Best HR Master Program in the US: Runner-ups

Other than Cornell University, the following ten universities are also known for their HR programs.

Michigan State University

Michigan State offers both an MBA with an HR Emphasis and an HR Masters at the School of Industrial Labor Relations. What truly separates Michigan State from the rest of the pack is the international scope of its program, with the ability to earn an HR Masters degree at a campus in Dubai. A diverse and intellectually challenging curriculum and a productive research relationship between the School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the Eli Broad School of Business round out the advantages of attaining a degree from this elite HR Program. With high profile alumni such as Kevin Cox, CHRO at American Express, and Brian Schipper, CHRO at Cisco Systems, Michigan State boasts a long and enduring legacy of excellence in Human Resources Studies.

University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota HR Graduate Program, like its top-notch competitors, has a longstanding elite reputation, a large and well-connected alumni pool, and is attached to the well-regarded Carlson School of Business, which allows students to take supplemental business classes.

How the University of Minnesota differentiates itself is with sheer breadth of offerings in its curriculum, which it maintains while sparing none of the depth needed for a well-rounded program. Some of the more popular and creative courses offered recently include "Innovative HR Leadership in the Context of Change and Uncertainty," "International Human Resource Management," and "Employee Development: Creating a Competitive Advantage."

University of Illinois

Perhaps this program's greatest asset in luring top candidates is the fact that the top third of the entering class receives some form of funding from the school toward their tuition. The University of Illinois is a large program which, when coupled with its generally less competitive admissions requirements, makes it a nice compromise choice for those not accepted or unable to afford the cost of the top 3 schools. While they currently do not share average GRE scores for the entering class, Illinois is generally considered to require exceptional scores, though they can be slightly lower than those needed for Cornell or Minnesota.

As already mentioned, the program is also well known for its generosity with scholarship money, with a full scholarship having been offered to top-scoring prospective students in recent years.

University of Rutgers

Rutger's HR Masters Program lays claim to having the most published HR faculty in the world. Such a reputation has proven a huge advantage to having a degree from the Rutgers brand on your list of credentials, especially in the Northeast, where the school undoubtedly boasts huge clout in connections and job placement.

The average starting salary and signing bonus for graduates, however, has a larger range than other schools of Rutger's caliber. This means that job prospects following graduation depend more on individual achievement than merely the program's impressive name recognition.

Admissions requirements are high, but not as competitive as other top-tier programs, with both GRE and GMAT scores needing to be in the 500s.

Purdue University's Krannert School

Purdue is another school that offers both a Masters in HR and an MBA with an Emphasis in HR. So, like Cornell and Michigan, Purdue's programs combine an intense business-focused curriculum with practical HR-specific class work. The Krannert School is one of the nation's leading recruiting pipelines for the best HR employers.

While Krannert recommends for students to pursue the Masters in HR, this may not prove to be the best option for every student. The small size of the Masters in HR program (17-25 students on average), allows for greater faculty involvement in student learning and guarantees that graduates will be well-equipped in even the most challenging HR positions, but it also means that fewer firms will recruit from this specific program, thus making competition fierce.

Instead, many would find the MBA with the HR Emphasis fits their learning style better, while increasing their chances of earning a great starting salary post-grad.

Ohio State University

Ohio State is a program with a great reputation that is perfect for those that are looking for a flexible way to earn their graduate degree. Their HR Masters Program is tiny, with around 35 admitted each fall. Over a third of those enrolled pursue their degrees part-time, so classes are often scheduled for the evening.

Although it may cater to many working, rather than full-time students, the career placement rivals schools with much more resources and national name recognition.

This is due to its affiliation with Ohio State's Fisher School of Business and its extensive alumni network.

Penn State

Penn State's program is notable in that in nearly guarantees that its graduates will have a job lined up by the time they graduate (95% have at least one job offer by the time they graduate, with many have multiple offers). Their career placement department excels in finding graduates jobs in industries and fields that are often overlooked, such as unions, state and federal governments, and non-profits. For those not interested in going to work for a large corporation, this may be their dream school. This isn't to say that Penn State grads do not land jobs at top international companies as well. They certainly do, and in large numbers, being recruited by the likes of CIGNA, Lockheed Martin, IBM, Corning, and Westinghouse. Still others find that Penn State's alumni network excels at matching graduates with consulting opportunities at firms such as PricewaterhouseCoopers or Accenture.

South Carolina University

A great advantage to the program at South Carolina is that its 45-credit Master of HR degree from the Moore School of Business can be completed in a year-and-a-half. This includes a 6-credit internship that will provide you with hand-on experience in the HR field.

An additional attractive feature is that South Carolina offers students the opportunity to meet and interact with representatives from the Reigel and Emory Human Resources Advisory Board. This group consists of top exectives from the HR field, spanning from government to management to labor. They meet biannually and help to produce the school's curriculum. General Motors, ExxonMobil, Pepsi Bottling Group, and Fidelity Investments are all represented on the board.

University of West Virginia

West Virginia offers a very good MISR program (Masters in Science of Human Resources and Industrial Relations). Recent grads have gone on to jobs at General Electric and Sony Erickson. WVU tends to, much like Penn State, have great connections that allow for greater opportunity at public sector jobs at places like the United Way. It separates itself from other programs in the way the curriculum can be separated to focus on one's specific HR interests, such as labor relations, organizational development, or healthcare plan operation.

University of Texas A&M

Texas A&M is a program that seems like your average HR graduate school option. But it differentiates itself by its robust list of corporate sponsors, who are more likely to hire a graduate coming from Texas A&M than from another program. It has a particular connection to energy companies. The sponsors include AT&T, Chevron, ConocoPhilips, Dow Chemical, and Halliburton.

The best thing to do when applying to an HR graduate program is to meticulously research the details of each potential choice. Once you narrow down your choices by considering each school's pros and cons, other factors such as availability of funding and geographic location should make the decision somewhat easier for you. Fortunately, every school listed offers a program with an over 90% rate of job placement. Therefore, while some schools might benefit you more in the long run, deep commitment to your studies and a passion for HR will do much more to help you rise to the top of your field.

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