The Best Online MBA in Human Resources Programs

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The Master of Business Administration, or MBA, is the most sought after graduate degree among U.S. college students. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), roughly 190,000 MBAs were conferred in 2013-14 academic year — more than 25% of all master’s degrees awarded during that academic year. MBA programs follow a multidisciplinary curriculum that draws on various elements of contemporary business leadership. However, MBA earners often earn a degree specialization by focusing their studies on a niche area of the administration field.

According to the BLS, the average human resources manager earns over $100,000 per year.

Human resources is one of the most popular specialization areas among MBA students. Human resources (or HR) concentrates on the relationships between employers, managers, employees and their work environments. HR professionals work to ensure that all personnel at their company or organization are safe, treated with respect, fairly compensated and satisfied with their work. They also handle tasks and oversee projects related to recruitment, interviewing and hiring, orientation and training. Human resources departments can be found throughout the workforce in private companies, nonprofits and government agencies. Many of today’s students are choosing to earn their MBA in human resources online. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same number of job opportunities after graduation. The asynchronous (or self-paced) schedule and study-from-home format are also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other responsibilities that stand to interfere with campus-based learning.

Learn more about what you can do with an online MBA in human resources and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.

Will an Online MBA in Human Resources Program Provide Me With the Skills I Need to Advance My Career?

An MBA in human resources is designed for students with both educational and professional backgrounds in business administration. The MBA in HR curriculum is designed to build on foundational business administration topics while also introducing more complex theories and methods. Key topics of discussion in an HR program include business ethics and law, organizational leadership, operations management and financial analysis. Many online human resources MBA programs culminate in a capstone course, which allows students to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they have gained with a comprehensive research project.

Will an Online MBA in Human Resources Program Work With My Schedule?

MBA online programs offer a flexible, easily accessible alternative to traditional classroom education. Students are able to download course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors from their home computer. Current technology also enables them to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other Wi-Fi-compatible devices.

What Jobs Can I Get With My MBA in Human Resources?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most HR roles are attainable for candidates with a bachelor’s degree. Those who earn an MBA in human resources will be well-positioned to compete in the job market for top positions. Some of the most common career pathways include HR generalists, specialists and managers, as well as personnel that oversee training and development or compensation and benefits.

What Are the Best Online MBA in Human Resources Programs?

Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online MBA in human resources programs in the United States. If you are considering an online MBA in HR, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost % Enrolled Online Location Description
1 University of St Francis 73.83 57% Joliet, IL

St. Francis offers a premier education in the Catholic tradition. The online human resources MBA program reflects the values of the school, and St. Francis’s program is guided by compassion and peacemaking. The online business education program at the school was established 15 years ago, and the college has been ranked as one of the best online education providers for 11 consecutive years. The MBA degree program provides students with a flexible learning format that emphasizes skills in leadership and analytical thinking. The developers of the program curriculum recognize that students will embark on careers in a global society, and the degree provides them with a strong foundation for advancement in the competitive world of business. To complete the human resources concentration, students must pass four HR classes; most distance learners are able to graduate within 12-18 months.

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2 Webster University 71.71 31% Saint Louis, MO

Located in St. Louis, Webster provides an education that prepares students to lead successful careers in a globalized world. Webster offers an online learning environment that excels in providing students with quality education complete with enriching experiences led by experts. The school’s online MBA in human resources is no exception. The program prepares students to enter the business world with a broad skill set as well as an in-depth understanding of human resource management. The degree is comprised of 49 credit hours, and students take classes that focus on training as well as research. Core classes cover staffing, employment law, compensation, integrated studies in human resource management. The MBA degree reflects Webster’s mission to motivate students to reach their potential for excellence in a global society.

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3 Brandman University 68.68 79% Irvine, CA

Brandman is part of the Chapman University System, located in Orange, California. The school specializes in serving adult students and emphasizes quality, flexible, and accessible online education. The online human resources MBA from Brandman prepares students to pursue a variety of career paths. Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree, and either have graduated with a 3.0 GPA or better, or a 2.50 GPA and qualifying GRE test scores. The program consists of 36 core hours and 12 hours in human resources. Students with previous business or education experience may qualify for course waivers that reduce the number of required core hours. The MBA degree emphasizes training and development and focuses on critical areas of business, including wage and salary administration and evaluation systems. An award-winning education from Brandman will prepare graduates of the program to engage and succeed in the fast-paced, evolving global business world.

