Human resources are the people who work within a business or other type of organization. These people, whether they constitute a workforce, a research and development team, or mid- and upper-level management, represent a valuable asset that can increase in value when properly managed. Conversely, when an organization’s human resources are mismanaged, it can adversely impact profit margins, public perceptions, and the ultimate integrity of a business entity. Human resources management (HRM) constitutes a formalized system of best practices for managing these human assets, and a body of knowledge that human resource professionals draw on to cultivate, retain, and protect the people who work within and are relied upon by businesses and other organizations.
There are three key functions and areas of expertise that HRM is grounded in: staffing and employee relations; the administration and oversight of employee compensation and benefits; and workforce planning strategies. To fulfill these functions effectively, HRM professionals require knowledge of employment law, an understanding of organizational science, and the development of strong communication and critical-thinking skills. Master’s in HRM degree programs provide instruction in these areas, as well as in other critical competencies outlined by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). These include: relationship management; ethical practice; business acumen; critical evaluation; global and cultural effectiveness; leadership and navigation; consultation; and communication. Many HRM master’s programs have a curriculum designed to prepare students for the SHRM – Certified Professional and/or the SHRM – Senior Certified Professional exams. In addition, master’s in HRM programs typically include training in business IT systems that are used in the field of human resources.
Online master’s in HRM programs use distance learning platforms to offer an HRM curriculum remotely to students who cannot or would prefer not to relocate or commute to a campus-based program. They are designed to offer students who may already be working or have other significant commitments outside of school a more flexible and convenient alternative to traditional campus-based programs. Students in an online master’s in HRM program receive all or most of their instruction online. They complete assignments and exams using a learning managements system (LMS); they correspond with instructors via email, video conferencing, or the LMS; and they participate in online discussion forums with fellow students. Some online masters’ in HRM program may require a limited number of campus visits, but many allow students to complete all of the degree requirements without having to travel to a college or university campus.
While online master’s in HRM programs are a relatively new development, the field of human resources is well established in the business world and in academia. HRM degree programs are often offered through schools of business and schools of professional studies, but they are multi-disciplinary in nature and include coursework in areas related to psychology and education. Most master’s in HRM programs tailor their curriculum to established guidelines articulated in the SHRM’s Competency Model, and they are generally clearly marked as HRM master’s degree programs. There are minor variations in how these programs are designated, and some of the typical names are listed below:
Through extensive independent research, OnlineEducation.com evaluates online master’s programs and classifies them based on their curricula and other clear criteria. All of the online master’s programs included on the site are offered by accredited, non-profit colleges and universities. They must either offer all of their instruction online, or require only a limited number of campus visits. Programs that require more than two campus visits per year are considered hybrid programs and are not included on the site. Each online master’s in HRM program must offer core coursework in core HRM competency areas like corporate communications, organizational structure and leadership, and business and employment law. In addition to master’s in HRM programs, some MBA programs offer specializations in HRM. At this time, this page only includes information about non-MBA master’s programs.
The master’s in HRM curriculum is designed to prepare students to work professionally in the field of human resources, either in an organization’s human resources department or in a consultancy capacity. Students in these programs receive instruction in financial management and workforce planning strategies; organizational behavior, group dynamics, and motivational training; employment law and the ethics of personnel management; strategic leadership and change within an organization; and workplace diversity and inclusion. Through the use of case studies in HRM and capstone projects, students in online HRM master’s programs are encouraged to cultivate creative critical-thinking and problem-solving skills along with the ability to communicate effectively in an organizational setting. The use of business intelligence and other organizational IT systems is also generally addressed as part of a master’s in HRM program. In addition to a core curriculum in HRM, many of these programs offer students the opportunity to specialize in one or more areas of the field through elective coursework or formal concentrations. These can include: benefits and compensation; labor and collective bargaining; employment and labor law; staffing, training, and development; ethics and leadership; international human resources and employment relations; and HRM consulting.
