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Do Advanced HR Degrees Matter?

Ok, this isn’t really a law issue, but since I teach a labour & employment law course in York’s Master’s of Human Resource Management (MHRM) program, I thought I’d make note of a recent survey of master’s degrees targeting human resource management professionals.  (Shameless Plug:  If you are interested in the MHRM, here’s the info.  Note also that York’s School of HRM is also the only university in Canada with a Ph.D program in HR)

A survey done of 1,180 readers of Canadian HR Reporter were asked questions assessing their opinion of the various masters’ degrees.  The respondents were asked to assess the contribution to potential career advancement of the degrees by assigning a score of between 1 and 5 to each,  with 1 being the  most valuable and 5 being the least).  Looking at the proportion of respondents who ranked programs at either 1 or 2, the results were as follows (including the schools in Ontario that offer the degrees):

MHRM (York):  50.5%

MBA (Various):    50.4%

MIRHR (Toronto):  46.3%

MIR (Queens):  31%

M. Industrial Psychology (Various):  28.2%

I have no idea what the respondents actually know about the programs or the graduates.  On the question of whether an advanced degree in HR gives people an ‘an advantage’ in the job market, 31.2%  responded that the degrees give a huge (6.4%) or significant (24.8%) advantage, 28.6% responded that the degrees give a “small” advantage, and 29.3% said it gives “no” advantage.

These results are very surprising.  The extent to which master’s degrees in business provide advantage, are worth the costs, or prepare graduates for the real world has been debated for as long as these degrees have existed.  MBAs in particular have received a lot of criticism in recent years.  Check out this piece from Canadian Business magazine discussing the falling prestige of the MBA, for example.  The article cites a prominent Stanford professor summarizing studies that have shown “there is little evidence that mastery of the knowledge acquired in business schools enhances people’s careers, or that even attaining the MBA credential itself has much effect on graduates’ salaries or career attainment.”

Do any of you have opinions on the value of graduate degrees to careers in HR or industrial relations?

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2 Responses to Do Advanced HR Degrees Matter?

  1. docandrews Reply

    September 4, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    I completed a business degree majoring in HR/IR (with a number of industrial law units) but was advised against doing a masters degree in HR (the content was largely the same).

    I searched around for an MBA with a HR major (5 of 12 units were HR) and completed that instead. For me this was the right choice.

    I then had a choice of doing a PhD or DBA with a HR major. I work for a University HR Department and it was a practitioner’s choice – the DBA. The thesis topic was on HR performance auditing.

    My advice: HR study alone lacks credibility. It needs to be combined with business, law or psychology. If your undergrad degree is in these areas then the Masters in HRM is an excellent career choice.

  2. B Reply

    March 26, 2019 at 9:23 pm

    This is quite an interesting post.

    I recently completed a post-degree certificate program in HRM from York U and I found it provided me an advantage in the labour market, at least in the Ottawa/Gatineau job market.

    I’ve recently been accepted into the Queens MIR program but am hopeful to attend the UofT MIRHR program. Trying to predict which school will be more advantageous for my career has been a tough one.

    Let’s hope the advanced HR degree really does matter (and will be worth leaving full-time work to pursue this further education)!

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