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Best Degrees for a Career in Human Resources

Human resources (HR) can be an excellent career choice. As organizations find it increasingly important to create supportive work environments and foster positive employer/employee relations, job opportunities in human resources will continue to expand. For qualified HR professionals, this can translate to a wide range of career options, whether in benefits, payroll, recruitment, training, workplace ethics, personnel law, management, or strategic development.

The best way to break into the field of HR is to plan your education accordingly. Learn about top degrees in HR to identify an educational path that will help you meet your career goals.

Top Degrees in Human Resources for Entering the Profession

In the realm of human resources, experience matters. Many employers look for applicants who understand the flow of HR departments and who have some experience with HR functions. That said, the right education could fill in the gaps and help you get your foot in the door.

For most entry-level positions, a bachelor's is the best degree program. HR clerks and assistants, however, are occasionally hired with only an associate's degree.

Alternatively, if you have some HR experience but lack the education credentials, you might want to consider professional certification. Some require college coursework, while others are conferred based on work experience and an examination.

Bachelor of Arts in Human Resources: The Best Degree in HR

While not widely available, a bachelor's in human resources is the best college degree. HR courses may also be included within a business major. If you prefer to keep your education general, a broad liberal arts background may provide good preparation for an HR career, particularly if you take courses in the social and behavioral sciences, interpersonal communications, management, and finance.

If you're starting out with a bachelor's degree, you may land an entry-level job as a human resources assistant, payroll or benefits assistant, human resources clerk, or junior recruiter. With one or two years' experience, you might qualify for one of many higher-level positions, such as a benefits, recruitment, or payroll specialist, trainer, or HR generalist.

Top Degrees in Human Resources at a Master's Level

For some human resources jobs, a master's is the top college degree. Human resources managers, consultants, and strategic analysts often need this advanced degree to secure a high-level position, particularly with a large company where jobs are competitive and pay is lucrative.

Generally, the best human resources degree is a Masters of Human Resource Management (MHRM), although some employers look upon an MBA with equal favor. If you choose to pursue an MBA, specializations in human resources management, labor relations, or human resource administration are the best degrees. Human resources professionals may also secure a position with an MA in Human Resources, another top HR degree at a master's level.

Postgraduate certificates in human resources are also available, and usually represent a shorter time commitment than a traditional master's degree.

The Doctorate: The Top Degree for Researchers

For the aspiring researcher or professor, doctorates are top degree programs. HR professionals with PhDs generally work in academic settings as teachers and researchers.

Human Resources: A Career That Can Pay Off

As of 2009, the median annual wages for human resources professionals included the following:

  • Human resources managers: $105,510
  • Compensation and benefits managers: $95,230
  • Compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists: $58,520
  • Employment, recruitment, and placement specialists: $54,530

By choosing the best degree in human resources for your career ambitions, you could set yourself up for a rewarding and lucrative career.

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