What’s the Best Major and Degree for HR Manager Jobs?

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Do you interact well with others? Are you a good leader and feel confident making decisions? Sounds like a career as a human resources manager could be a good fit.

These professionals oversee administrative aspects of a business or organization. They hire employees and handle employee services. They develop company policies and take care of personnel issues. They have many responsibilities.

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To become an HR manager, you need the right training. HR managers have at least a bachelor’s degree for human resource manager jobs. This article covers the kind of degree for HR manager jobs you need.

The first step in working in HR management is to get an HR manager degree. Read on to find out the best degree for human resources and what to major in for human resources careers.

Best Degrees for Human Resources Careers

Human resources managers work in a specialized area of an organization. Because of this, HR professionals have degrees and training. Some have a bachelor’s degree in human resources, while others have master’s degrees in business, HR, or a related subject.

But before we talk about the best majors for human resources, let’s look at the two different degree levels that qualify you for human resources manager jobs.

  • Undergraduate degrees
  • Graduate degrees

Bachelor’s Degree for HR Professionals

One of the best human resources degree programs is a four-year bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree in human resources is the foundation of many human resources management jobs.

In an HR bachelor’s degree program, you take courses that prepare you for the required job duties. Courses in a bachelor’s degree in human resources program cover topics such as:

  • Administrative functions and staffing
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Employee relations
  • Employment law
  • Organizational behavior
  • Project management
  • Strategic human resources management
  • Training and development

But you don’t have to major in human resources. You can earn a bachelor’s degree in a related human resources field. Some human resource professionals earn a business degree (BBA). They take business, communication, and management courses that prepare them for a job in HR.

Master’s Degree for HR Professionals

The starting point for a career as an HR manager is a bachelor’s degree. But to advance in your career, you might need a master’s degree. Some employers look for candidates with an advanced degree in HR.

A master’s degree in human resource management gives you advanced skills for the field. You learn about labor statistics and business ethics. You also study business management. The human resources program (master’s degree) builds upon the four-year bachelor’s degree.

You can earn a master’s degree in human resource management or you can get a degree in a related discipline. Some of the most common master’s degrees that will help you become an HR manager include:

  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Master’s in Business Management
  • Master’s in Human Resource Management
  • Master’s in Labor or Employment Relations

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Best Major for Human Resources Career

HR managers can major in different subjects. Some HR managers choose business because they enjoy studying economics and accounting, as well as human resource management. Others look for a major that is specific to their future career. They major in human resource management.

Here are some of the most popular majors for human resources professionals.

Business Administration

You don’t have to get a degree in human resources to qualify for a job in the field. Many HR managers have business degrees. Business administration is one of the most popular majors for human resources manager jobs.

As a business major you take a wide range of business and leadership courses. They prepare you for jobs in management. Some business programs offer concentrations in HR. These programs offer courses like:

  • Behavior in organizations
  • Labor problems
  • Organizational change
  • Staffing process

A business administration program also serves other roles within a human resources department. These include the role of human resources assistant and talent management specialist. Business majors can also work in benefits administration and employee training. They can also own their own business.


A major in communications is ideal for human resources managers. Why? Because you learn how to communicate in a way that improves workplace efficiency.

A communications major can help you improve your verbal skills. You learn how to resolve conflicts and prevent them before they get out of hand. You also improve your writing skills, which are valuable to an HR team.

Communications courses that benefit HR managers include:

  • Business writing fundamentals
  • Persuasive talk and influence
  • Providing effective feedback

Human Resource Management

Many HR managers have HRM bachelor’s degrees. There are colleges and universities that offer both online and in-person programs. Human resource management majors take classes such as:

  • Business ethics
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Conflict management
  • Employment law
  • Labor relations

Information Technology

Here’s a major you might not have considered relevant to human resource management. But IT is a good major for human resources manager roles in the tech industry.

As an information technology major, you take many computer science and IT courses. But some programs offer an HR concentration. You take human resources courses related to the IT field. Your courses teach you how to manage personnel and hire and recruit new staff.

Organizational Leadership

If you’ve wondered what degree for human resources will get you a job, consider majoring in organizational leadership. This major works well for those pursuing roles as:

  • Benefits managers
  • Employee relations managers
  • HR managers
  • Job analysis specialists
  • Labor relations directors
  • Labor relations specialists
  • Other management positions
  • Training and development managers
  • Training and development specialists

In this major, you study how an organization’s management runs. The focus is on the human elements of leadership. This major pairs well with HR because you study the organization and the people who keep it running.

Human Resources Certifications

You don’t need a certification to work in HR, but they can help your career. HR certifications showcase your knowledge and experience in the field.

To get a certification, you must complete the following combination of:

  • Education
  • Experience
  • Testing

A certification takes time. But the investment can lead to higher wages and better job opportunities. Here are a few of the most popular HR manager certifications you can earn.

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Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD)

Want to become an HR manager? Try picking up this certification. A CPTD certification is for human resource professionals with talent development experience. If you have at least five years of experience, you may qualify for the certification exam.

The CPTD credential tells employers you understand and can impact talent development solutions that drive organizational success. It is a pinnacle achievement in talent development and human resources.

Professional in Human Resources (PHR)

Offered by the HR Certification Institute, the PHR credential is an important one for those with a human resources bachelor’s degree. If you want to become a human resources manager, plan to search entry level positions in HR. But with this certification, you might qualify for advanced human resource management jobs.

