Tag Archives: HR Education

Should I Get My Master's Degree in HR?

master's degree hrFor most of you, I'll go ahead and said it: You should not get a master's degree in HR. Really. While that doesn't apply to everyone, it does apply to a large number of the people that email, comment, and interact with me online. That's mainly because this question looks a lot like this template:

  • I just completed my bachelor's in xyz. I have decided/now want/think I should get into human resources. Should I get my master's degree in HR?


  • I just completed my bachelor's degree in HR, but I haven't been able to find a job. Should I get my master's degree in human resources?

No. No. And no.

In each of these cases, you lack something very important that most of you overlook when you're asking the question: do you even like HR?

No, really. How do you know? What evidence do you have? What proof?

All too often I hear about someone finishing their bachelor's on student loans and jumping right into the master's degree in hopes it will make them more marketable, only to find out later that HR wasn't a field they actually enjoyed working in. If only you could drop the loans because you didn't like the profession, but it doesn't work that way.

And even if you pay for it outright by choosing an affordable college (like this one, for instance) how do you know that HR is going to be a career field you even like?

For me, I didn't even consider a master's degree for the first few years of working after college. That's because I wanted to make sure of what I wanted to do. Now I'm actually enrolled in an MBA program because I realize that while HR is the love of my life, I also need to be crystal clear about how HR intersects and interacts with the rest of the business. Hint: you need to be able to understand that as well.

Click here to watch the video where I explain the nuances of this decision.

But I have some HR experience

Now, if you have some HR experience under your belt and you're wondering if you need to get an advanced degree, we can have a conversation about that. It is often interwoven with the certification conversation (Should I get the PHR OR SHRM certification?), because people wonder about the value of each and how they interrelate.

If you have experience and you want to pursue an advanced degree, you need to understand the purpose and intent very clearly. Are you hoping to move up the ladder? Is there another job you need it to be qualified for? Are you trying to make yourself more marketable? Do you need it to perform better in your own work?

In some of these cases, depending on how you answer the question, education might not be the right answer for you at all. On the other hand, it's possible that additional education could help you to achieve a goal you've set for yourself.

I’ll be doing a series in the coming week addressing two other related questions. First, should I get an HR degree or an HR certification? I'll also address another fundamental question around HR education, which is this: Should I get an MBA or a Master's in Human Resources?

I'd love to get your take on this commentary. Am I spot on? Way off the mark? What's your reasoning?

Should I get an MBA or an SPHR (or PHR)?

One of the big questions I see people asking these days is about graduate studies. People want to know if it’s worth it to get an MBA and if it will help them in their field. I’ve talked before about advanced HR degrees (and the follies of chasing one before you have experience in the field), but the twist is adding certification into the mix. Is it worth it to get your MBA, or would it be acceptable to get your SPHR certification? I know I’m a big proponent of getting certified, but then again it might be better to run the college gauntlet again for the benefits it can provide…

Want a $20 discount on PHR/SPHR study materials? Get it here.

Is there a right answer?

I talk about how both of them could be viable options in the video below. Check it out and let me know your thoughts.

(Subscribers may have to click through to view the embedded video.)

Are you looking for an edge in your HR career? Is either of these options (certification or college) a good choice for you?

SHRM\’s HR Education Efforts

Creepy professor photo

Creepiest professor photo I could find...

In recent posts, I\’ve discussed the gaps in the HR curriculum and how HR education is not providing adequate training for those preparing for a career in human resources. I recently had the chance (thanks to China Gorman, COO of SHRM) to talk with Nancy Woolever. Nancy is the Manager of Academic Initiatives for the Knowledge Development Division of SHRM. As such, she has an invaluable perspective on how SHRM is attempting to meet the needs of the HR community via the education route. We also had the opportunity to speak on another topic related to new HR professionals, but that will have to wait for another day.

Much of the conversation was focused on the HR curriculum that SHRM has put together. It is based on research and data gathered from polling students and experienced professionals. That information was packaged in the Guidebook. If you have the time, it’s an interesting read. They also have some great research that I spent some time reading up on in the past week.

One of the questions I was dying to ask was “How can I get my local college to get into the process?” I do some work with local students (and students elsewhere in the US), and I plan to do even more in coming months. I want to make sure that they are getting the necessary education to prepare them for the wide world of human resources. The process for getting the “SHRM stamp of approval” in a new school is this:

  • School contacts SHRM to see if they qualify for the SHRM curriculum
  • SHRM reviews the school\’s requirements and gives one of two recommendations
  • Yes, the school does meet the requirements (gets recognized publicly)
  • No, the school does not (SHRM provides guidance to get them up to snuff)

In Nancy\’s words, the SHRM curriculum project is “taking on a life of its own.” At first, the process was about building publicity by connecting with schools and organizations, but in the past year, the number of schools voluntarily approaching SHRM for consideration has risen drastically. Currently, there are approximately 125 schools participating.  To take it farther, SHRM is working to develop content that schools are lacking to help them reach their goals. For instance, if a school\’s HR curriculum is not covering performance management adequately, then SHRM can offer assistance in the form of performance management content modules to help the school get on the right track.

So, what is covered in the SHRM curriculum?

Employee and labor relations

Employment law

HR\’s role in organizations

HR and globalization

HR and mergers and acquisitions

HR and organizational strategy

Human resource information systems (HRIS)

Measuring HR outcomes: metrics and the bottom line

Risk Management: occupational health, safety and security

Performance management

Staffing: recruitment and selection

Total rewards

Workforce planning and talent management

The curriculum has some similarities to the HR certification exams. However, there are a few topics on this list that weren\’t covered in my own formal education (namely, the HRIS and metrics sections). While I can remember talking about the importance of metrics, I don’t know that we actually went any farther than that!

And speaking of my college experience, I have been reading the work of a fellow professional who is in the thick of HR education as an instructor. He writes very well and has some interesting things to say. If Twitter is your thing, he\’s over there, too. Here\’s what he had to say recently on the topic:

Working in small, liberal arts college, I am the sole proprietor of our HR program. Its success or failure is dependent on how well I carry out my job. It is up to me, in most cases, to decide what to cover, when to cover it, and how it will be carried out.

Seeing the lengths that SHRM will go to in order to prepare students for the workplace gives me hope. Before I got off the phone with Nancy, I told her that she had definitely turned me into a believer in their education efforts. One of the things that really turned me around was when Nancy said something about how SHRM wasn\’t trying to force anyone into this program. It was merely providing a “flexible and helpful” framework and allowing people to choose for themselves whether they wanted to participate. If a school wants to go it alone, then they are welcome to do so. If a school prefers to check with SHRM to see if its programs meet the requirements, then they are also welcome to do so.

I lay a challenge upon each of you.

Find out if your local HR programs are getting the job done. If not, then you could shoot them the link to this post. If they are, then congratulate them on being proactive in providing a high value education for the future leaders in HR.

Read more in the HR education series.

Reading Survey: Self-Experimentation

From AskOxford.com:

The Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words. To this may be added around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries… This suggests that there are, at the very least, a quarter of a million distinct English words.

I used to read a lot. Usually it would be fiction, but the occasional nonfiction found its way into my bookshelf. Recently I picked up a novel that I’d been itching to read. I flew through it in 2-3 days. During that time, I hardly read anything else (news, research, etc.). That’s when I started to wonder how much reading I really do in a day. So, in the interest of science, I performed an experimental reading survey. Yeah, I’m creative like that.

During the course of a single day, I copied everything I read into a word document. I excluded emails and other social

Reading is a great, cheap way to be amazingly successful.

Reading is a great, cheap way to be amazingly successful.

media communication, because those are much more difficult to track. I did include a chat with a friend, because we were brainstorming, and there was a good bit of info passed back and forth.

I did my best to keep things at a normal level. There’s always the chance of somehow subconsciously influencing the results, and I tried to reenact the same, generic day I’ve lived dozens of times before. At the end of the day, I was a bit anxious. Was I falling behind? Had I stopped growing intellectually?

Was my lack of reading physical books a foreshadowing of my impending idiocy?

Actually, no.

The reading survey pointed out an astonishing fact. In an average day, I read approximately 15,237 words. Yeah. You got it. And even if that number is 50% wrong, I still top the 10,000 mark. Assuming I read 10,000 words per day, and there are 250,000 words in the dictionary, that means I read a dictionary of information every month.

"Official" word count

"Official" word count

So, the next question about my reading survey that must be asked is this:

What was I reading?

Because if I read a bunch of junk, then I really just wasted my time. But if I read things that were informative, educational, and positive, then my time was more of an investment than a waste. Here are three of the main topics from this particular day:

Reading. Still great. Haven't you been reading this post?

Reading. It's still great. Haven't you been reading this post?

  • HR consulting (~4,000 words)
  • Blog stragety (~5,800)
  • Brainstorming session with Chris Ferdinandi (~3,000)

This experiment and post was enhanced by a tweet from Nora Burns earlier this week. In an interesting twist, Ashley Andrus gave me a book for Smile Week. I’m working on something that will hopefully pay that kindness forward exponentially.

I encourage you to test yourself. Put on your own reading survey and do a few experiments to see how you’re investing your reading time. Stanford University performed a study that determined that if you read 30-60 minutes per day about your field, you will become a national authority in 4-5 years. I’m already well on my way. Are you?

Bridging the HR Curriculum Gap



In one of my most popular posts ever, I described the divide between what students are taught and what the workplace is actually like. It\’s obviously not an isolated issue, because many people have contacted me through comments and email to talk about the problem. The community is an amazing thing, and I truly believe we can get past this obstacle through a group effort. If the HR curriculum is not preparing people for the actual work to be performed, then there is obviously a disconnect between the business side and the education side of HR. How then can we bridge that gap?

To build the effectiveness of the HR curriculum-Business needs to get involved with education.

  • Tell us what we need to know to be successful. If anyone knows what the HR curriculum should be, it\’s the people who are working in the industry. Don\’t expect a professor who hasn\’t worked in the private sector in twenty years to know what skills are needed.
  • Set up an internship program. Get free workers for your business. Sounds appealing, right? But here\’s the catch—you actually have to do something with them. They\’re not there for coffee. They\’re there to learn. They will be running the company when enough years pass by, and you need to keep that in mind when you\’re giving them projects to complete.
  • Let us be flexible when we get there. Encourage creativity and innovation in your HR department. If you want to be great, you\’ll at least listen to what the younger generation has to say. Even if every single thing the person makes you tear up from the stupidity (you\’re the one who hired him/her!), there may be one golden idea that makes the rest worthwhile.

To build the usefulness of the HR curriculum-Education needs to get involved with business.

  • Build the HR curriculum around business needs. Go to the business community. Be involved with networking events outside the university. Find out what problems businesses are having and teach your students to solve those problems. And even if you don\’t know how to solve them, using the classroom to brainstorm solutions could lead to some amazing things.
  • Provide college credits for internships. If a student goes out there to work in a position that\’s related to what they\’re studying, then the learning outside the classroom could outweigh the learning inside the classroom in some cases. Why not allow them to get a little closer to graduation with some internship credits?
  • Assign more project work as opposed to only memorization. The first time I had an assignment at work, I memorized a page of facts and took a test. Wait a minute; that\’s not how it went at all. I had a project to complete, and I was “graded” on multiple factors. Let people be responsible for their own work and let the results speak for themselves.

If this gap in the HR curriculum is going to be bridged, then both parties need to be vigilant. Paying for an education that provides little long-term value is a waste of valuable time and money. HR professionals, push your company to work toward these goals. Students, push your university to work toward these goals. Together, we can transform HR education into a platform to launch people into stellar careers in the human resources field.

Read more in the HR education series.

2009 Alabama State SHRM Conference


Proof that I'm really me!

With all of the talk in recent weeks about SHRM09, I have been trying my best to put together a post to talk about my own very first HR conference. In case you didn\’t realize it from the title, that would be the 2009 Alabama State SHRM Conference.

Below you will find a few selections (twenty five out of forty five, to be exact!) from my Twitter stream during the Alabama State SHRM Conference. Note that the day started amazingly well with the 1st tweet letting everyone know I took a wrong turn.

25.  Our brave but incompetent hero takes a wrong turn. Crap.7:50 AM May 20th from txt

24.  What keeps your CEO awake at night? What does he/she worry about most? #HR #ALSHRM9:08 AM May 20th from txt

23.  Table discussion shows virtually no strategic HR being done in people’s companies. Mortified by that fact. #ALSHRM #HR9:30 AM May 20th from txt

22.  Financial literacy in the workplace session is beginning. Should be good. #ALSHRM rocks so far!9:56 AM May 20th from txt

21.  Financial struggles cost employers an avg of $15k per struggling employee #ALSHRM10:16 AM May 20th from txt

20.  Stomach and watch telling me it’s lunchtime. Almost too excited to eat. (almost) :-) #ALSHRM10:50 AM May 20th from txt

19.  Picked out of the crowd and shook hands with event organizer. Is my face THAT recognizable? #ALSHRM11:20 AM May 20th from txt

18.  @hrbartender abandoned me and @adowling for more lively drinking companions. Must have been my staring. :-) #ALSHRM11:28 AM May 20th from txt

17.  Lunch was fast and delicious. Listened to EEOC talk. Unappetizing. #ALSHRM11:41 AM May 20th from txt

16.  Morning speaker was Dorothy Hill, SPHR. Forgot to mention! Presented on HR competencies. Thought-provoking & wonderful. #ALSHRM11:53 AM May 20th from txt

15.  Heard a story about a company using female mud wrestlers as an employee selection method. How do you think that went? #ALSHRM11:56 AM May 20th from txt

14.  Hmmm. Didn’t realize TitleVII applied to noncitizens. EEOC speaker is pretty interesting. Needs pictures to keep my attention. #ALSHRM12:12 PM May 20th from txt

