Sunday, April 26, 2009



1. Cornell
2. Michigan State
3. Minnesota
4. Illinois
5. Rutgers
6. Purdue
7. Ohio State
8. Penn State
9. South Carolina
10. West Virginia
11. Texas A&M

In many HR circles in recent years an emerging debate centers around the best course for HR Graduate Education. Some experts argue in favor of the MBA while others retain the conviction that a HR Masters is the more appropriate path. A definitive answer to this debate depends on numerous factors for each individual. What is not debatable is that financial accumen and business knowledge are core competencies for any aspiring Chief HR Officer. CHRO's at the world's largest companies are paid millions of dollars per year for their expertise and capacity to influence bottom-line results.

Also of note is that within media circles that rank virtually every type of graduate program imaginable -- a definitive ranking of HR Grad Programs does not exist. Rankings themselves have inherent flaws, but they do provide a guidepost for prospective students and corporate recruiters. In a previous post I provided the rankings of the top seventeen schools that offer HR graduate degrees. Some of these schools offered HR Masters, some MBA's, and some offer both.

In this post I will focus only on a ranking of the HR Masters Programs.

Key considerations in the rankings: starting salaries, class demographics, curriculum depth, faculty prestige, # of recruiting companies, size and quality of alumni base, history/legacy, # of internship offers.


1. Cornell
2. Michigan State
3. Minnesota
4. Illinois
5. Rutgers
6. Purdue
7. Ohio State
8. Penn State
9. South Carolina
10. West Virginia
11. Texas A&M

To understand the rationale behind the rankings we will provide a more detailed analysis of each school:

Cornell offers two degrees for prospective HR executives. The Cornell Master of Industrial and Labor Relations program has been producing top-caliber HR talent for over five decades. The MILR degree is a two year program that offers a broad and diverse curriculum and the opportunity to choose one of five specialty areas:

Human Resources and Organizations
Labor Market Policy
Collective Representation
Dispute Resolution
International and Comparative Labor

Most students who plan to pursue corporate HR jobs pursue the HR & Organizations track which gives them the most exposure to the various facets of HR. MILR students are also eligible totake a semester at the top ranked Johnson School of Business as part of their degree program. In addition, MILR students can hand pick core business classes from the Johnson School if they desire to supplement their HR education with general business classes such as Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Strategy, etc. The Johnson School and ILR School students co-sponsor theSHRLOE (Strategic HR, Leadership and Organizational Effectivness) symposium each year which exemplifies the networking opportunities and connectivity of the two schools.

Students who desire both the depth of the MILR degree curriculum and the rigor of the MBA can enroll in a joint MBA/MILR degree which allows them to complete both degrees in five semesters. This dual degree is the crown jewel for aspiring HR professionals as it combines the power of the top ranked HR Master program with a MBA from the highly-ranked Johnson School. Both the MILR students and MBA/MILR students compete for the same internships and companies, but the MBA/MILR's historically see much higher salaries and signing bonuses. This is a function of the broader work experience they tend to bring to the program and the value that recruiters place on the dual degree. Other schools in the top 17 list offer dual degrees, but none combine the resources of two elite programs and schools like the Johnson Business School and the ILR School at Cornell.

TOP SALARY OFFER FOR A RECENT MILR/MBA GRADUATE: $122,000 + $20,000 signing bonus.


One of the secrets to the Cornell HR Graduate experience is the fringe benefit of the ILR School's undergraduate program. Because the ILR school offers an undergraduate program the faculty and staff resources dedicated to the study of HR issues is greater than any in the world. The undergrad ILR students have gone on to be executives in HR and have created an expansive network that is tremendously valuable to aspiring HR executives. This network combined with the success of MILR and MILR/MBA grads has resulted in the creation of the world's leading center for the study of Human Resources: The Cornell Center For Advanced Human Resource Studies. This unique partnership between academia and corporate partners has fostered the most prestigious network of HR executives in the world. The full list of corporate sponsorsranges from high-tech (IBM, Microsoft,, HP, Dell) to large industrial companies (GE, Goodyear, Ingersoll-Rand, Terex, Northrup Grumman) to many other industries and segments. CAHRS executives and sponsors also are widely represented in the National Academy of Human Resources and the HR Policy Association which are widely known as the most prestigious circles for broader HR influence across the corporate spectrum.

