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Are Online HR Degrees Worth It

Right so this is about my fifth go at this, but this time I’m going to nail it. My recommendation is that if you’re interested in a career in human resources, you should either have a degree or be working towards one. If you have the resources to support yourself for four-plus years, then you will have a great time at a brick and mortar university and learn a great deal. If however four-plus years without income doesn’t appeal to you, and/or you already have a great job, then studying online will give you the best of both worlds – and as you’re working at the same time, you’ll have more experience than the on-campus graduates who didn’t work while studying.

So that brings us to the question of studying with an online university or studying online with a brick and mortar university. In my experience, there’s a right tool for every job, and then there are some tools you can use to maybe get it done well enough (my preference is to use the right tool). One of the issues that I’ve found studying online with a brick and mortar university, is that they’re not fully invested in it. It’s not seen as core business, its seen as a really nice additional income stream – and even though sometimes its more than their traditional income stream, it's not viewed as the core of their business. As a learner that’s a real issue, and one that I’ve experienced first hand. As I write this a couple of years ago I enrolled with the university which is ranked in the top 100 globally (and quite regularly in the top 50 globally), within a month I had cancelled my enrollment. In the qualification I enrolled in the university simply wasn’t set up to deliver to students who weren’t on campus. The online orientation was just a mess, the sound didn’t always work on the audio files made available to us, we just weren’t included and barely acknowledged. The learning environment simply wasn’t there, it came down to a decision on whether I wanted to spend tens of thousands of dollars just to have a brand on my resume, or whether my time and money could be used better elsewhere.

So this is my tip, if you just want a brand on your resume then I suggest you buy some expensive watermarked paper and print on that – there’s your brand. If you however want to work in HR, then you need to start making business decisions – and start with this one. Who can best deliver to your learning needs, if it's a brick and mortar university then great, if it's an online university then great. Focus on your learning needs first and foremost, as important as I believe a degree is for your career in human resources, at some point, it will be eclipsed by your experience. That degree you worked so hard for will just be a tick box – the learning from that degree however you’ll leverage right through your career.

By Brendan Lys

Operating at the intersection of Human Resources and Data Science, I leverage extensive specialist experience within Human Resources, with the methodologies and approaches of Data Science. This focus on the discovery of actionable insights from data, has been applied to areas such as: remuneration & benefits, workforce planning, recruitment, health & safety, diversity, and training. But what does the application of data science to HR challenges and opportunities actually look like. Within an HR framework the data we work with typically comes directly from our HRMIS, an advantage of using data science methodologies is that we can bring in additional data either held within the organization or from external sources - data which is out of reach from a pure HR analytics approach. Consider for example position descriptions, these contain a wealth of data that we typically ignore as its not in a analysis ready format. A side project I'm working on currently (April 2019) is using text mining on job descriptions to provide insights into which job family the position may fit into. The insights of my work have been enjoyed by organizations across a diversity of sectors including: Government (Australia and New Zealand), ASX and NZX listed companies, utilities, not for profit and higher education.

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