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Would getting a Master of Human Resources help me get into the HR field?



I have a BS in Religion, a Master of Arts in Religion, and a Master of Divinity. I served as an Army Chaplain for 10 years. As a Chaplain I addressed grievances, acted as a liaison, gauged morale, referred for EO and discrimination violations, counseled, and gave training. I have not been able to get an interview as an entry level HR clerk. Not sure it is because I lack the right degree or proper experience (perhaps both). Most entry level jobs are still requiring 2 years HRIS and or SAP HR experience. I am considering going back to school for a Master's in HR. My fear is that if I get this graduate degree I would still lack clear civilian HR experience and experience with HRIS - I may still be unmarketable. I am hoping a degree in HR would help me get my foot in the door despite my lack of experience. Thanks!

30 September 2020 15 replies Education & Training



Lori York Lakeville, MN

Another Masters degree could be a lengthy and expensive endeavor. Have you considered a certificate in Human Resources? Definitely a way to make your resume sparkle as you are applying for HR positions. And this could lead into another degree. I'll post links below for a couple programs I know about. (I'm in this program currently)

Google find:

Non-college/university options:

1 October 2020 Helpful answer


Mazy Gillis, Ph.D. Auburn Hills, MI

In my opinion, you need to find the right company, not get another degree. HR is about people, vision, problem solving and driving the right culture. It seems to me that you already have a lot of relevant experience.

1 October 2020 Helpful answer


Jeff Martin Ashburn, VA

I’d suggest that you network at the target company or industry. Use LinkedIn to find people already working there and reach out to them. Ask them the process they used to get hired and ask them to help you navigate the hiring process and if they are willing, ask them to submit you as a referral. These activities require much more time on your part but in my opinion would greatly increase your chances for success. Good luck!

2 October 2020 Helpful answer


Melinda Long West Des Moines, IA

Good Morning Jerry,

I have been a recruiter for roughly 19yrs first agency recruiting with Wells Fargo as my primary client and now inside Wells Fargo directly close to 8yrs as a Technical Recruiter.

I saw your question populate and have been reading the great responses you've already received. While I think the certification could help and it's a cheaper cost obviously than going back for another degree there's still time/cost associated with obtaining that and it may not be necessary. Getting into the right company (as someone else mentioned) could cover these expenses for you through tuition reimbursement or for certifications managers may have budget to help you obtain costly certifications if job relevant.

Of course the big question is: How do I even get into the company to get that benefit?

Right, that's the tough part I admit. With that said, Wells Fargo has done an amazing job to incorporate our job descriptions and requirements to include/count your well deserved military experience, most of what you've done is very transferrable to our environment for positions.

I would encourage you to please review our company website we have many positions within Wells Fargo that will consider military work in lieu or addition to civilian work experience to qualify you for our openings.

Possible positions that could post: Employee Relations, Operational Risk roles that are business or HR focused, Recruiting, Business Initiative Consultant roles.

There's just a wide array of positions we normally have out there that could lend well to the skills and education you already have. Honestly, we don't even look at education, our job is to look at your skills and what you bring to the job how you qualify to the required years of experience.

This year with COVID many companies have re-evaluated their hiring and even placed hiring on hold so the reason you may not be getting far with interviews is due to this. I would encourage you to review our site and watch it regularly for openings. Save the search titles you seem to have the most interest in so you are auto sent the openings as they become available. Note: the search engine stops after 90 days so re-save if it stops yielding responses.

This site below not only shows positions but good pointers. :)

Also, make sure you have a LinkedIn profile setup and please link up with our Military Recruiting Team. I'm in Technology so our contact person is Michael Larkin but there are others willing to help Ronnie Smithwick, John Axtel - we have a large Military Recruiting team so it would be good for you to also link up with their manager Lisa Young given you are specifically targeting HR maybe she would have an opening within her team in the future to consider you.

