Study Human Resources: Bachelors Degree, Associate & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a human resources associate or bachelor's degree program? Read about specific degree requirements, the pros and cons of associate and bachelor's degrees, and potential careers.
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Human Resources Associate and Bachelor's: Degrees at a Glance

Having a strong human resources (HR) department is essential to operating a thriving business. HR professionals search for quality employees, train those employees, and work to retain them by offering compensation and benefits packages. Earning a degree in human resources will give you the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively manage company tasks that deal directly with personnel. Within the field of human resources, you can specialize in many different areas, including benefits and compensation, employee training, and labor relations.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of HR assistants (which are classified as information clerks) is expected to grow by only 7% from 2010 to 2020. This rate is slower than average for all occupations. Conversely, employment for human resources managers is expect to grow at a rate of 13% (as fast as average), while human resources specialists will see a faster-than-average growth of 21% from 2010 to 2020.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals seeking entry-level positions in human resources Students interested in human resources management or certification as a human resources professional
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - HR assistant ($37,000)**
- HR information systems clerk ($38,000)*
- HR service center representative ($37,000)*
- HR or training specialist ($54,000)**
- Recruiter ($56,000)*
- HR manager ($99,000 - might vary depending on experience)**
Time to Completion 2 years full time 4 years full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 60 credit hours
- General education core curriculum
- Approximately 120-128 credit hours
- Foundation courses in business
- Capstone project
Prerequisites - High school diploma or GED
- Test scores (ACT or SAT)
- High school diploma, GED, or prior college coursework
- Test scores (ACT or SAT)
- Entrance essay
Online Availability Yes Yes

Sources: *Salary.com (May 2012 stats), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate in Human Resources

Most community colleges and technical schools offer an associate degree in human resources. Courses included in a human resources associate degree program will explore how companies and other organizations effectively recruit, train, and manage their employees. You will learn the fundamentals of human resources, including employee record keeping, hiring procedures, and employment laws. Upon graduation, you will be prepared for entry-level positions in the field of human resources or for entry into a bachelor's degree program. Human resources professionals can be employed in almost any industry, including private corporations, government, and nonprofit organizations.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Human resources associate degree programs are easy to find in both online and on-campus formats
  • Degree holders with an associate in human resources can apply to bachelor's programs in other disciplines, including business administration or education
  • The skills learned in a human resources associate program translate well to other industries, especially those where employee management or customer service are required

Cons

  • Most management positions in human resources require a bachelor's degree or higher
  • Coursework in some subjects might not be transferrable, should you decide to enroll in a bachelor's degree program
  • Many entry-level positions in HR require only a high school diploma

Common Courses and Requirements

An associate degree usually requires 60 or more credit hours in general education, foundation courses, and program courses and takes approximately 24 months of full-time study to complete. Human resources studies generally include areas such as payroll, benefits, training, and corporate communications. As part of this program, you will also be required to take 38-40 hours of general education coursework in math, science, language arts, and history.

These courses are commonly found in a human resources associate degree program:

  • Employee relations
  • HR law
  • Business ethics
  • Payroll
  • Mediation

Online Degree Options

Online associate degree programs in human resources are easy to find and can almost always be completed entirely online, with no on-campus visits required. These programs offer the same coursework and have the same requirements as on-campus programs. Online associate degree programs generally take the same amount of time to complete as on-campus programs - approximately 2 years.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

One option for getting ahead in this field is to join an organization for human resources professionals, such as the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). This will give you access to continuing education resources, allow you to keep current on changes in the industry, and provide opportunities to network with others who share your career interests.

You might also consider taking a professional certification exam. Associate degree graduates who have a minimum of 4 years of professional experience are eligible to take the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification exam. This certification is offered by the HR Certification Institute and is one of the most widely recognized credentials in the industry.

Bachelor's in Human Resources

HR bachelor's degree programs generally include an overview of human resources principles and common practices, along with foundation courses in business, such as marketing, accounting, finance, and communications. Graduates often work as human resources generalists, training specialists, recruiters, and benefits managers.

