2022 Guide: Online Bachelor's in HR & Risk Management Degree Programs

An online HR degree program teaches specific skills for a career in human resources. Instead of physically going to college, you study HR-related subjects like labor relations, employment law, and organizational communication over the internet. Achieving a certification like an online bachelor’s in HR could increase earning potential and provide exciting new employment opportunities. Upon graduation, you could work for an organization’s HR department handling employment, recruitment, training, and disciplinary issues. 

Learn about online HR degree programs and the benefits of studying in a digital learning environment. 

What Is an Online HR Degree?

An online HR degree prepares you for a new career in human resources. Unlike a conventional degree, you earn a certification like an online bachelor’s in HR over the internet and communicate with tutors, faculty members, and other students through webinars, video tutorials, community forums, and digital workshops. 

During your online HR degree, you might learn skills like:

  • Labor law
  • Labor relations
  • Organizational communication
  • Recruitment and selection
  • Employee training
  • Employee onboarding
  • Compensation and benefits management
  • Performance management
  • Data governance
  • How to use a human resources information system 

You might take all your classes online or combine digital learning with classroom-based training. 

Once you receive a certification like an online bachelor’s in HR, you can work as a:

  • Human resources manager
  • Human resources specialist
  • Labor relations expert
  • Compensation and benefits specialist
  • Training and development specialist

After several years of working in HR, you could become a human resources director. 

A typical HR job involves:

  • Handling employee relations
  • Processing payroll
  • Administering compensation and benefits
  • Interviewing, recruiting, and onboarding new employees
  • Complying with labor laws
  • Complying with data governance legislation

You will wear many hats in HR. You will be a communicator, problem-solver, negotiator, and team player. You will liaise with different departments and manage the administrative functions of your organization. You will also handle the legal responsibilities associated with handling sensitive employee data.

Studying for an online HR degree means you won’t need to travel to a college or live on its campus, so you can maintain family commitments or continue to work for your current employer. You can study from home or anywhere in the world and learn the skills required for a new role in HR at your own pace. 

Applying for one of these programs is relatively simple. However, you will need to submit the correct documents with your application. Otherwise, you could experience delays. 

Each school that offers an online HR degree has different admissions criteria. However, most schools require:

  • Evidence of previous academic experience, which includes transcripts from schools, colleges, and community colleges you have previously attended. You should also include evidence of any HR-related courses you studied online. Transcripts should show your GPA for that program or individual grades for any courses completed. Including a reference from a tutor from one of those courses can also strengthen your application. 
  • Evidence of work experience, including internships. You should include letters from previous managers and internship coordinators. Listing your roles and responsibilities during an internship or work program, especially if the program was HR-related, will strengthen your application. 
  • Personal statement, including your career goals and why you want to study a particular HR program. You can also include information about your preferred learning styles, personal accomplishments, and interests. 

A tutor or program might want to interview you during the application process.

How Much Does an HR Degree Cost? 

A bachelor’s degree in HR could cost between $43,000 and $64,000 in tuition fees, according to U.S. News & World Report. Per-credit costs typically range from $360 to $500. These prices don’t include commuting costs or room and board rates when living on campus. Other expenses might include registration fees, examination fees, and program supplies. 

An online bachelor’s in HR might work out cheaper than a conventional degree because you might not have to pay for travel or accommodation costs.

You can reduce the costs associated with an HR degree with a student loan, scholarship, or grant. Many organizations provide scholarships and grants to students from low-income backgrounds, as well as those who can demonstrate exceptional academic achievement. There are no limits on the number of grants and scholarships you can apply for. You can find a full list of HR scholarships online or by talking to the program director at your school.  

Average Salary for an HR Degree

The median annual salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree in human resources management is around $57,860, according to PayScale. (Data correct as of October 2020.) That’s about $22.50 an hour. 

Those with specific HR skills such as coaching, data governance, organizational design, and workforce planning might earn more than the median annual salary above. An HR major with several years of experience in an HR role might also garner a higher salary.

The mean annual wage for a human resources manager — one of the most popular jobs for those with an HR degree — is $134,580, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). (Data correct as of May 2020.) That’s $64.70 per hour.

The top-paying states for human resources managers are:

  1. District of Columbia: $167,190 (mean annual wage)
  2. Illinois: $127,500
  3. Connecticut: $149,900
  4. Massachusetts: $153,990
  5. Minnesota: $128,440

The top-paying metropolitan areas for human resources managers are:

  1. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT: $ 194,040 (mean annual wage)
  2. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $183,890
  3. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA: $179,870
  4. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: $174,710
  5. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: $160,030
  6. Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH: $159,580
  7. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO: $156,840
  8. Columbus, IN: $156,660
  9. Vineland-Bridgeton, NJ: $155,560
  10. Providence-Warwick, RI-MA: $154,920

(Data correct as of May 2020.)

The mean annual wage for a human resources specialist — another popular job for those with an HR degree — is $69,430, according to BLS. (Data correct as of May 2020.) That’s $33.38 per hour.

The top-paying states for human resources specialists are:

  1. District of Columbia: $101,680 (mean annual wage)
  2. California: $79,590
  3. New Jersey: $79,360
  4. New York: $79,360
  5. Virginia: $77,830

The top-paying metropolitan areas for human resources specialists are:

  1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $96,090 (mean annual wage)
  2. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: $93,680
  3. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: $90,130
  4. Napa, CA: $84,210
  5. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT: $84,000
  6. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA: $83,760
  7. Wenatchee, WA: $83,510
  8. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA: $82,580
  9. Durham-Chapel Hill, NC: $82,440
  10. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA: $80,870

(Data correct as of May 2020.)

