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Getting an MBA in human resources online: What you need to know

An online MBA in human resources can launch graduates into high-earning roles. Learn more about earning an online MBA in human resources.
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Written by Genevieve Carlton on

A master of business administration degree prepares graduates for leadership and management roles in growing industries. Earning an MBA in human resources online provides specialized HR training in a flexible format. 

Before applying to MBA programs, you should know what to expect. Our guide walks through common courses, internship requirements, and how to choose the right program.

MBA in human resources online: Quick facts

Time to degree

One to three years

Average earning potential

$69,000/year (Payscale, March 2022)

Possible post-graduation industries

Any/all

Possible post-graduation careers

  • Human resources manager
  • Compensation and benefits manager
  • Training specialist
  • Development manager

Related degrees

What is an online human resources MBA?

An online MBA program trains learners in advanced business methods. Many of the best online MBA programs offer concentrations to specialize the degree. 

Business schools offer MBA concentrations in accounting, finance, entrepreneurship, strategy, and other in-demand areas of business. An HR MBA concentration emphasizes skills like organizational leadership, training, recruitment, and employee relations. (A human resources master's provides many of the same skills, with less of a business focus.)

Getting an MBA in human resources online may qualify graduates for careers as human resources managers, compensation and benefits managers, and training and development managers. These growing fields all report median annual earnings of over $115,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

For example, human resources managers earn a median salary of over $121,000 per year. The BLS projects 9% growth in HR manager jobs 2020-30.

Human resources professionals and working adults seeking a career change often prefer an online learning format for its flexibility. Many top-ranked business schools offer online MBA degrees. In many cases, an online MBA offers the same coursework and requirements as an in-person degree. Students simply complete the degree in a distance learning format. 

How much does an online human resources MBA cost?

The cost of an online MBA varies from as little as $10,000 per year in tuition to over $100,000. 

The length of time to completion also varies. Most MBA programs take two years. However, some business schools offer a one-year, accelerated MBA option. Part-time students earn their MBA in around three years.

Tori Rubloff/ZDNet

Why get an online MBA in human resources?

An MBA in human resources can prepare graduates for upper-level roles in the HR industry. The online learning format makes it easier for busy adults to find time to earn the degree.

  • ROI for an MBA: When looking at the high price tag of an MBA degree, you may wonder, "Is an MBA worth it?" An MBA in HR prepares graduates for management roles in human resources, training and development, and organizational change. Many of these career paths report six-figure median salaries.

  • Career-focused coursework: Classes in finance, accounting, and leadership add a career-focused component to the human resources training. 

  • Hands-on learning experience: Online HR MBA programs incorporate hands-on learning through case studies, real-world projects, and MBA internships. Choosing a distance learning format will not mean missing out on opportunities. 

  • Flexible format: During an online MBA in human resources, learners complete coursework around their other responsibilities. Distance learning helps students attend top programs without relocating or leaving their jobs. 

An MBA in human resources teaches valuable hard and soft (or "people") skills for human resources careers. Hard skills taught in a human resources MBA program include:

  • HR software
  • Employment law
  • Payroll and benefits management
  • Talent management systems
  • Employee relations

People skills taught in a human resources MBA program include:

  • Effective communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Interpersonal and collaboration skills
  • Leadership
  • Time management

What to expect in an online MBA in human resources program

Online MBA programs set high standards for students. While many online business schools design their programs for working professionals, they still expect learners to invest time and effort. Coursework may include group projects, case studies, and presentations. 

During the first year of an online MBA program, students typically complete core business courses. The second year lets learners focus on an area such as human resources. 

Some programs offer a set HR curriculum, while others allow students to choose from a list of HR electives. Applicants should research the HR curriculum a program offers before applying. 

Common HR courses in an MBA program include: 

  • Strategic human resources management
  • Compensation and benefits management
  • Organizational change
  • Training and development management
  • Opportunity management

Busy students can prepare for an MBA in human resources program by strengthening their time management and organizational skills. 

Consider course delivery methods, too. Asynchronous classes with no set login times may work better for full-time employees or adults with families. Synchronous classes with evening or weekend schedules also help busy students schedule around their obligations. 

Though online MBA programs challenge learners, motivated students can thrive. You'll benefit from sticking to a schedule, making time for networking, and choosing a flexible program. 

What to look for when choosing an online MBA in human resources program

If you're considering an MBA in human resources online, you must carefully consider several factors. The best programs will match your needs, budget, and career goals. 

Accreditation

The best business schools hold accreditation. Three independent agencies grant accreditation to MBA programs that meet high standards for educating students. Research online business school accreditationbefore applying to programs.

Location

Location matters, even in an online program. Students may qualify for tuition discounts based on the school's location. And some online programs have in-person components, which can add to the cost for out-of-state students. 

University resources

MBA students benefit from career services, mentorship opportunities, and an active alumni network. Some programs offer more resources than others, including internship opportunities and networking events.

Program length

Most MBA programs take two years. Some business schools offer an accelerated, one-year MBA. Others let students choose a part-time option. 

Cost

Cost goes beyond tuition — it includes textbooks, technology, and online platform access fees. You should research costs, financial aid opportunities, and ways to save.

This article was reviewed by Krystal Covington, MBA

Krystal Covington, a woman with medium-length, curly hair, smiles at the camera.

Krystal Covington, MBA, is a business growth strategist with 15 years of experience in marketing and public relations. Her company, Go Lead Consulting, provides clients foundational tools to build new client and customer relationships. 

Covington founded Women of Denver, one of the largest privately held membership organizations in Denver, Colorado. Her program helps women increase their business acumen, sharpen leadership skills and connect with other high-achieving women. Covington received her MBA from Western Governors University in 2012.

Krystal Covington is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network. 

Last reviewed Oct. 26, 2021.

Unless otherwise noted, salary and growth data was drawn from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as of March 28, 2022.

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