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Human resources (HR) managers fulfill several essential functions that keep companies operating smoothly. This includes maintaining positive working relationships between employees and executives, overseeing administrative functions, and ensuring that the organization’s and its employees’ needs are met.

For HR professionals seeking management and leadership roles, an online graduate certificate in human resources is an efficient way to upskill. Most programs require 12-15 credits and can be completed in 12-18 months of full-time study. The average per-credit tuition for the HR graduate certificate programs on this list is $738, or $8,856 for a 12-credit program.

An online graduate certificate in HR prepares students for jobs like human resources managers, who earn a median annual salary of $130,000, or training and development managers, who earn $120,000 annually. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the employment of HR managers will grow 5% through 2032, while the demand for training and development managers will increase 6% in the same period.

How to Choose an Online Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Program

Choose your area of study

Start by considering what skills you want to gain from your HR graduate certificate program. Some programs cover general HR topics, while others have a specific area of focus, such as leadership, international human resources, or training and development. Understanding your career goals will help you find the program that will give you the skills and expertise you need to achieve them.

You may also want to explore other educational opportunities in HR, like an MBA or master of science in HR. These graduate programs are more robust than a graduate certificate, allowing for more in-depth skill development.

Now is also an excellent time to think about logistics, including whether you’ll enroll in a program full-time or part-time and what course delivery method you need. In an asynchronous program, students don’t have pre-scheduled class meetings and can complete their lessons and assignments according to their schedule. This option is the most flexible but has limited interaction with classmates and faculty. Meanwhile, students in synchronous programs have scheduled virtual class meetings, which can provide more interaction and support.

Research schools and programs

Having parameters for the type of graduate certificate program you want is helpful when you begin exploring your options. To find the program that best suits your needs, seek answers to the following questions when researching programs:

  • What does the curriculum cover? Are there options for electives or specializations?
  • Can students receive credit for professional experience or credentials?
  • How do online students interact with classmates and faculty?
  • Is coursework delivered synchronously or asynchronously?
  • What support services are available for online students, such as tech support, tutoring, academic and career advising, and counseling?
  • Are there networking opportunities for online students?
  • Is the program eligible for federal financial aid?

You’ll also want to verify the school’s accreditation status. A school’s accreditation status affects the quality of its programs and students’ eligibility for financial aid and future employment and education opportunities. In addition to institutional accreditation, programs may have programmatic accreditation through organizations like the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).

Most schools publish relevant information for prospective students on their websites. Students can also contact program representatives or admissions counselors for more information. Schools often offer virtual open houses or information sessions for online programs to allow remote students to interact with program reps. Another option is following schools and departments on social media.

Prepare for applications

The admissions process varies for online HR graduate certificate programs. Some programs require an application, while others allow students to enroll directly without applying first. Check with the admissions office at individual schools to confirm their admissions procedures and eligibility requirements. Students must have a bachelor’s degree to qualify for a graduate certificate program. Many HR graduate certificate programs also require students to have professional work experience.

A standard application for a graduate certificate includes the following:

  • Completed application and fee
  • Official transcript from undergraduate college
  • Resume or CV
  • Letter(s) of recommendation
  • GRE or GMAT scores

Select your program

Once you have a shortlist of programs that meet your criteria, decide which ones you want to apply to. There’s no right or wrong number of applications to submit. Some students find only one or two programs that meet their needs, while others may cast a wider net to increase their odds of acceptance. If you apply to multiple schools and are accepted to all of them, consider the most important factors, like curriculum, cost, financial aid availability, and schedule, when selecting a program.

Determine how you’ll pay for your certificate

If you still need to confirm the program’s cost and available financial aid resources, now is an excellent time to contact the school’s financial aid office for more information.

It’s essential to determine if the program is eligible for federal financial aid, as not all certificate programs are. If the program isn’t financial aid-eligible, students won’t be able to use federal financial aid resources like student loans, grants, or work-study. However, students can use other sources of financial assistance, such as private education loans, scholarships, and employer tuition assistance benefits.

If your program is eligible for federal student aid, the next step is to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Schools use this information to determine your eligibility for need-based aid like federal student loans, grants, scholarships, and more.

