Cornell University

Graduate Degree Programs

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Master of Industrial and Labor Relations (M.I.L.R.) Degree Program Policy

Note: As policies are occasionally updated, each individual's degree requirements are regulated by the policy in effect at the time of his or her matriculation.

  1. Objectives of the M.I.L.R. Degree Program
  2. Administration of the Program
  3. Admissions
  4. Advisors
  5. Credit Requirements
  6. Course and Concentration Requirements
  7. Courses and Grades
  8. Language Requirements
  9. Teaching Requirements
  10. Thesis/Dissertation
  11. Examinations
  12. Recommendations for the Degree
  13. One-Year M.I.L.R. Degree Option

1. Objectives of the M.I.L.R. Degree Program

The Master of Industrial and Labor Relations (M.I.L.R.) Degree Program is designed to provide a graduate course of study for those with professional interests in industrial and labor relations, to gain a broad-based foundation in Human Resources and Labor Relations with a specific focus on the interaction between people, organizations and the workplace.

2. Administration of the Program

The Graduate Field of Industrial and Labor Relations administers the general requirements for the M.I.L.R. Degree through the ILR Graduate Committee. This Committee is composed of 6 elected faculty members, with the ILR Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and the ILR Director of Graduate Studies as ex-officio members. This Committee reviews applications for admission, administers the program of study, and recommends the awarding of the degree for those who have satisfactorily met the requirements.

3. Admissions

Requirements for admission to the M.I.L.R. Degree Program include:

  • Aptitude for graduate work as demonstrated by the GRE or GMAT examination and other appropriate criteria, including undergraduate (and previous graduate level) success and academic recommendations. NOTE: there is no specific minimum test score or GPA; applications are considered on all relative merits.
  • A demonstrated desire and goals appropriate to this field of study, especially as expressed in the statement of purpose.

Applicants are required to submit a completed Cornell Graduate Application (and application fee); statement of purpose; complete transcripts from all institutions attended; GRE or GMAT Test scores; TOEFL Scores from international applicants*; a resume or CV detailing applicant's work experience; and 2 letters of recommendation from a college or university faculty member acquainted with applicant's academic work (academic references are preferred but professional references will be accepted). 

*International graduate students are admitted with the same criteria as US citizens, including the results of the aptitude tests of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). All international applicants must demonstrate proficiency in the English language by submitting official test scores from a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam.

4. Advisors

Each M.I.L.R. student studies under the immediate supervision of a faculty advisor. The ILR Graduate Committee selects advisors for incoming students. The candidate is encouraged to select an advisor consistent with his or her interests anytime after the end of instruction in the first semester. The advisor aids in the planning and development of the candidate's program. 

5. Credit Requirements

Satisfactory completion of forty-eight credit hours (at least sixteen courses) and minimum of 2 full-time semesters and a maximum of 4 full-time semesters.

Registration beyond Degree Completion. The M.I.L.R. is a two-year program and students are expected to complete it within that time period. Students may complete the program in three semesters. Students who wish to continue in the M.I.L.R. beyond the completion of their degree must have a compelling academic reason, and must petition the DGS for approval to stay for an additional semester. Teaching and  assistantships are limited, and M.I.L.R.'s who stay an additional semester typically will not be eligible to receive a teaching assistantship from the ILR School. 

Minimum and Maximum credit hours. All M.I.L.R. students must take at least twelve (12) credit hours and cannot take more than twenty (20) credit hours each semester.