Most bachelor's degree programs in human resources can be completed in 4 years and require only a high school diploma or GED to get started. Students are often expected to complete a capstone project during their senior year. This project can involve applying human resources practices and concepts in a real-world business setting.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A bachelor's degree in human resources prepares you for positions within almost any organization
  • Many bachelor's degree programs in human resources can be completed online or through evening coursework, allowing you to keep your job while going to school
  • A bachelor's degree can increase your eligibility for promotion to positions in human resources management

Cons

  • Even with a bachelor's degree you might still need work experience to qualify for non-entry-level jobs
  • Earning a bachelor's degree requires 4 years of full-time study
  • A master's degree might still be necessary to reach senior or executive-level careers in human resources

Common Courses and Requirements

Earning a bachelor's in human resources requires a minimum of 120 hours of coursework and takes approximately 4 years of full-time study to complete. As part of this interdisciplinary degree program, you will be expected to take classes in business fundamentals, along with your core classes in human resources.

These topics are commonly offered as part of a bachelor's degree in human resources:

  • Compensation management
  • Employment practices
  • Labor relations
  • Compliance training
  • Performance management
  • Business ethics

Online Degree Options

A number of universities now offer online bachelor's degree programs in human resources. You will find the same courses offered online as you would in an on-campus classroom for this degree program. Coursework can be completed in an accelerated format, taking as little as 17 months if you already have an associate degree or the equivalent in prior college coursework.

How to Stand Out with This Degree

Continuing education is very important for an HR professional. Regulations in the workplace, especially those mandated by the government, change on occasion so it is important to keep up with what's going on in your field. Stay current by reading industry-specific publications or attending seminars. Most universities and some private organizations offer continuing education units (CEUs) in human resources.

Earning a certification in human resources will help distinguish you from other HR professionals. Several certifications are offered through the HR Certification Institute. Bachelor's degree holders who have a minimum of 2 years of professional experience can take the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification exam, while those with 5 or more years of experience can take the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification exams. These certifications are highly regarded throughout the business world as proof of expertise in the field of human resources.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BSBA in Human Resources
      • Bachelor of Business Admin
      • BSBA - Investment
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Human Resources Management
      • B.A. - Organizational Management
      • B.A. - International Business
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Human Resource Management
      • BS - Business Management
      • BS - Organizational Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. Business Administration - Human Resource Management
      • B.S. Management - Human Resources
      • B.S. Psychology of Human Relations
      • B.S. Business Administration - No Specialization
      • B.S. General Studies - Business
      • B.S. Management - No Specialization
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Trident University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor's - Human Resources Management
      • Bachelor's - Business Administration
  • Campus and Online Programs
    6. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Music Business
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
      • BS in Applied Management
      • BS in Business Admin.
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Business Administration - Human Resource Management
      • BS - Business Administration - Management
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Organizational Behavior
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Business Development
      • BS - Business Administration - General
      • B.S. - Psychology - Organizational Behavior
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Business Management: Human Resource Development Concentration
      • B.S. - Business Management: Business Admin Concentration
      • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
  • Campus and Online Programs
    10. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Human Resource Management

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • BSBA in Human Resources
  • Bachelor of Business Admin
  • BSBA - Investment

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Ashford University

  • B.A. - Human Resources Management
  • B.A. - Organizational Management
  • B.A. - International Business

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Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Human Resource Management
  • BS - Business Management
  • BS - Organizational Leadership

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Indiana Wesleyan University

  • B.S. Business Administration - Human Resource Management
  • B.S. Management - Human Resources
  • B.S. Psychology of Human Relations

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Trident University

  • Bachelor's - Human Resources Management
  • Bachelor's - Business Administration

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Full Sail University

  • B.S. - Music Business

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
  • BS in Applied Management
  • BS in Business Admin.

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Colorado Technical University

  • BS - Business Administration - Human Resource Management
  • BS - Business Administration - Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Organizational Behavior

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