Best 50 Accredited Online Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Programs

Best Online Graduate Certificate in Finance Programs Badge

University of Virginia

Stony Brook University

Penn State World Campus

West Chester University

Oklahoma State University

Central Michigan University

St. Joseph's University, New York

Southern New Hampshire University

Indiana State University

Champlain College

Thomas Edison State University

Belhaven University

Nova Southeastern University

Eastern Michigan University

University of Maryland Global Campus

Emmanuel College

SUNY Empire State College

Franklin Pierce University

Davenport University

Brenau University

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How We Rank Schools

Each program listed in this guide is designed to help you prepare for a rewarding career in human resources. These programs award a graduate certificate, which indicates a high level of education in your field that’s beyond an associate or bachelor’s degree. Certificates on this list include those in human resources administration, human resources management, and employment relations.

These programs have been accredited by organizations such as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). These accreditations indicate that the credits you earn in your program are transferable and that your certificate will be awarded by a credible institution that provides high-quality education.

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, reputation, and the student resources provided for online students. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

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

Most online HR graduate certificate programs focus on the skills and expertise students need to transition from entry- or mid-level positions to management and leadership roles. As such, they typically design their curriculum to build on students’ experience with HR and business principles. Some programs require students to have a bachelor’s degree in HR or a related field. Others are open to all students, regardless of their undergraduate major.

A general HR graduate certificate curriculum covers essential skills for all HR professionals, including employee/employer relations, compensation and benefits, workforce planning, ethics, leadership, and more. Other HR graduate certificates focus on specific HR sub-fields, such as talent development and training or international human resources, with more targeted coursework related to these topics.

Depending on the program, there may also be an experiential learning component, such as an internship. Students enrolling in a program with an internship should confirm whether they can fulfill this requirement online or if it requires in-person participation.

Students should also find out how courses are delivered. Online programs operate either synchronously, in which students participate in remote closes at scheduled times, or asynchronously, in which students learn autonomously by accessing lessons and assignments on their own time.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online graduate certificate in human resources program

  • Strategic Human Resource Management: Covers essential HR functions, including recruitment, hiring, training, career development, and other processes within the organizational setting.
  • Leadership in Human Resource Development: Studies concepts and practices of leadership in human resource development, including organizational culture and how different leadership practices affect people within an organization.
  • Employee and Labor Relations: Examines the history of union-management relations, bargaining, and negotiation strategies.
  • Human Resources Law: Introduces legal concepts affecting the employer-employee relationship within organizations, including federal and state regulations and how they relate to recruiting, hiring, compensation, discipline and termination, discrimination, health and safety, and more.
  • Human Resources in Multinational Enterprises: Studies current human resource management (HRM) systems worldwide and the influence of globalization on HRM practice.

Online Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online graduate certificate in human resources program?

Contact the school’s admissions office for the most accurate information about the application process. Not all graduate certificate programs require an application. Some programs allow students to enroll directly by completing an enrollment form and submitting transcripts showing they have a bachelor’s degree.

A standard online graduate certificate program application typically requires official transcripts from previously attended schools, a resume or CV, a personal statement, a letter of recommendation, and GRE or GMAT scores.

It’s also important to pay attention to application and enrollment deadlines. Some certificate programs admit students multiple times throughout the academic year; others only enroll new students once or twice yearly. Missing application deadlines can delay the start of your program.

How much does an online graduate certificate in human resources cost?

The cost of an online HR graduate certificate will vary depending on the type of institution you’re attending (private or public) and whether you’re considered an in-state or out-of-state student at a public university.

The average per-credit tuition for the programs on this list is $738, or $8,856 for a 12-credit program. Students may be able to find less expensive programs, particularly at public universities in the state in which they reside.

Students should be aware that they may have to pay additional fees for course materials or online classroom technology.

How long does it take to earn an online graduate certificate in human resources?

This depends on the specific number of courses a program requires and the pace at which the student completes coursework. Most programs on this list require 12-15 credits and can be completed in one year of full-time study. Attending a program part-time will likely increase the time it takes to complete all required courses. Meanwhile, some schools offer accelerated programs that condense coursework into a short time frame.