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4 Central Michigan University 62.99 25% Mount Pleasant, MI

Located in Mount Pleasant, CMU is home to more than 20,000 students. CMU’s online human resources MBA emphasizes social responsibility, compassion, and inclusion. The MBA degree includes 27 core hours and nine hours in the human resource management concentration, and the program is grounded in the foundational skills successful business leaders need, including accounting, finance, and management. Applicants must have a 2.70 undergraduate GPA or better and a GMAT score exceeding 450; prospective students do not need to submit GMAT scores if they earned a 3.25 GPA or better in their bachelor’s program. Applicants should also be well-versed in economics, statistics, finance, and accounting. The program emphasizes a global perspective and is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International.

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5 University of Scranton 62.51 18% Scranton, PA

The University of Scranton is a Catholic and Jesuit college founded in 1888. The university emphasizes learning guided by the traditional Christian values of freedom of thought, wisdom, and integrity. Scranton’s human resources MBA online promotes critical thinking skills, creativity, and strategic planning to give graduates a competitive edge and strong foundation necessary to succeed in business. The curriculum is guided by the school’s key characteristics of a human resource leader, and the program emphasizes the value of effective communication and ethical business practices. To get started, students learn about the interplay between human resources and organizational behavior. To graduate, distance learners must complete 13 courses, plus an eight-week capstone class. Students enrolled in the online program have access to the Business and Leadership Resource Center, which offers a variety of career resources to business majors.

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6 Concordia University-Wisconsin 60.42 41% Mequon, WI

Concordia University-Wisconsin is a Lutheran college founded in 1881. The school’s educational mission is influenced by its Christian tradition, and imbues students with the importance of integrity, service, and faith. The MBA in human resources online is designed for working professionals looking to balance school with their other obligations and responsibilities. At Concordia, every online student has access to an online student success advisor and several online resources for educational success. The MBA degree consists of 24 business foundation credits and 15 human resource management credits, and prepares students for successful careers in business management and leadership. Classes cover compensation, benefits, risk management theory, and much more. As part of the program, Concordia strives to help students become better communicators; most distance learners leave school with significantly improved written and verbal communication skills and are prepared to work in a variety of professional environments.

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7 Southern Adventist University 59.42 28% Collegedale, TN

The Southern Adventist University is located in Collegedale, Tennessee and was established by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Southern’s online programs are rooted in the Seventh-Day Adventist values of lifelong learning and community service. The school’s online campus strives to provide students with technological support and a high quality distance education experience. SAU’s MBA in human resources online propels students forward in their careers by providing a strong theoretical foundation and the skills necessary to compete in business. Applicants must have earned a 3.0 GPA as an undergraduate or better; students with a GPA exceeding 3.25 and relevant professional experience on their resume do not need to submit test scores. The program is customizable depending on the needs and interests of each student, and consists of 24 core credits and 12 credits in the human resources concentration. Students pursuing their MBA degree also have the opportunity to earn a dual degree in conjunction with the School of Nursing.

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8 Fitchburg State University 58.77 31% Fitchburg, MA

Located in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, Fitchburg State University strives to ensure that students experience the best in education. The MBA in human resources online can be completed in 17 months, and the program requires students to pass 30 credit hours (10 classes). Students take courses in a cohort, and each class takes seven weeks to complete. Classes are taught all taught asynchronously and the program is available entirely online. The curriculum is designed to ensure that students have plenty of opportunity for meaningful interaction with classmates and faculty, and distance learners can engage with each other on a variety of platforms, including chat services and discussion forums. Students considering the program can try out a demo class offered by Fitchburg State to become familiar with the school’s online learning format and platform.

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9 University of Saint Mary 58.29 32% Leavenworth, KS

The University of Saint Mary is located in Leavenworth, Kansas, and the school has offered a robust education in the Catholic tradition since 1923. The online MBA in human resources offered by the University of Saint Mary is a competitive program. Students can tailor the curriculum to suit their interests, and online course content is accessible anytime and anywhere. The MBA degree is 36 credit hours and can be completed in one year. The human resources concentration is nine credit hours and prepares students to embark on their careers with confidence. Mandatory courses for human resources students consist of legal and ethical environment in business, conflict management and negotiation, and organizational change and development. The University of Saint Mary’s MBA program emphasizes global awareness and the pursuit of individual potential.

