The 10 Best Master’s in Human Resources Schools in the US

As long as there are businesses, there will be human resources departments to keep them running.

A human resources (HR) department employee, quite simply, oversees a company’s workforce. They can do a number of jobs, including hiring, firing, mediating, and looking out for the well-being of the company’s employees. 

HR departments have a hand in helping the workforce grow, such as through training or organizational development. They help manage employee benefits and also are involved with labor relations, like union matters.

Because of this wide range of duties, the department can have an equally varied staff, usually overseen by the HR manager. Other employees might specialize in different fields, like recruitment or benefits, or focus more on employee performance and compensation.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 161,700 people were employed as HR managers in 2020, earning a median annual pay of more than $121,000. That job is expected to grow by 9% between 2020 and 2030.

Also, in 2020, 674,800 people worked as HR specialists, according to the bureau. They brought home a median annual pay of nearly $63,500 that year. The position is expected to grow by 10% from 2020 to 2030.

Both HR specialists and HR managers generally need to have earned a bachelor’s degree, with some companies also looking for managers to have a master’s degree as well.

Below, we’ll break down 10 of the best Master’s in Human Resources schools and what makes them so great.

Stony Brook University (Stony Brook, NY)

Stony Brook University
Kenneth C. Zirkel, Stony Brook University Student Activities Center, CC BY-SA 4.0

Stony Brook students can earn a Master of Science in Human Resource Management after completing 10 three-credit courses. This includes several core classes, such as Foundations of Human Resources, four electives, and a master’s project. 

Students who want to experience the HR world firsthand can add on a one-credit internship in which they’ll have to spend at least 45 hours.

Students can take the program entirely online or on campus. The program takes one year for full-time students and at least 20 months for part-time students to complete.

The university offers two other HR programs, a 15-credit Advanced Graduate Certificate and a 30-hour, non-credit Society for Human Resource Management test preparation course.

Stony Brook also touts how affordable it is, noting that its tuition and fees are 15% less than the national average for public universities.  

Georgetown University (Washington, DC)

Georgetown University
Gtownsfs, Healy Hall at Georgetown University, CC BY-SA 3.0

Georgetown University students can choose from five focus areas when pursuing a Master of Professional Studies in Human Resources Management.

The 33-credit program consists of 11 courses, including a capstone that involves a semester-long long project that brings the student’s education to a close. 

Students also take six electives, which they can pick from a list of 20 wide-ranging classes the university offers. And they can further fine-tune their interests and skills by selecting a focus area, such as Talent & Organization Development or Diversity & Inclusion Management.

Georgetown allows HR students to take classes on campus, online, or both, making it possible for them to continue working while pursuing their degrees. They also can gain hands-on experience by attending events with industry experts and interacting with clients.

New York University (New York, NY)

Students in New York University’s Master of Science in Human Resource Management and Development program learn directly from human capital management professionals.

The program aims to provide students with the tools they need to lead and manage employees within businesses with worldwide reach. 

Through eight core courses and one elective, students learn not only about using data but also about business ethics. They choose from four concentrations and must complete either a capstone project or thesis. Some students also choose to complete an internship.

NYU also offers a related HR program, the Master of Science in Human Capital Analytics and Technology, which the university describes as a “data science-based HR degree” in which students learn about how technology and analytics can be used in business decision-making.

Villanova University (Villanova, PA)

The Master’s in Human Resources Development at Villanova University provides a broad education with lots of hands-on opportunities for learning.

Villanova offers the 36-credit program online or on-campus. Students take two prerequisites to start but can waive the requirement if they have sufficient experience in HR or research writing. 

From there, most of the course consists of core classes, although students do take a few electives, too. They also must finish a capstone experience.

Required courses offer lessons in HR basics, law, and training, among others. Students gain experience in class by practicing how to handle many regular HR tasks they would encounter in the real world.

People working in HR also can take classes at Villanova to earn recertification credits through the Society for Human Resource Management or the Human Resources Certification Institute.

University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)

University of Southern California
Padsquad19, Doheny, CC BY-SA 3.0

Students learn about not only the building blocks of the HR profession but also human capital management at the University of Southern California.

The school’s online Master of Science in Human Resource Management program is geared toward people already working in the field who want to propel their careers forward and those wishing to make a career change into the HR field. 