One more point of advice, (if you are able to do this) be flexible to a contract through an agency. Many of us in HR took on a contract to get in as a perm employee. I know not everyone can do that and it doesn't feel as safe as a FTE role but it's definitely a great way to get the foot in the door. The challenge could be agencies letting you get the foot in the door. Start networking at the company you're targeting check LinkedIn see who the recruiters are see if there are managers attached to their LinkedIn connect with them also. Message your interest and availability, don't take it personally or get frustrated if you send a message and a mgr. doesn't respond. They should as a courtesy but just know they have seen it and are probably without openings today but will have it for later. Suggestion: Send reminder emails monthly that you're out there to remind them. You will eventually catch them at the right time.

I hope this was helpful and please reach out if you have more questions.

Thank you so much for your service to our country and your interest in HR! :)
Technical Recruiter

14 October 2020 Helpful answer


Jose Roman Norfolk, VA

This is a great question that I answer often working at a local university regarding HR degrees.

The short answer is no. The folks that fill the entry level work in HR have degrees in accounting, business administration, management, or sometimes something totally unrelated.

That said for the folks that work in HR, from the entry level HR Generalist positions to advance in the field to HR Managers and Talent Acquisition titles, a graduate degree or certification in HR is the best way to do that along with work experience.

Look at joining and following on LinkedIn the local SHRM to network (Society for HR Management) professionals groups.

To get a foot in the HR door I would recommend information interviews with HR professionals. For smaller companies and organizations an HR Generalist position are more than likely to be filled be a lateral move from administrative position that knows the company over someone with no experience and an HR degree. Something to keep in mind. Those entry level positions are almost always filled from the inside in smaller organizations. For larger organizations networking is the key to get your foot in the door. The best way to do that networking is from the inside of the organization. Ie. A lateral move from an administrative or accounting or sales or operational side of the organization to HR when the position becomes available.

12 October 2020 Helpful answer


James Perduto Garden City, NY

Jerry, highly recommend that you check out the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) for free options to earn your PHR (professional Human Resources) certificate. Make sure your resume is built to the position you are looking at, highlight the PHR, get the job, and then go back to school while working... leverage the company tuition reimbursement plan and save your GIBill for your children. Best, James

12 October 2020 Helpful answer


Henry ("Dr. Hank") Stevens Fort Lauderdale, FL

Some good counsel here!

Three thoughts:

ONE: Go to the local chapter meetings of the Society of Human Resources Management and network there.

TWO: Explore employment opportunities in healthcare human resources. As for an informational interview with your local hospital's human resources director.

THREE: Play to your talents as they are FAR more valuable to a prospective employer then your education or experience.

Good luck!

10 October 2020 Helpful answer


Jim Schreier Milwaukee, WI

There's a lot of different, good advice in the answers. Here's my perspective as a lifelong professional in HR, lifetime certified SPHR, professor at the college level and 10+ years teaching the SHRM Certification course.

So many options, but the key is obtaining the intensive knowledge of the HR field, the competencies defined by the certification options. The HR field has become extremely complicated, more so every year (day) -- and widely criticized (often justified). Understanding all of this is critical.

While certification options are likely faster, less expensive than a Masters Degree, it still going to take a significant amount of time and effort. All factors to consider. One other perspective I'll add. You could be (seems very possible) a person who not just learns from a formal setting but enjoys it. If so go for it -- it's not uncommon. In my family of 5 (all adults now), we possess one Ph.D., four Masters Degrees, 6 Bachelors Degrees, 2 Associate Degrees, and probably about 10 formal "certifications." We're all "learners" and enjoy the process!

10 October 2020 Helpful answer


Karen Fajardo Troy, NY

Hi Jerry,
Like everyone else has mentioned you do not need a master in HR to get a job in HR. The best way is to get your PHR or SHRM certificate. As a veteran you can get it for free through IVMF.
You take a semester long course and after they pay for you to take the exam for the certificate. Please do not pay to get your cert. They also have numerous other program that you can get certified in. Another great cert to have for HR career is project management and if you plan to get into the manufacturing sector Lin Six Sigma would be another great one to have in you tool box. Best of luck to you and thank you and your family for your service and sacrifice.

