Guide to a Human Resource Management Online MBA

what is human resources

This guide will explore the exciting field of Human Resource Management. It includes a definition of HR, the history of the field, and how to choose a high-quality Human Resource Management Online MBA. This article concludes with some action plans one can take to begin her journey into a thriving HR program.



The MBA degree has a long and seasoned history that dates back to the early 1900s when the Graduate School at Harvard University first introduced its program. Today it has grown to be an extensive program and the most popular business education credential on the planet.

The MBA has developed over the years to encompass numerous specializations, majors, concentrations, and certificates covering specialized topics in business and the core business and management courses. Concentrations focus on specific business areas or job sectors, which allow graduate students to gain the invaluable experience they need for their future careers. Business students can currently pursue an online MBA program with a specialized curriculum in IT, Economics, Marketing, HR, Business Analytics, and Supply Chain Management, with more options added each academic year. 

What is Human Resource Management?

Human Resource Management is the business sector that centers on an organization’s most valuable commodity – its employees. HR managers help set the tone of an entity’s culture and work to develop their organization one that employees have the chance to thrive in. Because of their influence over a company’s employee culture, a successful HR manager helps design and execute strategies while making decisions that directly influence an organization’s long-term goals.

Human Resources covers all employee-related aspects for an organization, from recruiting to hiring to benefits and training. While all industries rely on capable human resource management, there are various options of what fields professionals can choose to work in. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, human resources managers will see a six percent increase in job growth between 2019-2029. This rate is faster than the national average. In addition, the median annual pay for an HR manager was $121,220 in 2020. According to the U.S. News and World Report, working as an HR specialist in 2021 means you have the 14th best business position in the nation.

There are many Human Resource Management positions to consider going into if you are interested in the field. 

Payroll Manager

As the title states, payroll managers manage an organization’s payroll department, ensuring that all transactions are processed correctly and promptly. They also investigate and solve any payroll dilemmas that may arise.

HR meeting

Recruiting Manager

Recruiting or staffing managers are responsible for recruiting and hiring new employees for an organization. They are usually in charge of designing recruiting strategies that attract the optimal candidates for their hiring needs. HR experts who are exceptionally good at networking and creating attention-grabbing job postings could find themselves with even more responsibility by leading a team as a Director of Recruitment.

Training and Development Manager

Training and development managers will often be MBA holders. These business professionals are tasked with analyzing the training needs of an organization and then creating and executing professional development and training programs for employees based on their research.

Employee Relations

Labor or employee relations managers oversee employment policies regarding union and nonunion employees by writing and administering labor contracts. These contracts will cover everything from wages to management practices. They also include labor complaints between management and employees.

What is Valuable to Know About the Human Resource Management Online MBA?

While there are focused master’s degree programs that cover human resource management, there are some convincing reasons to pursue an online MBA in the field. First off, there is a tangible level of prestige that only an MBA can offer. Second, the degree affords more flexibility for future career plans outside the human resources field as MBA coursework encompasses more information than a mere Master’s in Human Resources. Third, while a master’s degree deals with the practical aspects of the job, MBA programs also include leadership development training. Finally, the breadth gives business professionals the skills they need to understand better the big picture, which is valuable since HR managers benefit from having a working knowledge of all areas of an organization.

Most Online MBA programs share similar elements. They include courses that cover management, communication, and organizational leadership, which are essential skills for HR managers, especially those in leadership development. In addition, managerial-level accounting, finance, and statistical analysis courses ensure that human resource managers retain a comprehensive view of the business side of the company they work for, which is essential when they are involved in strategic problem-solving. Graduate students can focus on emphases like labor relations, employment law, compensation and benefits, talent development, and organizational psychology within the programs. Despite the recent growth in the business field, there remains robust competition for positions, and an online MBA helps open doors for higher-level and sought-after human resources positions.

human resource management

What is the History of Human Resource Management and the MBA? 

The term “human resources” or “human resource management” has been a standard part of business vocabulary for the last ten or fifteen years. Before that, the field of business was generally termed “personnel administration.” Thus, the name change has more to do with the development of the field than mere cosmetics. 

Some Historical Context for Human Resource Management

Industrial Welfare

Industrial welfare was the first type of human resource management. The 1833 Factories Act included a clause that increased the number of male factory inspectors. Within 45 years, legislation was passed that regulated work hours for children and women by limiting numbers to a 60-hour week. Trade unions started to be formed during this time. The first trade union conference was held in 1868. This brought on the start of collective bargaining. By 1913 the number of industrial welfare workers had increased to the point that a conference organized by Seebohm Rowntree was planned. As a result, the Welfare Workers Association was formed and rebranded as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

The Beginning of Personnel Management

The National Cash Register Co. developed the first personnel management department in the early 1900s. After several employee lockouts and strikes, NCR head John H. Patterson organized a personnel department that handled grievances and discharges, supervised safety issues, and trained supervisors on new procedures, laws, and practices.

