Online bachelor's degree programs in human resources help students learn the diverse responsibilities of relevant careers, including how to recruit and interview employees; handle payroll, benefits and training and maintain employment records. Undergraduate programs can usually be completed in four years of full-time study, and degree options include Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees in human resources, human resources management, or organizational leadership. Students interested in human resources could also earn a degree in business, with a specialization in human resources management or another human resources area. Programs include both major courses and electives, offering students a broad educational experience.
Online bachelor's degree in human resources: coursework and training
Specific coursework varies by school, and some students may delve into economics, ethics, finances, and marketing, in addition to general business studies. There are some courses that most human resources bachelor's degree programs offer, for example:
Human resources courses
- Accounting: Courses examine accounting concepts and topics such as statements of cash flow. Payroll accounting -- an important specialization for HR staff -- deals with wages, salaries and pensions.
- Business Communications: This class can teach students about communications ethics, helping them express themselves effectively and convey information through emails, memos, reports and business letters.
- Business Law: This course gives students an introduction to current business laws, workplace crime and ethics, investor protection, securities regulations and contract analysis. This background could provide useful information for HR professionals involved in grievance procedures and employee complaints.
- Information Systems: Information systems are at the heart of HR departments. This course provides instruction in HR-related computer applications, including tools such as databases, spreadsheets and presentation software, as well as effective use of the Internet.
- Management: In this course, students learn about the theory and practice of management, including planning, leading, organizing and improving employee performance.
- Organizational Development: Organizational behavior is evaluated from various angles, including group dynamics, workplace diversity and change management. This course may also cover systems and procedures for employee performance evaluation.
Courses outside of human resources
- English Composition: This course teaches students how to write effectively for a variety of purposes, and includes instruction in sentence structure, grammar and voice. Clear communication is important for human resources professionals interacting with employees and managers.
- Mathematics: Mathematics courses help prepare human resources students for accounting and other math-related aspects of the field, such as payroll and benefits.
- Arts and Humanities: The humanities can provide students with a well-rounded education. Drama and theater classes may build confidence in public speaking, which can be useful if HR specialists give orientation presentations for new employees or training sessions as part of employee development.
- Social and Behavioral Sciences: Students can gain valuable lessons from psychology courses, which are designed to improve understanding of the human mind and why people behave as they do. In addition, anthropology and sociology courses may deepen a human resources professional's understanding of cultural diversity.
Potential careers for graduates of bachelor's degree programs in human resources
A bachelor's degree in human resources helps familiarize students with the many aspects of HR careers. Professionals may have a broad scope of duties, or a particular focus such as payroll, depending on the type of organization and its size. As previously mentioned, most human resources positions require bachelor's degrees. The following are career options that an individual with a bachelor's degree in human resources might pursue:
- Human resources generalists are typically found in smaller institutions, where they manage several duties of a human resources department, including recognizing employment needs, recruiting and interviewing applicants, contacting references, hiring qualified candidates, maintaining employment records and handling payroll and benefits. The Bureau of Labor Services (BLS) notes that generalists typically complete a wide variety of human resources courses, and may also earn professional certifications as a way to demonstrate competence in a variety of areas.
- Human resources specialists include employment interviewers, labor relations specialists, placement specialists and recruitment specialists (also known as personnel recruiters). Specific emphases within HR include employee welfare, health care benefits, union relations and training and development. Most specialists, like generalists, are trained in a range of different areas. The BLS also describes emerging areas of specialization, such as outsourced employment services and HR information systems.
- Human resource managers work as liaisons between institutions and human resources employees. They coordinate the duties of employees and supervise their work, mediate work-related problems, oversee equal employment opportunity and sexual harassment training and programs, and, when necessary, fire employees. Students interested in these positions can take management courses, and electives such as psychology. These leadership roles typically call for experience in the field, and some high-level careers require advanced degrees such as an MBA, according to the BLS.
While these careers represent the most common paths taken by graduates with human resources bachelor's degrees, other options include executive recruiter, physician recruiter and resume checker. Students with leadership ambitions may continue their education with a master's degree in human resources or business. Individuals who are considering a bachelor's degree in human resources can explore the Guide to College Majors in Human Resources.
"11-3121 Human Resource Managers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes113121.htm
"Human Resources Managers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.htm