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Top Human Resources Schools

Top Human Resources SchoolsIn business, the role of human resources -- often times simply referred to as “HR” -- is to provide a professional liaison between employers and employees in a company. The role of HR includes recognizing employee grievances and organizing the hiring, training and termination of employees. Some specialists may also control employee benefit programs and compensation packages, and some instruct employees on federal and state health and safety codes.

There are a number of HR focuses available for both business and non business students. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, companies typically hire HR specialists with bachelor's degrees; undergraduate majors could be in related fields, for example, business administration or management (, 2012). Other aspiring candidates might pursue a bachelor’s degree in finance or information technology, paired with experience in the HR field (, 2012). HR managers generally need work experience and a bachelor's degree in human resources, business administration or a related field; candidates may take courses in labor relations, organizational development or industrial psychology (, 2012).

While there is no authoritative ranking for HR management programs, the HRPatriot, a site dedicated to HR news and opinion, created a list of leading graduate school programs for HR management in 2009. Some of the ranking is determined by class demographics, curriculum depth, faculty prestige and number of recruiting companies. Please note, since the ranking is older than three years, information and data may have changed over time. The schools are listed below:

1.  Cornell
2.  Michigan State
3.  Minnesota
4.  Illinois
5.  Rutgers
6.  Purdue
7.  Ohio State
8.  Penn State
9.  South Carolina
10. West Virginia
11. Texas A&M

Below are some of the human resources focuses available from schools and colleges through

Employee Relations Specialists

Employee relations specialists, also known as labor relations specialists if working in a unionized company, maintain safe work conditions for workers and keep the work environment up to state and federal standards. They are also responsible for working with management to address issues of non-compliance in employment opportunities and sexual harassment.

Courses in communications, management, employment and discrimination law and organization may all be as necessary for a role in HR management, as are courses in negotiation methods. For recent graduates with no HR experience, certification is available from the Society of Human Resource Management which offers the Assurance of Learning Assessment (ALA). According to the ALA, passing the assessment displays a level of competence in HR management comparable to years of relevant work experience.

According to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook (, 2012), employment opportunities for employee relations specialists are expected to grow nationally by up to 21 percent from 2010 to 2020. Growth for employee relations specialists is tempered as employment opportunities depend upon company growth and expansion of the use of computerized HR information systems. The BLS (, 2012) also lists the national median salary for human resources, training and labor relations specialists at $56,440 per year in May, 2011.

Benefits Specialists

The payroll department of any company or organization is responsible for more than cutting checks. Benefits specialists set the salary structure and purchase salary surveys, which provide information on how much professionals get paid based on region and education. Benefits specialists are responsible for providing employment packages that comply with national and state requirements while also staying competitive and, above all, for keeping operations within budget.

Unlike other HR focuses, benefits specialists need either training or education in finance analysis, mathematics or, in some cases, database software. Because of this, the BLS (, 2012) notes that related work experience performing complex analysis, specifically financial analysis, is a usually needed which the BLS reports may be necessary to present information to a company or organization’s executive officers.

According to the BLS (, 2012), the national median salary for a compensation and benefits managers was $92,290 per year in May, 2011; however, the employment of these managers was expected to only grow 3 percent from 2010 to 2020 (, 2012) as a result of an increase in outside payroll contracting and benefits management companies rather than in-house departments.

Personal Recruiters

Personal recruiters are responsible for providing their company with new employees that keep their organization competitive. Personal recruiters find and screen applicants for a company or organization and, in some cases, may actively search for qualified applicants at job fairs, college campuses or by leveraging social media. Often times the applicants come to the recruiter by following postings on career sites and job boards.

Beyond classes in business management and communications, HR courses aimed toward recruiting may focus on state and federal hiring laws and psychology, as well as some of the information systems designed for employee recruitment. The BLS (, 2012) recommends personal recruiters have strong interpersonal and speaking skills and the ability to listen and pay careful attention to an applicant’s responses. Certification programs in HR management are also available to students who already have a post-secondary degree and may be completed within six to nine months, depending on the student.

According to the BLS (, 2012), most recruiters work full-time and are expected to travel to job fairs and meet with applicants. The BLS (, 2012) also lists the national median salary for personal recruiters with human resources, training and labor relations specialists at $56,440 per year in May, 2011. Employment of personal recruiters is expected to grow by 21 percent from 2010 to 2020 (, 2012), with high specific growth in the employment services industry.

Learn more about accredited human resources programs from schools and colleges through

Accreditation must come from an officially recognized accrediting organization, such as The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, the organizations must be approved by The U.S. Department of Education or The Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or both. The ACICS provides a searchable directory for finding member institutions, as does CHEA. HR programs may also be an affiliate of SHRM, or other professional organizations, which may add greater weight to a program’s degree or certificate.

For HR students in California, HRIC offers a certification specific to Californialabor and employee laws (PHR-CA & SPHR-CA). This certification shows a student has mastered California’s unique laws and regulations and may practice in the state of California. This certification is not required for employment but may be beneficial for HR managers and specialists in the state looking to advance their career.


Sources and further reading:

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation

The U.S. Department of Education

The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


The Human Resources Certification Institute