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Why Earn a Human Resources Master’s Degree? 6 Reasons to Consider

A female human resources professional drawing a chart on a clear-glass dry-erase board

There are some career fields that simply require a graduate-level degree. No one thinks twice about doctors or lawyers who have advanced degrees. But when you work in human resources, the case for earning a master’s degree is less about meeting a minimum standard in order to work in the field and more about meeting your own personal career and educational aspirations. This can bring some challenging questions to grapple with: Will a master’s degree in HR really be worth it? How can a master’s degree change my HR career?

Questions like these are only natural. Earning a human resources master’s degree will take time, effort and money, so you’ll want to carefully consider the case for taking this step. In this article we’ll highlight some of the top reasons for earning a master’s degree in human resources.

6 Reasons you should consider a human resources master’s degree

So, why should you earn a master’s degree in HR? We posed this big-ticket question to real HR pros who have their human resources master’s degree. They’ve shared exactly how earning a graduate degree in this field has had an impact on their careers.

1. A path to higher earning potential

While it’s true some people pursue additional education just for the sake of expanding their knowledge, most people attending graduate school for a business profession also have an eye on their own bottom line. While obviously there’s no guarantee that earning a Master’s degree means you’ll be taking home additional income, it can help provide a pathway for advancement that can help expand your earning potential.

For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that HR specialists—who typically require only a bachelor’s degree—earned a median annual salary of $61,920 in 2019.1 Human resources managers, on the other hand, often require or prefer a master’s degree and earned a median salary of $116,720 during the same time period.1

2. Expanded career opportunities

It’s no surprise that earning a master’s degree in the HR field opens you up to new opportunities and more advanced positions. These roles typically include management responsibilities and job duties that allow you to think strategically about the big picture of your organization.

“Since obtaining my master's degree in HR Organizational Development, many doors have opened for continuous growth in a number of positions,” says Karen Oakey, director of HR for e-commerce company Fracture. Her degree has allowed her to work in HR positions in industries as diverse as construction, retail and IT. Along the way, she was able to “apply HR expertise to the operational business needs, which vary from company to company.”

3. Increased confidence

“The benefits [of an HR master’s degree] are countless,” says Katherine King, CEO of Invisible Culture. Included in her list is a boost in self-confidence—not to mention additional respect in the eyes of her colleagues.

No one likes second-guessing themselves in the workplace. Earning an advanced degree can give you the confidence you need to stand behind your ideas, knowing that you’re familiar with a wide array of expertise on human resources issues. “Now when people contradict me, I feel more peace in the solutions that my body of knowledge provides,” King says. 

4. Professional certification

Professional certification isn’t required for all HR positions. However, being certified can boost your resume by showing employers that you have the skills, experience and commitment to do the job well. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers a Senior Certified Professional certification for HR professionals who “develop strategies and align HR strategies to organizational goals.”

Having a master’s degree can save you a lot of time if you’re working toward the SHRM-SCP certification. Applicants without an HR graduate degree need up to seven years of experience working in an HR role, while those with an HR master’s need only three years.

5. More innovative ideas

“There are many people who want to share their beautiful perspectives and have a voice, but they don’t have the science to back [it] up,” King says. Having her master’s degree has both broadened her thinking and given her research to back up her ideas, which improves the HR strategies she’s able to create in the workplace.

A master’s degree program will expose you to a variety of new perspectives, research and ideas, which you can apply in innovative ways to move your workplace forward. “Before my master’s, I wanted to do good work. Now with it, I know how to actualize that,” King says.

6. Specialized knowledge

“My studies distinguished me from those who don’t have the depth of knowledge that comes with a master’s degree,” King says. An advanced degree can give you a deeper understanding of your HR specialty, whether you want to be a generalist or focus on a particular area such as recruitment or compensation and benefits. This specialized knowledge is just another way an HR master’s degree can help you carve out the career path you want to pursue.

Oakey notes that at the graduate level, a generalist HR degree can take you into director and C-level positions, while specialist tracks are in-demand in larger companies where you can work with other HR teams. “Look inward to truly understand what you want out of this profession and what those career paths are,” Oakey says.

It’s time to level up your HR career

There’s no question that earning a human resources master’s degree will take dedication and commitment. All that hard work can pay off in a big way, helping you achieve new heights in your HR career.

Learn more about the Master of Human Resource Management degree program at Rasmussen College and find out how to get started expanding your growth as an HR professional.

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics. (accessed June, 2020) Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Ashley Brooks

Ashley is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She believes in the power of words and knowledge and enjoys using both to encourage others on their learning journeys

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