MTSU’s new HR concentration earns alignment with S...

MTSU’s new HR concentration earns alignment with Society for Human Resource Management

SHRM alignment promo

Middle Tennessee State University will launch its new Human Resource Management concentration this fall with the confidence that its courses align with guidelines from the Society for Human Resource Management, an HR professional organization considered a gold standard in the industry.

MTSU’s Jones College of Business was notified this summer that it is now among more than 500 programs in approximately 425 educational institutions throughout the world that have met the guidelines to become SHRM aligned. The guidelines were developed by SHRM to define the minimum HR content areas that should be studied by HR students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Dr. Kristie Abston, Department of Management, Jones College of Business

Dr. Kristie Abston

MTSU assistant management professor Kristie Abston, who spearheaded the effort, said she and the other five HR instructors within the Department of Management planned from the outset to modify the curriculum and course work for the proposed new concentration to also cover the 18 topics and eight competencies that SHRM requires.

“This alignment is an endorsement of our concentration in terms of overall quality and inclusion of the topics and competencies that HR professionals say are essential for students to learn,” Abston said.

“The alignment adds credibility to the concentration and will be a boost on our graduates’ resumes by allowing them to say they completed a SHRM-aligned program. Their certifications, the conferences they host … everything is world-class with SHRM. It is the premier organization for the HR profession.”Department of Management logo

That’s important in a burgeoning industry with median salaries for HR professionals in the Midstate ranging from $40,000 to $94,000, and with a jobs growth rate projected from 6% to 26% by 2026 statewide.

Dr. Jill Austin, Management Department Chair.

Dr. Jill Austin

“I am very pleased that our new concentration in human resource management in the management major is now listed as a SHRM aligned curriculum; Congratulations to the MTSU HR faculty for their work in curriculum revision to meet the SHRM alignment standards,” said management chair and program coordinator Jill Austin.

“The HR courses in the concentration will include experiential learning practices that will provide students will real world learning opportunities.  These high-impact experiential learning opportunities, along with the SHRM alignment, will prepare our students to be successful HR professionals.”

The SHRM guidelines — created in 2006 and revalidated in 2010, 2013 and 2017 — are part of the organization’s academic initiative to define HR education standards taught in university business schools and help universities develop degree programs that follow these standards.

“They’ve been very proactive in reaching out to academic institutions to make sure we have the tools we need to prepare students for success,” said Abston, who came to MTSU in 2017. “So, we formalized this program based on industry needs, career opportunities for our students and providing something that’s tangible for their resumes.”

The alignment also gives the opportunity for eligible MTSU students, who already have sufficient HR internships and related experience, to take the SHRM-CP certification earlier than students from non-aligned programs. Otherwise SHRM requires up to four years of professional HR experience, depending upon level of college education, before taking the certification exam.

Other MTSU HR faculty include Tim Moake, Dan Morrell, Millicent Nelson, DJ Steffensen and Tom Tang.

Within the concentration, students must take a core human resource management course that all management majors take, plus four additional upper level courses within the concentration: talent and acquisition management, training and development, compensation management, and strategic innovations in HRM, which helps students review for the certification exam.

Abston said the program also hopes to partner with private industry to demo their people management software for HR students to use.

For more information about MTSU’s Department of Management, visit or contact Austin at or 615-898-2736.

— Jimmy Hart (

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