Do you love working with people and making sure they have everything they need to perform at their best? Are you the kind of person who loves encouraging others and thinking of ways to make their work or life easier? Then a Human Resource Management degree might be the perfect fit for you.
Working in HR is both challenging and rewarding. Before you go ahead and apply for a degree in HRM, you should first look at what it’s like to work in this area and what are some of the most popular jobs and benefits to look forward to.
We’ve interviewed our HR expert to find out what she has to say to future international students considering a career in HRM. As you go through the article, it should become clear whether a career in Human Resources is what you really want.
Before diving in, here are a few universities we recommend for HR studies:
- Northeastern University, the US
- University of Stirling, the UK
- Utrecht University, the Netherlands
- EU Business School, Spain
- Alba Graduate Business School, Greece
What is Human Resource Management (HRM)?
Human Resource Management focuses on principles, methods, and technologies that are used to improve the productivity of an organisation. HR specialists achieve this through strategies and policies that increase the effectiveness of employees. The employees or staff are also referred to as the human capital, the lifeblood and the most important resource of most organisations.
There are several different focus areas in Human Resources:
- Recruiting and staffing
- Compensation and benefits
- Training and learning
- Labour and employee relations
- Organisation development
Depending on your role and the size of the company for which you work, your tasks might focus just on one area or multiple ones.
Key responsibilities and tasks in Human Resources
The following are some of the most common tasks for HR departments:
- Address concerns expressed by the employees
- Hire top talent & oversee the departure of current jobholders
- Create career development programmes
- Evaluate individual and overall work performance
- Implement reward systems
- Solve conflicts and other issues (e.g. sexual harassment, bullying)
- Provide guidance and help employees identify their strengths and weaknesses
- Design and evaluate strategies to increase the retention of personnel
- Create a positive and enjoyable work environment
- Build and maintain the company’s culture
- Create and implement programmes that reflect the core values of the organisation
Current developments in HR
HR is evolving, with the focus changing from the administrative tasks to the strategic input and having a seat at the management table. This is facilitated by the evolving needs of current organisations and by technology, which enables more efficient processing or approval of transactions, budgets, and other financial activities.
HR specialists need to understand business strategy. They need to understand what drives business success and how to engage employees and help them develop and adapt in a constantly changing work environment.
To adapt to the changing business environment, here are some of the most relevant skills that HR specialists can develop: communication, planning & organisation, problem-solving, collaboration, etc.
An HR expert explains how it's like to work in her field
Elly Hilhorst is a former Director of People & Culture at Studyportals, and given her experience in Human Resources, we’ve decided there’s no one better to answer our questions about studying and working in HR.
Elly is an energetic, enthusiastic, experienced and ambitious HR expert, focused on recognising, acknowledging and utilising talent and at the same time closing gaps between individual and organisation goals. The various HR positions and the commercial, entrepreneurial and managerial functions she fulfilled, create a unique combination of experiences which were very useful in a scale-up company like Studyportals.
Previously, Elly worked almost 12 years at Efteling, a Dutch theme-park, of which the last 4,5 years as the HR Director. She previously owned an HR recruitment and consultancy firm for over 6 years, worked in an international HR role in the business travel industry for 3 years and held several positions in retail for 7,5 years. She joined Studyportals in September 2018 and left in November 2020.
Do I need an HRM degree to work in Human Resources?
“It is very appropriate, relevant and useful to have an HRM degree, but it is certainly not insurmountable if you don’t have one. Other degrees are also conceivable that can connect well with the attractive HR profession.
For example, think of Psychology or Business Administration degrees. It’s more important to have certain competences and skills than to have a specific degree. But thorough and targeted education naturally helps in learning and practising the relevant competences and skills.”
Why did you choose to work in HR?
“I just love (working with) people! In the HR field, you always move between what is good for the organisation and what is good for the people who work there. To build that bridge and find a good balance in it is a wonderful task.