The following table illustrates some of the coursework that is typically found in an online master’s in HRM curriculum.
|Course Title||Course Description|
|Human Behavior & Organizational Performance||A survey of social science theories concerning individual and team behavior in organizations and their impact on individual, team, and organizational effectiveness.|
|Ethical Decision Making for HR Practitioners||Models and theories for ethical decision making in personnel and workforce management.|
|Employment Law||Equal Employment Opportunity law and other relevant legal and statutory regulations that companies must comply with in HRM.|
|Organizational Training||Developing, implementing, and maintaining effective training and education programs for employees and staff.|
|Human Resource Metrics & Statistics||The use of data tools and statistical models to assess and improve the effectiveness of human resource programs and optimize efficiency in the realm of HRM.|
|Talent Development & Workforce Planning||Models for strategic workforce planning, including how to analyze gaps in employee competencies, forecast workforce needs, support talent through career development, and create effective succession plans.|
|Corporate Communications||The use of written and oral communications and public relations strategies to address issues in corporate America, including consumerism, environmentalism, and globalism.|
|Compensation||Compensation systems and theories and how they are applied today to increase motivation, efficiency, and workplace satisfaction.|
Each school has its own admissions policies and criteria, but all online master’s in HRM programs require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Schools generally take into account an applicant’s cumulative undergraduate grade point average, and some may require or prefer candidates whose have a GPA of 3.0 or above. There are also programs that require or prefer candidates with at least one-to-two years of prior work experience. Some programs may waive the minimum GPA and other admissions requirements for applicants who have more than two years of professional experience. It is not uncommon for programs to also request two or three formal letters of recommendation, standardized test scores (GRE or GMAT), and/or a short written personal statement (500-to-1000 words).
While online master’s in HRM programs share many similarities in curricular focus and objectives, not all online programs are the same. There are several key differences in program structures and formats that can differentiate one program from another. These differences can be an important consideration when potential applicants are researching programs. There are three primary areas of program format differentiation: instructional methods; enrollment options; and campus visits.
Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction: All of the programs included on this site offer all or most of their coursework online. However, there are two main types of online instruction methods. Synchronous instruction is similar to an in-person, classroom-based experience in that lectures and other class activities take place at scheduled times. Students in a program that utilizes synchronous instruction must be logged on to the LMS at these designated times to participate. Students in a program that utilizes asynchronous instruction are not restricted in this way. Instead, they have on-demand access to lectures and other course materials through the LMS and are free to view these materials at their convenience. While asynchronous instruction does offer more flexibility and may be preferable for students who anticipate scheduling conflicts, it also requires more self-discipline as students are still required to keep up with course syllabi and meet assignment deadlines.
Part-time vs. Full-time Enrollment: The coursework in a typical master’s in HRM program can be completed in about two years, or four traditional semesters, by students who are enrolled full-time. Some online programs are structured around systems that incorporate four or more terms per calendar year. This can allow full-time students to complete the required coursework in as few as 18-to-22 months. Many programs also offer a part-time enrollment option, which allows students to take fewer classes per term and extends the time to completion proportionally. Full-time enrollment generally requires the completion of three-to-four courses per semester, while a part-time student might take just one or two courses per semester. Part-time students typically graduate in two or more years, and some programs cap the number of years to completion at six-to-eight years.
Campus Visits: Some online master’s in HRM programs are 100% online. These programs do not have any campus visit requirements and students can complete these degree programs without ever having to set foot on the school’s campus. There are also online programs that incorporate mandatory campus visits, often referred to as immersions, into their curriculum. These on-campus sessions may include networking sessions, workshops, lectures, discussions, and other in-person group activities that are meant to develop skills and provide additional training in the field. While there can be advantages to meeting in-person with instructors and classmates, immersion sessions require students to travel and be away from home for a few as two-to-three days and as long as week at a time. In addition, students may incur expenses in addition to tuition costs during these sessions, which may be an important consideration. OnlineEducation.com does not currently include any HRM programs that require more than two campus visits per year in its program directory.