As HR managers play such an important role in creating a positive workplace culture and engaging in personnel development, gaining the right qualifications and professional accreditation is essential

What is human resources management?

As it's widely accepted that people are the most important asset of any thriving organisation, the effective management of human resources (HR) is naturally central to any sound business strategy. This has led to an increase in human resource management (HRM) jobs both in the UK and abroad.

HR managers are tasked with providing clear direction and guidance for those working in an organisation, and are responsible for helping to generate a positive and encouraging working environment.

Core HRM functions include the hiring and development of employees - through training, incentives and benefits, and performance evaluation - administrative services, mediating in disputes and communicating with staff at all levels.

Why study human resources management?

'Successful organisations often seek applicants with a postgraduate degree in HRM because of the cutting-edge strategic knowledge and skills they've developed,' says Dr Etlyn Kenny, lecturer in HRM and organisational behaviour at Birmingham Business School. 'They may also be professionally qualified if their programme is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).'

Joining the CIPD as a student gives you access to all of its online resources, such as podcasts, research factsheets and employment law information. There's also a discussion forum for the community of HR professionals. You can use this to ask experienced members questions on your research and studies.

Rebecca Watts studied CIPD Human Resource Management PGDip at Anglia Ruskin University. 'I'd been working in HR for three years in the NHS, and wanted to formalise my skills and knowledge with a part-time postgraduate HRM course,' she says.

'The best thing about the course was having the chance to learn from some really inspiring tutors. I enjoyed learning and understanding in greater depth the different theories that underpin the practices and processes that I'm involved with on a day-to-day basis.'

Where can I study human resources management?

There are plenty of CIPD-accredited courses to choose from at postgraduate level, including the MSc Human Resource Management at the University of Edinburgh Business School and the University of Liverpool, and the MA Human Resource Management at Leeds University Business School. You may also wish to consider the challenging HRM stream of the MSc Human Resources and Organisations at The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

All these options boast excellent industry links and the opportunity to apply your learning in practice. A 2:1 in any discipline is required for the majority of these Masters programmes, which typically consist of 12 months of full-time study. Tuition fees for full-time courses in 2018/19 at the institutions above vary from £9,650 to £23,448 (for UK/EU students).

For a two-year CIPD-accredited course that incorporates a placement year, you may wish to consider the MSc Human Resource Management at Kingston University London. Other part-time options include the two-year MSc Human Resource Management with CIPD at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, which is suitable for those already working in HR and seeking qualified status.

Search postgraduate courses in human resources management.

What do courses involve?

The combination of theory, practice and professional accreditation ensures that these programmes give students the skills and knowledge they need to pursue a successful career in HRM.

One example of this is the University of Birmingham's MSc Human Resource Management. There are two pathways on offer. One of these is accredited by CIPD and has a greater focus on the development of managerial skills.

'Students across both pathways are given the opportunity to examine, in some depth, human resource management issues and practices from a wide range of organisational contexts,' explains Dr Kenny.

CIPD accreditation is also a feature of The University of Sheffield's one-year full-time MSc Human Resource Management with CIPD Pathway, which covers topics such as industrial relations, employee performance management and strategic management.

'The MSc HRM at Sheffield enables students to critically understand contemporary issues and problems in their organisational, strategic and international contexts,' explains Professor Jason Heyes, chair in employment relations at Sheffield University Management School. 'It aims to provide a personal, academic and professional developmental experience relevant to those who wish to pursue a career in HRM.'

See HR courses for details on what's available from organisations such as the CIPD.

What do HRM graduates do?

Former students of The University of Sheffield's programme have undertaken projects in companies like Arnold Magnetic Technologies, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity.

'If you want to build practical skills that are relevant to HR, it's important to do some work experience to complement your postgraduate degree,' suggests Sarah Koppen, career and CPD lead at CIPD. 'Ideally this would be in an HR department, but any office or administrative role will be useful experience.'

Once you've got your HR management degree and the experience to go with it, you could enter management or trainee positions in organisations ranging from multinational corporations to public sector bodies. However, you would also be well-placed to move into other areas of management or even embark on a PhD in HRM.

'I've recently been promoted,' says Rebecca, who submitted her work on line managers' development to the CIPD People Management Awards and was shortlisted for the prestigious Michael Kelly Outstanding Student of the Year (Advanced Level). 'This is in no small part down to the knowledge I gained on the postgraduate course.'

You can explore this further at what can I do with my degree in HRM?

How much will I be paid?

According to the CIPD's Why HR and L&D is a great career choice, the human resources management salary is certainly competitive and there's plenty of earning potential for graduates.

While new starters can expect to earn between £15,000 and £18,000 a year, by gaining in experience and studying towards further CIPD qualifications, this can rise significantly. For instance, an HR manager can earn on average £46,000 a year, with HR directors brining in over £80,000.

See the human resources officer job profile for further salary details and job prospects.

What about international human resources management?

With much of today's business conducted internationally, having knowledge of how human resources is managed at a global level is essential for those interested in an international HR management career.

In terms of postgraduate courses, there's the MSc International Human Resource Management at Kingston University London and the MSc International Human Resource Management and Comparative Industrial Relations at The University of Manchester. The former is available full time for one year, full time across two years (includes professional placement) and two years part time during weekday afternoons and evenings.

For both these international HR Masters degrees the CIPD and industry employers have had a strong input, with units covering the strategies and techniques adopted by multinational companies in solving HRM issues where employees work across a number of different countries.

In addition to a widely-regarded professional qualification, it will set you on course for senior roles in international HRM and executive training and development.