The mean annual wage for a human resources assistant (except payroll and timekeeping) is $44,170, according to BLS. (Data correct as of May 2020.) That’s $21.24 per hour.

The top-paying states for human resources assistants (except payroll and timekeeping) are:

  1. District of Columbia: $57,320 (mean annual wage)
  2. Alaska: $50,060
  3. California: $48,410
  4. New York: $48,260
  5. Connecticut: $48,090

The top-paying metropolitan areas for human resources assistants (except payroll and timekeeping) are:

  1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $55,950 (mean annual wage)
  2. Ithaca, NY: $55,450
  3. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: $55,410
  4. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: $51,950
  5. New Haven, CT: $50,870
  6. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA: $49,580
  7. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT: $49,390
  8. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT: $49,260
  9. Barnstable Town, MA: $49,210
  10. Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY: $49,170

(Data correct as of May 2020.)

The mean annual wage for a payroll and timekeeping clerk is $48,290, according to BLS. (Data correct as of May 2020.) That’s $23.21 per hour.

The top-paying states for payroll and timekeeping clerks are:

  1. District of Columbia: $64,050 (mean annual wage)
  2. Connecticut: $55,940
  3. California: $55,000
  4. Washington: $54,400
  5. Illinois: $54,250

The top-paying metropolitan areas for payroll and timekeeping clerks are:

  1. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: $64,470 (mean annual wage)
  2. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT: $63,300
  3. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: $62,600
  4. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $61,740
  5. Santa Rosa, CA: $61,400
  6. Barnstable Town, MA: $59,110
  7. Rochester, MN: $57,520
  8. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA: $57,250
  9. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI: $56,900
  10. Olympia-Tumwater, WA: $56,630

(Data correct as of May 2020.)

The mean annual wage for an office and administrative support worker is $39,340, according to BLS. (Data correct as of May 2020.) That’s $18.91 per hour.

The top-paying states for office and administrative support workers are:

  1. District of Columbia: $58,690 (mean annual wage)
  2. Vermont: $51,730
  3. Alaska: $51,500
  4. Michigan: $50,030
  5. North Dakota: $49,050

The top-paying metropolitan areas for office and administrative support workers are:

  1. Burlington-South Burlington, VT: $60,690 (mean annual wage)
  2. Lansing-East Lansing, MI: $55,890
  3. Tuscaloosa, AL: $53,910
  4. Bismarck, ND: $53,120
  5. Vallejo-Fairfield, CA: $52,100
  6. York-Hanover, PA: $51,960
  7. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: $51,870
  8. Anchorage, AK: $51,750
  9. Fargo, ND-MN: $51,690
  10. Jackson, MI: $50,970

(Data correct as of May 2020.)

What Is the Job Outlook for HR Degree Holders? 

The job outlook is positive for HR majors. There will be a 7.1% increase in job opportunities for HR managers, for example, from 2018 to 2028, according to Projections Central/Department of Labor. That’s higher than the average increase for all occupations (around 5%).

Courses in HR

You might take the following courses during your HR degree:

Labor laws and relations (civil rights, family medical leave, paid time off, worker’s compensation, etc.)
Screening, interviewing, and recruiting new employees
Using a human resources information system
Workplace safety management
Liaising with different departments about HR-related issues 
Compensation and benefits management/administration
Payroll administration (compensating employees for hours worked, withholding taxes, preparing employee checks, etc.)
Conflict resolution/handling employee complaints and disputes
Collecting, processing, and sharing HR data
Business management
HR data analytics
Soft skills like communication, time management, teamwork, and strategic planning

HR programs consist of coursework like essays and exams. You might take exams after each course or at the end of the program. If you are studying for a master’s degree in HR, you might complete a dissertation that involves independent research about a topic that interests you. 

Online and physical colleges grade your coursework and exams in the same way. You will receive grades for all work completed, and the school will then convert those grades into a GPA (Grade Point Average).

A typical grading system for an HR degree includes these categories:

  1. Fail
  2. Pass
  3. Merit/credit
  4. Distinction

Schools typically use these grading boundaries:

  • 50% for a pass
  • 60% for a merit/credit
  • 70% for a distinction

Of course, business-related courses are upper-level material. Bachelor’s degree students must complete a certain number of undergraduate basic coursework first. That means before you get to study marketing principles, you’ll have to take Writing 101. The undergraduate coursework will help lay the foundation you need to complete the business part of your education—for instance, learning the math you’ll need to know for research methods.

FAQs About HR

Core Takeaways for an Online Bachelors in HR

  • You can get an HR degree online or at a college campus. 
  • Both options take around the same time to complete.
  • It takes around four years to get an online bachelor’s in HR.

  • Increased earning potential.
  • New career opportunities.
  • The opportunity to execute administrative functions for an organization.
  • An HR bachelor’s degree costs between $43,000 and $64,000, according to U.S. News and World Report. 
  • An online bachelor’s in HR could work out cheaper than a conventional degree because you might not have to pay for travel or accommodation costs.  
  • You can apply for a scholarship to reduce the costs associated with your HR degree.

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