Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between an HDO Master’s Degree and a…?

Master’s in Organizational Development or Organizational Psychology

Programs in Organizational Development and Organizational Psychology often approach issues of improving organizations from the perspective of psychology. These programs explore issues of culture and change within organizations as well as techniques for training employees within a company. The typical graduate of these programs works in the organizational development function of a company.

The HDO program takes a different approach: we train our students for a variety of positions within a company including management and leadership roles. Our focus is broader than that of programs in organizational development or organizational psychology. Because our faculty come from across the humanities and the social and behavioral sciences, HDO introduces students to human-centered concepts rooted in a wide range of disciplines. The skills HDO provides give our graduates a multidisciplinary toolkit that allows them not only to identify an organization’s problems, but also to solve them in new and creative ways.

Master’s of Business Administration (MBA)

MBA programs generally have a strong focus on finance and accounting. The programs are also strongly focused on strategies and processes for running businesses. There may be one class in a curriculum that focuses on people skills (what are sometimes called “soft skills”), but they are not the primary focus of the program. MBAs provide invaluable insight into the how of business.

Simply stated, the HDO program explores the why of organizations. Each HDO Master’s cohort includes individuals from a wide variety of vocational backgrounds, including business. Our goal is to generate interactive and innovative class discussions based on the variety of our students’ professional experiences. Further, we focus on people as individuals, groups, and cultures, with an eye toward helping organizational leaders to change behavior in organizations, increase productivity, and maximize employee engagement. HDO introduces students to timeless approaches people have taken to address “people problems.”

Master’s in Human Resources

Degrees in human resources are certainly concerned with the human element of businesses. However, the HR function within companies must comply with many regulations at the local, state, and federal level concerning hiring, firing, and the workplace. HR groups also have to implement evaluation processes, and many HR programs compare and contrast particular evaluation programs. These HR-specific functions are not a focus of the HDO program.

HDO provides a new way of thinking about human resources, in the broad sense of the term. Those who specialize in HR may gain a great deal from our curriculum, especially in terms of making regulations, training, and onboarding more accessible and productive for employees and managers.

Do I have to follow the curriculum as is? Can I take fewer/more classes per semester than the curriculum indicates?

The HDO Master’s degree was envisioned and designed as a 15-month (four-semester) cohort-based program. This format enables students to take advantage of synergies that develop among their colleagues and across the curriculum. As of now, all HDO Master’s students are required to follow the prescribed curriculum with their cohort.

In your final semester, you will complete a Capstone Project that allows you to apply the lessons and skills you have learned to an organizational challenge(s) of your choice.

Students may request a leave-of-absence in extenuating circumstances.

When are classes held?

Classes are held approximately every other weekend, running from 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm on Friday evenings, and from 8:30 am – 6:30 pm on Saturdays (depending on the semester’s credit hours, classes may end before 6:30 pm).

There is one intensive period at the start of the Fall I, Spring, and Summer semesters (there is no intensive week in the Fall II semester), running from Wednesday to Sunday. During the intensive periods, classes are held all day Wednesday through Sunday.

How much work experience do I need to be a successful HDO applicant?

At least three years of professional experience is required to be considered competitive for admission to the HDO Master’s program. Student experience provides an invaluable addition to classroom discussions and group projects. Having a significant amount of professional experience also ensures that students can apply their HDO education effectively. Most HDO Master’s students enter the program with at least five years of work experience.

What type of people are admitted to the Master’s program?

HDO Master’s applicants come from all industry sectors and educational backgrounds. The key element that unites all HDO students is their recognition that a better understanding of people is essential for organizational improvement.

The admissions committee works to create a cohort with backgrounds in many different fields. The goal of this method of cohort formation is to ignite productive discussions about the ways people work in groups, often regardless of vocation.

View biographies of the current Master’s cohort.

How much time should I expect to devote to studying/classwork per week?

Generally, students can expect to dedicate approximately 10-12 hours per week to their work in the HDO program. This includes reading, studying, and projects. On class weeks, much of this time will take place in class.

The HDO Master’s program is a rigorous and demanding academic undertaking. Accordingly, time and project management skills are essential to being a successful HDO student.

Students will be given techniques and guidance to help manage the coursework in their initial orientation and subsequent advising sessions.

Faculty are also aware that the vast majority of our students are working full-time and will provide flexibility on due dates when students communicate with them in advance.

Does the program offer students coaching/counseling on how to best use the HDO degree to advance my career?

Yes, all HDO Master’s students have access to individual and group sessions with a highly trained career coach. These sessions are included in program tuition. The career coach understands the HDO curriculum and philosophy and its applicability to the business, government, nonprofit, and military sectors.

Whether your goal is advancement within your current organization or moving on to a new job, these sessions will help you determine the best way to move forward after completing your HDO education.

How much is tuition for the program?

