Online Human Resources Degrees & Careers

Earning an Online Human Resources Degree: Your Guide to Online HR Education

An online human resources degree program could show you the ins and outs of recruiting, retaining, and managing employees within an organization. You could study HR law and ethics, employee compensation and benefits, and how to develop a winning team. And, you could learn the professional competencies you may need for roles like Human Resources Specialist[i] or Human Resources Manager.[ii]

Earning an HR Degree Online: The Basics

Online HR Degree Programs are typically designed to ground you in the fundamentals of human resources (at the undergraduate level) or help you expand your knowledge in more complex areas of HR (at the graduate level). You may explore the role of HR in businesses and organizations, while strengthening key knowledge areas like training, development, labor relations, and ethical leadership.

Business courses like marketing, finance, and operations management may also be part of an online human resources degree. After all, understanding how organizations are run may equip you to handle challenges related to staffing, employee benefits, and other aspects of managing a business’s most important resource: its people!

Here’s what else you could study in online HR degree programs:

  • Effective communications, such as writing, public speaking, and electronic media
  • Quantitative skills and knowledge, such as accounting and statistics, and how these concepts apply to control and budgeting systems
  • Effective rewards systems, and how to improve employee and organizational performance
  • Laws and ethics related to human resources, including diversity and inclusion
  • Technology and software applications commonly used in business, such as Excel


  • The first personnel management department may have been started by John Henry Patterson, in 1900. Tired of strikes and employee lockouts at his company, The National Cash Register Co., Patterson formed a department to deal with grievances, safety, training, and more.

Courses You Could Take in Online HR Degree Program

The courses you could take in an online HR degree program depend on whether you plan to study at the undergraduate or graduate level. In an undergraduate program, you may take a combination of general education courses, core business courses in areas like accounting, management, and marketing, and courses within your Human Resources major.

Online HR courses may include:

  • Staffing Organizations
  • Compensation Administration
  • Strategic Human Capital Management
  • HR Information Systems
  • Employment Law
  • Global HR and Diversity
  • Employee Training & Development

Here’s a more in-depth look at some of these courses:

Compensation Administration – A course dealing with employee compensation may cover wage and salary, reward systems and incentive plans, employee benefits, and more. Plus, you’ll learn the role of an HR professional in managing these aspects of compensation programs.

Global Human Resource Management – A course on global issues impacting HR may help you understand how to manage HR in an international organization. Cultural competencies, trends in globalization, and practices for staffing across the globe are a few of the topics you may explore.

Human Capital Management – A course about human capital management may focus on theories, concepts, and practices related to staffing. For instance, you could study how to assess human capital needs for specific business goals, present recommendations to senior leadership, and achieve key staffing objectives.

At the graduate level, you may build on what you learned through prior education and experience, preparing for a potential leadership path. Exploration of workplace optimization, complex ethical problems, and contemporary human resources issues may feature in the curriculum.

Online HR courses at the graduate level may include:

  • Strategic Planning
  • Organizational Change
  • Total Rewards
  • Human Capital Analytics
  • Research Process and Methodology
  • HR Analytics
  • Workplace Ethics

Let’s learn more about some of these courses:

Workplace Ethics – A course on human resources ethics may cover contemporary ethical issues and prerogatives organizations must be responsive to, like diversity. Students may examine case studies and apply ethical principles to various professional scenarios.

Total Rewards – A course on Total Rewards covers the many factors influencing compensation, from profit margins to the employee’s education and experience. In addition, you may study pay models and strategies, like incentive plans and success sharing, as well as how to design compensation packages that suit an organization’s needs and goals.

Organizational Change – This course typically explores the role of HR professionals during times of transformation in the workplace, like restructuring the organization or implementing technology changes. You may study theories of change, techniques to help deal with employee resistance, and methods for ensuring employee performance remains strong during disruption.

Both undergraduate and graduate programs may include a capstone project or applied human resources experience, in which students synthesize what they’ve learned in the program. For example, you could analyze case studies, create original work, and explore new ways to solve problems in the workplace.

Human Resource Manager Education Requirements: What You Need to Know[ii]

In most cases, candidates pursuing a Human Resource Manager career track need to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in HR or a related area. For example, you could pursue a human resources bachelors degree online, or alternatively choose to study finance, business management, information technology, or another major.

Some roles may require you to earn a master’s in human resources, labor relations, or business administration. You could potentially earn an online masters degree in human resources, or even an online MBA with a concentration in HR.

Earning a Human Resource Management Degree Online vs. a Business Administration Degree

As mentioned, HR professionals may have an educational background in business or management instead of human resources. It may matter most that you’ve taken courses related to your prospective career path. For example, Human Resources Specialists may need to pursue coursework in business, industrial relations, psychology, professional writing, accounting, and more.

That said, there are major differences between business and human resource management degree programs. Since HR is just one aspect of a business’s big picture, human resources programs may include some foundational business courses but will largely focus on key HR topics like compensation administration, human capital management, and the legal aspects of HR. A business program is just the opposite, featuring courses in a variety of business topics with the potential option to take a course or concentration in Human Resources.

Do I Need to Be Certified to Pursue an HR Career Path?

Human Resources Managers may pursue professional credentials through both human resources degrees and certifications. Generally, certification is voluntary. However, employers may prefer to hire candidates with a professional credential. Organizations that award certification include:

  • The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
  • HR Certification Institute (HRCI)
  • WorldatWork
  • International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
  • And many others


  • 74% of Human Resources Managers earned a Bachelor’s degree, as of 2018. 9% earned a Master’s degree, and another 9% earned a post-baccalaureate certificate.[iii]

Applying to Online HR Degree Programs

If you’ve decided that pursuing your human resources education online is the ideal next step, you’ll need to ensure you meet the admissions requirements. For a bachelor’s program, these may include:

  • Official high school transcripts or proof of GED
  • A minimum GPA (not every program or school requires this)
  • SAT or ACT scores (not every school requires test scores)
  • Essay (if required, this could be a chance to delve into the interests or formative experiences that led to your interest in Human Resources!)

