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Guide to a Bachelor's Degree in Human Resources Management

A bachelor's degree in human resources management provides the educational foundation necessary to work as a knowledgeable HR professional capable of supporting the employee and business interests of an organization. Bachelor's-level programs offer a multidisciplinary curriculum that draws from psychology, economics, business, and sociology, as well as a broad range of HR topics.

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A bachelor's can help you qualify for a range of HR positions in management, including roles related to recruiting, compensation, training, and employee relations. With an emphasis on organizational, leadership, and communications concepts, this degree can also help prepare you for future opportunities and growth as an HR professional.

A bachelor's can help you qualify for a range of HR positions in management, including roles related to recruiting, compensation, training, and employee relations

A bachelor's degree in HR is typically offered as a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Human Resources Management, though the specific curriculum, degree requirements, and options for specialization differ between programs.

What are the Prerequisites for an HR Management BS?

Students prepare for a bachelor's degree by taking courses in math, science, and English, says Rue Dooley, SHRM-SCP, the HR Knowledge Advisor with the Society for Human Resource Management.

"Many people feel that a career in HR would allow them the freedom from math and science," he says. "But the creativity, the problem-solving, and the logic and reasoning skills involved in high school-level math and science can help students develop basic tools needed to matriculate through college and while working in the career of human resources."

The following are required for admission to a bachelor's HR program:

  • GED/high school diploma
  • GPA of 2.5
  • SAT/ACT scores; some schools are test-optional
  • Academic references

What is Included in the Curriculum

The curriculum for a bachelor's in human resources include courses like:

Human resources strategy and development.
Gives students an in-depth understanding of HR practices and the roles they play in organizational success
Workforce recruitment.
Presents the processes and strategies used to recruit, select, hire, and retain highly skilled employees
Compensation and benefits.
Covers the methodology related to the design and implementation of compensation and benefits programs
Training and development.
Examines theories and practices for training and development that empower individuals and organizations
Employment law.
Reviews the regulatory and legal foundations of employment management, including termination and discrimination law
Fundamentals in business.
Presents an overview of the business world and the management, communication, organizational structure, and leadership knowledge that managers need to influence the business environment
Business communication.
Helps students understand and develop skills in written, oral, and electronic communications for a variety of audiences
Business ethics.
Covers guidelines for making ethical and socially responsible decisions
Managing a global business.
Examines the challenges of HR in a global environment
Introduction to internet technology fundamentals.
Helps students become proficient in using spreadsheets and other software to analyze and track business matters.

Should I Apply for and Complete HR Internships?

Internships typically aren't required for a bachelor's degree in human resources. However, the real-world experience you gain from an internship can help you determine and achieve your career goals.

An internship can also set you apart from other job candidates, especially when competing for entry-level positions after graduation. "With respect to experience, internships are an excellent way for students to get a foothold into the profession," says Dooley.

An internship can also set you apart from other job candidates, especially when competing for entry-level positions after graduation.

Internships can also help you hone your professional perspective. "If a college student can secure a human resources internship while in college, or several internships with different companies while in college, that student will be a step ahead of competitors and will be learning human resources at a time when their minds are still malleable, permeable, and open to understanding all of the unique nuances of the profession," says Dooley.

While internships in HR are best, internships in other areas of business, such as law or accounting, can also be valuable, he says.

How Long Does it Take to Earn a Bachelor's in HR Management?

Full-time students can complete their program in four years, while it can take between five and seven years for part-time students. That said, the time to complete a degree program varies based on a number of factors.

For instance, if you have work experience related to college coursework, you may be able to earn college credit for what you already know by taking an approved examination that meets your school's criteria. 

A bachelor's degree can set you up for a master's in human resources if you decide to return to school later to pursue leadership and executive roles.

If you earn an associate degree and return to school to advance your career in a position such as HR specialist, you can earn a bachelor's degree in two years or less. The time will depend on the program and the number of credits that you can carry over from your associate degree.

Can I Earn my HR Management Degree Online?

Yes.

Many bachelor's degrees in human resources are online programs. These can be ideal for students who can't attend campus-based programs due to work or family obligations, or because they don't live near a college campus. 

If you don't have an internship, you may be able to earn most, if not all, of this degree online. And with some online programs, you can earn your degree faster by progressing through classes at your own pace.

Students who pursue online learning must also be self-disciplined and motivated so they can prioritize their studies without the accountability and support they may receive in campus classes.

Which HR Management Certifications Does a Bachelor's Degree Prepare Me For?

Professional certifications can complement your education with practical skills and deeper knowledge about HR management. While certification may not be required for an HR role, earning one can help you stand apart from your peers and demonstrate your commitment to lifelong learning in your career. Certification also may boost your salary.

You may benefit from having one or more of the following professional certifications after you earn your bachelor's degree and have some work experience.

SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP)

Who grants it: Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

Who it's for: Individuals who perform general HR duties or are pursuing a career in human resources management

Requirements: A basic working knowledge of HR practices and principles is recommended; no degree is required.

Test format: A four-hour computer-based test with 134 questions; about 50% are knowledge questions and the rest test situational judgment

Prep resources: The test is based on the SHRM Body of Applied Skills and Knowledge. The SHRM Learning System is provided via self-study, instructor-led courses, team preparation, or local chapter study groups study groups

SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP)

Who grants it: Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

Who it's for: HR professionals with at least three years of experience performing strategic level HR or HR-related duties, or SHRM-CP credential holders who have held the credential for at least three years and are working in, or transitioning to, a strategic role

Requirements: Proof of at least 1,000 hours per calendar year working on strategic-level HR or HR-related matters

Test format: A four-hour computer-based test with 134 questions; about half focus on knowledge and the rest on situational judgment

Prep resources: The test is based on the SHRM Body of Applied Skills and Knowledge. The SHRM Learning System is provided via self-study, instructor-led courses, team preparation, or local chapter study groups.

Professional in Human Resources (PHR)

Who grants it: HR Certification Institute (HRCI)

Who it's for: An HR professional who is accountable to another HR professional and has experience implementing programs, a tactical/logistical orientation, and responsibilities that focus on an organization's HR department rather than an entire organization

Requirements: They vary depending on a person's level of education. Applicants with a bachelor's degree must have at least two years of experience in an HR position.

Test format: A two-hour computer-based exam of mostly multiple-choice questions, including 90 scored questions and 25 pretest questions

Prep resources: Self-study exam preparation options include practice exams, exam outlines, HR Body of Knowledge guide, exam preparation courses, HCRI LinkedIn community.


Written and reported by:

Anna Giorgi
Contributing Writer

With professional insight from:

Rue Dooley, SHRM-SCP
HR Knowledge Advisor, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)