Cornell University

Graduate Degree Programs

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Master of Industrial and Labor Relations (MILR)

Nyinaku and Merkley MILR 11The two-year Master of Industrial and Labor Relations (MILR) is the top degree program in the area of human resources and labor relations and provides a broad-based foundation with a specific, intense focus on the interaction between people and organizations in the workplace. As a professional, career-focused degree, it is suitable for candidates interested in putting their education into practice. Classroom discussions incorporate workplace issues in all sectors of our economy, whether in a small service business, a not-for-profit museum, a large and influential labor union, or a Fortune 200 corporation.

What People are Saying about the ILR School's MILR Program

"In my opinion, if you are certain that you want a career in HRM, a MS in HRM from a top school such as Cornell is the best way to go. This top tier school has excellent placement rates and good salaries for graduates." (taken from the SHRM Web site)

— Steve Thomas, Southwest Missouri State University

"I think you will find it easier to get an HR job with an M.S. [or MILR] -- particularly if you get a degree from one of the top five programs (Cornell, Univ. of Wisconsin, Univ. of Illinois, Univ. of Minn. and Michigan State Univ.)…" (taken from the SHRM Web site)

— Mark J. Keppler, California State University- Fresno

"As a graduate of Cornell's Masters in Industrial and Labor Relations (MILR), I have some insight that might be helpful. The main difference between MBA with a HR concentration and a Masters of Science in HR Mgmt. or a Masters in Labor Relations (which in today's world can be almost totally HR-based and not traditional mgmt.-union focused) is this: an MBA has a ton of general business courses and only a few HR ones. The MILR has a ton of HR courses and a few general business ones. Employers go to both schools, but I think the national recruited MILR schools are limited (Cornell, Minnesota, Michigan State, Illinois are the ones I ran across)." (taken from the SHRM Web site)

— Gary Garber, Vice President, Human Resources, Avaya Government Solutions

Articles of Interest

"America's Most Surprising Six-Figure Jobs"

Published on, August, 1, 2011

"Human resources managers are the only ones on the list where most, not just some, earn six figures. These professionals, who are responsible for everything from interviewing candidates to handling personnel and implementing strategies and policies, earn a stellar average annual salary of $108,600. According to the BLS' Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates Data for 2010, the top 10% of H.R. managers earn more than $166,400 a year.  The best-paying state for these professionals is New Jersey, where they pull in an average annual salary of $134,170." Read the full article...

"Have B-Schools become debtors' prisons?"

Published on, August 18, 2011

After getting his MBA, Brian Jenkins (MILR '11) enrolled in the ILR School at Cornell University. Brian recounts, "If I hadn't gone to Cornell, I would have been in serious trouble." Read the full article...

"The Ten Biggest Lies of B-School"

Published on, August 10, 2011

Eric Jackson notes that during his time in business school, executive MBAs stated that soft courses, such as leadership and people management (the same courses taught at the ILR School), "were the most important of all the B-School classes they took.  You learn after B-School that the perfect answer or strategy means nothing if you can't get people around you to buy into it and help you achieve it.  To do that, you need to motivate them, listen to them, connect with them, and support them when they need it. Read the full article...

MILR Degree Requirements

The MILR Degree requires a minimum of 48 credit hours, encompassing at least 16 courses comprised of 6 core courses, 6 concentration courses and elective courses. Students choose a graduate field faculty member within their area of concentration to serve as their advisor who will help guide students on course selection and other academic matters.

Students have a great deal of flexibility in choosing their courses in addition to the required core courses. Courses offered by the ILR School and the 13 other colleges at Cornell provide an opportunity for cross-disciplinary work. Substitutions for one or more of the required core courses may be petitioned with demonstrated competence in the area of study. Most first semester students are required to take ILRHR 5600, ILROB 5200, and ILRHR 6910 in a bundled format. This bundled course set contains a case study that cuts across the three classes requiring students to address the case from an integrated HR, organizational design, employee motivation, and finance perspective.

6 required core courses:

  • ILRLR 5000 Collective Bargaining
    A comprehensive introduction to the industrial relations system of the United States. The negotiation, scope, and day-to-day administration of contracts; union and employer bargaining structures; implications of industrial relations issues for U.S. competitiveness and public policy; industrial conflict; and U.S. industrial relations in international and comparative perspective.

  • ILRLR 5010 Labor and Employment Law
    A survey and analysis of the law governing labor relations and employee rights in the workplace. The first half of the course examines the legal framework in which collective bargaining takes place, including union organizational campaigns, negotiations for and enforcement of collective bargaining agreements, and the use of economic pressure. The second half of the course surveys additional issues of rights in employment, including such topics as employment discrimination, the developing law of "unjust dismissal," and union democracy. Also serves as an introduction to judicial and administrative systems.

  • ILRST 5110 Statistical Methods for the Social Sciences
    A second course in statistics that emphasizes applications to the social sciences. Topics include: simple linear regression; multiple linear regression (theory, model building, and model diagnostics); and the analysis of variance. Computer packages are used extensively.

  • ILROB 5200 Organizational Behavior
    Survey of concepts, theories, and research from the fields of organizational and social psychology as these relate to the behavior of individuals and groups in organizations. Job attitudes, motivation, performance, leadership and power, group formation, perception, and organizational climate. A preliminary course for advanced work in organizational behavior.

  • ILRLE 5400 Labor Economics
    A course in labor market economics for prospective managers in the corporate, union, and governmental sectors. The course begins with demand and supply in labor markets, presenting the tools of decision analysis for workers and firms. It then goes on to consider various topics for managers including deciding on the optimal mix of capital and labor to employ; attracting and retaining talent; pay and productivity; hiring and training investments; and pensions and retirement. The final section of the course covers other important labor market issues including unemployment, discrimination, poverty and inequality, and analysis of public policies.

  • ILRHR 5600 Human Resource Management
    A survey course covering the major areas of the management of human behavior in work organizations. Consideration is given to aspects of strategic human resource management such as staffing, training and development, performance management, compensation, and employee relations. Emphasis is on exploring these issues from both strategic and tactical levels to increase organizational effectiveness.

6 elective courses from one of the following concentrations: 

Courses taken toward fulfillment of the MILR degree requirements must meet all of the following criteria: 

  • 5000 level or above
  • Taken for a letter grade (pass/fail and S/U grade option courses do not count)
  • Final course grade must be C or above
  • 3 or more credits. Courses that carry less than 3 credits do not count unless combined with another less-than-three credit course. Such instances will count as 1 course and must be taken for credit.

1-Year MILR Degree

Graduates with a JD or MBA degree from an accredited U.S. institution, or a BS ILR degree may apply to complete the MILR degree program in one year. Not all applicants will be approved for the 1-year option, but each application will be evaluated individually by the admissions committee. 30 credit hours including the 6 MILR core courses are required. Students in the 1-year MILR program must:

  • Complete a total of 30 credits
  • Complete 2 full-time semesters in the MILR program 
  • Complete or waive all 6 of the MILR required core courses
  • Complete or waive four of the six concentration courses
  • Complete as many relevant and appropriate electives as needed to fulfill the 30 credit requirement

See Also


Combining study for the MILR and the MBA degrees is another option available to qualified candidates. Students apply separately to the ILR School for the MILR and the Johnson Graduate School of Management for the MBA.


Please visit the Cornell University Bursar for current information regarding tuition. 

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