Delece Smith-Barrow: Mark Mansdoerfer grew up learning firsthand how important it was to manage employees. A good program teaches human resources students about recruiting new employees and managing current hires.

MBA Programs Help Students Become Leaders in Human Resources:Study Reveals 



"My dad actually owned a business," says Mansdoerfer, who's a student at the Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University and J.D. candidate at the university's law school. From watching his dad, who owned a garden center, he learned the importance of a workforce, he says. "There's certain people that you just can't afford to lose, and they're really kind of your backbone of the company," says Mansdoerfer.

In a few semesters he'll graduate with his MBA, with a concentration in human resources.

In human resources classes, students learn about training and developing employees, recruiting and other skills that human resources managers need to bring in and keep strong workers.

Many schools offer a specialized master's degree in human resources as well as an MBA with a human resources focus, but choosing the latter option gives students a wider knowledge of general business practices as well as human resources skills, experts say.

Millennial students considering business school ranked human resources as one of the top 10 industries they'd like to pursue, according to survey results published this year by the Graduate Management Admission Council. Among participants, 9 percent said they intended to pursue human resources. For Baby Boomers and Gen X, human resources didn't even make the list.

Business school and human resources experts say this concentration is an ideal fit for certain people and encourage applicants to evaluate schools carefully when deciding which institution will best prepare them for a career.

At many companies, human resources professionals are key for shaping the organization's strategy and development, says Ibraiz Tarique, director of global human resources management programs at Pace University's Lubin School of Business.

People in this field tend to be most interested in the type of workers that will help achieve a company's mission.

A good human resources student is "someone who's interested in human capital, someone who's interested in managing talent, someone who's interested in making an impact, someone who's a good problem-solver," says Tarique.

The profession may be less of a fit for someone who prefers solo projects.

"They're people focused," says Glenn Omura, associate dean for MBA and master's programs at Broad. "They have an upbeat, positive attitude."

Students often take four or five classes to complete requirements for the concentration at various business schools. Once they graduate, they can go into any number of human resources jobs, perhaps as an analyst or as a member of a company's rotational program, where they'll move through different departments within the company's human resources division.

The job market for human resources professionals is competitive, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but those who enter with an MBA may have an advantage.

"Candidates with certification or a master's degree – particularly those with a concentration in human resources management – should have the best job prospects," according to the bureau's website..


Experts say it's important for MBA applicants to look at several aspects of a school's program when deciding which program will prepare them for the field and the job market.

"If you can, meet with the faculty who are in the program," says Rob Ryan, assistant dean and director of the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business at DePaul University. Applicants should try to learn about courses they teach and the expertise they have, he says.

"The industry connections are going to be very important to a student's success afterwards," Ryan says.

Prospective students should also research alumni. "What can be said about those people who've exited the program?" he says.

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