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Best online human resources graduate certificates 2021: Top picks

A human resources graduate certificate is an inexpensive credential that can help you pivot to a role in HR management, consultation, or program assessment.

Are you a seasoned business professional looking to transition to a human resources role? An MBA is not your only option. For an inexpensive and short time investment, consider pursuing a human resources graduate certificate.

Businesses need human resources specialists who can lead people from all cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds. The human resources field continually grows as companies strategize how to effectively recruit, hire, and train a diverse workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that from 2020 to 2030, human resources manager employment will grow by 9%. A certificate can kick-start a job in this field. 

Read on for our rankings of the top-rated online human resources graduate certificate programs, along with our primer on what to expect from this credential.

The best online human resources graduate certificates

Before checking out our ranking of the best human resources graduate certificates, please take a moment to read about ZDNet's ranking methodology to learn how we select high-quality, affordable programs from around the country.

Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Scorecard.

1. University of Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia

About the program: UVA's online programs include a 15-credit online leadership in human resources management certificate. Course topics include organizational performance management, staffing and career management, and strategic compensation.

  • Acceptance rate: 24%
  • Graduation rate: 94%
  • Avg. annual net price: $20,397
  • Time to completion: One year
  • SAT range: 1340-1520
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: University of Virginia is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

2. Stony Brook University

Stony Brook, New York

About the program: Stony Brook offers a 15-credit online graduate certificate in human resources management catering to HR practitioners. Credit from the program can be transferred to Stony Brook's MBA, master's in human resources management, and master's in liberal arts programs.

  • Acceptance rate: 44%
  • Graduation rate: 74%
  • Avg. annual net price: $15,160
  • Time to completion: One year
  • SAT range: 1230-1440
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: Stony Brook University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

3. Oklahoma State University

Stillwater, Oklahoma

About the program: OSU currently offers a 15-credit online graduate certificate in human resources management. Course topics include employment law, human resources analytics, and total rewards.

  • Acceptance rate: 70%
  • Graduation rate: 62%
  • Avg. annual net price: $14,648
  • Time to completion: One year
  • SAT range: 1060-1280
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Two
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: Oklahoma State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

4. West Chester University of Pennsylvania

West Chester, Pennsylvania

About the program: WCU offers a 12-credit online certificate in human resources management that caters to HR and non-HR professionals. The program holds accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

  • Acceptance rate: 75%
  • Graduation rate: 72%
  • Avg. annual net price: $22,495
  • Time to completion: One year
  • SAT range: 1030-1210
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling admission
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: West Chester University of Pennsylvania is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

5. Penn State University Global Campus

University Park, Pennsylvania

About the program: PSU's online catalog includes a 12-credit online certificate in international human resources and employment relations.Course topics include comparative employment relations systems, international human resources studies, and human resources in multinational enterprises.

  • Acceptance rate: 76%
  • Graduation rate: 73%
  • Avg. annual net price: $27,372
  • Time to completion: One year
  • SAT range: 1070-1310
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling admissions
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Penn State University Global Campus is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

6. Central Michigan University

Mount Pleasant, Michigan

About the program: Central Michigan offers a 15-credit online certificate in human resources administration that focuses tightly on operational objectives. Course topics include staffing courses, labor relations courses, and training and organization development courses.

  • Acceptance rate: 70%
  • Graduation rate: 59%
  • Avg. annual net price: $15,981
  • Time to completion: One year
  • SAT range: 990-1200
  • Minimum GPA: 2.7
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling admissions
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: Central Michigan University is regionally accredited by the HIgher Learning Commission (HLC).

7. Indiana State University

Terre Haute, Indiana

About the program: ISU offers a 12-credit online certificate in human resources development catering to professionals who wish to work in industry, higher education, government agencies, and nonprofits. Course topics include leadership in human resources development, rationale and evaluation of human resources programs, and systematic program design.

  • Acceptance rate: 90%
  • Graduation rate: 42%
  • Avg. annual net price: $13,896
  • Time to completion: One year
  • SAT range: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 2.7
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling admissions
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: Indiana State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

8. Thomas Edison State University

Trenton, New Jersey

About the program: TESU offers a 12-credit, online graduate certificate in human resources management that easily articulates into the master's in human resources management and master's in management.

  • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
  • Graduation rate: 46%
  • Avg. annual net price: Not publicly available
  • Time to completion: One year
  • SAT range: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling admissions
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Thomas Edison State University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

9. Nova Southeastern University

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

About the program: NSU's online catalog features an 18-credit online graduate certificate in human resource management. Full-time working learners can negotiate the program curriculum with department heads.

  • Acceptance rate: 80%
  • Graduation rate: 48%
  • Avg. annual net price: $23,905
  • Time to completion: One year
  • SAT range: 1070-1280
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: Nova Southeastern University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

10. Eastern Michigan University

Ypsilanti, Michigan

About the program: EMU offers a 15-credit online graduate certificate in human resource management. The program's elective options include international human resource management, benefits administration, and HR and technology.