At the graduate level, requirements will be a bit different. In addition to official transcripts from any postsecondary institutions you have attended, you may need to submit:

  • Your resume or CV (emphasizing any experience you may have in human resources)
  • A statement of purpose, generally explaining your interest in pursuing a human resources program, your professional goals in HR, etc.
  • Letters of recommendation from faculty or work supervisors who can best speak to your aptitude
  • GRE scores (some programs don’t require test scores)
  • A minimum GPA, e.g. 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (some programs don’t specify a minimum GPA)

Graduation Requirements for Earning a Human Resource Management Degree Online

So, what do you need to do to earn your HR degree online? At the bachelor’s level, you’ll typically need to complete around 120 credits to earn your degree. These may be broken down into:

  • General Education courses: approximately 39 to 42 credits
  • Electives: approximately 9 to 43 credits
  • Core Business Courses: approximately 0 to 33 credits
  • Courses in the Human Resources Major: approximately 33 to 57

Keep in mind that these are rough estimates, and every program is a little different. For instance, some programs may count core business courses, like marketing and accounting, within the human resources core curriculum.

At the master’s level, earning your online human resources degree often requires approximately 33 to 39 credits, give or take a few. These may be broken down into: core courses, foundational courses, and electives.

  • Foundational courses: approximately 6 to 9 credits
  • Core courses: approximately 6 to 24 credits
  • Electives: approximately 0 to 18 credits
  • Capstone: approximately 0 to 3 credits

How Long Does It Take to Earn an HR Degree Online?

The duration of your program may depend on factors like your schedule and how many credits (if any) you hope to transfer. Bachelor’s programs are typically designed to be earned in about four years, or eight traditional semesters, of full-time study. However, some online HR programs offer multiple, shorter semesters throughout the year.

Master’s level programs are often designed to take about two years of full-time study. That said, online HR degree programs may permit students to learn at a part-time pace. In some programs, you may take as many as six years to earn the degree.

What Should I Potentially Look for in Online HR Degree Programs?

Finding your ideal online human resources degree program may be an essential step to pursuing your goals in this field. Here are some factors to look for as you compare programs:

  • Aligned Curriculum. You may want to pursue an online HR degree program that aligns its curriculum with the standards of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). SHRM outlines guidelines and degree competencies in areas like ethics, communications, relationship management, and more. Finding a program that adheres to the key skills and knowledge areas of an HR professional may help you prepare for potential certification and other career goals.
  • Concentrations and Focus Areas. Explore different kinds of programs to see which tracks potentially suit your goals. For example, if you’re interested in HR and strategic planning for nonprofit organizations, pursuing an online human resources degree with a concentration in nonprofit management may make sense for you. If you’d like to build a core foundation in business concepts but focus on HR as a concentration, pursuing an MBA with a concentration in Human Resources may help you connect the human resources system to the larger goals and processes of an organization.
  • Support for Online Learners. HR programs may vary when it comes to addressing the needs of online learners. Some programs may be more hands-off, while others assign each student a mentor and student services coordinator. Depending on your style, you may want to look for features like 24/7 tech support, courses with no set login times, and high levels of interaction among faculty and students.
  • Potential HR Networking Opportunities. Just because you plan to study online doesn’t mean networking isn’t a priority for you. Some online HR programs don’t offer much in the way of networking (though that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t connect with faculty and fellow students). Others may feature online correspondence with prior HR graduates or even offer an SHRM Student Chapter.

Search Online Human Resources Degree Programs

We’ll match you to online HR degree programs that may be the perfect fit, whether you’re hoping to launch a new career path in human resources or enhance your current role. Just fill out the form on this page to get started.






Is an Online Human Resource Management Degree PROGRAM FOR YOU?

If you want to pursue a career in human resources management, you may consider online courses for many different reasons. Online options may give students the ability to study and attend courses from home. Class schedules are normally flexible and allow individuals to work part- or full-time jobs at the same time. 


There are many career paths you may choose to pursue after receiving online schooling in human resources management. Study what paths may be available using statistics compiled by the BLS.


These professionals handle internal staffing issues and oversee recruitment and hiring processes for companies. They work closely with members of the workforce to analyze particular individual's strengths and weaknesses to move people around in a way that benefits the company. They also have a keen understanding of local, state and federal employment laws. They serve an important role in minimizing liability for the organization.

  • Median Salary: $110,120 per year 
  • Job growth through 2026: 9%  (As fast as average)
  • Typical Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree

Human Resources Specialists (ii)

Human resources and labor relations specialists serve a supportive role to human resources managers, but work on many of the same tasks. They coordinate with employers to discuss the hiring needs of the organization. They file and organize employee records and conduct background checks on potential hires. 

  • Median Salary: $60,350 per year 
  • Job growth through 2026: 7%  (As fast as average)
  • Typical Entry-level education: Bachelor's Degree

Training and Development Specialists (iii)

While HR managers and specialists focus mostly on hiring practices and mitigating company liability, training and development specialists analyze the weak areas of an organization's workforce and develop seminars and strategies to improve skill and knowledge. This may include designing manuals, online learning programs, instructional techniques and scheduling classes for workers to attend.

  • Median Salary: $60,360 per year 
  • Job growth through 2026: 11%  (Much faster than average)
  • Typical Entry-level education: Bachelor's Degree

(i) | (ii) | (iii)