Make your mark in HR.
Make your mark in HR.

MSL With a Specialization in HR Law

The demand for legal skills in fields that have not traditionally been thought of as law-focused is growing. Human resources (HR) is one of the fields where knowledge of the law is rapidly becoming essential to successfully navigate day-to-day HR tasks, including everything from administering benefits, to engaging in collective bargaining, to handling sensitive employee relations issues.

Pitt Law’s HR Law specialization, paired with the core Master of Studies in Law (MSL) curriculum, prepares you to be an authority on HR law who can effectively plan for and navigate legal issues. Set yourself apart as a leader in HR with in-demand legal knowledge and skills.

Review the MSL with a specialization in HR Law to learn where Pitt Law can take you.

SHRM Certified Professional
The University of Pittsburgh School of Law's Master of Legal Studies (with a specialization in HR Law) is aligned with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) HR Curriculum Guidebook and Templates.

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Program Brochure

Are you considering a master’s degree in law or a graduate certificate to take your career to the next level? Pitt Law’s Master of Studies in Law online program is designed for professionals seeking to enhance their careers with a versatile alternative to the traditional three-year JD degree. The certificate programs are ideal for those who are not currently looking to pursue a master’s degree.

Complete the form to get a program brochure for Pitt Law’s Online MSL plus your chosen specialization, or your chosen certificate program, delivered to your inbox.

Human Resources Law Specialization Guiding Principles

We value the thoughtful input of all students as we strive towards an honest and ethical, team-based approach to daily dilemmas.
We seek the most complete level of knowledge for basic and complex legal concepts, so that those concepts can be applied to a wide variety of employment situations.
people sitting at table
We recognize that there can be strong differences of opinion in working through the relationship between employers and employees, and we will attempt to understand the sincerely-held position of both sides in evaluating a workplace challenge.
We encourage critical thinking and creative problem-solving in the field of human resources.
people in room
We appreciate that workplaces do not operate in a vacuum but rather within a larger community of stakeholders whose interests need to be respected (at the local, national and international levels).

The MSL in Human Resources Law: More Than a Degree

Mix raced male business partners analyzing reports against grey wall

The small class sizes and individualized attention will set you up for success during your master’s program and after graduation. Organizations such as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) offer different certification examinations that are beneficial to career development and advancement. Completing the Human Resources Law specialization offered by Pitt Law enables you to be eligible to sit for these exams within one year of graduation.

What Can You Do With an MSL With a Human Resources Law Degree?

HR in general is one of the fastest-growing fields in the U.S., with around 14,400 positions estimated to be opening annually.1 Holding a master’s degree with a focus on HR Law will help you stand out to potential employers, setting you apart from others in the talent pool. Check out some of the most common job titles held by people with MSL degrees. In the list below, an understanding of the law and how it governs your role is crucial to success in each position.

Female HR manager speaking with male employee
HR Manager or Director
As an HR manager or director, you will plan and coordinate the administrative areas of your company. You will hold a number of responsibilities, including being a key communicator between employees and management, managing benefits programs, advising on issues like equal employment and sexual harassment claims, and much more. The median pay for an HR manager in 2021 was $126,230* per year.2
Female operations director standing and speaking to two seated colleagues
HR Operations Director
As an HR operations director, you will be responsible for coordinating the internal structure of a business or organization. You will help properly allocate talent throughout your company and work to ensure that the organization’s structure is appropriate to meet its challenges and goals. You will also develop and ensure that the company follows its internal policies. The average total compensation for this role is $139,010* per year.3
Hands using a calculator and writing a payroll check
Payroll Manager
In this role, you will oversee payroll functions for your organization. Compliance is key in this role as you must ensure that pay is processed accurately and on time in accordance with federal and state regulations. As a manager, you will likely be responsible for hiring, training and supervising payroll employees. Your knowledge of HR law will be crucial to training your employees to properly follow all internal company policies and external laws and regulations. The average total compensation for this role is $78,145.*4
Diverse professional executive team working at meeting in office. Manager talking to board people consulting partners
Management Consultant
In a consultant role in HR, you will develop processes and policies for organizations to assist with HR management. To succeed in this role, you will need a strong working knowledge of HR law, and will need the planning, leadership and communications skills to work with various organizations. The average total compensation for this role is $122,929* per year, with the base salary increasing with experience.5

*Total annual compensation as of January 20, 2023.

I have been working in HR since 2005 and, while I had received great on-the-job training over the years and a SHRM-CP certification, I was looking to bolster my knowledge of the law. The program helped me build confidence in my problem-solving skills, provided additional understanding of the laws governing my profession, and the courses counted towards by SHRM recertifications.
Stephanie V headshot
Stephanie Varholak, Policy Strategist, Labor and Employee Relations (School of Pitt Law - HR Law '20, MSL '21)

Human Resources Law Specialization Courses

After completing 15 credits of core courses for the Online MSL program, you will complete 15 credits on the HR Law specialization. This specialization consists of five courses developed by working with experts in human resources, law, and online education.

  • Introduction to the Legal System for Human Resources; Hiring and Firing (3 credits)
  • Wages, Hours and Benefits (3 credits)
  • Working Conditions (3 credits)
  • Anti-Discrimination Law (3 credits)
  • Selected Topics in Human Resources Law (3 credits)

View Full Curriculum

HR Law Specialization Course Spotlight

Working Conditions

This course begins with an overview of labor law and health and safety at work, including employer obligations under the federal National Labor Relations Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act and state workers compensation laws. Students explore selected labor-management relations issues, including situations where employees (union and non-union) engage in concerted activity for their mutual aid and protection.

This course will also cover employee privacy issues, such as workplace appearance and hygiene, drug testing, “love contracts,” privacy in “off the job” conduct, employee monitoring, social media, and politics in the workplace.

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Explain basic labor-management relations issues and identify basic unfair labor practices
  • Understand the employer’s basic obligations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act
  • Identify issues posed for employers when employees are injured on the job or cannot work due to disability
  • Evaluate employee privacy issues for a variety of behaviors both “on the job” and “off the job”
  • Understand how the computer can be a useful HR tool and also a source of problems in the workplace
Pat Chew_.jpg
Meet MSL and HR Law Professor Pat Chew
Professor Pat Chew is the Salmon Chaired Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and a University Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award recipient. Professor Chew’s research is diverse, both in subject areas and methodologies. She has written dozens of articles in both general interest and specialized law journals and has also authored numerous books, treatises and casebooks on dispute resolution, business laws, and culture and conflict.

Among other leadership roles, Professor Chew was on the Executive Committee of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) (the Association’s board of directors), the Chair of the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education (the largest AALS section), a Council member of the General Practice Division of the American Bar Association (ABA), and a co-founder of the Asian-American Pacific Islander law faculty association. She is a member of the American Law Institute (ALI). Over the years, she has served on many committees and spoken at dozens of programs for the AALS, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), and the ABA.

You will see Professor Chew in both your core MSL courses and in your HR Law specialization courses.

Make Your Mark on HR with Pitt Law

The skills and knowledge you will gain by earning your MSL with a Human Resources specialization will benefit you as you progress your HR career and will bring you success as you work for companies in any number of fields.

You will greatly benefit by the connections you will make with your cohort and with Pitt Law’s MSL and HR Law faculty, who lead in the classroom and in life. Pitt Law is proud the Online MSL is taught by changemakers, industry leaders, and successful practitioners.

Fall 2024 Admissions Deadlines

Priority Deadline
August 2
Fall 2024
Final Deadline
August 12
Fall 2024
Start Date
August 19
Fall 2024