What Types of Jobs are Available with a Master’s in Human Resources?

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Lyss Welding
Updated June 28, 2021

Professionals with a bachelor’s degree in human resources may be wondering how they can advance their career and earn more with a master’s. Master’s programs in human resources focus on preparing students for positions that require excellent communication and leadership skills. With these skills and knowledge, master’s degree holders can market themselves for positions in larger organizations, filling more specialized or supervisory roles.

In the next decade, human resources manager jobs could grow faster than the average growth rate for all positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also reported that in 2020, the median annual wages for human resource managers reached $121,220, which is far higher than the national median. What’s more is that this earnings figure is almost double what specialists in human resources earned in the same year. 

Asking yourself, “What can I do with a master’s in human resources?” Or, are you unsure of where to start with advancing your degree in this field? Here are some areas where master’s program graduates can find high-paying jobs.

Related Resource: Most Affordable Top Master's in Human Resources Online Degree Programs 2020


So, what can you do with a master’s in human resources? There are a wide range of master’s in HR jobs you can pursue after graduation, and many are found in management.

People with master’s degrees in human resources may find work as human resources managers. These managers wear several hats and could be responsible for a variety of tasks, including hiring and recruitment, training, compensation and benefits negotiations, labor relations, and planning and development for information systems. 

Human resource managers who work in management for companies and enterprises may earn more than their counterparts in other fields, such as government or healthcare. The BLS reported that human resources managers in company management earned median annual wages of $133,860 in 2020.

Compensation and Benefits

Within a company’s human resources department, master’s degree holders often find work in specific resource areas for employees, such as compensation and benefits. People who work in compensation and benefits help ensure that employees receive adequate pay according to legal parameters and other requirements. They also create benefits packages and coordinate compensation, including salaries, bonuses, and medical benefits. 

Roles in compensation and benefits may pay slightly more than human resource generalists. According to the BLS, the annual median wages for compensation and benefits managers was $125,130 in 2020. 

At the same time, it’s important to note that the job outlook for these roles is slightly below average. The BLS projects the demand for these jobs will grow just 3% through 2029. With high pay and low growth rate, jobseekers can expect competition. By focusing your master’s studies on retirement, wellness benefits, and compensation, you may be able to position yourself as a desirable candidate for these jobs.

Planning and Information Systems

In today’s digital world, many employers store important information about their employees — from tax forms and pay stubs to vacation time and hourly schedules — on the cloud, in a system of connected databases. Human resources professionals may serve as analysts, system planners, or information managers who use this employee data to improve talent management and overall organizational health. 

Survey data may suggest that companies plan to double down on human resources technology. In a survey by professional services firm PwC, 74% of the 600 human resources and information technology leaders surveyed said their companies planned to increase spending on human resources technology in 2020. According to the survey, they planned to invest in areas including talent acquisition platforms, user experience for employees, skills and career mapping technology, and more. 

If you’re interested in the intersection of human resources and information technology, consider putting your master’s degree to use in one of these tech-focused areas.

Recruitment, Hiring, and Onboarding

Companies depend on human resources staff to attract job candidates, interview and hire top talent, train recruits, and oversee the onboarding process. These positions also support new hires — many of whom may be working remotely — to feel connected to their colleagues and capable in their new roles. Because these professionals have trained in labor laws and a host of other talent acquisition techniques and trends, they are equipped to handle new hires. They may also be responsible for employee termination and layoffs.

Recruiters, on the other hand, have a unique role to play — especially as their companies rebound from the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. unemployment rate reached its highest-ever observed level of 14.8% following COVID-19 closures in April 2020. Since then, the BLS has recorded monthly increases in civilian employment. Jobs in recruiting and onboarding help companies find the best candidates to fill roles fast and rebuild their workforces.

Labor Relations

Work in human resources sometimes involves serving as a liaison between employers and their employees. From coordinating benefits to mediating disputes, these human resources professionals represent employee interests to management and vice versa. 

Work in labor relations can pay above median annual wages for all jobs. The median annual wage for these roles was about $73,240 in 2020, according to the BLS. The highest paying jobs work in company and enterprise management, and these roles earned a median wage of $90,620 in 2020. However, only about 2% of labor relations specialists worked in these settings in 2019. The majority worked in labor unions or similar labor organizations.

The BLS projects that jobs in labor relations will decline 7% by 2029, partly because union membership has declined over the past few decades. If you’re interested in pursuing work in labor relations, it’s important to consider your prospects in this field. A master’s degree in human resources with focused coursework in negotiation and labor law may help you stand out as a candidate.

Executive Leadership

In some companies, a chief human resources officer (CHRO) oversees all human resources programming in an organization and supervises a team of human resource managers and specialists. They work closely with an organization’s chief executive officer and other c-suite leaders to help ensure leadership takes staff needs into account when making decisions. 

Roles in executive leadership may take years of experience to attain, and some employers may seek candidates with their doctorate in human resources. They also have the potential to pay top dollar. The BLS reported that the median annual wage for chief executives in 2020 was $185,950. Other top executives earned about $106,180 in median annual wages. 

That said, the job outlook for chief executives is less bright. The BLS projects a 10% decline in demand for these roles through 2029.  

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 

Companies are increasingly hiring people who focus on making the workplace a more inclusive and supportive environment for all employees. These roles lead or support company initiatives relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion and hold responsibilities that overlap with the focus areas of a master’s degree in human resources. 

According to a report by management consultancy Russell Reynolds Associates, the duties of a chief diversity officer include learning and organizational development, talent acquisition and management, compliance, communication, and corporate social responsibility, in addition to setting diversity and inclusion strategy. 

LinkedIn reports that jobs for chief diversity officers increased by 68% from 2015 to 2020, based on global data. The data also indicates an even greater increase in other diversity-related roles. Head of diversity and director of diversity titles rose 107% and 75%, respectively, in the past five years.  

Training and Development

Human resources professionals who work in training and development help employees learn and grow in their knowledge and behaviors. According to the O*Net program, training and development managers analyze training needs among employees, evaluate the effectiveness of existing training programs, and create training programs drawing on best practices in instructional design, among other tasks. Overall, they help an employer build a highly skilled workforce. 

Careers in training and development can be lucrative, and they’re expected to grow. The BLS reports the median wage for training and development jobs in 2020 was $115,640, and it projects that employment for these jobs will grow faster than the projected growth for all jobs, at a rate of about 7% through 2029. 

Earning a master’s in human resources helps to prepare students for advanced careers, especially within specialized human resources fields. Combined with work experience, a master’s in human resources opens the door to a wide range of jobs that demand high levels of critical and analytical thinking, administrative skill, negotiation tactics, and effective communication.

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