Skip to main content
  • Home
  • Blog
  • Business
  • Master's in Human Resources vs. MBA: Which is Right for You?

Master's in Human Resources vs. MBA: Which is Right for You?

By Charlene Lattea, WVU Online | Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Discover the differences between a Master's in HR and an MBA. Find the path to advance your career!

When choosing an advanced degree, such as a master’s degree or higher, you have the opportunity to delve into a topic more deeply, or to specialize in a particular industry of your choice.

You need to make an informed decision by looking at the benefits of different degrees.

Two advanced degrees you may be considering are the Master of Business Administration (MBA) and the Master’s in Human Resources. Both degrees can lead to rewarding careers, but each has a different focus.

In this article, we will look at the choice between the MBA and the Master’s in Human Resources and help you look at the differences between these two options.

What is a Master's in Human Resources?

Human resources focuses on the strategic management of human capital within an organization. As an HR leader, you will be responsible for developing and implementing policies and programs that impact the people who work for your organization.

Human resources leaders play a vital role in any organization, as they are responsible for attracting, developing, and retaining talent. Additionally, HR leaders help to create and maintain a positive work environment, which can impact everything from employee productivity to customer satisfaction.

The Master’s in Human Resources takes between one and two years to complete and will give you a deeper understanding of business operations, the same as an MBA does, but it is a more specialized advanced degree focusing on the people working in a business and their work activities.

Courses focus on labor laws, diversity and inclusion, performance management, training and development, human resources technology, business research and data analysis, legal and ethical issues, professional growth, retention, and risk management.

The Benefits of an M.S. in Human Resources

The Master’s in Human Resources is ideal for those interested in specialized HR areas, or for those who are already established in career in human resources and would like to move into a senior-level position with a broader focus.

This means that students in Human Resources most have a deep understanding of business operations and management of a business from the perspective of the people, rather than the bottom line.

Courses offer specific skills such as Strategic Recruitment, which is when HR managers recruit new talent so the company will grow and thrive. This course gives them talent management abilities and focuses on issues such as legal compliance, sourcing, selection processes and measures, job analysis, and manpower training.

Professor James Field, who is coordinator of the WVU Online M.S. in Human Resources Leadership program says the degree is career-relevant and prepares working professionals for leadership roles in the Human Resources field.

"The MS in Human Resources provides students with an enhanced skillset for career advancement," he said. "The curriculum includes traditional HR courses that emphasize leadership decision making."

"In addition, students in this program will study HR analytics, evidence-based practice, and Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) topics. With this degree, they will be able to make a direct impact on a company’s future."

What is an MBA?

The Master of Business Administration is a degree that qualifies graduates for many careers, including those in business management, health care administration, investment management, organizational psychology and marketing.

It is considered a more general degree than the Master’s in Human Resources, but you can specialize in a number of different areas.

Most MBA programs take about two years to complete and provide you with valuable leadership skills, grow your professional network, and qualify you for many diverse job opportunities and a higher earning potential.

MBA courses focus on giving you a broad overview of topics such as economics, finance, accounting, business ethics, operations and management, organizational behavior, business intelligence and data analytics, marketing, and leadership.

Advantages of Pursuing an MBA

The MBA is considered a general degree, but those who earn one are highly respected and recognized as a very learned individual with the skills necessary to handle any aspect of running a business. It elevates your career and improves your leadership skills.

In the competitive business world, a person with an MBA might be considered for employment before someone without this degree.

The MBA gives you the ability to impact the future success of a company. You will learn to think, and act as an executive-level manager in understanding and assessing the use of information systems and emerging technologies, as well as global logistical systems in transportation, inventory, and customer service. You will learn and develop managerial skills, including strategy and decision-making skills and the dynamics of working in groups and teams.

You can specialize in different areas, even human resources, but the MBA still gives you the broad knowledge base that covers every facet of running a business. and you will be eligible to work in many areas of a company.

The MBA may offer more benefits for someone who wants to compete in the business world as a business leader or in a management position. If you want to keep your career options open, you can do that with an MBA.

Key Differences Between Each Program

Both the MBA and the HRM degrees can help you advance in the corporate world, but they are very different degrees, both in areas of focus and in curriculum.

The MBA typically offers a broader perspective of business, focusing management, leadership, and the financial aspects.

The Master’s in Human Resources, on the other hand, usually prepares you for a career in HR specifically and delves deeper into HR topics, such as recruitment strategies and labor relations. It is more intensely focused on the people in an organization.

Another difference between the two degrees is in the recognition they give you. Graduates with MBA degrees are more respected and receive more attention from employers, because the MBA is more widely recognized for excellence.

The Master’s in Human Resources is also respected, but mostly by HR employers and not the general public.