It is also very nice to be able to make a real difference for the organisation, by responding well to what is happening in the company and the marketplace, being flexible in your approach and coming up with good and innovative ideas. And for the employees, by helping them to get to know themselves better, letting their (hidden) talents come to life and helping them realise their dreams.”
What are the qualities needed to be a great HR specialist?
Here are a couple of important qualities HR professionals should have, according to Elly:
Problem-solving way of thinking
Computers take over many processes, which leads to increasing demand for skills that computers are not good at (skills that cannot be converted into codes), like analysing, evaluating and creating new ideas.
Fortunately, human insight is still needed for this. Also, in Human Resources, the HR analytics part becomes more and more important. In an HR business partner role, you can convince people quicker when you use data and insights as foundation for your advice and decisions.
Collaborating with various people
In a completely globally connected world, employees are supposed to be able to function in any environment. This requires language skills and adaptability, as well as having the ability to be collaborative in a multicultural environment.
More and more processes will be automated in the future. But, fortunately, computers are still behind human skills in several areas, mainly in the social field and understanding emotions.
That brings us to competence number three: social intelligence. HR people understand what different target groups want and what motivates them to take action. It is important to reach the core of the wishes and needs of these target groups. Then you can respond quickly to their signals.
To stay ahead of competitors as an organisation, creativity is needed. As an HR generalist, you should be able to come up with new working methods, improvements and original ideas which make the organisation stand out from the crowd.
Insight into new media
Know how to use different communication channels. Content generated by the user occupies a more prominent place in the business world. Think videos, blogs, podcasts and infographics instead of static PowerPoint presentations.
The ideal employee of the next decade is described as "T" shaped: they have extensive knowledge of at least one topic but are able to translate this knowledge into a wider range of disciplines. As an HR Generalist, it means that you need to know about recruitment and compensation & benefits, but it’s also key to have knowledge about talent management, training developments, legislation and regulations and data analyses.
What’s the best part about working in HR? What about the worst/most difficult?
“The best part is you can really make a difference, for an individual, a team or the company you work for. It can be big (when you really had an amazing idea that has been brought to reality) but also the smaller things can be very important for a colleague or employee. It can easily be something you said to motivate them or a piece of advice you gave that made them move into a different better direction.
The most difficult thing is letting go of people. For instance, this can happen when the company you are working for is shrinking or is in bad financial weather. But even then, you can make a real difference in HR, by doing this in the best possible way with sincere care for and interest in the wellbeing of the employees.”
What makes studying/working in HR worth it?
“Knowing that you will be able to positively influence and change the lives of many people and facilitating and supporting them in realising their dreams.”
Popular destinations for studying an HRM degree abroad
We’ve listed below the countries offering the most Bachelors and Masters in Human Resource Management. Together, they list over 1,500 HRM degrees on our portals, so you’re spoilt for choice.
- The United States – average tuition 20,000 EUR/year
- The United Kingdom – average tuition 10,000 EUR/year
- Canada – average tuition 10,000 EUR/year
- Australia – average tuition 20,000 EUR/year
- Germany – average tuition 7,000 EUR/year
Tuition fees for Human Resources degrees
If you don’t want to spend so much on your HR studies, there are more affordable options, especially in Europe. Check out tuition fees for:
- HR Bachelors in Ireland – 3,000 EUR/year
- HR Masters in the Netherlands – 2,100 EUR/year
- HR Masters in Denmark – 0 EUR only for EU/EEA students
This is a general overview of tuition costs. You can find cheaper Human Resource Management programmes (less than 5,000 EUR/academic year) even in countries like the US, Canada, and so on. Just decide how much you want to spend and use the filters on our portals to eliminate courses that don’t fit your needs.
PRO TIP: Always check if tuition fees apply to students from your country. Denmark is the perfect example, as it offers free HR degrees, but only to EU/EEA students. If you’re from a different part of the world, you’ll have to pay.
