If you have a bachelor's degree and want to work your way to upper management in human resources, you may consider a master's degree. However, it can be difficult to decide which kind of graduate diploma best suits your needs. Learn about Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Master of Human Resource Management (MHRM) degrees to make the best decision for your future.

Core Coursework Differences

If you choose an MBA, you will learn about all the fundamental aspects of business management. Core courses for these programs often include subjects like accounting, marketing, management, economics and operations.

While you can specialize in areas like human resources or marketing, the coursework tends to be comprehensive, with only a few classes in the specialization. For example, with an MBA in human resource management, you will take all the core courses and perhaps four classes in HR topics.

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An MHRM is less comprehensive and more specialized. Depending on the school you choose, the core courses may include compensation, benefits management, training, ethics and legal issues in HR. You won't take typical MBA courses like financing and accounting.

Available Specializations for Both

Concentrations and specializations allow you to stand out as an expert in those areas. They can help you stand out in a stack of resumes, especially when the specialization relates to the position you want. Schools offer MBA specializations in almost all areas of business, including:

  • Human resource management
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • General management
  • International business
  • Strategic management
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Operations management
  • Health care leadership
  • Information technology management

Although MHRM degrees are already concentrated in human resources, some schools offer further specializations in certain areas of HR, including:

  • Diversity in the workplace
  • Labor relations
  • Strategic human resource management
  • Labor and community leadership
  • Functional human resources management
  • Organizational strategy

Specializations vary among schools. If you want to take courses in any of these concentrations, check with each school before you apply.

Average Length and Cost

Generally, MHRM degrees require learners to take between 30 and 36 hours at the graduate level. On the other hand, MBAs typically require 45 to 55 credits. Because schools often charge tuition based on a per-credit rate, you can save money when you choose a human resource management graduate program over an MBA.

On average, it takes a full-time student about two years to complete an MBA program. However, some schools offer one-year accelerated programs for learners with certain qualifications. Because they require fewer credits, human resources degrees take about 18 months to earn when you attend full time.

The cost of each degree varies widely depending on the type of school. Private schools tend to cost more whether you choose an MBA or MHRM program. However, public universities sometimes charge more if you do not live in the corresponding state.

Certificates After Graduation

If you earn an MBA in human resources management or a master's in HRM, you may qualify to sit for some of the industry's certificate tests. Schools may prepare learners for different certifications, so be sure to check with your desired school before enrolling.

The top HR certifications at this level include:

  • Professional in Human Resources International
  • Senior Professional in Human Resources
  • SHRM Certified Professional

Is a Master's in HR Worth It?

If you have a passion for human resources, and you're sure you want to work in the field, it can be worth it to pursue a master's in human resources. This degree takes less time than an MBA in many cases and shows that you specialize in human resources.

However, if you aren't sure that you want to stay in human resources for the rest of your career, an MBA may better suit your needs. The broad skill set these degrees allow you to obtain give you flexibility in your career.

About the Author

Mackenzie attended Texas Tech University, where she worked in the residence halls for three years. She also volunteered for school event committees and move-in welcome teams. These experiences fueled her passion for higher education and helping college students. Today, she uses her writing to help prospective college students find the right institutions for their needs. She writes for sites like The Best Schools, Nursing.org, Best Colleges, Nurse Journal, and PublicHealth.org.