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10 University of North Texas 52.02 32% Denton, TX

The University of North Texas is located in Denton, and was founded in 1890 as a teacher’s training school. Since then, it has blossomed into a major research institution with 12 schools and global partnerships around the world, including visiting scholars from over 50 countries. UNT’s MBA in human resources online can be completed in as few as 14 months and consists of 36 credit hours. Students have the option of starting the program in January, March, June, August, and October. Distance learners are encouraged to take classes at their own pace; students who want to study full-time may be interested in UNT’s accelerated track, which allows them to graduate in just over a year. The MBA program prepares students to excel as managers and marketplace leaders and was ranked as one of the top online programs by U.S. News and World Report.

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11 Belhaven University 51.61 27% Jackson, MS

Located in Jackson, Mississippi, Belhaven is a Christian college that incorporates Christian values in its educational programs. The school promotes student success by equipping graduates with the skills and moral foundation needed for career advancement in the 21st century. Belhaven’s online MBA in human resources requires students to complete 42 credits, including 11 core classes and three electives. Popular core offerings include quantitative decision making, the legal environment in business, and ethical problems in business. All distance learners also take a course that introduces them to graduate education. Applicants are allowed to transfer in up to six graduate credits from other universities. All applicants must have earned a bachelor’s degree with a 2.8 GPA or better. You should also have passed college-level algebra prior to applying.

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12 Ottawa University-Online 49.00 100% Ottawa, KS

Ottawa University-Online was founded in 1865 by Baptist missionaries and is currently affiliated with the American Baptist Churches of Kansas. The school’s online MBA in human resources is a flexible program, and course content is accessible 24/7. All courses are designed specifically for online learning, and the student-to-teacher ratio at Ottawa is 4:1. The curriculum prepares students to lead successful careers in a variety of business settings. Classes focus on educating students in current business trends and instilling the knowledge and skills necessary for business management. Human resources students must pass four concentration-specific courses, including offerings in employment law and human resource planning and administration. Students interested in a hybrid format may be able to take some of their classes in-person on satellite campuses in Arizona, Indiana, or Wisconsin, along with the main campus in Kansas.

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13 Gardner-Webb University 48.40 48% Boiling Springs, NC

Located in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, Gardner-Webb University is a private, Baptist college. The university’s mission emphasizes professional advancement and community service within the context of Christian values. GWU’s online human resources MBA prepares student to excel as ethical leaders in business. The degree consists of 36 credit hours, six of which focus on the human resources specialization. Course material is delivered through Blackboard, and Gardner-Webb offers online tutorials for students new to online learning. The MBA program offers 10 classes that students can choose from to fulfill specialization requirements. Classes range from organizational staffing to human judgment and decision-making. Distance learners must also pass a capstone course in strategic management. All classes embody the Christ-centered values of Gardner-Webb, making the curriculum a unique combination of theoretical and practical business knowledge and service-oriented, faith-based approaches to learning.

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14 Brenau University 48.14 57% Gainesville, GA

Brenau is located in Gainesville, Georgia, and offers a globally-oriented education designed to enrich students’ personal and professional lives. The online human resources MBA offered at Brenau University emphasizes the importance of linking the most relevant, evidence-based business theories to practice. The student-to-faculty ratio is 11:1, and students here receive a high-quality education that prepares them for career success in a global world. The format of the program prepares students for successful careers in the globalized, technology-driven business world. The MBA program requires students to complete 45 credits; distance learners must pass five human resources classes to earn that particular concentration. In addition to core and elective classes, incoming students must also pass introductory courses in applied economics and business essentials.

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15 National University 46.75 75% La Jolla, CA

Located in La Jolla, California, National University is one of the largest nonprofit private universities in California. Founded in 1971, the school specializes in online education and offers over 1,200 online courses. The human resources MBA online consists of 16-19 core courses and features five human resource management courses that prepare students to lead successful careers in business management and related areas. Upon completion of the degree program, students will be able to analyze jobs, devise employee recruiting and training plans, establish benefit plans for employees, and implement safety procedures in the workplace. As part of the curriculum, students must take a seminar in training and developing employees, teaching distance learners how to help others make the most of their career prospects. The MBA from National University emphasizes a curriculum that encourages critical thinking, innovative problem-solving, and teamwork within the context of the modern business world.

