What degree is needed for a career in human resources?

October 10, 2023 · 4 min read · By ASU Online
Discover the key functions of human resources, career path opportunities and the online bachelor’s degree that can prepare you for the field.

What are the key functions of human resources?

The key functions of human resources (HR) encompass a range of responsibilities that focus on managing and facilitating an organization's workforce. The human resources department is often in charge of some or all of employee relations functions such as acquiring talent, advertising job openings, aiding employee onboarding and handling employee concerns. HR assists in facilitating benefits and compensation programs, encouraging professional development opportunities and maintaining employee records.

Additionally, these professionals ensure that organizations are complying with legal regulations such as labor laws, industry standards and health and safety practices. In short, human resources focuses on supporting how people interact within an organization. The specific roles and responsibilities within HR can vary depending on the size of the organization.


What are the different roles in an HR department?

As an HR professional, you can work in many fields, such as business, technology, education, startups, nonprofits or the medical industry.

Karen Stafford, a faculty associate teaching human resource management at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, shared her insight about choosing your path in HR. “If you enjoy making new connections, sourcing applicants by getting them excited about working for the company and working with hiring managers to consider a variety of candidates, starting out in the recruiting or talent acquisition function could be a great first step,” she said. “If you prefer crunching numbers and generating analytics, an internship or entry-level position as an HR specialist or analyst might be of interest to you.”

Additionally, with more experience or a master’s degree, you may be qualified for management roles, such as chief human resources officer, executive recruiters, labor relations manager or training and development manager.

The job outlook and salaries for human resources employees

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), human resources skills are in demand and the field is growing faster than the average rate of all other jobs . It’s important to note that an HR professional’s income ranges widely depending on the industry, responsibilities, education and previous experience.

The most important skills HR professionals need

As a human resources professional, you’ll need a combination of problem solving skills, leadership qualities and the ability to build interpersonal relationships.

To fulfill the daily responsibilities, HR professionals should be able to:

  • Build interpersonal relationships: To effectively manage employee relations, you must communicate well with potential, current and former employees. HR professionals often make sure that employees feel appreciated for their contributions throughout their employment.
  • Demonstrate leadership: As a leader, you will work to improve company culture and learn what employees need to be satisfied in their career. You must also be detail-oriented, since you’ll be working with official and legal documentation that protects both the employees and organization. 
  • Resolve conflicts: It’s important that employees at your organization feel comfortable talking to you about any workplace issues they may be experiencing. Part of the HR department’s responsibilities entail acting as a mediator during any escalated problems in the workplace.
  • Solve problems: Having strong problem-solving skills will help you ensure all parties can work towards a resolution before conflict grows further. HR managers also ensure that company policies are upheld. If any parties break those rules, they will need to be held accountable.


The ASU Online degrees that prepare you for a career in human resources

Human resources professionals are an essential part of many organizations and earning a bachelor’s degree can help you stand out to employers. By completing a Bachelor of Arts in business with a concentration in human resources, you’ll be skilled in critical thinking, communication, leadership and relationship management. This program includes a business core curriculum with an applied focus on human resources courses, such as Human Resource Management.

“This program offers students a chance to learn about the HR function and, through the various activities, exercises, case studies and assignments, actually adopt the mindset of an HR practitioner.” said Stafford.

You’ll gain experience with real world HR practices, such as onboarding processes and developing employee's compensation plans. In addition, you’ll develop global competence and learn about the differences in human resources policies nationwide in the Global Human Resources class.

If you’re interested in earning a degree that focuses more on general management skills, the Bachelor of Arts in business with a concentration in business administration may be a better fit for your career goals.

Mindy West, a clinical associate professor at W.P. Carey School of Business, noted that, compared to the HR degree concentration, ​​this program requires a deeper dive into the functional areas of business. This includes marketing, finance, operations and strategy. The curriculum includes a business core curriculum with a business administration capstone that prepares you to successfully manage relations with stakeholders.

“Both degrees could lead to rewarding career opportunities, but they cater to different aspects of the business world. Your choice between the two should align with your interests, strengths and career goals,” said West.

Everything you need to know about ASU Online classes and degree programs

We’ve compiled what you need to know about online classes and degree programs at Arizona State University. Read on to learn all about what to expect from the ASU Online learning experience.


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