  • Accounting
  • Introduction to Operations Management
  • Business Mathematics
  • Business Data Analytics
  • Principles of Management
  • Macroeconomics
  • Introduction to Human Resources Management
  • Essentials of Marketing
  • Business Statistics
  • Project Management
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Human Resources Management Law
  • Finance Administration
  • Competency Design and Analysis
  • Human Resources Management Systems
  • Introduction to Labor Relations
  • Training and Development
  • Employment Relationships and Conflict Management
  • Human Resources Planning
  • Management Science
  • Management Policy
  • Human Resources Dynamics Workshop
  • Recruitment and Selection
  • Benefits Administration
  • People Analytics
  • Performance Management Systems
  • Compensation Management
  • Business Consulting Project / Developing a Solution to Real Human Resource Problem
  • Introduction to Safety for Human Resources

Master’s Degree in Human Resources Management – Two Year Duration
At the master’s level students take some required courses but can design their program in consultation with a faculty member, to focus on their particular area of interest. The master’s program’s culminating requirement is typically a thesis based on original research. Some schools may offer a non-thesis/project option. The HR master’s may also be offered as a specialization within a general or executive MBA program.

Doctoral Degree in Human Resources Management – Up to Eight Year Duration
The master’s program involves a lot of taught courses. It emphasizes the transition from pure subject learning to independent research. On the other hand, the doctoral degree is like a very long dissertation project. Ph.D. students have a great deal of independence. They have the benefit of supervision from a faculty advisor and may complete some taught classes, but their focus is on their independent research, on contributing original – new – knowledge to the field of human resources management. The Doctoral Degree in Human Resources Management is targeted at students who aspire to careers as university professors, researchers, or industry executives.

The courses taken by individual master’s degree and Ph.D. candidates will vary, depending on the focus of their thesis or dissertation. Below are some examples of specialization tracks and related courses that may be available to graduate students in human resources management. Specific concentration options will vary from school to school. Programs emphasize learning from experience – from real-world case studies to employer-based projects.

Artificial Intelligence for Human Resources

  • Human Resources Information Processing
  • Advanced Analytical Utilization
  • AI Communication and Visualization
  • Probability Theory and Introductory Statistics
  • Data Mining Application
  • Decision Support and Business Intelligence
  • Data Management and Big Data

Digital Human Resources

  • Digital Human Resources Platforms
  • Introduction to Analytics
  • Probability Theory and Introductory Statistics
  • Decision Support and Business Intelligence
  • Communication and Visualization for Data Analytics
  • Data Management and Big Data
  • Implementation and Management of Social Media Channels and Online Communities

Global Talent Management

  • Global and Comparative Employment / Employee Relations
  • Global Talent Acquisition and Mobility
  • International Compensation
  • Developing Sustainable Global Leadership
  • Strategies for Cross-Cultural Facilitation and Negotiation
  • Foundations of Developing Cultural Awareness
  • Global Literacy, Culture, and Community


  • Developing Your Leadership Capability
  • Professional Leadership / Core Leader Experience
  • Developing Organizational Success through Leadership Development
  • Ethical Leadership
  • Strategy Development and Implementation
  • Developing Sustainable Global Leadership
  • Innovation and Organizational Transformation
  • Leadership Communication

Organizational Communication

  • Ethical Issues in Organizational Communication
  • Intercultural Communication
  • Communication Networks and Managing Information
  • Digital Era Skills: Platforms, Tools, and Techniques
  • Negotiation, Mediation, and Facilitation
  • Crisis Communication
  • Group Dynamics and Interpersonal Conflict: Meeting Management
  • Organizational Communication Assessment

Project Management

  • Foundations of Project Management
  • Project Management Practices
  • Leading Remote Project Teams
  • Project Scope Management
  • Project Resource Management
  • Project Stakeholder Management
  • Communication Skills for Project Managers

Degrees Similar to Human Resources Management

Degree programs in accounting prepare students for the work of gathering, recording, analyzing, interpreting, evaluating, and communicating financial information. This includes examining accounting records, reconciling accounts, preparing financial reports, and completing tax returns. The typical curriculum includes classes in mathematics, business management, business communication, business research, finance, and economics.