The PHR certification demonstrates your technical and operational knowledge of HR management. Depending on your education, you need between one and 3.5 years of experience to qualify for the exam. The exam covers many different topics, including:

  • Business administration
  • Business management
  • Employment laws
  • Labor relations
  • Strategic planning

Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)

There are many different training programs that test your HR knowledge. But to become an HR manager, you should follow specific career paths. One such pathway is to get the SPHR certification.

How do you qualify for this credential? You need 4-7 years of experience, depending on your education. HR managers with a bachelor’s degree need more experience than those with a master’s degree. But with the experience, you can qualify for the exam.

The SPHR examination focuses on leadership and interpersonal skills in the HR career. You must maintain this credential by retesting.

Senior SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP)

With a human resources degree and 3-7 years of experience, you can qualify for the SHRM-SCP exam. This certification is for HR professionals who develop HR strategies in organizations. It tests your ability to analyze performance metrics and other relevant information.

You can find out more information about this certification at the Society for Human Resource Management.

Some schools, like Southern New Hampshire University, offer certification programs. They help human resources managers plan their future advancement and career.

Human Resource Management Organizations

To boost career advancement and open up employment opportunities, HR specialist and management personnel join professional organizations. You can also join while still in school. Here are a few HR professional organizations that can help your HR career.

Academy of Human Resource Development

AHRD is a professional association that helps HR professionals stay on top of industry news and trends. Membership includes access to publications and conferences. You also receive invitations to networking events.

American Payroll Association

The APA focuses its attention on the topic of payroll. So, if you’re interested in becoming an HR specialist who handles payroll issues, consider joining the APA. You’ll get access to:

  • Conferences
  • Educational resources
  • Human resources software
  • Publications
  • Seminars

Society for Human Resources Management

The SHRM is the largest organization for HR professionals in the world. It is popular with HR managers because of the many membership benefits. These include exclusive access to awards, certifications, and scholarships.

Other benefits you get as a member include conferences and seminars. You also receive a newsletter and weekly webcasts.

Other Professional HR Associations

  • Association for Talent Development
  • Human Capital Institute
  • International Association of Administrative Professionals
  • WorldatWork

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How Much Money You Can Make as an HR Manager

HR managers can earn good wages if they have experience and training. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports above-average earnings for HR managers. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for human resource managers is $126,230/year. Human resources specialists earn about half that number, but also have less training requirements.

With adequate training and experience, you can earn six figures as a human resources manager. The highest 10% of earners in this role see $208,000/year. The lowest 10% earn about $75,000/year.

But there are factors that impact earnings for HR specialists and managers. These include:

  • What industry you work in
  • Where you live

Industry Type

The industry you work in can increase or decrease your earnings potential. Certain industries pay human resources managers higher wages. These industries include:

  • Professional, scientific, and technical services: $133,980/year
  • Management of companies: $130,340/year
  • Manufacturing: $125,080/year
  • Government: $102,520/year
  • Healthcare and social assistance: $99,870/year

Geographic Location

Where you live can impact your earnings in human resources management. Certain states and cities offer higher wages than others. According to the BLS, there are five top-paying states for an HR manager. These include:

  • New York: $180,380/year
  • New Jersey: $170,850/year
  • District of Columbia: $162,810/year
  • Massachusetts: $160,460/year
  • Rhode Island: $156,710/year

Top-Paying Cities for HR Manager Jobs

  • San Jose, California: $190,020/year
  • New York, New York: $186,930/year
  • San Francisco, California: $175,410/year
  • Bridgeport, Connecticut: $171,030/year
  • Boston, Massachusetts: $165,700/year

Some of the cities listed above have high costs of living. This factor impacts the bottom line of your earnings. You may earn more, but your money doesn’t stretch as far as it would living in a different area. This is something to consider as you embark on your career as a human resource manager.

While certain factors affect earnings, you can increase your wages by getting a degree in human resources. Having experience also helps improve your earnings potential.

Job Outlook for Human Resources Manager Careers

Over the next eight years, you can expect a good job outlook for human resources managers. The BLS reports a 7% growth in jobs through 2031. This number equates to over 16,000 job openings for human resource managers each year.

But what’s causing the growth?

There are several reasons. From complex employment laws to performance growth of companies. When new companies form or organizations expand their operations, they need people who understand labor relations. This sparks companies to hire human resource managers.

If you have strong leadership skills and a bachelor’s degree in HR, you should see good job prospects for the next several years. But the best job prospects are for candidates with experience and a master’s degree.

Schools with Human Resource Management Online Degrees

There are many colleges and universities that offer accredited online programs for human resources managers. Remember, to become a human resources manager, you need a college degree.

Here are a few programs with online bachelor’s degree and master’s degree offerings for aspiring HR managers. These programs can help you become a human resources manager.

Related Resources:

30 Best Online Bachelor’s in Human Resources

30 Most Affordable Bachelor’s in Communications Degrees Online: Small Private Colleges

Top 30 Affordable Bachelor’s in Business Administration (BBA) Online

Top 10 Highest Paying Business Degrees

What Is the Best Degree Path to Becoming a Human Resources Specialist?

BDP Staff

January 2023

This concludes our article on the best degrees for human resources management roles.

Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris