There is this question that boggles every HR aspirant or a working HR professional in his early-career years that what should be more appropriate for the future career – an HR certification, or an MBA? Both have their specific merits and benefits, but choosing one still, is confusing for a majority of individuals in the said sector. While certifications help acquire skills quickly with less time and money consumption, an MBA degree makes you eligible for some of the most high profile jobs in the HR sector, like starting your career directly in the position of an assistant manager.
However, you cannot go wrong in terms of choosing one over the other, as both options have their distinct career advantages. And no matter what option you opt for, it’s going to benefit your future career in some way or the other.
HR Professionals Earn Fairly Decent
Salary of HR Professionals based on experience in the US
As per Payscale, an HR professional in his early-career years (1-4 yrs) in the US makes an average of USD 51,040 annually, while those in their mid-career stage earn a median annual salary of USD 71,450. As you spend more time in the said sector and enter the experience bracket of 10-19 yrs, the pay in the US further rises to a whopping USD 74,032 yearly.
Okay, Now the Big Question – HR Certification or the MBA Degree?
The question is not limited to whether to go for an HR certification or an MBA, but if someone decides to acquire both, in what order he is supposed to go about it? What makes more sense, to enrol in an HR certification first, or taking admission in an HR-specific MBA degree program?
To delve deeper into the subject, let’s explore on the liking of hiring managers. As per a recent study conducted in the US involving 300 HR job openings, it was found that 42% of the concerned jobs preferred certifications, while the most in-demand credentials being SPHR and PHR. Besides, 28% of HR jobs gave preference to MBAs and graduates, but it was not a mandate in these HR job listings.
Having discussed this much, we are still unclear about what to acquire first – an MBA degree, or an HR certification? Let’s discuss both the options in detail, one by one.
Option 1 – Certification
Actually, there’s no clear winner between a certification and an MBA degree. It actually depends on the need and end goals of different individuals. Let’s discuss the case in favour of certifications. If you happen to be a young graduate or a working professional in the early years of your HR career, you need to consider the costs involved with both the available options. At the first go, certifications seem to be a better choice because of the cost-effectiveness attached with them. Also, it takes much less time to acquire a certification than a master’s degree.
The costs associated with acquiring a master’s degree in HR are exorbitant. As per a research, the average cost a person incurs on obtaining an MBA in HR in the US is $140,000, and if we add up the amount of loss of income during the period you spent in the college or university for acquiring the said degree, the amount total further rises to a whopping $260,000.
This hefty sum of money amounts to four years of salaried income at the rate of $60,000 per year. In the long-term, MBA can prove to be beneficial for your career, but the initial capital investment is just too high, and is a big cause of worry. On the contrast, the costs involved with acquiring an HR certification is like ‘peanuts’ compared to earning a master’s degree in the same subject domain.
Option 2 – MBA Degree
An MBA would offer a better career flexibility, in case, you change your mind after a couple of years, and would like to transition to a different field of profession, altogether. That’s where an MBA will have an upper hand over industry-specific HR certifications. Besides, while you pursue your master’s degree program, you get to learn more in detail about all aspects of business in comparison to what certifications make you learn. Certifications are more targeted to a specific HR skill, or a set of skills in a specific sub-division of HR management, while an MBA program will train you in all departments of business management.
An MBA degree program will instil in you the knowledge of various aspects or areas of business, like leadership tactics, accounting, business strategy, marketing management, among many others. Besides, you get more time to work on developing varied skills of business management in a degree program, which is not a luxury in a certification program.
Go for an MBA if you seek building comprehensive skillset in business management and have enough financial resources to afford the exorbitant fee associated with the master’s degree course. One more big benefit of opting for an MBA would be breaking into the HR sector while acquiring a leadership position.
Consider certifications if you possess limited financial resources but would want to grow your career fast. Also, if you think you have inbuilt HR skills in you, and a professional credential will put an official relevance to them, do go for acquiring certifications. Besides, those who are sure about pursuing a career in HR in the long term, would benefit hugely from certifications.