Human Resources Degrees and Certifications That Lead to Better HR Jobs

Human Resources professionals often aim for higher degrees to improve their opportunities for promotion and better pay

By Kevin Walker
Posted 2012

Top HR Degrees and Certifications
Top HR Degrees and Certifications

Like professionals in most occupations, human resources employees with advanced human resources training, certification and degrees can make better candidates for more challenging, higher-paying jobs.

For example, a human resources assistant earns an average of $29,990 a year with a high school diploma, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while a human resources specialist earns an average of $52,690 with a bachelor’s degree. A _human resources manager with a master’s degree can earn an average of $99,180, according to BLS statistics.

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Human Resources Jobs Growing Over Next Decade

Federal projections call for the number of human resources jobs to grow as the economy improves this decade and employers hire more workers. For example, almost 91,000 new human resources specialist jobs will be added by 2020, according to the BLS, a 21% gain. That’s a faster rate than the average of all other occupations.

The number of human resources managers also will grow by 13%, about the national average, while the number of assistants will grow only 7% -- another case for using education to move up the career ladder.

Human Resources Bachelor Degree Programs

In most cases, employers prefer to hire candidates for human resources specialist or generalist jobs who have earned a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business or a related field. Some employers will consider those with degrees in other fields, especially if they have some experience in a human resources department or took classes in subjects such as labor relations, organizational development or industrial psychology.

A human resources degree “builds a strong foundation for becoming a successful professional in the field of human resources,” according to Merry Lee Lison, board member of the Society For Human Resource Management (SHRM). On the SHRM Web site, Lison wrote, “Whenever I have the opportunity to hire entry level human resources professionals, one of the first things I look for on the resume is an HRM (human resources management) degree.”

There are hundreds of human resources-related undergraduate programs, according to the SHRM site. Whatever human resources degree program you enter, at some point you can choose to either specialize (in such areas as recruiting or employee training, for example) or become a generalist.

Human Resources Master’s Degree Programs

An MBA or a master’s in science in human resources development can open the door to the top levels of management in a human resources department. As with most professions, those attaining a master’s degree will find themselves with a better chance to get promoted to the highest-paying jobs.

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Human resources management often involves overseeing a team that specializes in one area of human resources, such as the interview process. At the highest levels, a human resources manager works with managers of other departments to develop the overall strategic goals of the company.

A human resources manager can also serve as the link between a company’s executive team and employees.

Human Resources Certification Programs

Attaining professional certification in human resources can further your career by giving you the latest best practices for human resources management as well as further training in such areas as performance management and employee recruitment.

The three main certifications, as listed by the Human Resources Certification Institute, are:

  • Professional in Human Resources. This certification is designed for those still early in their human resources career who focus on policy implementation, tactics and logistics. There are six areas of focus: business management and strategy, workforce planning and employment, human resources development, compensation and benefits, employee and labor relations and risk management.
  • Senior Professional in Human Resources. This certification is designed for those who have six or more years of experience and who plan, rather than implement, human resource policy. The areas of focus are the same as with the Professional in Human Resources certification, but concentrated more on big picture issues that affect an entire company, not just human resources.
  • Global Professional in Human Resources. This certification is designed for human resources professionals who have responsibilities in multiple countries and who focus on helping a company achieve global growth and business goals.

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