Best Online Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Programs

We've ranked the top online graduate certificates in human resources. Compare schools by cost and convenience. Earn your graduate certificate

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by Thomas Broderick

Published on June 14, 2022

Edited by Jared McMasters
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An online graduate certificate in human resources prepares new and experienced HR professionals to pursue management-level positions. These programs typically require fewer credits than a master's degree. However, certificate-seekers may pay the same per-credit tuition rate as graduate degree-seekers.

Full-time students earning a graduate certificate in human resources can finish in approximately 12 months. The best online schools accept transfer credit. Business programs may feature other advantages, such as letting graduates apply their certificate toward a master's.

Human resources manager is a potential career for those with a graduate certificate in human resources. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that these professionals earn a median salary exceeding $126,000. Some experienced managers can make even more if they work for a technical services company or a management enterprise.

What Is an Online Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Program?

Certificate programs help students develop career-aligned skills. Learners boost their resumes, attracting potential employers' attention. These programs feature courses relevant to the field, meaning graduates can develop transferable skills.

Certificates differ from certifications and licenses in many ways. Private organizations award certifications to experienced professionals who meet examination and experience requirements. Certification candidates may also need to join a professional organization.

States issue licenses in many fields, such as teaching, engineering, and cosmetology. Typical eligibility requirements include a degree, supervised experience, and an examination. State licensure boards provide the latest information on requirements.

What Can I Expect From an Online Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Program?

An online graduate certificate in human resources may appeal to workers with HR experience. However, some programs accept applicants with only a bachelor's. Students in both groups earn a certificate to advance their careers, stand out in the job market, and qualify for more open positions.

Graduate certificates in human resources have a required core curriculum. Classes may include talent acquisition, human resources development, and ethics for human resources professionals. Certificate-seekers do not typically write a thesis.

The required curriculum varies by school. Some programs feature more flexibility, such as electives and specializations. Specialization options may include human resources management. This pathway offers electives in organizational communication and human capital management.

Other options for specialization include a certificate in chief human resources officer (CHRO). This advanced certificate appeals to professionals with at least 10 years of relevant experience. Certificate-seekers take classes in elevating the CHRO role, human capital and talent strategy, and leading culture and organizational change.

Prospective students looking for a unique educational experience can explore programs with an internship or practicum. Eligibility requirements may include maintaining a minimum 3.0 graduate GPA and completing core classes. Learners work with an internship coordinator to find a relevant placement in their industry.

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Program?

Elements of Human Resources Management

This introductory class emphasizes essential HR functions, such as recruiting new employees, improving employee relations, and creating compensation packages. Other class topics include HR's relationship with other departments. Students learn how to improve an HR department.

Compensation Programs: Administration and Design

Compensation programs typically train students to select the right benefits for their company or organization. Coursework covers different benefits options, such as stocks, raises, and other financial incentives.

Employee Relations and Legal Aspects of Human Resources Management

This advanced class requires students to improve their financial skills, develop budgets, and analyze complex data. These and other assignments prepare learners to troubleshoot problems their HR department may experience.

Human Resources Development

Top HR managers create programs to lower turnover and increase employee satisfaction. Human resources development courses train learners for these responsibilities with assignments covering change inventions, organizational development tools, and industry-leading performance technology.

Ethics for Human Resources Professionals

HR managers and related professionals must apply professional ethics when making decisions. Assignments in ethics for human resources professionals emphasize cultural and organizational pressures, personal integrity, and conflict resolution.

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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Program?

Prospective applicants for a graduate certificate in human resources management should hold a bachelor's degree. Check whether programs require a bachelor's in human resources, business, or a similar subject.

Some graduate certificates and degrees require college entrance exams like the GRE and GMAT, which charge a fee. As of May 2022, ETS lets GRE exam-takers test at home or an approved testing center.

Other application requirements for a graduate certificate in human resources may include:

Read the programs' application requirements closely. Schools limiting applicants to experienced professionals may require letters from current or former work supervisors. Applicants to other programs submit letters from undergraduate professors.

Ensure college application essays follow the prompt and stay within the assigned word limit. Watch out for typos and improve your overall message by asking someone to proofread your essay.

What Can I Do With an Online Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Degree?