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16 Mercy College 46.54 43% Dobbs Ferry, NY

Mercy College is located in Dobbs Ferry, New York. The school’s online MBA in human resources can be completed in as little as a year and provides students with a strong foundation in business theory and practice. Distance learners enrolled in the MBA program are required to complete 24 credit hours in core classes, 12 hours in advanced core business classes, and 12 hours in human resource management. Additionally, students must complete nine hours in capstone courses, in which they choose to complete a thesis, business plan, or complete a case analysis. Applicants with an undergraduate GPA below 3.0 must schedule an interview with the graduate business chair prior to applying. Mercy does not require you to submit GMAT scores on your application. Online courses are taught asynchronously.

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17 Tiffin University 43.13 44% Tiffin, OH

Tiffin’s elearning programs are convenient, easily accessible, and are based on best practice models. Most classes offered online have fewer than 20 students. The school’s online human resources MBA builds upon core coursework that students have completed to prepare them with the skills necessary to successfully implement theories and techniques in the context of resource management. Distance learners take classes in a nine-session sequence, completing two courses per session. The curriculum reflects Tiffin’s mission to train the next generation of leaders, and all students must take several courses targeted toward future managers. These include offerings in managerial economics, managerial finance, and statistical methods for managers. Students will also take a course in employee development, where they’ll learn how to incentivize workers and to nurture budding talent in a professional environment. The MBA program is accredited by the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs.

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18 Franklin Pierce University 42.30 22% Rindge, NH

Located in Rindge, New Hampshire, Franklin Pierce is a private, liberal arts school with educational values rooted in intellectual inquiry and the advancement of knowledge through the union of academic and professional pursuits. Franklin Pierce’s online MBA in human resources provides students with a foundation in business theory and practices. The program further enhances student success by equipping students with the knowledge to address organizational needs through the use of innovation and critical thinking strategies. Classes are offered entirely online, though distance learners may also complete the program in a hybrid format, and attend select courses at one of FPU’s campuses throughout New Hampshire. FPU is also the only program in the state that addresses all of the Society for Human Resource Management’s critical competencies.

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19 Bellevue University 36.92 86% Bellevue, NE

Bellevue University was founded in 1966 in part to offer adult education programs, and that mission has expanded into a comprehensive distance learning program. Bellevue’s online MBA in human resources builds upon students’ core business knowledge to prepare them for careers in human resource management. The program emphasizes the development of leadership and decision-making skills. Graduates leave school well-versed in human resource laws, performance management, and recruitment and selection processes. The degree program is 36 credit hours and is accredited by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education. Applicants should have already completed a bachelor’s or master’s programs, with a 2.50 GPA or better over their last 60 credits. In addition to human resource management, distance learners can pursue a concentration in human capital management.

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20 Saint Leo University 36.53 86% Saint Leo, FL

Located in Saint Leo, Florida, SLU is a Catholic liberal arts school with core values that reflect the Roman Catholic traditions of integrity, a shared community of learning, and personal and spiritual growth. Saint Leo is the fourth largest Catholic college in the U.S., and its online programs are ranked among the best by U.S. News & World Report. Saint Leo offers an online MBA in human resources that just one year to complete, though part-time distance learners have up to five years to graduate. The 36-credit program prepares students to launch successful careers in a variety of business environments and includes classes that focus on employee recruitment and training, administrative law, and strategic issues. The flexible online degree program caters to a diverse student population, and examples of student success stories can be found on the Saint Leo online education blog. Distance learners may also pursue a second concentration as part of their MBA. Saint Leo offers nine other concentrations, including supply chain management, project management, and sports management.

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How Long Is an Online MBA in Human Resources Program?
18 months to 2 years
Program Costs
$25,000 to $50,000
Management, Project Management, Recruiting and Staffing, Compensation and Benefits, Training, Organizational Development, Employment Law, and Office Administration
Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
Additional Considerations
Many MBA programs require candidates to sit for the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), and some require a minimum score. However, not all MBA programs require a GMAT score for admission.

Job Placement: MBA in Human Resources

Due to widespread implementation of HR departments in both the private and public sector, the human resources industry is quite large The BLS notes that roughly 482,000 human resources specialists and 122,500 human resources managers are currently employed in the U.S.; these two careers alone are expected to increase by more than 32,000 positions between 2014 and 2024. Related occupations, such as training and development managers and compensation and benefits managers, are also expected to experience strong growth over the next eight to 10 years.