The presence of CAHRS at the ILR School breeds numerous networking opportunities for students that they are not available at any other HR graduate program in the world. The annual CAHRS round table event allows students to interact one-one-one with the Chief Human Resources officers from over 20 of the CAHRS sponsor companies. These relationships continue as CAHRS companies speak in classes and assign consulting projects to students to work on as part of their academic curriculum. CAHRS truly is the X-Factor for Cornell which allows the program to stand out as the #1 place in the world to pursue HR graduate education.

The final factor that has tremendous value is the connection to the Ivy League network. Cornell is a well-endowed, prestigious and tradition rich school. The ILR School and the Johnson Business School are just two pieces of an extremely historic intellectual tradition. It is the only private university in our top 11.

Really, the question as we head down the list become one of differentiation. Michigan State offers a MBA with a HR Emphasis and a traditional HR Masters at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. They also are the first school to leverage its international muscle by offering a HR Masters degree based in Dubai. The diversity of options, the breadth of curriculum and the joint relationship between the School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the Eli Broad School of business distinguish Michigan State as an outstanding option for HR graduate education. Of course -- Michigan State also has a great legacy of placing students in the top HR graduate rotation programs in the world. Rich history of successful alumni including Kevin Cox, CHRO at American Express and Brian Schipper, CHRO at Cisco Systems.

Average salary: $78,938.00
Salary Range: $60,000.00 to $95,000.00
Average Signing Bonus: $11,857.00
Signing Bonus Range: $3,500.00 to $18,000.00 Percent receiving bonuses:88%

Top Student coming out of Michigan State with a MBA going into HR:
$95,000 per year with a $18,000 signing bonus. Not too shabby.

Accepted Student Profile for University of Minnesota HR Masters

Fall 2009

Average undergrad GPA: 3.48

Average GRE scores:
  • 510 verbal
  • 640 quantitative
 Class of 2008 top graduate offer: $96,000.

Founded in 1945 the Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies has been ranked as one of the top HR programs for several decades. A robust alumni pool assures continuous recruiting and placement of students with best in class HR companies. The HR Masters is attached to the Carlson School of Business which is very well regarded based in the growing Twin Cities area. This attachment to the business school allows students to take critical business classes to supplement their HR coursework.

HRIR 5025. Comparative and International Human Resources and Industrial Relations (2 cr)
HRIR 5026. Innovative HR Leadership in the Context of Change and Uncertainty. (2 cr)
HRIR 8011. Using Data and Metrics in Human Resources and Industrial Relations. (4 cr)
HRIR 8023. International Human Resource Management. (2 cr)
HRIR 8033. Employee Training: Creating a Learning Organization. (2 cr)
HRIR 8034. Employee Development: Creating a Competitive Advantage. (2 cr)
HRIR 8042. Organizational Structure and Performance. (2 cr)
HRIR 8043. Comparative Organizations and HRM Systems. (2 cr)
HRIR 8045. Organizational Development, HR Metrics, and the Balanced Scorecard. (2 cr)

This should be the safety school for all applicants to HR Masters or MBA programs. The program is well-established and offers significant funding to the top 1/3 of the entering class.The placement rates are consistent and provide access to a diverse recruitment pipeline of some of the best companies in the world. Admission requirements are not that stringent and the School has a reputation for being very social and well connected to its alumni base. Again -- You can't go wrong with the University of Illinois. It is a big program about 175 Students in total and leads to a very robust alumni network. They do not publish average GRE scores, but it is unlikely that their requirements would exceed those at Minnesota or Cornell which are published on their websites. If you do have a strong undergraduate GPA and a strong GRE score you should apply here just to see what kind of scholarships that they may offer. I have heard anecdotally that Illinois has some of the best funding resources available.  The 100% scholarship to Illinois is very attractive. The top students at Illinois are able to  land jobs with many of the big name HR Rotational programs. The only negative is the long-term value proposition of the Illinois brand. Does it have the"buzz factor" that can help you land the top HR posts later in your career?

