Bachelor’s degree in human resources
A bachelor’s degree in human resources provides students with the tools they need to help organizations manage and improve that most valuable of assets – the people who make businesses, agencies, and nonprofits hum.
As part of a human resources degree program, students learn about the many facets of a modern HR operation, including recruiting, hiring, onboarding, training, evaluation, and retention.
A bachelor’s in human resources also provides valuable insights into many issues at the heart of business today, including diversity, equity, and inclusion, team dynamics, leadership development, coaching, and personnel policies.
What is human resource management?
Human resource management, also referred to as HR or HRM, is the set of processes and practices related to recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and supporting the employees of large and small organizations.
Is human resources a good major?
From candidates and managers to hiring staff and supervisors, HR professionals work first and foremost with people. If that kind of work interests you, this can be an excellent major. Economic considerations are another important way to choose a major. See below for the economic breakdown of a human resource degree.
Human resources degree salary
The below is a short-term earnings comparison between the entire bachelor’s degree market and the bachelor’s in HRM. It is a snapshot of earnings 3 years after graduation.
Bachelor’s in human resources
The above table provides a snapshot of earnings 3 years after graduation. We compare the earnings of all bachelor degree recipients to those who graduated from this specific program.
The below is a longer-term estimate of degree performance. It is based on census survey data detailing people’s major, age, and salary.
While the impact of an HR bachelor’s degree may be slightly below average from a starting salary perspective, there is ample job security. Given the rapid changes in how work is done, the challenges of attracting and retaining talent, and the need for competitive job packages, an HR career can ensure steady and stable career opportunities.
How to choose a human resources program
Ask yourself the following questions when picking the best HR program for you:
1. Do I want to study online or in person?
With over 30% of HR bachelor’s programs available fully online, this is an excellent major to consider for online study.
2. Can I commit to full-time study?
If your answer is no, be sure to check whether your preferred school offers part-time study. This may be more common in online or hybrid programs, which also tend to be more flexible in other ways.
3. How much money can I invest in my education?
Tuition is lower at public schools, but private colleges may be more likely to offer grants and scholarships.
4. Do I want to study at a local school or an out-of-state college?
Whichever you ultimately decide on, you can check out our state rankings to find the programs that offer the best long-term economic payback.
Top bachelor’s in human resources programs
Find below our ratings of the comparative earnings, costs, and payback rates of different human resource degree programs. Please review our methodology for more information on what metrics we look at, and how to determine comparative value between institutions.
Net cost: The median annual cost of all students that receive any aid. This does not refer to the “sticker price”, the price listed by the college.
Payback: The amount of time in years it takes to pay off the median net cost by the median earnings. For this calculation, the median earning of high school graduates (in the school’s home state) are deducted from the median earnings.
Earnings: The median earnings of students 10 years after enrollment. This includes both students that do and do not graduate, across all majors.
Degree premium: The difference between the school’s median earnings and the state median earnings at the same degree level. Also referred to as vs. state average
Ranking: The payback rate is divided by the degree premium (set as a percentage), the lower the number the higher the rank. (i.e. payback=1, degree premium 20% higher than state school median: 1/120% = .883.
Economic score: The economic score is calculated by dividing the payback by the degree premium percentage. The lower the score the better. For instance – if a school has a payback rate of 1 and earnings are 20% higher than the state median, the economic score calculation would be: 1/120% =.83
Grad rate: The percentage of students that graduate from the school or program. If a grad rate is in red, it is below the relevant state average; schools with graduation rates in the lowest 25% nationally are pushed to the back of our rankings tables.
Admission rate: The percentage of applying students that are admitted.