Students can choose to take the one- or two-year track to complete the 24 required units.

USC’s HR classes were created specifically for web-based learning, and they offer a look at HR basics, such as finding and keeping valuable employees. 

As students move through the program, they’ll study more advanced concepts, including employee relations, along with topics with a global business focus, such as corporate social responsibility.

Ohio State University (Columbus, OH)

Ohio State University Fisher College of Business
Public domain photo by Robert Chriss via Wikimedia Commons

Working professionals can take advantage of evening classes and a part-time schedule while pursuing a Master of Human Resources Management at Ohio State University.

The program, offered in the Fisher College of Business, consists of 39 credits that mix traditional classroom learning with more interactive lessons, such as case studies and listening to guest speakers from the business world. 

Students can grow even more through the Mentor Program, in which people working nearby in HR guide them and help them make connections in the field. Graduates of the program have gone on to work for such well-known companies as Visa and PepsiCo.

The program is open to anyone with a bachelor’s degree regardless of the field it’s in. The school does not require prospective students to study business, take the GMAT, or take the GRE before applying.

Undergraduates can get a head start on the program by pursuing the joint Bachelor of Science in Business Administration/Master of Human Resources Management program. 

Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN)

Purdue University Krannert School of Management
Amerique, Krannert School of Management, CC BY 3.0

Purdue University offers several combined undergraduate/graduate degree programs that let students easily move on to earn a Master of Science in Human Resource Management.

One of the options lets students in Purdue’s Krannert School of Management take undergraduate business classes alongside the required courses for the master’s degree. 

The other combined MSHRM degrees include options for earning bachelor’s degrees in  Psychological Sciences, Communication, or Human Resource Development.

Students also can pursue just an MSHRM. That program is full-time, and students earn the 48 required credits over three semesters. 

Aside from HR lessons, courses focus on management and organizational behavior to give students a comprehensive education. Students take classes alongside those pursuing MBAs, exposing each other to different ideas as they earn their graduate degrees. 

They also can join the campus chapter of the Student Society for Human Resource Management.

Indiana residents might want to take a closer look at this program because they pay much less on tuition and fees compared to out-of-state students: $33,612 for in-state vs. more than $63,000 for everyone else, including international students.

Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH)

Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

Although its name might not sound like an HR degree, the Master of Science in Positive Organization Development & Change at Case Western Reserve University is all about guiding and caring for employees.

The program has been around for 45 years, and its students have opportunities to learn outside the classroom through field projects, something they can complete at the company they already work for or elsewhere. 

Those interested in eventually earning specific credentials or certifications can choose from three concentrations (Leadership, Team and Interpersonal Effectiveness, and Organizational Development and Systematic Change).

The 35-credit program starts annually in January and takes 14 months to complete. Classes take place on campus and online, but the on-site lessons are scheduled in a way that makes it easier for students who live far away to attend.

Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN)

Vanderbilt University Owen School of Management
Public domain photo by Eustress via Wikimedia Commons

The HR graduate degree at Vanderbilt University falls under the MBA program, so students come away with Master of Business Administration in Human and Organizational Performance.

The program aims to give students a strong base to build a career in HR management at the corporate level or as a human capital consultant. 

This is done through lessons on business essentials, such as finance and strategy, along with electives that focus on everything from ethics and negotiating to healthcare and executive coaching.

Vanderbilt also has executive education programs that offer short courses in HR-related topics to help professionals add skills to their resumes. These can include topics such as Negotiation Skills for Managers and Making Strategic Decisions.

Prospective students need to submit customary items along with the application, including a GMAT, GRE, or Executive Assessment (EA) score. 

But they also need to include a more unusual material: a video recording of themselves answering questions to help the school get to know them better. 

Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)

Cornell University’s Master’s in Human Resource Studies program is the only Ivy League offering to land in the top 10.

Students take at least 16 classes to earn the degree, including six in their chosen concentration. The master’s program is geared toward students who have some work experience or recent college graduates who have completed internships. 

Prospective students who have at least eight years of HR work experience are more suited to the Executive Master of Human Resource Management program. 

That degree takes 15 months to complete and is held online with three on-campus sessions.

HR professionals in the middle of their careers, meanwhile, may want to pursue the Master of Professional Studies that Cornell offers in New York City. 

That program features courses in such areas as human resource management and organizational behavior.