Administrative Assisting
Administrative assisting education programs train students to work in office support roles such as executive assistant, administrative assistant, administrator, administrative services manager, or secretary.

Business Administration
Business administration includes overseeing finances, staffing, and contract negotiations. A business administration degree program, therefore, teaches students how to plan, organize, and direct all the activities of an organization.

Entrepreneurship students learn how to build, promote, and manage their own or others’ businesses. Common classes are entrepreneurial finance, foundations of entrepreneurship, investor relations and funding, new product design and development, and business plans.

Hospitality Management
Degree programs in hospitality management teach students how to operate hotels, restaurants, and other businesses that serve business travelers and vacationers. Coursework may vary from one curriculum to another, depending on whether the program offers general hospitality management training or is focused on a specialty area, such as travel agency operations, restaurant management, or hotel management.

Hotel Management
Degree programs in hotel management prepare students for careers as managers of hotels, motels, resorts, and other lodging businesses. The typical curriculum includes an internship, during which students have an opportunity to work in the field and learn from seasoned professionals. This hands-on experience is preceded by coursework in areas such as human resource management and hospitality operations, sales, marketing, and accounting.

International Business
Students of international business study business from a global perspective. They learn how to work cross-culturally, how to manage multinational businesses, and how to turn local and national companies into international corporations. Coursework often includes some foreign language studies, as well.

Labor Relations
The labor relations degree looks at employment relations in social, legal, political, and economic contexts. It appeals to aspiring trade unionists and human resource specialists.

Management Information Systems
Students who major in management information systems learn how to build systems to retrieve and store information. They take courses in database architecture and management, multimedia systems, and human/computer interaction.

This degree field is focused on activities undertaken by businesses to promote the buying or selling of products and services. Students study advertising and promotion, marketing communications, international marketing, marketing management, sales and sales management, consumer behavior, marketing research, and marketing strategy.

The scientific study of the mind and behavior is the focus of psychology degree programs. In simple terms, psychology students study the way that humans and animals act, feel, think, and learn.

Skills You’ll Learn

  • Fundamentals of Business
  • Management
  • Critical Thinking
  • Project Planning and Implementation
  • Business Software
  • Business Communication
  • Organizational Leadership
  • People Management
  • Strategic Planning
  • Business-oriented Computer Applications
  • Advanced Management Concepts and Best Practices
  • Organizational Behavior and Design
  • Ethical Leadership
  • International Business
  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Information Technology
  • Marketing

What Can You Do with a Human Resources Management Degree?

Human resources management is not industry-specific. Human resources managers are needed in every kind of business. One of the greatest benefits of this is that those who enter the field can look for jobs in areas that genuinely interest them. For instance, someone with a love of culture and the performing arts could seek out an HR role with a theater company, a symphony orchestra, or a music production company. A human resources manager who is a dedicated traveler might end up working for an airline or cruise line. In other words, the number of sectors that human resources management graduates can explore is extremely wide, if not almost endless. Here is a list of some of them:

  • Advertising, Marketing, and Public Relations
  • Aerospace
  • Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries
  • Banking and Finance
  • Charity, Non-Profit, and NGOs
  • Chemical
  • Computer
  • Construction
  • Culture, Music, and the Performing Arts
  • Educational Institutions
  • Energy and Utilities
  • Engineering
  • Entertainment
  • Environment and Conservation
  • Food
  • Government Departments and Agencies
  • Healthcare Technology or Services
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Information Technology
  • Law
  • Management Consulting and Business
  • Manufacturing and Production
  • Media / Mass Media
  • Mining
  • Public Sector and Defense
  • Publishing
  • Retails, Sales, and eCommerce
  • Telecommunications
  • Transportation

Some of the titles held by human resources professionals in these sectors include:

  • Human Resources Assistant / Specialist / Consultant / Officer / Manager / Director
  • Training and Development Coordinator / Specialist / Officer / Manager / Director
  • Director of People Development
  • Recruiter / Executive Recruiter
  • Compensation and Benefits Manager
  • Payroll Specialist
  • Employee Relations Manager
  • Employee Education Consultant
  • Human Resources IT Specialist
  • International Human Resources Professional
  • Non-Profit Human Resources Expert
  • Careers Adviser
  • Labor Relations Specialist / Officer
  • Office Manager
  • Business Professor


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