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Admission rate: 27%
Grad rate: 93%
Net cost: $15,336
Vs. state average: $31,788
Economic score: 0.68
University of Washington-Seattle Campus
Admission rate: 56%
Grad rate: 84%
Net cost: $13,297
Vs. state average: $27,069
Economic score: 0.77
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan
Admission rate: 77%
Grad rate: 81%
Net cost: $19,173
Vs. state average: $27,025
Economic score: 1.03
California State University-Dominguez Hills
Admission rate: 82%
Grad rate: 64%
Net cost: $4,215
Vs. state average: $258
Economic score: 1.08
Brigham Young University
Admission rate: 70%
Grad rate: 85%
Net cost: $13,322
Vs. state average: $23,848
Economic score: 1.09
Admission rate: 10%
Grad rate: 96%
Net cost: $24,664
Vs. state average: $30,423
Economic score: 1.18
Florida International University
Admission rate: 58%
Grad rate: 66%
Net cost: $7,296
Vs. state average: $1,867
Economic score: 1.36
San Jose State University
San Jose, California
Admission rate: 68%
Grad rate: 75%
Net cost: $14,928
Vs. state average: $18,551
Economic score: 1.37
California State University-Fresno
Admission rate: 91%
Grad rate: 68%
Net cost: $5,464
Vs. state average: $-588
Economic score: 1.43
Camden, New Jersey
Admission rate: 77%
Grad rate: 69%
Net cost: $13,660
Vs. state average: $9,355
Economic score: 1.59
What to expect from an undergraduate HR program
Most bachelor’s degrees in human resources require a 4-year commitment, though online programs can be completed in much less time, especially if a student is transferring credits from an associate degree.
Along with core coursework in electives like accounting, economics, marketing, mathematics, statistics, writing, social science, psychology, business communication, finance, and records management, HR-specific courses you can expect include:
- compensation management
- employee benefits management
- employee development and training
- human resources information technology
- human resources management: a strategic framework
- human resources policies
- industrial psychology
- international human resources
- managing a diverse workforce
- managing employee health and safety
- organizational behavior
- personnel management
- reward systems and performance management
- staffing organizations
- training and development
Colleges offer both bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees in human resources. In most cases there is very little difference in coursework.
In a recent survey, the majority of HR managers reported believing Tuesday is the most productive day of the week.
Online human resource degree
Online human resources degrees are increasingly available. Some of the top schools in the nation, including those primarily known for offering in-person programs, now offer online HR degrees.
Bachelor’s in human resources
Note that partially online (hybrid) programs have been omitted from the table.
Paying for your degree – cost, financial aid, scholarships
As is typical with higher education degrees, earning a bachelor’s degree at a private college or university costs more.
See above how cost and earnings vary depending on the type of institution. Payback refers to how many years it takes students to cover the median costs while earning the median salary. Payback is calculated by subtracting the median earnings of a high school graduate from the median earnings related to this degree.
The earnings differences between students from all 3 types of institutions is minimal, with degree holders from private institutions earning slightly more than for-profit and public graduates.
As with all degree programs, the most important step to securing financial aid involves completing the FAFSA, available on the Federal Student Aid website. There are scholarships designed especially for students pursuing a career in human resources. Follow the link below to learn more.
Human resources career options
Wondering what you can you do with a human resource management degree? At smaller companies, HR employees do a bit of everything, from managing hiring processes to hosting onboarding and orientation sessions. In larger organizations, employees usually specialize in a single domain of HR, such as recruitment, onboarding, or compensation . Learn how to get into HR and the roles you can pursue on our Careers in HR page.
Want to meet lots of interesting people and help organizations solve complex issues? A career in HR, starting with a bachelor’s degree, is a smart path to take. A bachelor’s level human resource degree helps position you at the forefront of critical decisions around who is hired, how they are treated, and how to keep them employed and thriving. If you’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree and are looking for advanced education and career options, then a master’s degree in human resources may interest you.
Bachelor’s in human resources FAQs
What degree do you need for human resources?
A bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite to most entry-level and nearly all managerial and leadership roles in an HR office.
What are the most common specialties in HR?
The number and organization of specialized areas in HR will depend on the size and complexity of the organization. Among the most common are:
- recruitment and hiring
- employee development and training
- safety and health
- employee and labor relations
Why is HR important?
HR offices engage and interact with employees at every stage of employment. HR is playing an increasingly more strategic role, with many HR positions now C-suite roles. HR strategy helps organizations identify future needs and recruits and trains employees for emerging and evolving workforce needs.
Do I need an advanced degree or certification to work in HR?
An advanced degree is not necessary for an entry-level position. However, many HR professionals eventually pursue a master’s degree to provide additional expertise. There are also certificate programs available from colleges, universities, and professional organizations.
SHRM is the world’s largest HR organization, providing publications and research, certifications, and conferences for its members.
AHRD studies the HR development processes, practices, and theories.
The HCI helps members keep up with HR trends through research, conferences and certification programs.