6. Course and Concentration Requirements

All M.I.L.R. candidates must complete the following six basic courses:

  • ILRLR 5000 Collective Bargaining
  • ILRLR 5010 Labor and Employment Law
  • ILRST 5110 Statistical Methods for the Social Sciences
  • ILROB 5200 Organizational Behavior
  • ILRLE 5400 Labor Economics
  • ILRHR 5600 Human Resources Management

Students who can demonstrate, to the satisfaction of a faculty representative of the appropriate subject area, that they have met the requirements for a required course in the M.I.L.R. program may petition for a waiver of the requirement. Petitions for waiver must be endorsed by the faculty member offering the course, and approved by the student’s advisor. Faculty members should endorse petitions for waiver only if they have determined, by examination or by other appropriate means, that the student’s grasp of the subject matter is equivalent to that which he would obtain in the M.I.L.R. required course. A waiver does not exempt M.I.L.R. students from completing the total number of credit hours required for the degree, but may permit greater flexibility in the candidate's course selections to fill out the program credit requirements.

M.I.L.R. students must declare a concentration no later than the end of the second semester of full time study. Students may change concentrations by notifying the ILR Graduate Committee (but must complete all requirements for the degree under the finally selected concentration). Students can choose to combine 2 concentrations but must have an advisor representing each concentration. The 5 M.I.L.R. concentrations are:

  • Human Resources and Organizations - Students gain both a strategic overview of the HR function in an organization and a thorough understanding of the traditional activities of a human resource professional. This two-prong approach provides students with theoretical and practical applications. Faculty and students actively engage in discussion with senior corporate HR executives and gain hands on understanding of challenges and problem solving in organizations. In addition to 6 core M.I.L.R. courses, students can choose among courses in staffing, training and development, compensation, organizational behavior (micro and macro), comparative and international human resource management, computer application, human resource metrics, on-line research and reports, semester in manufacturing, human resource management for growing companies, and strategic human resource management.
  • Labor Market Policy - Seeks to prepare students for careers in public policy directed toward labor markets. These careers analyze, develop, and administer public policy, and will often bridge government, private firms, and non-profit organizations. The curriculum provides students with skills that will enable them to evaluate government policies, and with knowledge of public and private institutions that is fundamental to the operation of the labor market. Students take 6 M.I.L.R. core courses in addition to 6 courses that explicitly provide preparation for public policy oriented careers. These include two courses in the principles of policy evaluation, two courses in public policy directed toward labor markets, and 2 general policy courses that are selected by students subject to advisor approval.
  • Collective Representation - Designed to prepare M.I.L.R. students for careers in corporate industrial relations, trade unions, and governmental industrial relations roles. The curriculum can meet the needs of students who want to pursue a career in the United States or in an international setting. Recent graduates have taken positions as Director of Organizing for an industrial union, Labor Relations Specialist for the Federal Government, Corporate Director of Labor Relations, Field Examiner for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Labor Negotiator for a state Civil Service Association and Researcher for the International Labor Organization (ILO). Given the diversity in these career options, the concentration is quite flexible and is intended to meet student needs and interests. Like the other M.I.L.R. concentrations this concentration requires that students complete the 6 core M.I.L.R. courses and an additional 6 concentration courses. There are no set requirements regarding the nature of the elective courses. Rather, students should design a course of study that suits their needs with the advice and approval of their advisor. 
  • Dispute Resolution - Designed to prepare M.I.L.R. students for careers as neutrals, advocates, or consultants in conflict resolution. The curriculum is designed for students who want to work in the United States for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services (FMCS) or the Department of Labor, in international agencies such as the International Labor Organization (ILO), or in other organizations dealing with conflict resolution. Given the diversity in these career options, the concentration is quite flexible and is intended to address student needs and interests.
  • International and Comparative Labor - Seeks to provide M.I.L.R. students the opportunity to increase their understanding of international and comparative industrial relations, human resources and organizations, and labor markets. Particularly, it is expected that students will understand how different IR and HR policies and labor market institutions "work" in different national contexts.

The concentrations are independent of the ILR Departments (Collective Bargaining, Labor Relations, Law, and History; Human Resource Studies; International and Comparative Labor; Economics; Organizational Behavior; and Social Statistics). Students who combine 2 concentrations must complete 6 courses in each concentration. A maximum of 3 courses which overlap both concentrations can be counted toward both areas with their advisor's approval.

