Graduate School – Now is the Time

Human resources (HR) professionals who are thinking about getting a Master in Business Administration (MBA) degree should generally base their decision on their personal goals for career advancement, rather than by job market conditions; but, in these difficult economic times it is natural for anyone to consider whether further education will improve their chances of employment.

Graduate school is a major undertaking for all students, particularly for working professionals, but if there was ever a time for HR professionals to get that coveted MBA degree, that time is now. Here’s why:

The Boom-Bust Cycle and the Job Market

In every iteration of the endless boom-bust cycle of developed nations, employment and wages are two of the most deeply affected economic factors. The current landscape of American unemployment is a grim reminder of just how competitive the job marketplace has become for professionals. During these times of historically high unemployment rates, job seekers are left scratching their heads as to why they all of a sudden they have become unemployable.

Analysts who enjoy citing statistics claim that there are approximately five applicants to every job posting these days. Those figures are down from the six-to-one ratio in 2009, and significantly higher than in 2007, when there were just two job seekers vying for an opening. The opposite is being observed in the booming economies of Brazil and Germany, where economic prosperity is making it difficult for employers to find qualified applicants. Those countries are now enjoying historical low unemployment rates and will soon begin outsourcing some jobs thanks to the current trends in globalization.

The Need for HR Professionals

While private enterprises in Brazil and Germany may be venturing overseas to look for qualified workers, they aren’t likely to outsource their top HR managers. Outsourcing is currently a major field of study within the HR profession around the world. Globalization and free trade are expected to form part of the new commerce paradigm, something that will only increase the relative incidence of outsourcing. Top HR managers are now expected to stay close to the company headquarters to administer and report on outsourcing efforts.

Since high-level HR professionals aren’t expected to become outsourcing casualties in either Brazil or Germany, competition for open spots and retention in those countries is expected to increase. Global trade and outsourcing are subjects that aren’t typically taught to HR professionals at the undergraduate level, but they are often the focus of HR MBA curricula and academic dissertations.

What an Economic Recovery Means to HR Professionals

The so-called “green shoots” of the economy that have been talked about in financial news circles since 2010 are beginning to mature in the United States. They still have a long way to go before they fully develop into giant beanstalks, but the first signs of economic recovery are being felt in the job market. Millions of job hunters are still without a job, and HR professionals and hiring managers are buried under a deluge of resumes and applications, but some improvement is being noticed.

Just like in Brazil and Germany, there will be a strong shift in terms of employment once prosperity and financial optimism return to the American economy. HR professionals will once again be in high demand to manage the growing workforce, and many industries will be expected to outsource significantly. In other words, American companies are poised to look for the most educated and better prepared HR professionals. The bar will be raised, and this means that they will be looking for HR professionals who are MBA graduates.

If there is one thing that can be learned from the economic rebound of the Brazilian and German economies is that recovery usually comes at a very fast pace. For this reason, it is incumbent on HR professionals to adequately prepare themselves now, rather than later.

Trudy Stapleton is a career counselor who also writes for, a site which lists all the top distance MSHR degrees and explores various HR Masters programs.