13.  Next up-integrating business intelligence into HR by Erin Watkins SPHR. #ALSHRM12:36 PM May 20th from txt

12.  With a group of statistics-loving dorks. Nerds of #HR unite! #ALSHRM1:00 PM May 20th from txt

11.  This is the coolest session ever. Exactly what I have been trying to do at work. Statistics rock. #ALSHRM1:05 PM May 20th from txt

10.  Does your company use inferential statistics? If so, what for? If not, why not? It’s a huge way to drive #HR & business strategy. #ALSHRM1:16 PM May 20th from txt

9.      Conference goal for me-get ideas to take back and make my company better. Idea part accomplished. Implementation? We’ll see. #ALSHRM1:45 PM May 20th from txt

8.      FOOD! Pecan pie and a cheesecake-like substance. Awesome. #ALSHRM1:50 PM May 20th from txt

7.      Talking with @adowling and @hrbartender about #SHRM and its fantastic twitter people. And about @lruettimann. What a hoot. #ALSHRM2:15 PM May 20th from txt

6.      Time for more ‘learning’. HR and Washington-legislative outlook for the Obama administration. Final session of a great conference. #ALSHRM2:17 PM May 20th from txt

5.      I shall die of dessert poisoning. Tally-2 pcs pecan pie & 1 of cheesecake. My epitaph will prob be ‘died fat and happy’. ;-) #ALSHRM2:32 PM May 20th from txt

4.      Listening to presentation warning of congressional shenanigans. (isn’t that redundant?) #ALSHRM2:54 PM May 20th from txt

3.      Healthy families act gives me chills. It’s overbearing. And dumb. Blah. #ALSHRM3:00 PM May 20th from txt

2.      #SHRM is promoting voluntary flexible workplace policies as a proactive measure against government actions. 2 thumbs up on that! #ALSHRM3:05 PM May 20th from txt

1.      Fantastic day. Will post on it soon. #ALSHRM3:41 PM May 20th

Also, I learned that I really need Internet access on my phone. I\’m sporting a sweet BlackBerry Pearl, but I was doing my tweeting via SMS, and that meant that I couldn\’t see any responses from anyone! The HRBartender and ‘lil miss PseudoHR had a leg up on me with their connections. I can only hope that I was entertaining enough to make up for that!

Introducing the HR Education Series

HR education

HR education

I\’m going to be starting a new series here on upstartHR. Everyone knows by now that I have a few topics that I\’m truly passionate about. One of those is what we’re learning in college. I have talked before about the holes in the HR curriculum where students are being done a disservice. This topic continues to rise to the surface in conversations I\’m having on a weekly basis. This series will cover the potential and pitfalls of HR education.

HR education isn\’t all it\’s cracked up to be. The colleges and universities are living in a different age. And although some of them are trying to upgrade with technology, they\’re still using textbooks as the major instructional material. And who writes those textbooks? Well, I\’m sure they\’re smart people, but for the most part, they are not involved with the day-to-day business world. For some students in technology-rich fields, their college education may be obsolete by the time they graduate. This scathing comment from a study performed by Quintessential Careers:

“College was a total waste of time and money. Computer courses are bordering on obsolete by graduation. There were not nearly enough computer courses in my degree program. I gained no skills to get me a job.”
— 2003 computer information systems grad

While HR education may not be moving quite as fast as that, it\’s still light years ahead of what some schools are teaching. I read recently that SHRM  has a curriculum that it pushes for schools to offer. I don\’t know exactly what that may entail, but being the largest HR organization in the world means that it\’s naturally going to move slower than other, smaller organizations. Maybe it\’s time for someone to offer something revolutionary in terms of HR education?

Here\’s a novel idea. Why don\’t we take some measure (not all, mind you) of education from the HR blogs that already exist? There are dozens (hundreds?) of wonderful people pouring their hearts and efforts into maintaining a blog that describes the ins and outs of human resources. What if schools had some sort of HR education curriculum that required—or at the very least suggested—its students study from those actively participating in the field? How revolutionary would that be?

I only found out about the prevalence of the blogosphere when I was nearly finished with college. And that was only through my own personal research on topics that are unrelated to human resources. I stumbled across a few blogs and loved the community-like aura and the availability of information. And it wasn\’t until the end of last year that I started engaging in the HR blogosphere by reading and commenting.

During the recent SHRM blogger panel, there seemed to be a fair amount of interest from people interested in starting their own HR blogs. With so many remarkable and talented individuals in our field, it\’s going to be fascinating to see where the HR blogosphere moves in the future. I hope you enjoy the HR education series and that it helps to open your thinking to new creativity and innovation.

Read more in the HR education series.