African American
American Indian


(updated after Placement Report publication)
In 2008-09, 88% of LER candidates who were eligible for and searching for full time employment in the US were placed in positions. For full-time entry-level hires, the average private-sector salary for 2008-08 is $70,325, with different regional ranges. Signing bonuses averaged $7,664 ranging between $2,000 - $15,000. The average first-year total compensation (excluding relocation allowances) is $70,640. 95% of graduates found their positions through LER Career Services.

Interns received an average salary of $4,716 per month (private sector), with a range of unpaid - $6,258 per month. In 2008-09, 96% of LER students were placed in internships, and 51% of LER students choose a full-time position with the company at which they had interned the previous summer. 92% of students found their positions through LER Career Services.

Rutgers HR Masters program boasts of having the most "published HR faculty in the world". That may be true and without a doubt Rutgers has built a stronghold in the north east for teaching and placing HR Talent. Career prospects also look bright -- Quoting from the Rutgers Website:"Starting salaries for individuals with a Rutgers MHRM degree are competitive with MBA graduates entering HR staff work, in the $58,000-$90,000 range for individuals with varying amounts of experience. Sign-on incentives can range from $5,000-$30,000. Prior HR experience can bring you a higher salary and/or a more responsible position. If you do not have prior experience, getting placed in internships will increase your market value and frequently result in job offers from the organizations with which you intern. As Vice Presidents of HR increasingly become members of corporate executive committees and boards of directors – annual base compensation for senior managers often exceeds $350,000. Salaries in large organizations can substantially exceed this amount."

Like Cornell and Michigan State -- Purdue offers both the Masters in HRM and a MBA with a HR Emphasis. These combined programs lead to more faculty emphasis, deeper curriculum depth and generally the best possible path for an aspiring HR professional where you can combine the intense business curriculum with the HR functional classwork. The Krannert School is highly regarded and has an excellent recruiting pipeline. The HR Masters program is relatively small with typically 17-25 students per year. This does effect the number of specific firms that will come to campus to recruit HR Master students. Your best bet with with Purdue's Krannert school is to pursue the MBA option that emphasizes in HR. I do add the caveat that this advice runs 100% counter to Krannert's own website which states:

 "For students interested in pursuing a career in Human Resource Management, Krannert faculty, employers, and alumni recommend the MSHRM program over the MBA OBHR Option."

This type of schizophrenic messaging drops the program down a notch. The programs that are hot in the HR world either offer an MBA centric focus, a HR Centric focus or a dual degree. Purdue is kind of caught in the middle by offering an MBA with a HR Emphasis while publicly advocating students interested in HR to pursue the HR Masters. I think the Purdue program is a great choice, but the lack of national prestige and legacy forces me to endorse the MBA program with a HR Emphasis over the HR Masters. The long term ROI is much better in this instance.

MBA OBHR Option requirements include a minimum of ten hours of course work from the lists below.
OBHR Courses:
OBHR 63100: Human Resource Systems (should be taken 1st year, 2nd module)
OBHR 640
00: Industrial Relations
OBHR 641
00: Employee Relations
OBHR 642
00: Compensation and Reward Systems I
OBHR 643
00: Compensation and Reward Systems II

OBHR 64400: Staffing Tools
OBHR 645
00: Staffing Systems
OBHR 647
00: Technology and Human Capital
OBHR 650
00: International Human Resources Management
OBHR 662
00: Leadership
OBHR 669
00: Negotiations in Organizations
OBHR 69000: Empowering Change in Organizations
OBHR 69000: Organizational Development
OBHR 560
00: Mentoring and Socialization
OBHR 69000: Training and Development
OBHR 69000: Strategic Human Resource Mgmt

Ohio State is a great option for a reputable HR Masters Degree with the flexibility to work during the day if necessary. The program is very small with only an average of 35 students admitted to the program each fall. Approximately 35% of the students are part-time.  The majority of classes are offered in the evenings and the curriculum and career placement are above average. The program website offer a few informative videos about the program that are worth viewing.  Overall Ohio State edges out some of the other schools because of its attachment to the Ohio State Fischer Business School. These close ties to a top ranked business school provide numerous peripheral benefits for HR Masters students.
Average starting salary of a MLHR graduate is $68,000.

