Friday, August 24, 2012 13:20 PM

Why You Need a Master’s In Human Resources

In the past, human resources was simply the department where one went to submit resumes, complete paperwork and maybe deal with a problem in the workplace. In recent years, though, human resources has grown well beyond simply an administrative department. It has grown into a vital function in many organizations. At many organizations, human resources professionals are involved with high-level strategic planning, organizational change efforts and complex employee union issues.

As a result, the requirements to work in the field have grown more complex as well. In many cases, an advanced degree in human resources is a requirement for working in upper level positions – in fact, it’s nearly impossible to climb to the top of the field without a master’s degree.

Image by : Lafayette College

Photo by : flickr

Strategic Focus

In today’s challenging economic climate, businesses are looking for new ways to operate more efficiently and maximize the resources they have available, including their workforce and human capital. As they make changesand develop strategic plans for the future, executive teams need the input of experienced professionals who have a solid understanding of the issues that affect the labor force. For example, there is an increased focus on employee rights these days, and a knowledgeable human resources executive can advise management on how to work within the expectations and laws that protect employees.

While the skills that you learn when you earn an undergraduate human resources degree are certainly valid and useful in this context, advanced knowledge is often required – and holding a master’s degree in the field will earn you more respect from other executives who may not understand the intricacies of human resources. Holding an advanced degree also shows that you have a high level of knowledge and understanding, and your input is valuable.

Labor Relations

There’s no denying that the atmosphere surrounding labor unions today is contentious – and largely misunderstood. As more and more employees join unions, and organizations have to contend with union leadership and the issues that employing unionized employees bring, it’s important to have executives on staff that understand labor lawand can provide leadership and guidance when it comes to labor unions, collective bargaining and other important issues.

Many human resources graduate programs include courses in labor relations and some even offer a specialization track in this area, allowing professionals to become experts in the field and land jobs managing labor issues.

Focus on HR Issues

When you begin exploring programs to earn your advanced degree, you’ll find two major types of programs that lead to an advanced degree in HR: MBA degree programs with a concentration in human resources, and Master of Science of Human Resources programs. The differences are important.

When you earn an MBA and specialize in HR, you’ll receive a broad-based education. HR specialty courses are often focused on organizational leadership and behavior, as well as HR as it relates to overall business management.

When you choose to pursue a master’s in human resources, though, the courses are more focused on the details of the field, specifically on the management of people within the workforce. For example, if you enroll in the MS in Human Resources program at the University of Scranton, you will be prepared to make good decisions, develop effective strategic plans, manage collective bargaining and participate in organizational improvement efforts. Other programs offer a similar focus, dealing almost exclusively with issues that relate to human resources functions.

Practical Matters

One of the major reasons students elect to seek a master’s degree in human resources is the potential to earn more money—and that is a valid reason. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, high-level human resources managers, most of whom hold this advanced degree, earn a median annual wage of around $99,000.  If you want to climb the career ladder and earn a good salary, a master’s degree is practically a requirement.

Choosing to go back to school to earn any type of advanced degree is a major decision. However, when it comes to human resources, if you are passionate about the field and want to move beyond administrative functions, enrolling in a master’s degree program is an excellent first step.

About the Author:

Charlotte Harrison has worked in human resources for nearly a decade, and will earn her Master of Science in Human Resources next spring. The daughter of a former union president, she is especially interested in labor relations and collective bargaining.

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