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Labor relations specialists most often work with labor unions and serve as liaisons between employees or union members and company managers. While labor relations specialists may be most needed when negotiations about compensation, benefits or contracts arise, these human resources professionals can also play a key role in helping prevent disputes around such matters.
Online education comes with perks for labor relations students. Beyond the general benefits of access and convenience, students may have the chance to work with individuals across the country and around the world, potentially gaining a fuller perspective of how local laws and policies can change the picture in labor negotiations.
What do labor relations specialists do?
Working in labor relations requires specialized knowledge in business, human resources and legal studies. For example, labor relations specialists need legal knowledge to understand whether company policies comply with government or union regulations; they need business knowledge to help make sure compensation and benefits packages are both competitive and compatible with employee needs and/or company finances; and they need human resources skills to communicate policies to employees or labor union members and to help mediate potential disputes.
Labor relations workers can be found in the human resources department of unions, government and private companies. Some of their duties include:
- Administering and interpreting labor contracts on various issues like wages, healthcare, management and union practices
- Providing companies with advice on contracts, worker grievances, union issues and disciplinary procedures
- Leading meetings between management and labor
- Drafting proposals, rules and regulations
- Ensuring that human resource policies of a company adhere to union agreements and government compliances
- Investigating the validity of grievances
- Training management on the various aspects of labor relations
Occupations and Career Outlook
We've listed the popular occupations in this field along with job openings, average salary, total employment and job outlook for 2016 to 2026 using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
Projected Job Growth
(2016 - 26)
|Farm Labor Contractors||780||$48,890||8%|
|Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand||2,711,320||$29,690||7.6%|
|Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop, Nursery, and Greenhouse||282,300||$25,070||1.1%|
Choose a degree that can help you meet your career goals
The level of education required to enter this field may vary by position and employer.
According to the Department of Labor, about 30 percent of those employed in this profession have a bachelor's degree and about 25 percent hold a master's degree. Most job applicants for the job of a labor relations specialist have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in labor relations, industrial relations, human resources or related fields.
A master's degree in labor studies may help individuals work in research or apply for leadership and higher management positions. Those who would like to enter academia or become a policymaker in this field may pursue online doctoral degree programs.
Online Certificate Programs in Labor Relations
What can I expect to learn in an online certificate program?
Students of online labor relations certificate programs can expect to learn the fundamentals of labor and employee relations practices. These programs typically concentrate on topics related to maintaining and promoting fruitful relationships between the management and employees of an organization.
Typical duration: Up to one year
General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent, GED
Typical coursework: Some of the courses may include:
- Human resources management
- Employee relations
- Contract administration
- Collective bargaining
Possible electives: Labor and employment law, issues in labor organizing, U.S. labor history
What can I do after earning a certificate?
You may qualify for an entry-level role in the field of labor relations or human resources with an online certificate in labor relations. Some potential careers are:
- Human resources assistant
- Human resources administrative assistant
- Labor relations specialist
Some certificate programs may work as credits toward an associate or bachelor's degree program in labor relations or human resource management.
Online Associate Degree Programs in Labor Relations
What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?
Fully online associate degree programs are available in labor studies, though you may also find a degree program in human resources with an emphasis in employee and labor relations.
Typical duration: Two years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent, GED
Typical coursework: Apart from general education courses, some of the topics you can expect to study are:
- Introductory microeconomic analysis and policy
- Human resources ethics
- History of work in the United States
- Grievance handling
- Labor and politics
- Labor law
- Occupational safety and health
General Electives: Race, gender, and employment; comparative employment relations systems.
What can I do after earning an associate degree?
An associate degree may qualify you for a more diverse range of entry-level positions than would a certificate. Some of the roles you may qualify for are:
- Union organizer
- Community advocate
- Public policy advocate
- Recruiting coordinator
- Human resource associate
- Equal Employment Opportunity officer
Online Bachelor's Degree Programs in Labor Relations
Online labor relations degrees can be found under both Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) disciplines.
The B.A. in labor relations may offer labor and employment relations courses along with social sciences, humanities and language. Whereas a B.S. in labor relations may offer the prescribed curricula in labor relations and offer electives in management, accounting and communications.
The B.S. degree may be better suited for those who desire a career in training and development, staffing, compensation and benefits. Those who prefer to be involved in aspects of human resources such as employment law, organizational culture and behavior, and workforce diversity may prefer a B.A. in labor relations.
What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor's degree program?
The curricula of online B.S. or B.A. degrees in labor studies can help you develop the interpersonal and analytical skills you are likely to need for leadership positions. You may also be able to specialize in a particular area such as global labor relations or labor law.
Typical duration: Approximately four years of full time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent, GED, associate degree.
Typical coursework: Apart from general education and business classes, you may typically see the following subjects included as a part of your course:
- Workforce dynamics
- Work in contemporary society
- Labor economics
- Conflict and conflict resolution in the workplace
- Collective representation
- Labor market policies
- International labor
Additionally, you might be required to complete a capstone project or an internship as a part of your online labor relations degree program.
General Electives: Administration of the contract, applied Marxist economic theory, contemporary labor issues, organizing labor unions, personnel legislation, trade union structure and administration
What can I do after earning a bachelor's degree?
An online bachelor's labor relations degree can open up several career paths in the labor relations and human resource management field. You may be eligible for entry-level roles in larger organizations or for management-level roles in smaller ones. Some potential careers after a human resource management degree online are:
- Human resources specialist
- Human resources generalist
- Benefits and compensation specialist
- Staffing and placement specialist
- Human resources consultant
- Training and development specialist
- Employee recruiter
- Union representative and negotiator
Online Master's Programs in Labor Relations
A master's degree in labor relations is often required for career advancement. Popular degrees like the Master of Human Resources and Labor Relations and the Master of Industrial and Labor Relations can help you take the next step toward management careers.
What can I expect to learn in an online master's degree program?
Online master's degree programs in labor relations can prepare you for higher positions in the field of labor management.
Typical duration: Between one and two years of full-time study
General prerequisites: Bachelor's degree
Typical coursework: Coursework for an online master's degree program in labor relations can give students an in-depth knowledge in labor relations. It also helps students to develop advanced analytical and leadership skills. Typical coursework may include:
- Research methods in labor and employment relations
- Leadership in work organizations
- Group processes and team dynamics
- Immigration, public policy, and worker rights
- New directions in collective bargaining
You may also have to complete a practicum, master's thesis or an internship as a part of your online master's degree program in labor relations.
What can I do after earning a master's degree?
A master's degree can allow candidates to apply for high-level management positions within the labor relations industry. Some possible job roles are:
- Union leader
- Director of human resources
- Human resource and employment relations (HRER) specialist
- Employment relations manager
- Independent researcher
Accreditation is important for your online human resources or labor relations degree program. Graduating from an accredited school or program can validate to potential employers that the education you have received is on par with high quality standards. It may also allow you to transfer your educational credits from one educational institute to another. Some online labor relations programs fall under the umbrella of business schools or departments and hence might be accredited by business and management-related accrediting bodies. Examples of professional business accrediting bodies are:
- Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
Depending on your employer, obtaining a certification may be voluntary; however, it can go a long way to show your commitment to the field of labor relations. It may also help in career advancement. Some employers may require candidates to hold certifications in order to apply for a particular job role. A few professional organizations offering certifications are:
- The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
- HR Certification Institute (HRCI)
- International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans