Which degree is right for you? MBA vs MS in Human Resource Management

February 27, 2018

If you’re a human resources (HR) professional interested in advancing your career, you may be curious about the differences between an MBA or an MS in Human Resource Management.
The short answer is: An MBA degree offers general business skills that can get you ahead in any area,while the MS-HRM is more appropriate for someone with a foundational business background who wants to focus more deeply on human resource management. The degree you choose depends on your career goals.

What’s the difference between an MBA and an MS?

There are two master’s programs in human resources offered through Capella University: a Master of Science (MS) in Human Resource Management and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a specialization in Human Resource Management. Which one should you consider?

According to Shelley Robbins, PhD, Senior Faculty Chair, Masters Programs in Business at Capella, the choice between degree programs is rooted in your current career and future professional goals.

“You can seek out similar positions after completing either one. But you need to ask yourself a series of questions.”

  • What is your background?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Are you changing careers, or looking to advance further into an established HR career?

“If you already have a business background or degree, you may want to pass on an MBA degree,” Robbins says. “The MBA degree includes general business skills, and courses in finance, accounting, strategy, operations, marketing, and other business subjects, along with the human resources education. But if you’re changing careers or not sure you want to stay in HR, the MBA will give you more flexibility to explore other business positions.”

Who should consider the MS degree?  The MS-HRM would be appropriate for someone with a foundational business background who wants to focus more deeply on human resource management. The MS will help you develop skills to lead the HR function and to act as an internal consultant and strategic partner for the business. Both of these master’s programs are aligned with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Curriculum Guidebook and Templates.

There are additional options at Capella to learn about Human Resources related areas. Another related field is Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and Capella offers an MS in that specialty, as well as an MS in Education.

For students who already have advanced degrees but want to focus on HR more closely, a certificate program might be a good option. “Not everyone has the time or resources to study for multiple advanced degrees,” Robbins says. The HRM certificate program allows those students to strengthen their skills and deepen their knowledge without the full master’s program commitment. In addition to the HRM certificate program, we focus on certification review for the SHRM CP and SHRM SCP certifications, as well as the aPHR, PHR, and SPHR professional designations. Students can take this course as an elective in the MS-HRM program, or a certificate program.

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