Human Resources Graduate Certificate Program Information

With a graduate certificate in human resources, you can become more marketable and will stand out in a competitive job market.

In an HR program, students examine the intricacies of high-performing organizations through talent acquisition, employee management, training and development, benefits and compensation, and strategic counsel. Some graduate certificate in human resources programs prepare students for the senior professional in human resources certification exam, which increases professional credibility.

According to the BLS, human resources specialists have a projected 7% growth rate.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), human resources specialists have a projected 7% growth rate. Human resources professionals handle complex employment laws and responsibilities. With the anticipation of an increased number of jobs, now is a great time to enter the field of human resources.

Before choosing a graduate certificate in human resources program, there are several important factors to consider. A graduate certificate program is a short program that requires approximately five courses. Each school focuses on certain aspects of human resources, such as employment law, performance management, benefits and compensation, or change management. Students should research prospective school’s specific courses to ensure a program will prepare them for their individual career goals.

Students should decide if they want to earn their graduate certificate online or through a traditional on-campus college. Some schools offers hybrid programs, where students complete components online and on campus. For the online components, students should research if coursework is synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous courses include live video conferences where students interact with professors and classmates in real time. Asynchronous components include recorded videos and lectures that students can watch at their convenience.

A graduate certificate is a step towards earning an advanced degree. Some programs allow students to apply their certificate coursework credits directly to a master’s degree. Certificate programs are a great option for students who are uncertain about pursuing an advanced degree. Students should consider the cost of tuition and fees, financial aid options, program start dates, and accreditation status.

Most positions in human resources require at least a bachelor’s degree; however, many employers give preference to candidates with graduate certificates or master’s degrees. The BLS projects job growth in multiple human resources roles; including a 9% increase in human resources manager jobs; a 7% increase in human resources specialist positions; and a 5% increase in compensation and benefits managers jobs.

Experience may affect salary potential. According to the BLS, the median pay in 2017 was $110,120 for human resources managers and $119,120 for compensation and benefits managers.

Median Salary For Human Resources Graduate Certificate-Holders by Experience
Job Title Entry Level (0-5 Years) Mid-Career (5-10 Years) Experienced (10-20 Years) Late Career (20+ Years)
Human Resources Manager $53,000 $65,000 $70,000 $73,000
Training and Development Manager $63,000 $473,000 $85,000 $87,000
Compensation and Benefits Manager $82,000 $83,000 $97,000 $94,000

Career Opportunities

HR professionals should have strong organizational and communication skills, and a background in federal, state, and local employment laws.

Many high-level jobs in human resources require a bachelor’s degree; however, preference is often gives to candidates with advanced credentials. A graduate certificate program in human resources qualifies individuals for leadership positions, such as human resources manager, chief learning officer, chief HR officer, director of HR, general HR manager, or compensation and benefits manager. Below are a few common HR-related professions.

Human Resources Manager

Human resources managers work closely with top executives to develop talent acquisition strategies and employee benefits programs, including recruiting, interviewing, and hiring new employees. They typically hold a bachelor’s degree and have several years of experience; however, a graduate certificate in human resources can sometimes substitute experience.

Training and Development Manager


Training and development managers oversee the professional development of employees by assessing training needs, coordinating new events and workshops, and evaluating program effectiveness. Tasks also include ensuring trainings programs meet compliant expectations and align with a company’s goals.

Compensation and Benefits Manager

Compensation and benefits managers develop and oversee pay and incentives programs, such as health insurance, retirement programs, and pension plans. Compensation managers must have a strong understanding of competitive wage rates and strategic pay structures.

Accreditation demonstrates a schools credibility and dedication to high-quality education. Prospective students should look at the accreditation status of each school and program. To be accredited, a school or academic program must go through a voluntary review of its curriculum.

Before enrolling in a human resources graduate certificate program, applicants should ensure a school or program is accredited by a reputable agency, such as one of the six regional agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Other key accrediting agencies to look for include the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, Distance Education Accrediting Commission, and the Higher Learning Commission.