How do HR jobs stack up against other MBA-oriented fields in terms of job placement? The following table features the unemployment rates for HR specialists and eight other administration occupations. All nine professions listed on the table were included on the ‘Best Business Jobs‘ list published by U.S. News & World Report in 2016.

Occupation Unemployment Rate (2016)
Medical and Health Services Manager 1.7%
Market Research Analyst 2.4%
Financial Manager 2.6%
Management Analyst 3.0%
Human Resources Specialist 3.1%
Accountant 3.2%
Business Operations Manager 3.7%
Operations Research Analyst 3.8%
Executive Assistant 3.9%

Source: U.S. News & World Report

As the table indicates, HR specialists enjoy relatively stable job placement rates within the corporate sector. The unemployment rate for HR professionals is also low compared to the national unemployment rate for all industries, which currently sits at 4.6%.

Earning a Living

In addition to more favorable job placement rates, graduates with an online MBA in HR also enjoy high earning potential. However, salary expectations will depend on an HR employee’s specific degree field of MBA study. The table below features entry-level earnings expectations for students with master’s degrees in two MBA HR fields.

Degree/Professional Field Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years)
MBA in Human Resources Management $49,600 $81,100
MBA in Human Resources $48,400 $79,200

Source: 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report

As the table indicates, students who earn an MBA in HR management earned slightly higher salaries at both benchmarks than those with an MBA in HR. However, both degree-holders reported nearly identical salary growth after 10 years in the workforce; employees with an MBA in HR saw their earnings rise 63.6% after 10 years, while employees with an MBA in HR management experienced 63.5% growth.

In addition to MBA field of study, specific professional titles also impact one’s salary outlook. The next table looks at the salary growth and projections for four of the most popular HR career pathways.

Occupation Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 Years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (>20 Years)
Human Resources Specialist $43,558 $48,823 $50,903 $55,163
Human Resources Generalist $47,148 $51,917 $53,484 $54,965
Human Resources Manager $51,565 $62,068 $67,345 $69,268
Training Manager $53,982 $64,234 $75,333 $80,855

Source: PayScale

Of the four occupations listed, training managers experienced the highest rate of career salary growth: a 49.8% increase between the entry-level and late-career stages. Human resources managers placed second with a 34.3% earnings increase after 20 years in the workforce.

Career Opportunities

Students who graduate with an MBA in human resources will be qualified for dozens of top-level positions, although their individual eligibility will depend on additional factors such as company size and their city/state of employment. Four of the most common careers in HR are outlined below.

Compensation and Benefits Managers: These managers coordinate payment, retirement, health insurance and other compensation and benefit programs at their company or organization. They often assist employees with questions and concerns that arise, and may also work with executives to monitor and evaluate the salaries and benefits packages of different personnel.

Human Resources Specialists: HR specialists recruit, evaluate and hire employees. Their day-to-day duties include posting job vacancies, screening applicants, and conducting interviews and background checks. HR specialists usually work under HR managers.

Human Resources Managers: HR managers oversee the human resources departments at their company or organization; they also manage HR specialists, compensation and benefits coordinators and other personnel. HR managers often meet with top executives and leaders to create recruiting and staffing programs, and they may also meet with employees and managers to settle conflicts and workplace disputes.

Training and Development Managers: These managers are responsible for employee orientation, training and professional development. They play a direct role in the development, coordination and evaluation of different programs that increase productivity, build employee skills and create a more efficient work environment.

Occupation Median Annual Salary Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)
Compensation and Benefits Managers $111,430 6% (+1,100 jobs)
Human Resources Specialists $58,350 5% (+22,000 jobs)
Human Resources Managers $104,440 9% (+10,800 jobs)
Training and Development Managers $102,640 7% (+2,300 jobs)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to human resources is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for HR professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.

  • Society for Human Resource Management: Considered the world’s largest HR-oriented professional organization, the SHRM boasts 285,000 members in 165 different countries. The website features a vast online resource library, as well as links to continuing education opportunities and an events calendar.
  • National Human Resources Association: Founded in 1951, the NHRA seeks to assist aspiring HR employees through networking events, job training and continuing education. Individual, corporate and student memberships are all available.
  • Academy of Human Resources Development: This international organization seeks to address problems and issues in HR using academic research. AHRD’s monthly online journal, AHRD Digest, features a publication archive that dates back to 2006.

Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.


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