Personnel administration developed as a clearly defined field of business in the United States in the 1920s. It was primarily concerned with the technical aspects of hiring, training, evaluating, and compensating employees. It was also very much considered a “staff” function in most organizations. The field did not typically emphasize the relationship between disparate employment practices and the overall organizational performance or systematic relationships among methods in its infancy. The burgeoning field lacked a unifying paradigm.


Recruiting and Selection

During this time, personnel development increased because of government initiatives that encouraged the best use of resources. By 1916 it became the norm for explosive factories to staff welfare workers, and it was promoted in munitions factories. The U.S. military made many advances in this field. The armed forces focused on testing IQ and abilities along with other research factors regarding people at work. In 1921 the National Institute of Psychologists published study results regarding interviewing techniques, training methods, and selection tests.

Acquisition of Personnel Activities

During World War Two, the focus shifted to recruitment, selection, and training. Other vital subjects included discipline, improving morale and motivation, health and safety, wage policies, and joint consultation. The result was that a personnel department needed to be established with a well-trained and competent staff.

Industrial Relations

Communication between management and the workforce developed during the war. Personnel departments soon became responsible for the organization and administration of policies and procedures. Health, safety, and the need for specialists in these areas became the focus. In addition, the need for trained specialists to work within industrial relations became apparent. Hence, personnel managers became spokesmen for the organization when formal discussions took place with trade unions and shop stewards. 

Human resource management developed from the substantial increase in competitive pressures American business organizations began dealing with in the late 1970s because of globalization, rapid technological change, and deregulation. These pressures produced an enhanced concern on the part of companies to engage in strategic planning-a system that anticipates future changes in environmental conditions and aligns the various components of the organization to promote organizational stability and effectiveness.

Growth and Legislation

By the 1970s, industrial relations became an essential part of business leadership. During this time, the tense professional climate reinforced the need for a specialist role in industrial relations and negotiation. The personnel manager now had the authority to negotiate deals concerning compensation and other collective issues. As the world entered the 1980’s, employment legislation was well-formed, and personnel issues were being handled by specialist advisors who ensured that management did not violate laws and that cases did not end up in industrial tribunals.

What do Human Resource Managers Do?

HR challenges

Human resource management, or personnel management, consists of all the activities performed by an enterprise to ensure the effective use of employees toward the attainment of organizational, group, and individual goals. An organization’s human resource management function is concerned with the people side of management. It consists of regular practices that help an organization deal effectively with its people during the several phases of the employment cycle, including pre-hire, hiring, and post-hire. 

Pre-Hire Phase

The pre-hire phase includes planning practices. The organization decides what types of job openings will exist in the upcoming calendar and determines the necessary qualifications for performing these duties. HR managers must be able to write up clear and compelling job descriptions and notices to attract the right kind of employee.

Hire Phase

During the hiring phase, a company selects its employees. Selection practices may include recruiting applicants, assessing specific qualifications, and selecting those determined to be the most qualified. HR managers must have the wisdom and experience to conduct job interviews and find the right fit.

Post-Hire Phase

In the post-hire phase, the company develops HRM practices that effectively manage people once they have taken on their new positions within the organization. These practices work to maximize all employees’ performance and satisfaction levels by providing them with the needed knowledge and skills to perform their tasks. These practices also result in conditions that facilitate, energize, and direct employees’ efforts toward meeting the organization’s primary goals.


Diversity and Flexibility 

A significant trend emerged in the 1990s when employers began seeking increased flexible arrangements in employees’ work hours due to an increase in the number of part-time and temporary contracts. The development of distance working also helped to form this practice. Along with the workforce itself, patterns of work became more diverse, resulting in traditional recruitment practices becoming obsolete.

By the turn of the century, rapid growth in internet use meant an irreversible shift to a 24/7 way of life. New jobs in e-commerce were created while jobs within traditional areas like downtown shops were lost. This trend also meant an increased potential for employees to work from home offices. As a result, organizations began to think strategically about issues these developments produced. Even today, HR managers face new challenges as the world figures out how to operate post-Covid 19.

How Do I Choose the Right Human Resource Management Online MBA?

A human resource online MBA is the best of both worlds for professionals looking for an advanced degree with a breadth of business education that emphasizes organizational and people skills. Of course, having finance, marketing, strategy, and operations skills is essential as all of those are extremely important and will never go away. But there is also a time-tested reality among business leadership that putting employees first yields attractive results for any organization.

