Online Degrees in Labor Relations

Labor relations specialists are liaisons between company employees and managers. While labor relations specialists may be at their most visible when disputes about compensation, benefits or contracts arise, these human resources professionals also play a key role in helping prevent such disputes.

Working in labor relations requires specialized knowledge in business, human resources and legal studies. For example, labor relations specialists need legal knowledge to ensure that 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 company finances; and they need human resources skills to communicate policies to employees and help mediate potential disputes.

Online business degrees in labor relations combine coursework in these areas to give students targeted training for this specific--and critical--position. From brief certificate programs to advanced doctoral degrees, students enjoy the freedom of choice in their education options:

  1. Certificate: These focused programs are commonly paired with existing education or experience.
  2. Associate degree: While rare, this degree can prepare students for basic internships or further education in business or labor relations.
  3. Bachelor's degree: Often paired with business training, this four-year degree is the recommended degree for most entry-level positions.
  4. Master's degree: 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 take the next step towards management careers.
  5. Doctoral degree: Labor relations doctoral degrees are less common than master's degrees and typically prepare students to work in research or higher education rather than in private industry.

Online education comes with perks for labor relations students. Beyond the general benefits of access and convenience, students get a 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 negotiation.

Training gives business and policy a human element, focusing on how individuals and groups can negotiate, represent themselves, or defend their case. A typical labor relations degree program might focus on the following topics:

  • Human resources
  • Dispute resolution
  • Collective representation
  • Labor market policies
  • International labor

Labor relations professionals straddle the line between interpersonal skills and advanced labor knowledge. For this reason, students should be naturally curious, eager to work with others and able to absorb material such as labor laws as they change over the years.

Labor relations workers can be found in unions, government and private companies. Within those broad fields, a few common careers can be found: mediators and arbitrators work to facilitate communication on each side of the table. Labor relations specialists can be found in unions and in the human resources department of a business. On both sides, labor relations directors oversee negotiations and take charge of coordination.

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide specific labor facts, it does note that in 2010, compensation, benefits and job analysis specialists earned mean annual wages of $59,590, while human resources managers earned $108,600.

  • Common industries: Management of companies and enterprises, local and state government, insurance carriers, general medical and surgical hospitals
  • Common careers: Labor relations managers, mediators, arbitrators, director of industrial relations
  • Salary range: $59,590 (compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists) - $108,600 (human resources managers) in 2010, according to the BLS
  • Preferred skills: Communication, legal knowledge, interpersonal ability
Average Salary
Expected Job Growth
(2014 - 2024)
First-Line Supervisors of Helpers, Laborers, and Material Movers, Hand183,620$50,1608.5%
Farm Labor Contractors810$47,2908%
Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand2,587,900$28,7207.6%
Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop, Nursery, and Greenhouse273,450$23,8201.1%
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.
With two children and a full-time job, my schedule is very hectic--WGU was put on this earth for me! I was able to submit work when it was convenient for me and work at a pace that best suited me, not the highest person in my class (as I've experienced with many traditional schools). - Carlisha Moore 
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