Cornell University

Graduate Degree Programs

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For more information about the MILR Degree Program, view the ILR Graduate Policy Handbook.

Master of Industrial and Labor Relations (MILR)

Kweku Nyinaku MILR '11 and Sam Merkley MILR '11The two-year Master of Industrial and Labor Relations (MILR) degree program provides a broad-based foundation with a specific, intense focus on the interaction between people and organizations in the workplace. The MILR is the top degree program in the area of human resources and labor relations. There's a strong general business component to courses, but the emphasis is on the interrelationship between people and the workplace, whether that's a small service business, a not-for-profit museum, a large and influential labor union, or a Fortune 200 corporation.


MILR Degree Requirements

The MILR Degree requires a minimum of 48 credit hours (2 Registration Units), encompassing at least 16 full semester courses comprised of 6 core courses, 6 concentration courses and 4 electives. All MILR students will choose a Graduate Field Faculty member as their Special Committee Chairperson, to advise them on course selection and other academic matters.

MILR students choose from one of the following 5 areas of concentration and select a Special Committee Chairperson (advisor) in their area:

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 opportunity for cross-disciplinary work.

Substitutions for one or more of these required courses may be petitioned with demonstrated competence in the area of study.

Entering first semester students are required to take ILRHR5600, ILROB5200, and ILRHR6910 in a bundled format. This bundled course set contains a large 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 core courses*

  • ILRCB5000 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.

  • ILRCB5010 Labor Relations Law and Legislation - 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.

  • ILRST5110 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.

  • ILROB5200 Organizational Behavior Analysis - 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.

  • ILRLE5400 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.

  • ILRHR5600 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

  • Human Resources and Organizations
  • Labor Market Policy
  • Collective Representation
  • Dispute Resolution
  • International and Comparative Labor

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

  • The course number (level) must be 4000 or above 
  • The course must be taken for a letter grade -- pass/fail or S/U grade option courses do not count toward MILR degree requirements.
  • The final course grade must be C or above. 
  • All courses must be full-semester in length and worth 3 or more credit hours.  
  • Exceptions: NBA 5700 and ILRHR6602 count toward the 48 credit hour requirement but not toward the 16 course requirement. 1 or 2 credit or partial semester courses which meet all other criteria may count toward the 48 credit hours but not the 16 courses. 

The student must petition the Director of Graduate Studies for other exceptions prior to taking the course in question.

1 Year MILR Option

Some graduates with a JD or MBA degree from a US institution may apply to complete the MILR degree program in one year. Not all applicants will be approved for the one-year option, but each application will be evaluated individually by the admissions committee. 30 credit hours including the six MILR core-courses are required. Students in the one-year MILR program must

  • Complete a total of thirty credits (2 Registration Units);
  • Complete or waive all six of the regular required core MILR courses;
  • Complete or waive four of the six concentration courses;
  • Complete as many additional 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 ILR for the MILR and the Johnson Graduate School of Management for the MBA.


Please visit the Cornell Bursar's page for current tuition for the MILR program.

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