Human Resources Degree: A Complete and Detailed Overview

Human resources degree

In today's workplace, anxiety about being replaced by robots is real for many workers. Jobs have increasingly become automated in manufacturing and related sectors over the last fifty years and, more recently, sectors of the economy such as retail have hit the verge of near-total automation. Some retail jobs, such as checkout clerks, are being lost to self-service checkout lines and other fully automated solutions. Service-oriented positions that rely on people skills have never been more valued, and a human resources degree is a great choice because it spans all service industries.

Quick Navigation

Steady Growth


Human Resources (HR) is a growing field that crosses virtually all mid-sized and large businesses. it also plays a role in any small business with employees, however informal that role may seem. In small businesses, the company usually blends the human resources position with other critical job roles such as bookkeeping, office management, and payroll... but HR reps, managers and directors still exist. HR job candidates can often learn specific job functions as they become familiar with the business, but a human resources degree is a great one to have to prepare you for such a role.

This changing economy brings opportunities in many people-centered careers. By pursuing and earning a human resources degree, individuals interested in a stable career can find lucrative and rewarding employment in almost any industry.

Human Resources Career Outlook


It is no exaggeration to say that the outlook for human resources as a discipline and vocation has never been better. As a result of fast-changing business practices and a shift from traditional jobs to outsourcing, HR professionals, especially those with human resources degrees, are more in demand than ever. The knowledge and skill set that comes with a human resources degree can apply to literally any business setting, from industrial to agricultural to financial. Earning a human resources degree is also excellent preparation for many employment requirements, from entry-level tasks to executive strategic planning.

Why a Human Resources Degree Matters

To become an HR professional, you may follow education paths ranging from earning a certificate by completing a two-year program, to advanced options that require a far greater and longer commitment. As having an education becomes more of a necessity, the human resources degree grows in value. Few business models continue to use apprenticeships or on-the-job training and, as a result, having a specialized degree is a modern day requirement.

  • From Generalist To Specialist

An additional factor that makes a human resources degree attractive is the range of business careers available to grads and practitioners. From international human relations to forging a specialized role as a Human Resources IT Specialist, the options are endless. As the economy trends toward more contractors performing "gig" jobs, the human resources professional is critical in helping companies recruit employees who might otherwise opt for self-employment. Recruiters for temp agencies are in high demand today, and successful companies usually fill this role with a human resources professional.

Because of all these factors and the ever-expanding applications of technology and automation, the forecast for a human resources degree is positive. Unlike some professions, HR is expanding.

  • Education & Salary

The salary earned by an individual with a human resources degree will vary depending on how much education he or she has completed and many other concerns. Those with a human resources certificate might be offered anything from a starting salary not far above minimum wage to about $35,000 a year or more. If the human resources degree earned is a bachelor's or master's degree, average salaries range from a very moderate number upon hire to $42,000 a year or up into the mid-fifties. Many of the highest-paying positions are as HR managers in corporations, large private companies, and international agencies.

  • Educational Options

As with most degrees, the human resource degree can be either a starting point in your chosen profession or a way to enhance current skills and increase your marketability. A recent high-school graduate might choose a two-year certificate program or four-year degree, whereas a worker with a few years of employment in an HR office might enroll in a highly regarded master's degree program, for example. The flexibility you can gain by earning a human resources degree is tremendous, and online as well as in-person education is available at all levels.

  • Higher Educations Versus On-The-Job Training

Our economic landscape has changed dramatically in the last few decades. Jobs once open to anyone with a high school degree and a modicum of ambition now require certification or a degree. In today's workplace, employers expect new hires to bring specific skills to their jobs and, in many cases, those skills are best acquired through a degree program. Few employers still offer apprentice-type training, at least outside the skilled trades and certain industries. When it comes to office and management jobs, completing formal training or earning a college degree is how most people gain a foothold in HR.

Human Resources Degree Jobs

Coworkers looking at a computer

The range of HR jobs in the marketplace is considerable, from recruitment oriented positions to staff training and executive-level management roles. The jobs you can successfully pursue after earning a human resources degree tend to depend on the size of the company rather than the specific industry. By comparison, consider that a mid-sized farming operation might function like a mid-sized car dealership, whereas a small family farm and a large corporate farm are two radically different business models.

Large Companies

In a large company, whether a non-profit or a corporation, human resources is critical. The responsibilities of an HR professional will vary, but they usually start out in the basic, general realm. This means a person who has earned a human resources degree could begin her career as an HR Generalist, which entails assisting with the recruitment of new employees, assisting employees with new-hire paperwork, and participating in promotions, terminations, and transfers. You may ultimately find yourself working closely with the Information Technology departments or serving as an international rep for the company.

Management and Opportunity


Large companies offer higher-level HR positions, which usually require 10 or more years of human resources experience, in which the HR professional might negotiate contract signings between multiple companies or monitor a large HR department that is continually engaged in keeping the company fully staffed. Many companies consult their more seasoned HR professionals on executive-level decisions relating to long-term strategic growth. In a large organization that is successful, HR is a critical component, and an experienced HR professional often plays one of the most important roles of all.

Mid-Size Companies

A business with a few hundred or more employees almost always needs an HR department to manage this crucial aspect of its operations. Although new hires are not a daily or even weekly event, they do occur often enough that the HR professional may need to manage a number of other employees. In companies that are neither large nor small, you might find an HR staff of two to ten individuals who arrange hiring and ensure that other key business operations run smoothly. This includes payroll, training, travel reimbursements, and budgeting.

Opportunities For Creativity

side view of graphic designer

In a mid-size company, opportunities for advancement might come in many forms. You could soon be assisting a vice president or running a small-to-medium human resources team. An HR professional in a medium-sized company might also lead an effort to formalize staff training or provide more structure to the company hiring process, for example. It is easy to see how having a human resources degree can be critical when taking on more complex functions such as managing an entire department.

Small Businesses

Primarily to establish parameters for assistance and incentive programs, the U.S. federal government maintains a standard definition of a "small business," that limits such a concern to 500 or fewer employees. Many small businesses don't grow larger than fifty employees, of course, but whether several hundred or fifty work in a given company, the HR professional may be the sole person dealing with the hiring and firing processes.

Plenty to Do

Imagine running a small business HR operation, and the variety of skills that are needed. In a small business, there may be only one HR manager and one HR representative or assistant, for example. Since onboarding requires welcoming new employees, orienting them, educating them about company policies, and monitoring their progress as they get comfortable at a new job, you'll have plenty to do. Small businesses are great entry points for those who decide not to earn a human resources degree via college, but to work toward a certificate instead.


The U.S. workplace and workforce have always been competitive. In the past, having any education beyond high school was a huge advantage but today the secret to getting ahead often lies in specialized, advanced education. The main advantage to choosing a human resources degree is that it might offer entry into any business, always with the potential for specialization as the company grows and changes. A second advantage is that HR relies heavily on intuitive and interactive "people skills" that are becoming more valuable as they become more scarce among otherwise qualified employees.

Technological change, globalization, and the proliferation of higher education drive today's economy and workforce. A high school graduate now needs to be strategic in choosing the right education to enter her (or his) chosen profession. A human resources degree opens many doors, and the range of degree programs available today opens a world of possibilities.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: