Human Resources Career and Degree Guide
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Associate's Degree in Human Resources: Everything You Need to Know
Looking to begin your career or education in the human resources field? An associate's degree can help with that. As you work to complete this 2-year program, you'll gain basic knowledge of what the HR field involves and how to work within it. The industry is diverse, and you can find HR roles within most organizations, including the government and public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
What Is Human Resources?
As a department, HR works to oversee and manage employment practices within a company.
Roles can involve recruitment, overseeing the hiring process and training, addressing workplace complaints, and managing employee compensation and benefits. What you do as a member of an HR team will vary depending on the job title you hold.
The Associate's Degree in Human Resources
How will an HR associate's degree work for you? From giving you basic knowledge to practical entry-level skills, this degree is a great option for those who are just starting out or want to save time and money on a future advanced degree.
A degree in human resources isn't the only route for working in HR. Concentrations such as business administration, management, and accounting all have the potential to connect you to positions within the field.
Associate in Business Administration: Associate's degrees in business administration give students the opportunity to learn the basics of business law and HR management. This degree can help those entering the workforce earn entry-level positions and seek promotions.
Associate in Management: There are 2 potential paths with this degree—human resources or retail management. Working to give you the necessary skills to lead and manage a workplace, this degree can prepare you for low- to mid-level managerial roles.
Associate in Accounting: This degree allows you to work as an entry-level accountant and can be a great stepping stone for those interested in becoming certified accountants. In an HR department, an accountant with an associate's degree will most often be found assisting with payroll.
Why Earn an Associate's Degree?
One of the main benefits of an associate's degree is that it takes less time to complete than higher level degrees, which can also translate into lower cost. On average, associate's degrees take about 2 years to complete, compared to the 4 years it takes to earn a bachelor's. While this can help you enter the field more quickly, it's important to consider that higher paying positions typically require candidates to have a bachelor's degree at minimum.
For nontraditional students who need flexibility, associate degree programs are designed to accommodate a variety of schedules. From those with strictly online offerings to those made up of night classes, you can find associate degree programs that fit your specific needs.
What Human Resources Jobs Can You Get with an Associate's Degree?
There's a lot of opportunity for those earning degrees in the HR field and many industries employ HR professionals at all levels. General merchandise stores, employment services, schools, corporations, and nonprofit organizations are just a few who need HR workers. With an associate's degree, you'll often be hired at an entry-level position, but many companies offer promotional opportunities, raises, or funding to advance your education.
Typical Degree Path in Human Resources
Although an associate's degree can help you enter the workforce more quickly, many students go on to earn their bachelor's degree in the field. After completing your associate's program, you could set yourself up to begin working while you earn your bachelor's degree, allowing you to gain work experience while growing your education. If you have the ultimate goal of working as a director of an HR department, you may even want to consider going on to earn your master's degree.
Can I apply associate's degree credits to a bachelor's
Most schools do accept associate's degree credits which can decrease your time spent in a bachelor's program by 1–2 years. However, keep in mind that some schools may not accept all of your earned credits, with one of the most common reasons being that they weren't earned from a regionally or nationally accredited program.
Academic Requirements for an Associate's in Human Resources Degree
To enter an HR associate's degree program, you must hold either a high school diploma or GED.
Are there GPA requirements?
Most associate's programs don't require a specific GPA to enroll. However, as you work toward completing your degree, most schools will expect you to maintain a GPA of 2.5 or higher. If your GPA dips below that threshold, you put yourself at risk of being put on academic probation and losing any financial aid you may have.
Do you need to take the SAT or ACT?
You don't need to take the SAT or ACT to pursue an HR associate's degree. However, an acceptable score on one of these exams is often required to enter a bachelor's program.
How Long Does It Take to Get an HR Associate's Degree?
Associate's degrees typically take about 2 years to complete, though this may take longer if you go to school part-time.
Associate's in HR Curriculum
Your associate's program will include coursework on basic subjects such as math and English. These classes are usually completed within the first year of your program and lay the foundation for continuing on to the more specialized areas of your degree.
From public speaking to HR computer applications, most programs cover a wide range of topics that either give you the opportunity to join the field after graduation or work towards a bachelor's degree.
While each school has its own curriculum, the majority of HR associate's degree programs tend to include coursework on:
- HR management
- Employment law
- Business ethics
- Training and development
- Compensation and benefits
- Organizational leadership
- Principals of finance
- Project management
Associate's degree credits
On average, an associate's degree is comprised of 60 credits, but can exceed just over 90.
Online Human Resources Degrees
The flexibility of online HR associate's degrees make them a popular option for students. Students can view prerecorded lectures and work toward completing school assignments at a time that works for them. And with many online classes using e-materials over traditional textbooks, students can also save money.
How to Pick an Associate's Degree Program
Your education is the foundation for your career, so you'll want to make sure that you're getting a quality education that works for you. Use the following questions as a way to assess the various programs you research:
- Is the program accredited?
- Will my credits transfer to a bachelor's degree program?
- Does the faculty have relevant HR experience?
- Are online classes offered?
- What job opportunities do graduates find?
- Are there financial aid opportunities?
- Is there an alumni support system for networking?
Financial Aid for HR Students
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the predominant service used by students to establish what financial aid options are available. Depending on the information you supply—details such as number of dependents, marital status, and income—you could be eligible for a variety of awards including grants, scholarships, loans, and even work-study jobs.
Outside of the FAFSA, many students seek private scholarships. These can be offered by businesses, individuals, and nonprofits. These scholarships often award students upwards of thousands of dollars and require candidates to apply by submitting an essay and basic background information.
Student loan forgiveness
It's rare to qualify for student loan forgiveness if you work outside of the public service or education fields, however, there may be opportunities that work for you. If you have direct federal loans, have made at least 120 monthly repayments, and work full-time in a government agency or nonprofit, you may be eligible for forgiveness through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.