Should you get an HR Certification or a Graduate Degree?

Although there are a plethora of ways that individuals can make themselves more marketable to employers, attaining certification or extensive education can be one of the most effective. People who are interested in pursuing a career within the Human Resources sector may ask themselves whether attaining certification or a graduate degree would be more advantageous in the attempt to attain upward mobility in the workforce. Because there is not a clear-cut answer to this question, individuals who want to further their career within the field of Human Resources should consider the existing arguments regarding the value of certification and graduate degrees very carefully.

Related Resource: What is Workforce Diversity?

The Bottom Line

As many education experts note, the cost of graduate studies within the field of Human Resources now ranges anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 per year. In light of the hefty financial investment that comes from pursuing these graduate studies, one might think attaining HR Certification would be a more economically feasible and therefore prudent decision. Yet in today’s business world-one where the expectations of HR professionals seem to have reached an all-time high-the certification may not suffice. Why? Because the job has become much more complex than it was in the previous 10 to 15 years. For example, HR generalists are now required to be increasingly cognizant of things such as operational strategy, business strategy, and finance. And where do individuals attain these skills? Through graduate programs.

The Payoff

If one wanted proof that a graduate degree in Human Resources could be advantageous, consideration could be given to the trends of corporate recruiters who seek out new hires on college campuses. In discussing HR hiring trends, Susan G. Hauser notes that the recruiters tend to opt for students who possess a Master of Industrial and Labor Relations with a concentration in Human Resources and Organizations over undergrad HR students. Moreover, HR workers who hold a graduate degree tend to make $25,000 to $30,000 more than undergrads. Individuals who invest in an HR master’s degree will likely cover the cost of their additional education and the income lost while attaining it after five or six years. Additionally, attending a highly rated master’s program can afford one access to salary increases and advancement, each of which can decrease the payback period.

Although the benefits of attaining a master’s degree in HR are diverse, attaining HR certification can also be beneficial. This is the case because attaining certification is less expensive and faster than completing a degree program. Thus if you can’t afford to attend graduate school or find that you want to enter the workforce very soon, certification can be advantageous for you. Moreover, becoming certified demonstrates that you are familiar with the most current core practices and principles indigenous to the field. Finally, many companies perceive hiring individuals who have attained HR certification as an advantage.

Assessing Your Goals

Ultimately, determining whether attaining a graduate degree or certification in HR will be most advantageous for you will be based on your goals. A graduate degree is certainly more complex and comprehensive than certification. Nevertheless, you may find yourself possessing a desire to entire the work force soon. This desire would make getting certified a more practical decision than spending extended time in the classroom. Also note that you can attain a job in HR with certification and subsequently return to school to attain your master’s. Think critically about all the options that you have before you make your final decision. In so doing, you’ll be sure to make the choice that is right for you.

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