Additional courses, seminars, or equivalent programs of study are chosen by the candidate, which added to the required courses must total forty-eight (48) credit hours and no fewer than sixteen (16) courses.

7. Courses and Grades

All courses taken toward fulfillment of the M.I.L.R. degree requirements must meet all of the following criteria:

  • The course number must be 5000 level or above.
  • The course must be taken for a letter grade - pass/fail or S/U grade option courses do not count toward M.I.L.R. degree requirements.
  • The final course grade must be C or above.
  • All M.I.L.R.'s must maintain a grade point average of no less than B (3.0).
  • Courses that carry less than 3 credits will not count toward fulfillment of the M.I.L.R. degree requirements, unless combined with another less-than-3 credit class. Such instances will count as 1 course. 
  • Independent Study Projects (ILR 7990) may be applied toward M.I.L.R. degree requirements if they contain substantial academic merit on subject material not covered in scheduled courses. A formal proposal must be submitted to the Graduate Committee for approval prior to undertaking the project. A maximum of 2 Independent Study Projects, and not more than 8 credit hours total, will be counted toward degree requirements.
  • No course credit is allowed for internships and Independent Study Project credit will not be granted for internships.

Preapproved exceptions to above course policies:

  • Semester in Strategic Operations (SSO) at Johnson may be counted toward HR concentration or elective credit with advisor's approval, if all core course requirements are fulfilled.
  • Courses that carry less than 3 credits, meeting all other criteria, may count towards the forty-eight (48) credit hours but not the sixteen (16) courses. Courses that carry less than 3 credits, meeting all other criteria can be combined with another less-than-3 credit class. Such instances will count as 1 class.

For any other exceptions or deviations from policy: The student must petition the Director of Graduate Studies prior to taking the course in question.

A minimum grade of C is required for credit toward the degree, and students must maintain a grade average of not less than B. Failure to maintain these standards may be grounds for termination of assistantships or fellowships and/or dismissal from the program. At the end of each term, the ILR Graduate Committee or the Director of Graduate Studies will review the grade records and issue warning notices or recommendations for dismissal, as appropriate.

Courses withdrawn after the drop deadline will result in a "W" on a students transcript. The ILR Graduate Committee will not review petitions for exceptions to this policy.

8. Language Requirements

There are no language requirements for M.I.L.R. degree candidates to graduate, however, international applicants must submit official TOEFL test scores to qualify for admission to the program.

9. Teaching Requirements

There are no teaching requirements for M.I.L.R. degree candidates.

10. Thesis/Dissertation

There are no final thesis or dissertation requirements for M.I.L.R. degree candidates.

11. Examinations

Admission to Candidacy exams and Final Thesis Defense exams are not required for M.I.L.R. degree candidates.

12. Recommendations for the Degree

Recommendations for the M.I.L.R. Degree are made by the ILR Graduate Committee to the Faculty of the Field of Industrial and Labor Relations on the basis of satisfactory completion of all course and residence requirements. The Cornell University Graduate Faculty approves the awarding of all degrees.

13. One-Year M.I.L.R. Degree Program

A student who holds a J.D. or M.B.A. from a U.S. Institution or a Cornell B.S. ILR may apply for the one-year M.I.L.R. degree program. Not all applicants with these degrees will be permitted to enroll in the one-year option. The Graduate Committee will make the determination based on each student's background. General M.I.L.R. Degree Program policies stated above are the same for students approved to complete the program with a one-year option except for the following. Students in the one-year M.I.L.R. program must:

  • Take a total of thirty (30) credits;
  • Take, or successfully petition to waive, all 6 of the required M.I.L.R. core courses;
  • Take, or successfully waive, 4 of the 6 concentration courses (with advisors having the same flexibility here that they have for other M.I.L.R.'s); and
  • Take as many relevant and appropriate electives as needed to fulfill the thirty credit requirement.