Human resources has become a coveted skill set in prospective employees with a greater need for workplace inclusion, flexibility, diversity, and equity. Unfortunately, some people don’t discover HR as a career path until they have already graduated from business school. Making the right choices for your career path when you return to business school for an MBA is more important than ever. Some business school students choose to specialize in HR because doing so better aligns with today’s modern job search options. An MBA with an emphasis in an HR-adjacent business field can help graduate students develop general management skills like their business school counterparts.

What to Expect Within Graduate-level HR Courses

job search

Within many of the nation’s best online MBA degrees in human resources, distance learners are responsible for core MBA classes, including business strategy, accounting, finance, and leadership. Some of these courses will touch on HR-centric topics. There are also courses about leading change, ethics, diversity in organizations, and negotiations. Human resources-focused courses help graduate students learn how to attract, motivate, and retain people, as that’s one of the primary goals of any organization that wishes to stay competitive in today’s uncertain market.

Careers To Consider After Completing an Online MBA in Human Resources

Most professionals who attain an Online MBA with a focus in HR tend to head in two career directions: HR consulting and HR management. Anything related to people and HR is becoming more strategic and more of a coveted skill. The HR management career path may include managing certain levels of business or specializing in talent, benefits, or retention. Some MBA students who specialize in HR choose to pursue consulting jobs as they tend to offer more flexible schedules and, sometimes, higher salaries. Whichever path business school students choose, it’s essential to understand that employers will look beyond a résumé and grades to evaluate fit for a role in today’s HR world. Employers interview with an eye for a new hire’s ability to adapt and pivot. Attractive new hires are those who come across as flexible and open to anything.

How Do I Apply for an Online MBA in Human Resource Management? 

Here are the three moves a business school student interested in pursuing an online MBA in HR needs to make to ensure a smooth process into a program:

1. Begin the Application Process Early

No candidate is doing themselves a favor by scrambling to put together a half-hearted strategy when applying to respected business schools that have the best and brightest minds from all over the world clambering for a seat. Instead, start your research process early. Allow yourself the time needed for delays and setbacks. Since you will be spending the next two years or more of your life at one of the schools you’re trying to get into, be sure to make an informed decision by giving yourself time to research and form a plan.

2. Get Your GMAT Out of the Way

students studying

The GMAT may prove to be one of the cornerstones of your Online MBA prep. Many business schools will not consider a candidate if she doesn’t fit their initial screening criteria, so make sure to prepare and give yourself enough time to take the test unrushed. You may also need to consider retaking the exam if you are not pleased with your score. 

3. Interview Former and Current MBA Students

One of the best ways to understand a program’s strengths and weaknesses is to meet students who have graduated from or are currently attending the schools you are primarily interested in. By doing this, you may also gain access to professionals you will end up networking with in the future.

Action Plans

Business school has so much to offer. Unfortunately, it will also prove to be a significant drain on your time, energy, and resources during the one to three years or more you may commit to it. So, before taking the plunge into your online MBA with an emphasis in human resources, here are three things you can do to prepare yourself to be successful as a distance learner:

1. Find Out What to Expect

To help navigate the rough waters of business school, you should first have as much information from the beginning of the process as possible so you can plan your time management accordingly. Research what classes you should take each term and develop a roadmap or flowchart for the duration of your program so you can be sure of how much time it will take to complete your MBA. Being prepared means knowing what subject you will be studying at any given point on your journey.


2. Create Attainable Goals

Get to the point of being able to define want you specifically want out of your MBA degree. Maybe it’s a promotion at your current organization or the confidence you need to start your own brand. By setting some objectives initially, you can plan your course of action for your program’s length. In addition, having the end goal in mind will help graduate students in HR choose suitable courses, not to mention encourages them to keep persevering through the end of the degree.

3. Learn the Art of Prioritizing

When you choose to pursue an online MBA in human resources and plan to continue to work full or part-time, learning to prioritize is essential. With so many urgent tasks vying for your attention, you will need to identify the most important and address them quickly. Being skilled in prioritizing effectively helps you succeed in an MBA program while balancing outside commitments. You will never be able to do everything to perfection, so never kid yourself into thinking you can. Professionals who are serious about prioritizing can drop something in midstream to deal with another task with more significant potential to drive results. Being willing to do things halfway to get more done with the higher chances of yielding strong results is not automatic for high performers, but it is essential for successful leaders in business.

This brief guide on the online MBA in human resources has spoken into the degree, how it originated, and how one can successfully find a program. While the degree is demanding, it has proven itself year after year as working professionals have improved business through it. So, if you are serious about business leadership and HR, consider an online MBA.

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