Study Labor Relations: Masters Degree, Training & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a labor relations graduate program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of a master's degree and a certificate program and potential careers.
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Labor Relations Master's Degrees and Training Options: Programs at a Glance

Labor relations (also referred to as employment relations) studies at the graduate level are designed to prepare human resources and labor professionals for high-level management positions at public organizations, private businesses and government agencies.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that human resources managers would see a 13% increase in job opportunities from 2010-2020. Although this growth projection was about as fast as the average for all occupations, the BLS noted that human resource management candidates who have a master's degree should have the best job opportunities.

Master's Certificate Training Programs
Who is this degree for? Individuals seeking mid- to high-level positions in human resources or employee relations People who already have a bachelor's degree and need specific training in labor relations
Common Career Paths (with approximate median salary) - Human resources manager ($99,000)*
- Labor relations manager ($105,000 - with 7 years of experience)**
- Labor relations director ($134,000 - with 8 years of experience)**
Program isn't designed to lead to a specific career but can prepare you for similar careers as a master's degree; may lead to advancement opportunities for bachelor's degree holders.
Time to Completion 2 years, full-time Less than a year, full-time
Common Requirements - Roughly 5-9 core courses in labor relations and related studies
- About 2-6 specialization/elective courses
- Research/capstone course
- Approximately 4 courses in labor relations and related topics
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree
- GRE or GMAT scores
- Letters of recommendation
- Bachelor's degree
Online Availability Yes, but uncommon Related programs may be available

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

Master's Degree in Labor Relations

The master's program generally takes 2 years to complete and is meant for people who plan on working in the field of human resources and labor management. Schools may offer a variety of concentration options, including human resources, private-sector labor relations and diversity in the workplace. Most schools offer flexible labor relations programs, which allow working professionals to pursue a master's degree without having to leave their job.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Degree can prepare you for careers in a number of different industries and job sectors (government, corporations, non-profit organizations)
  • Could give you an advantage over bachelor's degree holders when applying for human resource management positions
  • Can reduce the amount of experience needed to obtain some certifications from the HR Certification Institute

Cons

  • Most programs are designed for people who already have jobs, so you may not get any experience or internship opportunities while in the program
  • You'll end up spending 6-7 years in school
  • A master's degree is not usually a hard requirement for human resource management jobs

Courses and Requirements

The master's program features core graduate courses such as labor laws, labor history, international employment relations and labor relation economics. Following your foundation courses, you'll take a few electives or concentration courses. These courses vary between programs, but some of your options might include collective bargaining in the public sector, labor market demographics, employee benefits and organizational effectiveness. Students are typically required to work in a small group or with a faculty member to complete a research project in a topic related to human resources or labor studies. Labor relations master's degree programs are usually focused on coursework and generally don't include the option to complete a thesis.

Online Options

Labor relations studies can be found online, but most programs are conducted on-campus. The online program can prepare you for the same careers as an on-campus one would, and you'll still have the opportunity to complete a research project. You may even have some concentration options in an online program, including labor and collective bargaining, employment and labor law as well as benefits and compensation. Online programs are designed for part-time students, but you still may be able to complete the program in less than 2 years.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

You may want to look into obtaining a professional certification to get an edge over other candidates who have similar qualifications. The HR Policy Association awards the Labor Relations Professional designation for those who complete the required professional courses. The National Public Employer Labor Relations Association (NPELRA) offers the Certified Labor Relations Professional credential to candidates who complete 3 required academies and write an approved professional paper. The right certification for you depends on your specific job and career goals.

Labor Relations Training Programs

If you already have a bachelor's degree and you're not looking to enroll in a master's program to get labor relations training, then you might be interested in a labor relations graduate certificate. Some schools may even design special educational programs to suit the needs of your particular organization. Standard graduate certificate programs usually consist of about 4 courses, while specialized labor education programs may use conferences, workshops or seminars to educate the students. Most programs can be completed in less than a year. You may also have the option to apply your courses towards a master's program if your school offers one.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can give you advanced training in labor relations without having to commit to a degree program
  • Courses can usually be applied to a master's program is you wish to continue your education at the same institution
  • Can be completed in very little time (as little as 2 weeks for some programs)

Cons

  • Rarely a hard requirement for labor relations careers
  • Employers looking for candidates with graduate-level training may prefer to hire those who have a degree rather than a certificate
  • Limited number of course options means you won't become an expert in any particular area of labor studies

Courses and Requirements

This type of program is relatively short; you'll usually take about 4 total courses. Some of these courses may include:

  • Labor law
  • Collective bargaining
  • Union organization
  • Strategic campaigns
  • Democracy in the workplace
  • Contract interpretation

Labor relations certificate programs generally don't include any capstone or hands-on learning courses, so you can usually obtain the certificate after you complete the required courses. Unique education programs may be conducted through workshops or conferences, which are sometimes offered on-site instead of in a classroom.

Online Programs

Although certificate programs titled 'labor relations' are not currently available online, many schools offer a human resources certificate program that may contain some labor relations studies. Courses in this type of online program that may be useful for students interested in labor relations include employee negotiations, dispute resolution, employment laws, employee relations and leadership. You may lose out on a couple of in-depth courses covering labor relations if you opt for the human resources online certificate, but you won't have to worry about missing out on hands-on learning experiences.

Standing Out with This Certificate

Joining a professional organization, such as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), could provide additional learning opportunities and other benefits. SHRM offers a number of useful seminars covering labor relations and related topics, such as employee relations, workplace law and health benefit strategy. You could also participate in webcasts, which may also count for the recertification credits needed to maintain your HR Certification Institute credentials. SHRM also features a variety of publications, research reports and human resource tools to help you keep up with the latest changes.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA: Human Resources
      • Master: Management/Human Resources
      • MSM in Organizational Design and Development
      • Master : Business Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    2. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Human Resource Analytics and Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA: Strategic Human Resource Management
      • M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Life Coaching
      • MBA
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Brenau University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Communication Management
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership -Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership-Cybersecurity Management
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership-Human Resource Management
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership-Strategic Thinking and Innovation
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Human Resources Management
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Accelerated Master of Science in Organizational Leadership
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Human Resources Management
      • Master of Human Resource Management
      • Master of Business Admin - General Business
      • MBA - Performance Improvement
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master - Human Resource Management
      • MS - Organizational Leadership
      • MS - Management
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgmt. & HR
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Mgt. & Human Resources
      • MBA
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Human Resources
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
  • Campus and Online Programs
    8. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Florida Tech

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MA in Organizational Leadership
      • Master's in Business Administration/Management
      • Master's in Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Futures Studies
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - HR Management
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Interdisciplinary Studies
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Organizational Development Consulting
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Servant Leadership

Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

  • MBA: Human Resources
  • Master: Management/Human Resources
  • MSM in Organizational Design and Development

Which subject are you interested in?

American University

  • Master of Science in Human Resource Analytics and Management

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Grand Canyon University

  • MBA: Strategic Human Resource Management
  • M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Life Coaching
  • MBA

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Brenau University

  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership
  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Communication Management
  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership -Negotiation and Conflict Resolution

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Northcentral University

  • MBA - Human Resources Management
  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Accelerated Master of Science in Organizational Leadership
  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Human Resources Management

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Colorado State University Global

  • Master - Human Resource Management
  • MS - Organizational Leadership
  • MS - Management

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
  • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgmt. & HR
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Mgt. & Human Resources

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • M.S. - Entertainment Business

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