An online graduate certificate in human resources demonstrates expertise in staffing, training, development, and employment law. The certificate improves knowledge of human resources fundamentals and increases job prospects.

As employment opportunities continue to evolve, organizations require professionals who possess the skills to meet both current and future workforce demands. Those with a graduate certificate in human resources identify, develop, and support talented professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 9% increase in human resources manager positions by 2026.

What are the best graduate certificate in human resources programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
2 Colorado State University Global Campus Greenwood Village, CO
3 University of West Florida Pensacola, FL
4 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey New Brunswick, NJ
5 University of St. Francis Joliet, IL
6 Stony Brook University Stony Brook, NY
7 Pennsylvania State University-World Campus University Park, PA
8 University of Houston-Clear Lake Houston, TX
9 Oklahoma State University Stillwater, OK
10 American University Washington, DC

What Are The Best Online Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Programs?

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Champaign, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 84%

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's online graduate certificate in human resource management is nine credits, and students take three survey-style courses. The curriculum develops crucial HR competencies like talent acquisition and development, performance management, and strategic management.

Applicants must possess a four-year degree from an accredited institution, submit GRE or GMAT scores, and have completed a college-level course in HR management or organizational behavior. Qualified candidates with substantial professional experience can waive the standardized test and academic prerequisites.

This graduate certificate in human resources teaches learners advanced organizational proficiencies in key areas, including job analysis, union relations, compensation negotiation, diversity, and succession planning.


Colorado State University Global Campus

Greenwood Village, CO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

Colorado State University awards an online graduate certificate in human resource management through its Global Campus. Students who earn this certificate develop strong legal, ethical, and performance standards. The program teaches learners to quantifiably improve organizational performance while advancing strategic objectives.

CSU-Global's certificate program includes four courses that cover the essentials of HR management. Topics feature a special emphasis on law, ethics, talent development, and human capital.

Classes begin monthly, and this entirely online program is delivered asynchronously. Students who complete the certificate have the option of applying their credits to obtain advanced standing in multiple master's degree paths in HR and related fields at CSU-Global.


University of West Florida

Pensacola, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 43%

The University of West Florida's human resource management certificate is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. This online program emphasizes active learning and prepares graduates to advance to senior management positions. Students explore ethical approaches to candidate interviewing and learn to create comprehensive employee training programs.

As a prerequisite, candidates must complete an introductory course in HR management or have equivalent professional and/or academic experiences. The 12-credit online graduate certificate in human resources covers topics like employee compensation and benefits structures, talent recruitment, performance management, and strategic management.

Graduates can pursue careers as management analysts, HR specialists, and HR managers. The program also helps provide academic preparation for HR-focused graduate and MBA degrees.


Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

New Brunswick, NJ Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 80%

Founded in 1766, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey ranks among the largest research universities in the United States. The school offers established and emerging HR professionals a fully online professional certificate in human resources management.

Featuring self-paced courses, this rigorous HR certificate program offers an interactive, flexible, and valuable learning experience. Learners also benefit from one-on-one mentorship opportunities with successful HR executives. The duration of this program is approximately 100 clock hours.

Corporate and organizational clients can also arrange to have a customized version of the program delivered onsite at reduced group rates. All students have the opportunity to begin the program within 1-2 business days of acceptance.


University of St. Francis

Joliet, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 62%

The human resource management graduate certificate at the University of St. Francis prepares graduates to identify, recruit, and retain the right talent for the right positions. Online coursework emphasizes mentorship training, and developing HR managers learn to build strong professional relationships that help employees maximize their professional potential.

The curriculum covers four main topics on which HR managers rely: talent management, compensation and benefits, employment and labor law, and organizational needs analysis.

Prospective students should have a four-year degree in business, management, education, healthcare administration, criminal justice, or science. USF does not charge any fees during the application process.


Stony Brook University

Stony Brook, NY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 74%

Offered through Stony Brook University's School of Professional Development, the advanced graduate certificate in human resource management offers learners a flexible set of customization options. The 15-credit program — which can be completed online — includes four core courses in foundational topics, and participants also choose an elective class.

Required classes cover HR fundamentals, labor management and employee relations, employment law, and workplace diversity. Students select a complementary elective based on their interests, with subject offerings including organizational management and change, organizational performance management, and compensation systems.

Graduates have the option to apply their certificate toward advanced standing in one of three master's programs. Credits earned through this graduate certificate in human resources can be transferred to Stony Brook's MS in HR management, MA in liberal studies, or MBA program.


Pennsylvania State University-World Campus

University Park, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 29%

Through its World Campus, Pennsylvania State University delivers an online international human resources and employment relations graduate certificate that prepares HR professionals to engage with global enterprise. The 12-credit program focuses exclusively on international employment law, hiring policies, and professional best practices.

Designed with input from recognized experts in employment relations, labor law, and organizational psychology, this online graduate certificate in human resources readies learners for versatile opportunities in the international employment market.

Prospective students must hold a four-year degree from an accredited U.S. institution (or a recognized equivalent). Applicants must also submit a resume or CV, personal statement, and academic transcripts. Standardized test scores are not required.


University of Houston-Clear Lake

Houston, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

The University of Houston-Clear Lake offers an online graduate certificate in human resource management. Featuring specialized accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the program supports part-time learning by delivering two courses per semester over two academic terms.

Classes explore key topics, including core organizational processes, business management, strategic decision-making, and change management. Students also complete a course in personal mastery and influence, which helps emerging HR personnel maximize the talents and potentials of their organizational peers.

Graduates of this certificate program qualify for advanced standing in two of UHCL's master's programs. Credits transfer to the MA in HR management program or the MBA program with an HR management specialization.


Oklahoma State University

Stillwater, OK Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 61%

Oklahoma State University's career-focused graduate certificate in human resources management prepares learners to improve their academic and professional credentials in less than one year. Locally-based students can opt for traditional in-class or hybrid delivery formats, while distance learners can complete coursework fully online.

Coursework embraces the practical applications of key HR principles and theories, examining how these theories function in professional practice. The program's five core classes cover employee compensation systems, talent acquisition, talent development, HR analytics, and employment law.

Graduates are prepared for a variety of professional roles. Additionally, all credits can be transferred into one of OSU's MBA programs or any other relevant master's degree pathways.


American University

Washington, DC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 80%

Based in the nation's capital, American University offers an online certificate in professional human resource management that prepares graduates to earn SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP certification. These universally recognized designations help job candidates command higher salaries and secure more prominent organizational roles.

The curriculum of AU's graduate certificate in human resources builds critical thinking skills. The program also embraces the proprietary SHRM Learning System to prepare learners for certification examinations.

This program balances flexibility with structure, keeping learners focused and on track while respecting their scheduling needs. Courses retain a generalist focus to maximize their versatility and applicability in global workplaces.

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

While specific coursework required for an online graduate certificate in human resources varies by school, every certificate program provides knowledge necessary to oversee and manage an organization's programs. The sample curriculum below exemplifies the types of classes required for this certificate.

  • Strategic Staffing: This course provides a strategic framework to help organizations achieve their goals. It examines policies and protocols for immediate and long-term planning and teaches students to carefully recruit and select human capital. Coursework explores concepts such as rightsizing and employee separations and retention, preparing students for careers as recruiting managers.
  • Employment Law: This course explores the effect of state and federal regulations on human resources functions. Topics include equal employment opportunity, wages and overtime payment, and limits on management's rights. Students learn to prevent unnecessary litigation and to resolve workplace disputes, in preparation for careers as labor relations specialists.
  • Training and Development: Topics include implementing a needs analysis, creating and executing an implementation plan, and ensuring that the plan reflects best practices in the field. These skills in organizational effectiveness are crucial for training and development managers.
  • Compensation: This course explores how organizations leverage pay systems to improve their effectiveness. Students examine how organizations design pay, compensate according to performance, and administer pay systems. Students learn to evaluate position descriptions to determine classification and salary. This course prepares students for careers as compensation and benefits managers.

What Can I Do With a Certificate in Human Resources?

Professionals in human resources need the ability to plan, lead, and coordinate administrative functions. They must be highly perceptive to select and cultivate the talent needed to achieve workplace goals. They must also be skilled communicators to ensure effective collaboration between employees and management. Because many careers require these skills, a graduate certificate in human resources leads to numerous professional opportunities.

Human Resources Manager

Human resources managers plan and direct an organization's administrative functions, including overseeing recruitment efforts, devising strategic plans, and liaising between employees and management.

Training and Development Manager

Training and development managers plan, oversee, and coordinate employees' ongoing education. These professionals generally oversee a staff of specialists.

Compensation and Benefits Manager

These managers plan, create, and lead programs to determine how much and in what way an organization pays its employees. They also coordinate retirement plans, health insurance, and other employee benefits.

Certificate in Human Resources Salary

An online graduate certificate in human resources provides flexible career options. The following table provides the 2016 median salaries for additional professions in human resources.

Job Title Overall Median Salary
Administrative Services Manager $90,050
Buyer and Purchasing Agent $60,700
Financial Manager $121,750
Labor Relations Specialist $62,310
Top Executive $103,950

Educational Paths for Human Resources Graduates

Those earning a graduate certificate in human resources without first obtaining an associate or bachelor's degree may consider transferring certificate credits into an undergraduate program. Degree holders are better prepared, and more likely to be hired, for managerial positions, and they earn higher salaries. For example, the median human resources specialist salary is about $59,000 per year, whereas a human resources manager earns about $107,000 annually. Below are bachelor's degree options related to human resources.

  • Business: This program instructs students in decision making, project management, communication, and teamwork, while incorporating business tools and principles. Students learn to assess and respond to organizational challenges and opportunities.
  • Industrial Relations: Students study the historical, legal, and economic issues that affect an organization's employees. Coursework examines people and policies; students understand the ways in which individuals, groups, and organizations address workplace issues.
  • Psychology: Students learn to analyze human behavior, engage in scientific reasoning, and understand how people behave. The program covers theoretical perspectives and research methodology.

Accreditation for Graduate Certificate Programs

The best online graduate certificate in human resources programs are regionally or nationally accredited. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) assess programs to evaluate their intellectual rigor. Presently, six regional accreditation bodies assess U.S. colleges and universities. National accreditation is generally reserved for specific programs of study, such as vocational training.

Both the ED and CHEA accredit schools with online degree programs. In addition, look for a program accredited by an agency such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. This specific designation reflects the highest standard in management education.

Human Resources Professional Organizations

Membership in professional organizations helps professionals leverage their graduate certificate in human resources by networking with other professionals and continuously building knowledge of the field. These organizations host conferences and symposia with expert presenters to help members remain apprised of the latest trends, topics, and best practices in human resources. Professional organizations also offer career services and job boards to inform members of professional and career opportunities. Respected professional organizations in the field of human resources include:

Financing Your Online Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Program

Those pursuing a graduate certificate in human resources should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine their eligibility for federal grants, loans, and work-study positions. Contact your school's financial aid department to learn about scholarship opportunities. In addition, professional organizations such as SHRM offer scholarships to undergraduate students pursuing human resources degrees.


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