Two possible degree options for students who are interested in pursuing human resources studies are a Professional in Human Resources -- the PHR -- and a Master of Business Administration -- the MBA. The PHR is a particular certificate program that prepares students to take a certification exam in human resources. The MBA program is a two-year professional degree program in business and management that offers students an opportunity to specialize in human resources.

PHR Overview

PHR programs are offered by many universities and independent institutes, all serving to prepare students for the rigorous certificate exam in human resources. The PHR is useful for students who are trying to advance their careers in human resources management. This certificate program is typically quite effective in preparing students for the exam, and students who participate in these programs typically have much higher exam passage rates than the national passage rate. Requirements vary across programs, but many programs require students to have some professional work experience. Prospective applicants without a bachelor’s degree typically must have four years, those with a bachelor's degree must have two years and those with a master's degree or higher need one year of demonstrated professional human resources experience.

PHR Coursework

Requirements and classes vary across PHR certificate programs, but most cover the same content to prepare students for the PHR exam. The length and the format of courses also tend to vary to make the programs available to the largest number of people. Some universities offer intensive 12-week in-class courses, while others operate entirely online. Regardless of the format, all programs cover content that prepares students for the PHR exam. In particular, students learn about business management strategy, workforce planning and employment, compensation and benefits, human resource development, employee and labor relations and risk management.


Unlike the PHR, which is a particular certificate program in human resources, the MBA is a broad professional degree in business, management, leadership and administration. Some MBA programs offer students concentrations and electives in human resources, but no programs exclusively offer specific preparation for a particular exam. MBA programs are ideal for students who want to pursue managerial careers and roles in a variety of industries and organizations. Unlike PHR programs, all MBA programs require students to have a bachelor's degree. Furthermore, many MBA programs also require students to have undergraduate experience in economics, statistics and calculus.

MBA Coursework

Most MBA programs, whether traditional, part-time or online, require two years of coursework. During the first year, students take a variety of foundational courses such as accounting, finance, marketing and leadership to get a good understanding of business practices. During the second year, they take electives in their chosen area of concentration to acquire more experience in a specific area. Typical areas of concentration include finance, entrepreneurship, marketing, health care and occasionally human resources management.

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