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Postgraduate (MSc, MA, MBA and PhD) Programs in Human Resources

Human resource (HR) management is a relatively new field that pulls together the fields of personnel administration, organisational behaviour and development, labour relations, the economics of human capital, and subfields such as leadership, change management, and others. These fields are combined into one that focuses on how organisations can develop policies and practices to manage large groups of employees, freelancers, and others who work on behalf of the organisation.

In the past, HR professionals were involved in recruiting and selecting employees, designing compensation plans and benefits packages, overseeing compliance with government regulations, and handling labour relations issues. Those are still important, of course, but increasingly HR professionals are most concerned with managing the substantial changes necessary in the modern workplace – driven by the trends discussed below. 

Once a support function loathed by operating managers (who regarded HR professionals as ignorant of the business that employed them and likely to hamstring operations with endless paperwork), HR is increasingly likely to be seen as a helpful partner in the drive to build a flexible, cost-effective, committed and competent workforce and organisation.

Find postgraduate programs in HUMAN RESOURCES

Human resources


Trends in Human Resources

Numerous substantial trends continue to drive this field, including:

• The new design of organisations, including the flattening of hierarchies in many.
• Technological change (resulting in changed relations between employer and employee).
• Ageing of the workforce.
• Changed expectations of the workforce (regarding empowerment, length of stay with employers, etc.).
• Increased workplace diversity.
• A shift toward team-based working.
• Increased globalisation, meaning that employers must deal with employees with different expectations and norms than their local employees.
• An increased rate of change in organisations, requiring managers to be better managers of change.
• Increased economic competition, and consequent emphasis on increased productivity.
• more complex government regulation.

Choosing a masters program

Most human resource masters programs are one year in length; many are provided online. Note that programs can focus on the narrow, technical approach reminiscent of personnel management programs – salary surveys, performance appraisal, grievance analysis, and the like – or a general management perspective that puts human resource management in a context of business strategy and societal constraints. The strongest programs tend to be those premised on the idea that an organisation’s overall strategy, combined with developments in its environment, should determine its HR strategy.

A typical program might offer courses in:

• Research methods in human resources
• International human resource management
• Employment relations
• Leading and influencing in organisations
• Work organisation
• Change management
• Performance assessment
• Organisational behaviour
• Training and development
• Human resource management

Human resource masters programs fall into two categories: those that require prior work experience in the field (generally two or more years) and those that value, but do not require, such experience. Many programs (in either category) require little more than some knowledge of statistics. Others require nothing other than a bachelors degree. 

Many programs also look for:

• Prior coursework in human resources, organisational behaviour, or psychology
• Undergraduate business degree    

MBA in Human Resources

Human resources student An MBA in Human Resources will allow students to study the core MBA subjects to give them the business management skills required for their chosen career path, plus the chance to study some elective modules that are more specialised in the field of Human Resources.

Core subjects will include: Accounting; Economics; Finance; Marketing; Project Management; and Strategic Planning. The optional Human Resources-focussed modules are likely to include: Employee Relations; Employee Resourcing; and Human Resource Management.

Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt University has an MBA program with Specialism in Human Resource Management which can be studied on campus or via distance learning. This MBA is worked towards on a course-by-course basis and after students have successfully completed three courses they’re eligible for a Postgraduate Certificate in Business Administration, and after six courses for a Postgraduate Diploma in Business Administration. They can then continue on towards qualifying for the MBA by successfully completing HR-focussed modules form a wide choice including: Managing People in Changing Contexts; Managing People in Global Markets; Negotiation and Performance Management.

PhD in Human Resources

Human Resource Management is concerned with the work processes in organisations and the workings of people within companies. This is a wide area of research encompassing the recruitment process, training, rewarding, disciplinaries and assessment. Studying a PhD in Human Resources will enable the student to undertake specialised research in this field.

The PhD in Human Resource Management at Cardiff University is a four -year full-time postgraduate course that includes one year of research training. This course focuses on three areas – organisation studies, employment studies and public management.

Human resources London Career opportunites

The shift from personnel departments to human resource departments has involved a shift toward integrated management systems – combining work design, staffing, measurement, development, compensation, and control systems – tied to the organisation’s business plan and strategy. This has brought human resource professionals much closer to the business core of organisations, rather than being in a limited support role (such as setting out a firm’s sexual harassment policy). As a result, human resource professionals are increasingly valued for their business savvy as well as their knowledge and skill in particular HR functional specialities.

Typical job titles

• Management education officer
• Human resources analyst
• Labour relations manager
• Arbitrator
• Facilitator
• Mediator
• Organisational change consultant
• Organisational development professional
• Employee relations associate
• Benefits analyst
• Personnel manager
• Human resources information analyst
• Compensation manager
• Trainer
• Training co-ordinator
• Recruiter

Professional associations (UK and US)

Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (UK)
American Society for Training and Development (US)
Society for Human Resource Management (US)

Introductory readings

Iain Henderson, Human Resource Management for MBA Students (Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development), provides a particularly easy-to-read overview of the field. Gluttons for punishment can consult Raymond A Noe et al’s lengthy text, Human Resource Management: Gaining a Competitive Advantage (McGraw-Hill/Irwin). The organisational element of the field is given good overview treatment in Stephen P Robbins and and Timothy A Judge’s Essentials of Organizational Behavior (Prentice Hall). A good alternative to Robbins and Judge, albeit more limited in scope, is Andrew J DuBrin’s Fundamentals of Organizational Behavior (South-Western College Publishing).