8 October 2020 Helpful answer


Jerry Welsh Middleville, MI

There was one comment on certification. Another place is SHRM. I would also do some Informational Interviewing, and look at joining HR groups on LinkedIn and Facebook(they do well with professional organizations). Also do some research on a site like Indeed and pull down a number of openings that meet some of your basic criteria(not geographics yet). Also Glassdoor is good at providing information. Your goal is learn as much as you can about the career, so you do not need to ask the Masters question. Keep in mind the military is decentralized HR, where as civilians, either contract it out, or it is one department. There are many regs in the civilian world that do not apply to the military. "Seeking information is a great way to learn and network, asking for a job is great way to hear very little of see "our" hiring site.

5 October 2020 Helpful answer


Barbara Kennedy Salisbury, NC

Obtaining a position in HR is generally not predicated on a degree in Human Resources. Potentially, before you embark on a costly and timely endeavor, you may want to test out a few other options. Here are a few suggestions:

* Attend networking events: Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM local chapters) host meetings and topics related to HR. Or the Association for Talent Development. HR is broad, Recruiting, Talent, Policy, Compensation, Performance, etc. and each one likely has a professional association.
* Review your resume for pertinent key words that pertain to HR. You can do this through someone who writes resumes or google search of other resumes and look at word usage. Linked In is a good source too. Also be sure to highlight your people experience and accomplishments.
* Work with temporary agencies or recruiters.

By what you've said in your note, any company would be lucky to have your experience. Also, know that ethics is a big topic for companies today and with your experience you are sure to shine. Thank you for your service.


2 October 2020 Helpful answer


Karen Frank New Canaan, CT

Hi Jerry,

I'm going to be provocative for a second...I agree that you do not need to get a masters in HR to go into HR. Yes, it's a financial burden that doesn't always pay off. However, I do think it could be helpful in other ways. I found that my master's program was foundational to giving me a framework and context to build off of that I still use today in my work (professional cert could serve in the same way). It was also a great opportunity to get internships and weigh different types of fields within the industry before "commiting" to a job. For example, my degree is in Social-Organizational Psychology which gave me a broader Organizational Development lens, but I really work in a niche area of change management. I used my internships while I was studying to figure out if I liked external or internal consulting, being in an organizational function, what type of industry I liked/didn't like. Double bonus was it gave me the "work experience" that's often required to get in the door. Also, I found that my master's program expanded my network (which yes could be done by joining an org like SHRM), but did so in a way that was much deeper and meaningful to me...and ultimately helped land me in a job. Finally I'll mention that many companies (the bigger ones at least) do some sort of financial reimbursement to help you with tuition, etc. I'll caveat all this by saying that I've found WHERE you get your degree DOES matter.

Good luck and hope this helps!



I note all the good suggestions previously provided. Here is one that puts you on the track for the "Corner Office" and in my humble opinion will clearly separate you from "the pack".

If you have the energy and the commitment, think about Law School and J. D. The rigors of Law School should be no problem given your educational background.

The field of H. R. is now, and will ever increase to be, so bound up with, and in the Law that a Juris Doctor is now becoming increasingly valuable and necessary. Just look at the continuing news stories of on-rushing, overwhelming flood of costly and damaging litigation against corporations large and small, over the HR missteps involving employees and former employees. As a retired corporate executive it seems to me a different approach is necessary.

You age should not be a problem, and your work and educational background will be a decided asset as a Law School student.

Francis J. Tepedino,


Les Fieldman Minneapolis, MN

Captain Wagner,
After 30 years in HR, my take on the advice you have received is good.
1. Don't do MA now, do a SHRM/or similar certificate because you want HR knowledge quickly and that you can use day one.
2. Yes, look at your resume and reset it for what areas of HR you have done. Counseling experience can be a BIG DEAL in the current pandemic.
3. Have your "elevator" speech(es) ready to go. HR people want to know what you are looking for, and how it fits what THEIR NEEDS. "I'll take anything" is not an effective reply but "I'm looking to get my foot in the door" may work better.
4. Again, have an idea which area of HR you want/prefer/last best.
Good luck, drop a note with questions if you want.
Les Fieldman


Samuel Lopez Silver Spring, MD

If you have GI Bill to burn, I would go with a professional cert over another degree.

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