Human Resource Management courses duration
How long does it take to graduate with an HRM diploma? It depends on the degree:
- HR Bachelor’s degree – between 3-4 years
- HR Master’s degree – between 1-2 years
Online HRM courses have similar duration, but you have the advantage of deciding when and where you study.
Admission requirements for Human Resources degrees
These are some of the most common admission criteria for HRM study programmes:
- Minimum English language test score: IELTS 6.0 or TOEFL 75
- High school diploma
- Academic records
- Letter of recommendation
- Minimum English language test score: IELTS 6.5 or TOEFL 80
- Bachelor’s degree in a related subject (some unis accept degrees in unrelated subjects)
- Minimum GPA
- Two letters of recommendation
- Personal statement
- Work experience (1-2 years)
Benefits of online Human Resources degrees
Most people choose an online Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Human Resource Management because they want to focus on other priorities, like part-time/full-time jobs, transforming hobbies into a successful business, or spending time with their family and children.
No matter why you’re interested in studying HR online, here are some of the main benefits:
Save time & money
Studying abroad is a fun experience, but not always a cheap one. Some countries and cities are more affordable than others but studying abroad is usually more expensive than studying online.
You’ll save money on transportation, accommodation, and you’ll spend less time commuting. In a society where many people complain about not having enough time for themselves, an online degree might help you make the best of both worlds.
Master your schedule
Study when you want, where you want. To study online, you only need a reliable internet connection and computer or a mobile device, like a laptop, tablet, or even a smartphone if the smaller screen size isn’t a deal-breaker for you.
Improve your digital skills
An online Human Resources degree allows you to explore the latest platforms used for communication and sharing files. You might already be familiar with the most common online tools, but you can discover new apps or websites that make your work easier. You might even recommend them at your workplace if you feel they can improve communication and collaboration.
Online degrees improve your CV
Completing an online degree in HRM won’t be easy, especially if you have other commitments like a full-time job. But it’s a huge asset on your Curriculum Vitae if you can pull it off. It will show future employees that you’re an ambitious person who can establish goals, identify the steps to get there and do what’s needed to succeed.
What can I do with a Human Resource Management degree?
These are some of the most popular jobs you can get with an HRM degree. We’ve also listed the average salaries in the US according to PayScale and some of the main tasks and responsibilities. This way, you’ll get a better idea about the skills and knowledge required for each position.
Human Resources Assistant – 40,000 USD/year
- Answer incoming emails, calls, and questions from employees
- Insert, update, and check the accuracy of data
- Arrange meetings, appointments, and manage HR calendars
Mediator – 51,700 USD/year
- Evaluate conflicts, talk with people, and try to understand what causes these situations
- Facilitate the communication between people having a dispute
- Work with each side and try to reach an agreement that is acceptable and beneficial for both sides
Human Resources Specialist – 50,000 USD/year
- Plan, organise and conduct interviews with potential employees
- Manage all the documents that need to be read and signed by new staff
- Answer questions related to benefits, personal problems, etc.
Training & Development Manager – 75,000 USD/year
- Create, evaluate and improve training manuals and other instructional materials
- Determine training budgets, find instructors and write costs vs value reports
- Oversee other activities related to the employees’ professional and personal development
Human Resources Manager – 66,500 USD/year
- Develop and facilitate the implementation of administrative HR plans
- Oversee the main activities and tasks of the HR staff
- Conduct annual surveys on salaries, budgets, work environment, and job satisfaction
Message for future HR students
We’ll allow Elly to sum up why you’ll love studying and working in Human Resources:
“You’ve made a very nice choice! The HR field is the most beautiful field to work in, very grateful work and very relevant for all companies, now and in the future! Especially in a world where technology develops very fast, artificial intelligence is becoming a common thing and the IoT (Internet of Things) is embedded almost everywhere, it’s still a lot about people in companies, and that will not change in the future.
In fact, it will only become more and more important, and luckily a lot of professional companies acknowledge that. It is social rather than technological innovation that contributes more to the operating results of companies.”