Graduates of the Penn State HRER master's program have great success when they enter the job market. Ninety-five percent of alums have at least one job offer prior to graduation. Many have multiple offers. Earning a master's degree usually results in salaries that are $15,000-$30,000 above those of undergraduates entering similar fields. Starting salaries generally range from $50,000-$85,000. While most students find jobs with corporations, employment opportunities also are available in unions, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. On completion of the program, most graduates have multiple job offers. The majority accept positions as human resource/employment relations professionals with major corporations such as CIGNA, Lockheed Martin, IBM, ARAMARK, Corning, and Westinghouse. Others enter the management field consulting with well-known firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Hay, or Accenture. Some find jobs within the labor movement, working with unions.

The 45 credit Master of Human Resources from the Moore School of Business will provide you with the strong education and practical experience you need to meet the exciting challenges you will face as an HR professional. The MHR can be completed in a year-and-a-half, including the required 6 credit-hour internship. Students from all undergraduate majors are welcome in the Master of Human Resources program at Moore.

Sample Curriculum:
HR and the Global Firm
Management of Compensation
Labor Relations
Human Resource Metrics and Research Methods
Human Resources and Business Strategy
Consulting and Organizational Development in MNCs
Employee and Leadership Development
Employment Relations Law
Managing Cross-Border Teams
Organization Theory
The Firm and Its Environment
Management of Employee Benefits Programs
Labor Economics
Project Management

Students have the opportunity to interact with the Riegel and Emory Human Resources Advisory Board, which consists of top executives in the field of human resources management, government, and labor. This group meets biannually to provide input on curriculum, employment opportunities, and course content.
The following companies and organizations are represented on the advisory board:
General Motors
Avery Dennison
Harcourt Assessment
BOSE Corporation
CHEP Equipment
International Paper
CIGNA Corporation
Merck & Co.
Clariant Corporation
Meridian Gold Co.
Constangy, Brooks, and Smith
National Gypsum
Duke Energy
Pepsi Bottling Group
Piedmont Natural Gas
Sonoco Products
Fidelity Investments
Sony Magnetic Products
Fisher & Phillips, LLP
Fleet Financial
Sysco Corporation  
General Electric
TMP Worldwide

Graduates from the MSIR program enjoy successful placement in a diverse group of high quality employers. Recent graduates have accepted challenging positions with national firms such asGeneral Electric, Pepsi Bottling, Sony Erickson, PPG Industries, Nestles Waters and Marathon Oil. The public sector also finds great value in the WVU MSIR with students going to the United Way, West Virginia University Department of Human Resources, and Pac- Tech to name several. The consulting arena has sought graduates with recent placements at Accenture, Mercer Consulting and Korn- Ferry International.
Typical entry level positions accepted by WVU MSIR graduates include the areas of Staffing, Selection, Placement and Talent Management. Other graduates have been placed in the critical roles of Business Partner, Human Resources Generalist, and Labor Relations Specialist. Students with an interest in Organizational Development successfully find opportunities in Training and Development, Human Asset Planning, Change Management, and Human Resource Information Systems. Students with strong analytical backgrounds have been placed in the functional specialties of Compensation Design and Administration, Employee Benefits, and Healthcare Plan Operation.

The Center for Human Resources that is part of the Mays Business School and part of the Masters in Human Resources program at Texas A&M boasts a robust list of corporate sponsors including
  1. AT&T
  2. Baker Hughes Incorporated
  3. Caterpillar Inc.
  4. Chevron
  5. CITGO Petroleum Corporation
  6. ConocoPhillips
  7. The Dow Chemical Company
  8. Dynegy
  9. El Paso Corporation
  10. Exxon Mobil Corporation
  11. Ford Motorland Service Corp.
  12. GE
  13. Halliburton
  14. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control
  15. Marathon Oil Company
  16. Raytheon Company
  17. Shell Oil Company
  18. Spectra Energy
  19. Texas A&M University
*Caveat to the rankings...

The best advice to anyone pursuing a HR career is to study out the pros and cons of each choice and make the best individual decision. Sometimes this will come down to the availability of funding, other times it might come down to geographic presence. Fortunately, every one of these schools offers a program with over a 90% placement rate. Will some schools benefit you more in the long-run? -- In some case "YES" -- but in general people with deep business and financial accumen and a passion for HR will rise to the top. Best of luck in your endeavors and feel free to leave a comment if you have futher questions.

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