Guide for Labor Relations Majors

What is Labor Relations?

A Business degree in Labor Relations is a specialization within the broader field of human resources.

Labor relations managers and their staff work primarily in blue-collar manufacturing or service industries, acting as the liaison between management and, generally, labor unions. As union membership declines in most industries, however, industrial relations personnel are working more with employees who are not members of a labor union.

Labor relations specialists prepare information, based on employee feedback and industry standards, for management to use during negotiations for collective bargaining agreements. This requires familiarity with economic and wage rate data as well as knowledge of federal and local labor laws and trends in collective bargaining. Course work in labor law, collective bargaining, labor economics, labor history, and industrial psychology is valuable, in addition to the standard business and human resources courses a student will take. Computer proficiency is also useful. The ability to communicate effectively with people of different levels of education and backgrounds, and to see issues from two opposing angles, is very important. You are the voice of the workers, working with management on their behalf, so you must be able to treat both sides fairly.

Labor relations duties span several areas, such as labor agreement negotiation, contract administration, conflict management with third parties, and other relevant issues.

Labor Relations

Table of Contents

Career Education in Labor Relations

An interdisciplinary background is appropriate in labor relations. On any given day you may need to call upon your social sciences, business, or behavioral sciences background to solve a dispute. Today, many business professionals choose to take online college classes in labor relations and human resources, in order to further their education without taking time off from work.

Associate & Bachelor's Degrees in Labor Relations

For entry-level professional jobs, most employers require a college degree. A Bachelor of Science in Labor Relations includes courses in business organization and administration; human resources management; collective bargaining and labor relations; and compensation management.

If you'd like to move into the workforce more quickly and don't mind starting out in an assistant position, consider an associate's degree in human resource management, which will introduce you to the fundamentals of the field and prepare you to take on entry-level work.

Find Colleges

What Can You Do With a College Major in Labor Relations?

Labor relations managers usually work a standard 35- to 40-hour week. Longer hours may be required when contract agreements are being arranged and negotiated. Human resources, training, and labor relations specialists are employed in virtually every industry; over 20,000 are self-employed, working as consultants to public and private employers. About 80% work in the private sector, including business, health, social, management, and educational services. Federal, state, and local governments employ about 18% of HR specialists.

Overall employment in the field is expected to grow about as fast as average in the coming years. In some areas, demand for trained HR professionals is increasing, due to new legislation and court rulings setting standards in various areas like occupational safety and health, equal employment opportunity, wages, health, pension, and family leave.

Employment of labor relations staff, including arbitrators and mediators, should grow as companies become more directly involved in labor relations, and attempt to resolve potentially costly labor/management disputes out of court. Additional job growth may come from the increasing need for specialists in international human resources management and HR information systems. But as in any corporate career, particularly in larger firms, HR and labor relations employees may be adversely affected by corporate downsizing, restructuring, and mergers.

Exceptional human resources employees may be promoted to director of personnel or industrial relations, which can eventually lead to a top managerial or executive position. Others may join a consulting firm or open their own business.

Labor Relations Jobs

Under the heading of personnel and labor relations specialists, you can pursue a career with any of these job titles:

  • The director of industrial relations sets labor policies, manages industrial labor relations, negotiates collective bargaining agreements, and implements grievance procedures to handle complaints resulting from disputes with unionized employees..
  • The compensation manager (or benefits specialist) establishes and maintains the pay system, devises ways to ensure fair pay rates, and often oversees the firm's performance evaluation and design reward systems. Employee benefits managers and specialists handle the company's employee benefits program, particularly its health insurance and pension plans.
  • Conciliators, mediators and arbitrators are involved in dispute resolution, working with labor and management on labor agreements and issues.
  • Employment and recruitment specialists recruit and place new employees, either in-house at a large corporation or working with a recruiting firm. Their task is to seek out, interview and fill existing and future positions within an organization, either from internal or external sources.
  • EEO (equal employment opportunity) officers investigate and resolve EEO grievances, examine corporate practices for possible violations, and compile and submit EEO statistical reports. Their primary task is to ensure that companies do not discriminate in hiring or working conditions.
  • Employee assistance plan managers, also called employee welfare managers, are responsible for a wide array of programs covering occupational safety and health standards and practices; health promotion and physical fitness, medical examinations, and minor health treatment. Some employers offer career counseling as well.
  • Training and development specialists are primarily responsible for in-house (or outsourced) professional development and training programs for a company, from company-specific software or procedures to general business and technology courses. They also periodically evaluate training effectiveness.

Certification and Licensure

With a Bachelor of Science degree in Labor Relations, you are prepared for professional certification examinations such as Human Resource Professional, Senior Human Resource Professional, and International Human Resource Professional--all designations offered by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM). The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans awards the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation to college-educated HR specialists who pass their exam.

Return to the top

Pursue your Labor Relations Major today…

Refine School Matches
Hide filters

    See More


    See More



    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Prefer exploring options talking to our staff?
            Call toll free now: 1.855.330.6938
            Matching School Ads
            3 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among top Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
            • Ranked 37th among the Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
            • Stands as the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation with 100,000+ students.
            • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
            • Has a student-faculty ratio of 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
            Show more [+]
            • Accredited
            • Online Courses
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            2 Program(s) Found
            University of Phoenix , Online (campus option available)
            • Partnerships with thousands of companies
            • Alliances with many national industry associations
            • Personalized career guidance
            • Job market research tools to help you explore your career of interest
            Good for Working Adults
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            5 Program(s) Found
            • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
            • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
            • Courses are taught by expert faculty, with 86% of professors possessing a doctoral degree.
            • Offers credit for prior experience and learning, as well as scholarships, accelerated programs, and several other ways to help reduce tuition costs.
            • Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            1 Program(s) Found
            • Provides a 24/7 myCampusLink system that lets students access their records, e-mail, communicate with faculty, and more.
            • Designated a 2014 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
            • Educates with the mission to serve the needs of the local community and graduates by matching opportunities to skills.
            • Offers career education in nursing, dental, business, information technology, and more. 
            • Has 44 campus locations across 15 states, with online options as well.
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            • Financial Aid
            2 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
            • Ranked among the Best Online MBA Programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
            • Founded in 1890, it has a campus in Waterbury, CT and offers online degree program in eight-week modules, six times a year.
            • About 800 students are enrolled at the main campus, and about half of them commute.
            • Online courses make it possible for students to earn a bachelor’s degree in as little as 18 months and a master’s degree in 14-24 months.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Accelerated Programs
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            4 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor's Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
            • Implements a one-to-one teaching model, partnering one student with one faculty member in each course.
            • 100% of faculty members hold doctoral degrees.
            • No physical residency requirements, allowing students to pursue their degree online.
            • Committed to innovation, diversity, excellence, and accountability since its founding in 1996.
            • Offers several programs in business, education, psychology, and more.
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            1 Program(s) Found
            • Many programs require externships, allowing students to gain real-world experience.
            • Approved A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 1984.
            • Offers 22 accelerated, career-focused program options including business administration, medical assisting, and more.
            • Regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
            • 12 campuses across California, with an online division as well.
            Show more [+]
            • Financial Aid