The key factors you should consider when deciding between the Master’s in Human Resources and the MBA include the following:

  • What kind of work do you want to do in the future?
  • What skills are you most interested in developing?
  • Do you already work in the HR field and envision yourself working in HR for the rest of your career?
  • Would you rather get a more general business degree and specialize in HR?
  • Would you like to keep your career options open to many different careers in business?
  • Do you want the respect and recognition from employers that you would receive as an MBA graduate?
  • Are you more interested in working with the financial aspects of business, or with people and the data surrounding them?
  • What network are you most interested in creating?

As you can seek, your choice of program depends on your career goals and personal preferences, as well as what you see yourself doing with your career over the long term.

Career Paths

You are probably also considering the types of careers you will have available to you with each of these degrees.

In this section, we will address the potential career paths the MBA and the Master’s in Human Resources can lead to and how they align with different professional goals, in order to help you decide between them.

Keep in mind that there are no guarantees that you will immediately move into a senior-level position right after graduating, but these are the roles where you would be most successful with each degree.

Career Outlook for Master of Business Administration

The future career outlook for MBA graduates depends on various factors, including their chosen field and area of specialization. Since the MBA gives you more broadly applicable business leadership skills, you will find the jobs available to you with this degree are more diverse.

  • Senior Financial Analyst
  • Product Manager
  • Chief Financial Officer
  • Program Manager
  • Accounting Manager
  • General Manager
  • Business Analyst
  • Marketing Manager
  • Business Intelligence Analyst
  • Medical and Health Services Manager
  • Chief Executive Officer
  • Human Resources Manager
  • General Operations Manager
  • Project Manager
  • Director of Sales

Career Outlook for Master’s in Human Resources

The jobs available to Master’s in Human Resources graduates are more focused on leadership positions within HR, but you will still find opportunities in a wide variety of industries. Most businesses need a human resources department and the professionals working in this area.

  • Director of Leadership and Organizational Development
  • Senior Human Resources Specialist
  • Director of Training and Development
  • Vice President of Human Resources
  • Senior Vice President of Global Talent
  • Information Technology Project Manager
  • Administrative Service Manager
  • Business Continuity Planner
  • Financial Manager
  • Director of Compensation and Benefits
  • Business Intelligence Analyst
  • Treasurer and Controller
  • Talent Acquisition Strategy Director
  • Recruiter
  • Human Resources Analyst

Pursuing a Dual Degree Program

If you still can’t seem to choose between the MBA and the Master’s in Human Resources, there is another option. It is possible to pursue both degree programs by earning a dual degree.

Before choosing this option, think seriously about whether you need two graduate degrees. This is not for everybody, and you need to be highly motivated.

You could, of course, take the MBA in specialize in HR, but a dual degree would give you an even greater benefit.

MBAs typically offer a more generalized education on business practices, but if you have a degree in human resources, you will qualify for many HR leadership roles.

The Master’s in Human Resources is better suited for those with an MBA who envision themselves working in HR long term. Individuals who study human resources have a unique perspective on business and the importance of workers.

If you are an aspiring HR professional, you can use the MBA to enter a variety of careers, because the MBA is a more general business degree.

The MBA also may be able to open doors for you more quickly than the Master’s in Human Resources degree, because it is widely recognized and highly respected in the business world.

Discover Your Path to Success with WVU Online

Now that you have looked at the MBA and the Master’s in Human Resources more deeply, think about what you see yourself doing in the long term, and the specific benefits you need.

Both degrees can lead to rewarding careers, but each has a different focus. The degree you choose should be based on your career goals, so be sure to make an informed decision.

No matter which degree you choose, the future for graduates is very promising. As you build your career, you may want to improve your skills with a degree from WVU Online.

The WVU Online Master of Business Administration delivers results for students by offering exciting experiential-learning projects, consultative engagements, and opportunities to develop enhanced business acumen—yielding the essential professional skills that are needed for top job placement.

The WVU Online Master’s in Human Resources Leadership gives you advanced professional knowledge, data-driven decision-making skills, and leadership capabilities, positioning you to compete in a growing market. With this degree, you'll have a direct impact on a company's future.

Contact the Coaches at Our Learning Engagement Center

After reading this article, if you are unsure about your goals, or how to identify your interests and skills, be sure to reach out to one of our WVU Online admissions coaches. They are trained to help you look at your individual situation and make the right choice for your future.

Learn More Apply now

We're here for you.

Call us, write us, or fill out the request information form. Whichever communication style you prefer, there will be someone from WVU Online on the other end waiting to help.

(800) 253-2762 Email Us Submit a Contact Request Form

WVU Online

Be a decision maker. First, your degree. World-class academics at an exceptional value.

Occasionally a student will encounter an issue with an online course that he or she doesn’t know how to resolve. Should this occur, please visit the link below.

Internal Student Complaint Process

Contact Us

WVU Online
West Virginia University
PO Box 6800
Morgantown, WV 26506-6800

Phone: (800) 253-2762

Connect with WVU Online

Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn YouTube TicToc Icon