Career Outlook

Human resources managers work in nearly every field. This advantage makes the career appealing to professionals with different interests and those wanting to explore the fastest-growing industries.

Top industries for human resources managers include professional services, technical services, and manufacturing. Government agencies and healthcare companies also employ a large percentage of these managers.

The BLS projects that the need for human resources managers will grow 9% between 2020-2030, slightly higher than the 8% projected growth rate for all U.S. professions. Strong positive growth may result in more open positions and competitive salaries.

The BLS reports that human resources managers earn a median $126,230 salary. This figure exceeds the national median salary by approximately $80,000. Professionals living in New York, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia make significantly more.

Learn more about human resources careers to see where a graduate certificate can take you.

Career Paths

Administrative Services and Facilities Managers

Administrative services and facilities managers help their organization run efficiently by supervising staff, making recommendations to senior managers, and maintaining facilities and equipment. Other typical responsibilities include filing paperwork and setting department-level goals.

Although some positions require only a bachelor's degree, an online graduate certificate in human resources can help boost professionals in a competitive job market.

Median Annual Salary: $99,290

Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialists

Compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists use their HR expertise to create benefits packages and coordinate with outside benefits brokers. They also develop budgets and ensure their employer's benefits follow relevant state and federal laws.

Specialists with an online graduate certificate in human resources may qualify for this position sooner than their peers. Workers with only a bachelor's need more than five years of experience.

Median Annual Salary: $127,530

Human Resources Specialist

Human resources specialists perform many roles, including interviewing job applicants, developing employee orientation programs, and maintaining paperwork. Some of these professionals specialize in recruiting, while others work as generalists.

Specialists with a graduate certificate may qualify for promotion faster than other workers. Other potential benefits include a higher starting salary.

Median Annual Salary: $62,290

Labor Relations Specialists

Labor relations specialists help their employers negotiate worker contracts. They draft contracts and proposals, negotiate with workers' unions, and investigate labor complaints. Specialists also make presentations to management on the latest developments in the labor relations field.

The BLS projects that the need for these workers will decline by 4% from 2020-2030.

Median Annual Salary: $77,010

Top Executives

Top executive positions include chief executive officer and general and operations manager. They create departmental goals, oversee budgets, and appoint less-senior managers. Some top executives work in HR.

Aspiring top executives can earn an online graduate certificate in human resources to develop management skills. Other options include earning an MBA.

Median Annual Salary: $98,980

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Continuing Education

Professionals with a graduate certificate in human resources further their career with continuing education (CE). CE classes emphasize the latest knowledge and skills. They prepare students to pass a certification exam, such as the HR Certification Institute's professional in human resources exam.

Workers not interested in additional certificates or certifications may return to school to earn a master's in human resources. Typical classes in a two-year program include human resources strategy, organizational culture and employee outcomes, and leadership in human resources. Some of these programs require work experience.

Professionals with a master's and significant experience can earn a doctorate in human resources. Top programs require a dissertation and feature many specialization options, such as organizational management.

How Do I Choose an Online Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Program?

Cost

A graduate certificate in human resources can range from $627-$1,276 per credit. However, many factors impact an on-campus or online program's actual cost. Typical expenses include tuition, fees, textbooks, and transportation if on-site requirements exist.

Program Format

Many online programs attract applicants with an asynchronous curriculum. This learning style differs from the traditional college experience as students view lectures and complete assignments around work or family commitments.

Prospective learners should consider whether studying full or part time fits their learning style. A part-time curriculum may appeal to students with other responsibilities.

Location

Online learning lets prospective students choose a top program in a different city or state. However, some online programs require one or more on-campus experiences. These requirements may put some programs out of reach.

Applicants can choose a top online or on-campus program by comparing graduation requirements and graduate outcomes.

Accreditation

Programs with institutional accreditation offer students a rigorous, career-aligned curriculum. Applicants can research accreditation agencies on the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) website. CHEA helps visitors learn more about these agencies and the schools they accredit.

Student Support

Top schools with an on-campus or online graduate certificate in human resources offer excellent student services. Students can learn from mentors and other support staff. These professionals can help certificate-seekers improve their resumes and recommend internships.

Prospective online students can research services on schools' websites. Other options include contacting academic and career advisors.