The total cost of the HDO Master of Arts program is $60,000, payable in installments. This is a pay-one-price program, meaning that your tuition covers class registration, all books and materials, and access to university services. Additional tuition-related information is accessible on the Tuition page.

Is there financial aid for this program? Are there scholarships or fellowships available?

Financial aid is available to HDO students. For more information on financial aid, please contact the Office of Student Financial Services.

Many HDO students also receive financial support from their employers to cover tuition. HDO staff is happy to speak with your employer about the many ways in which your pursuit of an HDO Master’s degree will be beneficial to them.

We have a fellowship program that reduces tuition for the program from $60,000 to $40,000. One fellowship will be awarded per admissions cycle to a student who works in the nonprofit sector. We hope to increase the number of fellowships in future years.

The form for fellowship consideration will be sent to applicants who are selected for an admissions interview.

How do current HDO students cover the cost of tuition?

HDO students have several options for helping to pay for their tuition fees, including partial or full funding support from their employers (as mentioned above), student loans/financial aid, or Veteran’s Benefits. HDO staff will work with you to devise a payment plan that best meets your needs.

We have a fellowship program that reduces tuition for the program from $60,000 to $40,000. One fellowship will be awarded per admissions cycle to a student who works in the nonprofit sector. We hope to increase the number of fellowships in future years.

The form for fellowship consideration will be sent to applicants who are selected for an admissions interview.

Can I still apply if my undergraduate GPA is less than 3.0?

UT Austin’s Graduate School requires a grade-point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) or a comparable GPA in upper-division work—junior- and senior-level courses—and in any graduate work already completed. Read more about eligibility.

However, with the average age of our students being ~45 (ranging from late 20s to mid-70s), we understand that our students are in a vastly different place than they may have been at 18 or 22. We have admitted many students with undergraduate GPAs below 3.0 over the program’s 10+ year history, with many of them being some of our most successful students.

    Can you help me obtain support from my employer?

    Yes! Many HDO students receive partial or full tuition coverage from their employers and/or flexible work schedules to accommodate studying and attending classes.

    HDO staff is happy to speak with your supervisor(s) or HR representatives to explain the HDO program in detail and to illustrate how they will benefit from supporting your participation in the program. Please visit our Employer Support Resources page for more information. 

    (for UT employees) Can I use the Staff Tuition Assistance Program to cover tuition for the program?

    Unfortunately, the Staff Tuition Assistance Program (STAP) is not currently eligible for the HDO Master of Arts degree. HDO is a classified as an Option III program and the STAP does not apply to Option III programs at this time. For more information, please consult this page.

    Still have questions? Fill out this brief form and we will get in touch with you!

    “I loved the multi-disciplinary approach which provided the opportunity to learn from a variety of areas within Liberal Arts. The HDO program brought together people from a … variety of backgrounds and industries which allows the discussion of real-world topics from different perspectives. The smaller cohort setting creates an environment for building relationships past the classroom. I admire the passion and commitment by the professors for personal and professional growth of the cohort.”

    Nancy Rodill (Class of 2019)

    Dr. Elizabeth Richmond-Garza, winner of HDO’s 2019 Outstanding Professor of the Year award, explains how the HDO Master’s Degree provides a unique education experience for working professionals and highlights why she is so passionate about teaching in the program.

    HDO courses are led by UT Austin’s top faculty and cover topics such as leadership, communication, ethics, change management, and decision-making.

    HDO’s practice-oriented curriculum draws on disciplines in the humanities and social and behavioral sciences. This multidisciplinary approach develops students into well-rounded “internal consultants,” ready to tackle a wide range of organizational challenges. There are no exams; assessments are designed to provide students with practical skills for professional success.

    Each cohort consists of experienced professionals from a wide range of fields, allowing for an exchange of problems and solutions across sectors. All students complete a Capstone Project, allowing them to draw on what they’ve learned to tackle an organizational problem of their choice.

    Every leader has a lens by which they view the world, and what they see guides their decisions and actions. To me, more important than the tactical understanding of any framework or process is one’s ability to take in, interpret and accept information broadly; especially with information which may be different than, or may not align with our own perspectives. The most valuable thing that I gained from my Cohort and Professors was the journey of broadening that lens; it gave me a more adaptive lens by which to view the world.

    Juan de Amezaga (Class of 2018)

    HDO’s Founding Director and Psychology Professor, Art Markman, explains how working professionals will benefit from pursuing an HDO’s Master’s degree.

    “This program helped me learn to use my voice – to realize that my own experiences can contribute to the greater conversation. It also broadened my horizons by allowing me to meet people who do not work in my industry and have completely different backgrounds. I’m glad I had the chance to learn from my classmates and open my eyes to the world more in the process.”

    Noelle Parsons (Class of 2019)

    Outliers, Innovators, Leaders, Welcome