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Human resources (HR) is a dynamic, fast-growing field that attracts individuals from diverse backgrounds like business, psychology, and communications. To succeed in this field, individuals must have strong communication, leadership, and organizational skills, as well as an understanding of various HR areas like recruitment and hiring, training, conflict mediation, and more.

Whether you’re entering the HR field or looking to advance to higher-level positions, an online certificate in HR can be an efficient, affordable way to gain the necessary knowledge and skills.

Programs range from 9-33 credits; most are designed to be completed in 12 months of full-time study. The average per-credit tuition for the online HR certificate programs on this list is $437.

HR certificate programs prepare students for jobs including human resources specialist, training and development specialist, and compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialist — all of these occupations are expected to experience faster-than-average job growth in the next decade.

How to Choose an Online Human Resources Certificate Program

Choose your area of study

The first step is to determine what type of skills you want to develop in your HR certificate program. Most programs focus on general HR concepts and knowledge, including performance management, employee training and development, labor relations and regulations, and organizational behavior. However, some may 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.

Your current level of education and experience will also determine which type of HR certificate program you should seek. This list includes both undergraduate and graduate certificate programs. Students who don’t have any post-secondary educational experience are eligible for undergraduate certificates. In order to be considered for a graduate certificate program, students must have a bachelor’s degree and, in some cases, professional experience.

You may also want to consider other educational options, including bachelor’s or master’s degrees in human resources. Some certificate programs may allow students to apply coursework completed through a certificate program to a full degree program.

Lastly, think about logistical needs. Do you plan to enroll in a full-time or part-time program? Are you interested in asynchronous programs, which have no pre-scheduled class meetings and allow you to complete your lessons and assignments at any time, or do you want a synchronous program with scheduled virtual class meetings?

Research schools and programs

Once you’ve established parameters for what type of certificate program you’re seeking, you can begin exploring your options. Asking the following questions during your research can help you find the program that works best for you:

  • What does the curriculum cover? Are there options for electives or specializations?
  • Can credits earned in this program be applied to an undergraduate or graduate degree?
  • 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 can find a lot of this information by visiting the school’s website. You may also want to contact program representatives or admissions counselors for more information. Attending virtual open houses or information sessions and following schools and programs on social media are also great ways to learn more about whether a program is right for you.

During the research process, remember to verify the school’s accreditation status, as this affects the quality of its programs, financial aid eligibility, and your 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).

Prepare for applications

The admissions process will vary depending on the school. 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.

For graduate certificate programs, students must have a bachelor’s degree and, in some cases, professional HR experience. Undergraduate certificate programs don’t require students to have previous post-secondary education experience.

Standard application requirements for HR certificate programs include:

  • Completed application and fee
  • Official high school or undergraduate transcript
  • Resume or CV
  • Letter(s) of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • GRE or GMAT scores (graduate certificates only)

Select your program

Compare the information you’ve gathered about online HR certificate programs and determine which one best meets your educational and practical needs. If multiple programs appeal to you, submit applications to them and make your decision based on which schools accept you. Some things to consider when selecting a program include cost and available financial aid, curriculum, faculty areas of expertise, and completion time.

Determine how you’ll pay for your certificate

If you haven’t already, confirm the program’s cost and available financial aid resources. You can do this by speaking to a financial aid counselor in the school’s financial aid office.

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 Human Resources Certificate Programs


University of Virginia

Georgia Northwestern Technical College

Southeastern Technical College

Champlain College

Indiana University - Purdue University - Indianapolis

West Georgia Technical College

Southern New Hampshire University

Ferris State University

Pima Community College

Dickinson State University

Northwest Technical College

DeSales University

Grand View University

Davenport University

Joliet Junior College

West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Nova Southeastern University

University of Oklahoma

Louisiana State University

Inver Hills Community College

Wake Technical Community College

Oklahoma State University

Villanova University

Saint Paul College

Central Michigan University

St. Joseph's University, New York

Cornell University

Holyoke Community College

Great Basin College

University of Redlands

Stony Brook University

Edison State Community College

Drexel University

University of Washington

University of St. Francis

University of California San Diego

Normandale Community College

Thomas Edison State University

Montclair State University

Lehigh Carbon Community College

Northeastern University

Cedar Crest College

University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

Montana State University Billings

Upper Iowa University

Golden Gate University

Colorado Christian University

Franklin Pierce University

Discover More Options

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 undergraduate or graduate certificates in human resources management and related areas of study.

The schools offering these programs have institutional accreditation through recognized accrediting agencies. 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 Human Resources Certificate Program

The curriculums for online HR certificate programs cover essential skills for all HR professionals, including employee/employer relations, compensation and benefits, workforce planning, ethics, leadership, and more. They typically include a combination of required core courses and electives, allowing students to tailor the program to their own interests.

Some programs may include 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. If a student is currently working in an HR-related position, they may be able to use that experience to fulfill their internship requirement.

Courses in online programs are delivered either synchronously or asynchronously. In synchronous programs, students have regularly scheduled virtual classes, allowing for interaction with instructors and classmates. In asynchronous programs, there are no classes. Instead, students can access lessons and assignments online 24/7, giving them more flexibility.

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

  • Human Resource Management: Provides an overview of human resource management (HRM), with a focus on topics including contemporary issues in HRM; ethics, diversity, and globalization; job description analysis, development, and design; recruiting, interviewing, and selecting employees; performance management and appraisal systems; employee training and development; disciplinary action and employee rights; employee compensation and benefits, and more.
  • Organizational Training and Development: Introduces students to the training and change management process associated with organizational development and planning and explores training needs and objectives, delivery approaches, levels of training evaluation, adult learning techniques, and coaching strategies.
  • Workplace Laws and Regulations: Studies the legal issues surrounding the workplace, employment relationships, human resources, and federal and state regulation of employment, including topics like employment discrimination, wrongful discharge, health and retirement benefits, occupational health and safety, sexual harassment, and privacy rights.
  • Compensation and Benefits: Provides students with a detailed understanding of the implementation of compensation strategies, benefits packages, work-life balance programs, performance and service recognition strategies, and career development strategies.
  • Organizational Behavior: Covers the human relations aspects of the senior-subordinate workplace environment, including employee relations principles, problem-solving and decision-making, leadership techniques, and organizational and interpersonal communications.

Online Human Resources Certificate Frequently Asked Questions

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

The application process for an online HR certificate program will vary depending on the school. For the most accurate information, contact the school’s admissions office to speak to an admissions counselor. Some programs require an application, while others allow students to directly enroll as long as they meet all eligibility criteria.

A standard application typically requires official transcripts from previously attended schools, a resume or CV, a personal statement, a letter of recommendation, and standardized test scores.

Be mindful of 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 human resources certificate cost?

The cost of an online HR 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 $437. Students should contact their school’s financial aid office for specific information about tuition costs, additional fees, and financial aid options.

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

Most online HR certificate programs are designed to be completed in 12 months of full-time study. However, the length of an HR certificate program is ultimately determined by the total number of credits required and the pace at which a student completes their coursework. Attending a program part-time will likely increase the program’s duration. Meanwhile, some schools offer accelerated programs that condense coursework into a short time frame.

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