Best Accredited Online Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Programs

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Best Online Graduate Certificates in Human Resources Programs

  1. University of Virginia-Main Campus
    Location

    Charlottesville, VA

    Tuition

    $17845

    A public university founded in Charlottesville in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, UVA welcomes more than 25,000 online and campus-based students per year.

    UVA offers a fully online leadership in human resources management graduate certificate. This 15-credit, part-time program — typically completed in one year — features four required courses and one elective. Required courses cover staffing and career management, strategic compensation, performance management, and organizational change and development. For an elective, students may choose a class in talent management or transformational leadership in human resources management.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in any field of study and submit official transcripts. UVA is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  2. Stony Brook University
    Location

    Stony Brook, NY

    Tuition

    $14874

    Stony Brook — founded in 1957 and now part of the State University of New York system — enrolls nearly 27,000 on-campus and online students annually.

    Stony Brook's online advanced graduate certificate in human resource management trains HR professionals to make informed policy and management decisions. The five-course program covers topics like employment law and policy and diversity and global issues in the workplace. Students also choose one of three electives based on their personal interests and career goals.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Additional application materials include a resume and a personal statement. Some students may also be asked to sit for an interview.

    Stony Brook is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  3. Pennsylvania State University-World Campus
    Location

    University Park, PA

    Tuition

    $21678

    Established in 1998, Penn State World Campus serves more than 8,000 distance learners around the world.

    The school offers an online graduate certificate in international human resources and employment relations. The curriculum focuses on the diversity of multinational organizations, including the differences in business culture, policies, legal issues, and expectations around the globe. All students take the same four courses: international human resource studies, comparative and international labor and employment law, human resources in multinational enterprises, and comparative employment relations systems.

    Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and at least two years of work experience in human resources or an international position. However, the work experience requirement is waived for those holding a degree in human resources, international management, or employee relations. Applicants must also submit a resume and a statement of purpose.

    Penn State World Campus is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  4. West Chester University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    West Chester, PA

    Tuition

    $19091

    Originally founded as a private school in 1812 and now the largest university in the public Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, WCU welcomes more than 17,000 students each year.

    The university offers an online graduate certificate in human resource management. Designed to teach students core skills for better HR management, the program consists of three required classes and one elective. Courses include components of effective leadership, strategic talent management, and compensation analysis. Asynchronous classes are delivered over seven-week terms and students can graduate in 6-12 months.

    Admission requirements include official undergraduate transcripts, a written statement of goals, and two references. WCU is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  5. Oklahoma State University-Main Campus
    Location

    Stillwater, OK

    Tuition

    $15009

    Founded in 1890 as Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College, OSU now enrolls more than 24,000 students every year.

    The university offers an online graduate certificate in human resource management based on the Society for Human Resource Management's competency model. All students take the same five courses, learning about topics like talent development, human resource analytics, and employment law. This program totals 15 credits, and new students can enroll in the fall or spring.

    Applicants must submit undergraduate transcripts and a professional resume. OSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  6. Central Michigan University
    Location

    Mount Pleasant, MI

    Tuition

    $14372

    A public research university in Mount Pleasant, CMU serves nearly 20,000 students annually.

    The university's Global Campus offers an online graduate certificate in human resources administration. The program divides courses into industry-specific areas of survey, labor relations, training and organization development, and staffing. Though students may design their own path, the university recommends taking one course from each area and two staffing classes. Participants also complete a survey course.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum overall GPA of 2.7 (or a GPA of at least 3.0 over their last 60 credits). CMU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  7. St. Joseph's College-New York
    Location

    Brooklyn, NY

    A private, Brooklyn-based college founded in 1916, SJC welcomes approximately 1,200 online and on-campus students per year.

    SJC Online offers a fully online advanced certificate in human resources management. The program provides an in-depth look at the latest practices in human resources, emphasizing how this field fits within larger organizations. All students take the same five courses, including strategic human resources management, staffing and employee development, and compensation and benefits management.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in any field with a GPA of at least 3.0. SJC is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  8. Southern New Hampshire University
    Location

    Manchester, NH

    A private university in Manchester established in 1932, SNHU now enrolls more than 100,000 students each year, most of whom study online.