Students must be enrolled in an accredited institution to be eligible for federal financial aid. Additionally, most colleges do not accept credits from unaccredited schools. Prospective students can search the CHEA database of accredited schools to check a schools accreditation.

Admissions for graduate certificate in human resources programs can be a rigorous process. Some schools have specific application due dates, while others accept students on a rolling basis. Applicants should start researching and collecting information about different programs as soon as possible, even up to a year in advance. Admissions for on-campus programs are similar to online admissions; although, the admissions process is often more involved for online colleges. Many online schools require applicants to speak with admissions prior to enrolling in courses.

Prospective students should research and apply to a variety of schools. To find the right graduate certificate program students should consider the location of each school, online learning options, and the course of study. Prospective students should ultimately choose the program that best suits their academic endeavors. Applicants should consider the following admission requirements when researching prospective schools.

Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor’s Degree: Applicants are typically required to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university; it does not usually have to be in human resources.

Admission Materials

  • Application: Prospective students must complete an online application to apply for a graduate certificate program. Applications are found on each school’s website.
  • Exam Scores: Some schools require GRE or GMAT scores. Students should check each program’s specific admissions requirements.
  • Transcripts: Most schools require applicants to submit official transcripts from all colleges attended. Students can request transcripts from a school’s registrar office.
  • Application Fee: Some schools charge application fees. Fees range from $40-$100. Fees are occasionally waived for alumni, employees, and military members.

A graduate certificate in human resources prepares students to oversee administrative tasks surrounding employee benefits and compensation, staff recruitment, training and development, and company policy implementation.

Talent Management

Talent management coursework focuses on recruiting, retaining, onboarding, and engaging talent in a competitive business environment. Students examine effective strategies for attracting, selecting, and promoting clients. Topics include flexible work environments, incentive programs, and employee development.

Training and Development

Courses focus on the optimization of employee performance. Topics include adult learning theory, training delivery options, coaching and mentoring employees, instructional design, and career development concepts. Students learn to create and implement onboarding employee orientation programs.

Employment Law

In employment law courses, students examine federal and state laws and regulations, legal concepts, wage and overtime payment challenges, and employment-related ethical issues.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Graduate Certificate in Human Resources?

The average HR graduate certificate program is 18 credits; however, some programs can range from 12 to 24 credits. Certain schools offer 10-week term lengths, while others offer five or seven week terms.

Some students prefer to take classes on a part-time basis and enroll in one or two courses each semester. Students who study at this pace may need a year and a half to complete their program. Students who enroll in more courses each term can earn their certificate in as few as six months.

In addition to the number of courses taken each semester, the length of time it takes to complete a graduate certificate may also depend on course availability. Transfer credits can greatly reduce program duration. Some schools allow students to transfer up to three credits from undergraduate degree programs.

How Much Is a Graduate Certificate in Human Resources?

Consider tuition costs when pursuing a graduate certificate in human resources. Most colleges charge tuition on a per-credit basis, others schools charge per course. Private schools tend to charge higher tuition than public schools. In-state tuition is typically more affordable than out-of-state tuition. Depending on the school, online learners may be allowed to pay in-state tuition, regardless of residency.

A human resources graduate certificate program can cost anywhere from $350 to $1,000 per credit. Total tuition may land between $20,000 and $80,000, depending on the school; however, total expenses include more than just tuition payments. Students must also consider the cost of books, learning materials, housing, and commuting or parking expenses if attending an on-campus program. Miscellaneous costs include application fees, registration fees, technology fees, and student services fees.

Other variables that may affect the total cost of a graduate certificate program include the number of credits students transfer towards their degree, payment plan options, tuition reimbursement from employers, and financial aid eligibility. Scholarships, loans, and grants can be extremely helpful. Federal financial aid is only available to students who enroll in regionally accredited schools.

Professional organizations foster a sense of collegiality among HR professionals. Organizations provide professional development activities, continuing education programs, member-only events, and conferences. Professional organizations offer human resources students and professionals collaboration, networking, and advocacy opportunities.