Where Can a Master's in Human Resources Take You?

Here's what you should know about earning a master's in human resources, from the application process to career opportunities and postgrad job-hunting hints.

Washington, DC; Miami; Pittsburgh; Chicago; Bahrain—these are just some of the places where professionals holding a master’s in human resources (HR) are finding work. Graduates can be found anywhere—employed in the payroll departments, contracts offices, recruitment teams, training divisions, performance compensation offices, or labor relations units of many different companies. And because grads with their master’s degree have demonstrated their executive value to those companies, there is another place they are now going: many sit at the “grown-ups” table in the boardroom, providing data to management teams and helping make corporate strategic decisions. So, where can a master’s in human resources take you?

Job growth

If you are looking for graduate education that will lead to a career with job growth, you should consider a master’s in Human Resources Management (MSHRM). According to Vocativ.com, a 10-year job growth study of HR jobs from 2005–2014 indicated a 151% growth rate. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the annual growth in HRM jobs is about 9%. More and more companies are hiring HR personnel because they have come to the realization that it is the HR people who make their companies and organizations successful. While MBAs focus on numbers and finance, the human beings of the company are the ones who drive profits—and the HR managers shape the employees who do!

Related: 7 Ways to Prepare to Ask for a Promotion

Expectant salaries

Because of the growth in the HRM area, individuals with MSHRM management positions such as human resources manager or benefits manager can expect median salaries of $121,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. HRM generalist salaries range from $40,000–$68,000, while senior HRM directors have a salary range of $65,000–$120,000. Regional salaries vary; New York City touts HRM salaries of $85,000 and salaries go as high as $90,000 in Los Angeles and Chicago, says PayScales.com. Salaries can fluctuate by industry as well as the size of the organization.

Meet the graduates

There are many successful MSHRM graduates working in a variety of organizations around the country.

  • Leighanne Levensaler has an MSHRM and is currently the Vice President of Product Management at Workday, a $3 billion HR software company. Her current responsibilities span all strategic aspects of the business from hiring to customer satisfaction. Her background as an HR specialist was in organizational development.
  • Michael Naughton is the Global Learning Leader at Westinghouse Electric Company, which generates $10–$25 million in revenue. The leadership, labor relations, and training and development courses in his MSHRM program laid the foundation for his challenging human resources management career.
  • Nancy Furbee, owner of Furbee Associates, LLC, is a graduate of an MSHRM program. Her company specializes in leadership development executive coaching and group facilitation. Her master’s education in training and development has taken her from HR generalist to company owner.
  • Rawand Al-Salem, an MSHRM graduate, is Director of Human Resources for Rotana Hotel Corporation in Bahrain. She manages the day-to-day human resources operation of a five-star resort with over 500 employees in the Middle East. She found that the organizational behavior course in her HRM program helped her understand corporate culture and subcultures.

Related: Networking With Alumni From Your School

The Human Resource Management curriculum

Individuals choosing a graduate degree in human resources management will strengthen their profile and improve their job opportunities. In addition, the curriculum and exposure to professors with practical experience will help graduates ascend to power positions in their organizations. Students can pursue their MSHRM immediately after earning an undergraduate degree in any major or after they have worked for a few years. Before enrolling in an MSHRM program, one should confirm that the curriculum has been accepted by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), a distinguished and reputable 270,000+ membership organization devoted to human resources and located in the US as well as places such as in China and the United Arab Emirates. Recognition from SHRM demonstrates the commitment to a quality and thorough education for the students attending an MSHRM program. MSHRM curriculum combines theory and practical applications in the areas of performance management, legal aspects, global workforce, diversity, leadership, organizational behavior, and change management and consulting. Usually students will seek elective courses that specialize in areas of human resource employment such as labor relations, career coaching, change management and consulting, and training and development. 

A high demand area of human resource employment is strategic management. Students thinking about HR jobs in strategic management can take human resource graduate courses that give them knowledge in data-driven decisions, organizational development and change, and human resource analytics. This information will prepare the student to be a strategic visionary. In this position, they may have to adjust the company strategy while maintaining the company mission to manage situations, including employee turnover and inter-departmental conflicts, as well as the company’s future in the global market. Laszlo Bock, Google’s HR executive, says that HR professionals are in a unique position where they can influence how all of the parts work across the entire organization.

Another option: HR generalist certificate

An alternative to a full graduate degree is a certificate in human resources. This certificate option within the MSHRM program allows the student to explore graduate education while gaining professional expertise and status. Usually the MSHRM programs that offer certificates will offer an HR generalist certificate that covers the most common areas of HR employment, such as benefits, recruiting and placement, organizational behavior, and leadership. These graduate programs with HR certificates may have other certificates in more specific areas, such as human resource law, human resource information systems, and consulting. After successfully completing these certificates, the student can choose to continue in the MSHRM program and incorporate courses completed into their graduate education, or they can choose to pursue employment in the human resources field.

Related: List: Community Colleges Awarding the Most Two-Year Certificates

Applying for a program

Applicants to an MSHRM degree may present with any bachelor’s degree. Since the graduate student can possess business or non-business degrees, there may be some undergraduate prerequisite classes required prior to the MSHRM program. A waiver of one or more prerequisite courses may occur if the student and their references can provide detailed experiences that the student has had that will then satisfy any prerequisite courses. The GRE/GMAT exam is usually required of prospective MSHRM students. Some schools that have the option of HRM certificates often waive the requirement to take the GRE/GMAT test. Other application items needed include recommendation letters from employers or professors, a current résumé, a written statement of purpose, and official transcripts of your academic work.

Career preparation

Upon graduation from an MSHRM program, students must promote themselves as good candidates for HRM management positions. Highlighting natural talents such as being outgoing and ease of speaking in front of crowds, along with any other people skills the student possesses, should be showcased in interviews or on résumés. Graduates should make use of social media to locate a job and set up a website containing their résumé. They should also join any of the local or national HRM organizations and attend available SHRM sponsored conferences where the graduate can network and find out about open positions with other members and attendees.

Designing a résumé to highlight work experiences so that the student stands out among other candidates applying for the same job is recommended. Tailor the résumé for each application that is submitted. For example, if you are applying for a managing information systems job, you might want to detail all of the data systems that you have experience with rather than your experiences in writing want ads for a local newspaper. In an interview, cover letter, or personal website, graduates should emphasize any projects they completed during their MSHRM education that might be easily transferred for use at a prospective employer. Share some of the new concepts that were learned in graduate classes and how those concepts might be applied to the organization, and discuss capstone research or an internship that would interest a job recruiter, stressing leadership skills.

Related: The Importance of Career Prep: How to Plan for Your Dream Job

MSHRM grads of differing backgrounds are everywhere in business, performing a variety of management jobs and utilizing their practical curriculum that they were exposed to during their graduate education. These grads are in a wonderful position for jobs since there is annual increase in HRM jobs nationally. The places you’ll go with an MSHRM degree span from the classroom to the boardroom and to any city in the world. Richard Mills, author of Hiring Leaders, wrote, “Get the best people on your bus and drive it to greatness.” You can be one of the best people! Enjoy the journey of your MSHRM degree and where it will take you.

Find money to help pay for your Human Resource Management program by searching for scholarships on CollegeXpress.

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