    The university offers an online human resource management graduate certificate. Preparing graduates to improve organizational performance, the program covers topics like employee benefits, compensation, and employee relations. The curriculum features one foundational course and two required core courses. Students also take two electives, choosing from options like leadership and ethics and leading/managing not-for-profit organizations.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and submit their transcripts. SNHU is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

  9. Belhaven University
    Location

    Jackson, MS

    A Christian university founded in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1883, Belhaven now serves about 4,500 learners annually.

    Belhaven's fully online graduate certificate in human resources covers the latest industry principles and practices, delivered from a Christian perspective. All students take the same five courses, including current issues in human resources, human resources compensation and benefits, and issues and innovations in human resources.

    For full admission, applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA or nine graduate credits with a "B" or better in each course. Those without the necessary GPA may apply for conditional admission by submitting two letters of recommendation and an essay.

    Belhaven is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  10. Champlain College
    Location

    Burlington, VT

    A private college in Burlington, Vermont, Champlain welcomes about 2,700 students on campus and online each year.

    Champlain offers an online graduate certificate in human resource management. The 12-credit program delves into the relationship between human resources and organizational success. All students take the same four courses: human resources foundations, diversity and creating a culture of inclusion, interpreting human resource data, and coaching in the workplace.

    To apply, applicants should have a bachelor's degree — preferably in a related field — with a minimum GPA of 2.5. Applicants must also submit a resume reflecting professional experience in a related area and answer a series of essay questions.

    Champlain is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Frequently Asked Questions About Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Programs

Is a graduate certificate in human resources worth it? true

A graduate certificate in human resources offers many advantages for learners planning to earn a master's degree. Professionals without a background in HR learn the field's fundamentals. Students returning to the classroom after many years can also build the necessary skills to succeed in a master's program.

Other certificate-seekers choose this program for its affordability. They learn in-demand skills and save money compared to their peers in a master's program.

Employers may favor applicants with a certificate, master's degree, or other CE. These professionals develop the latest performance, productivity, and management skills 21st-century companies may look for.

What can you do with a graduate certificate in human resources? true

A certificate or master's degree lets professionals explore different career paths, such as human resource manager, training and development specialist, and benefits and job analysis specialist. These positions may require experience in addition to graduate education.

Management-level careers let professionals make a lasting impact on their company or organization. Their decisions affect hiring, benefits packages, and employee satisfaction.

Some graduates use their certificates to transfer to a master's program. Doing so may help students save money on a master's degree. Prospective learners looking for more affordable tuition should research in-state public universities.

Is a human resources graduate certificate program hard? true

The answer depends on the student. Certificate-seekers without a professional or academic background in HR may struggle in introductory classes. Learners with prior commitments may also experience difficulty in completing coursework.

A program's format may affect difficulty as much as students' learning styles. Some online graduate certificates in human resources follow an accelerated curriculum. These rigorous programs appeal to full-time learners without other responsibilities.

Fortunately, learners earning a graduate certificate in human resources at top schools may access many helpful resources. They include academic advisors, tutors, librarians, and career services.

How long does it take to get a graduate certificate in human resources?

A 12-credit graduate certificate in human resources takes approximately one year for full-time students. Part-time learners need an additional six months to a year.

Some certificate-seekers need to pause their education due to life circumstances. A school may permit a leave of absence or give students a specific timeframe to complete their education. Please check schools' policies before enrolling in a program.

Some schools offer microcertifications. These programs require fewer classes and take just one month to complete. Microcertifications' other advantages include taking classes aligned with career goals and industry trends.

What's the highest-paying job you can get with a graduate certificate in human resources?

The BLS reports that compensation and benefits managers earn a median $127,530 salary. This salary exceeds what human resources managers and related professionals make. Compensation and benefits managers working for an insurance carrier, professional services company, or a management enterprise company earn $127,690-$135,460.

Geographic location affects compensation and benefits managers' salaries as much as the employer. Professionals living in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York make $160,520-$185,620, according to the BLS. However, note these states' cost of living exceeds the national average.

Compensation and benefits managers can increase their salary potential by earning a certificate, master's degree, or professional certification. The Society for Human Resource Management awards two in-demand certifications.

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