  • Acceptance rate: 74%
  • Graduation rate: 50%
  • Avg. annual net price: $15,924
  • Time to completion: One year
  • SAT range: 970-1190
  • Minimum GPA: 2.7
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling admissions
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: Eastern Michigan University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

11. Southern New Hampshire University

Manchester, New Hampshire

About the program: SNHU currently offers an 18-credit online certificate in human resources management. Course topics include employee and labor relations, total rewards, and organizational behavior.

  • Acceptance rate: 88%
  • Graduation rate: 47%
  • Avg. annual net price: $41,095
  • Time to completion: 6-12 months
  • SAT range: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling admissions
  • Course delivery method: Online

Accreditation: Southern New Hampshire University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

12. St. Joseph's College New York

Brooklyn, New York

About the program: SJCNY offers a 15-credit online graduate certificate in human resources management. Course topics include human resources law, healthcare management, and process of management.

  • Acceptance rate: 71%
  • Graduation rate: 59%
  • Avg. annual net price: $16,360
  • Time to completion: One year
  • SAT range: 990-1190
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling admissions
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: St. Joseph's College New York is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

13. Champlain College

Burlington, Vermont

About the program: Champlain's online offerings include a 12-credit online graduate certificate in human resources management. Course topics include coaching in the workplace, interpreting human resource data, and diversity and creating a culture of inclusion.

  • Acceptance rate: 85%
  • Graduation rate: 61%
  • Avg. annual net price: $33,561
  • Time to completion: 6-12 months
  • SAT range: 1170-1320
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: Champlain College is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

14. University of Maryland Global Campus

Adelphi, Maryland

About the program: UMGC's affordable online programs include a 12-credit online graduate certificate in human resource management. The program focuses mainly on practical skills for HR professionals and features courses on employee and labor relations, intercultural communication and leadership, and organizational development and change.

  • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
  • Graduation rate: 28%
  • Avg. annual net price: $14,288
  • Time to completion: 6-12 months
  • SAT range: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling admissions
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: University of Maryland Global Campus is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

15. Emmanuel College

Boston, Massachusetts

About the program: A Roman Catholic institution founded in 1919, Emmanuel College offers a variety of online programs, including a 12-credit online graduate human resource management certificate. As of December 2021, Emmanuel's program is aligned with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) HR Curriculum Guidebook and Templates.

  • Acceptance rate: 78%
  • Graduation rate: 67%
  • Avg. annual net price: $28,314
  • Time to completion: 6-12 months
  • SAT range: 1090-1250
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: Emmanuel College is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

16. SUNY Empire State College

Saratoga Springs, New York

About the program: SUNY Empire's catalog of affordable online programs includes a 12-credit online graduate certificate in human resources management. Course topics include performance management and total rewards, managing human capital, and high performance management.

  • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
  • Graduation rate: 44%
  • Avg. annual net price: $12,142
  • Time to completion: 6-12 months
  • SAT range: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling admissions
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: SUNY Empire State College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

17. Franklin Pierce University

Rindge, New Hampshire

About the program: Franklin Pierce offers a 15-credit online graduate certificate in human resources management that can apply towards the school's human resources MBA. Course topics include compensation and benefits, training and development for adults, and labor relations and employment law.

  • Acceptance rate: 66%
  • Graduation rate: 52%
  • Avg. annual net price: $27,617
  • Time to completion: One year
  • SAT range: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling admissions
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: Franklin Pierce University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

18. Davenport University

Grand Rapids, Michigan

About the program: Davenport's 12-18-credit online graduate certificate in human resources management was designed according to the school's Quality Matters (QM) ethos. Course topics include managing human resources, organizational development and training, and employment law and labor relations.

  • Acceptance rate: 82%
  • Graduation rate: 27%
  • Avg. annual net price: $16,098
  • Time to completion: 6-12 months
  • SAT range: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling admissions
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: Davenport University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

19. Belhaven University

Jackson, Mississippi

About the program: A predominantly Black, Presybytarian-affiliated private university, Belhaven University's online programs include a 15-credit online graduate certificate in human resources management. The program overviews organizational behavior, change leadership, and compensation and benefits through a Christian lens.

  • Acceptance rate: 49%
  • Graduation rate: 41%
  • Avg. annual net price: $17,439
  • Time to completion: One year
  • SAT range: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 2.5
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Belhaven University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

20. Brenau University

Gainesville, Georgia

About the program: Brenau offers a 15-credit online graduate certificate in human resources management tailored to working professionals. Course topics include employment law, HRM total rewards, and talent acquisition and management.

  • Acceptance rate: 58%
  • Graduation rate: 46%
  • Avg. annual net price: $21,745
  • Time to completion: One year
  • SAT range: 920-1140
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling admissions
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: Brenau University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

What to expect in an online human resources graduate certificate program

Because an online human resources certificate is a business credential targeted at working learners, many programs may expect you to show a few years' relevant work experience in management. The certificate generally consists of four to five courses on par with lower-to-middle division graduate degree courses. You can expect to study coursework blending practical and theoretical knowledge of advanced strategic management, change leadership, and cultural competency.

To succeed in your graduate certificate program, you need strong business communication and self-motivation skills. Empathy and leadership can also help you succeed as you learn how to manage diverse groups of people ethically and responsibly.

Human resources courses

Human resources graduate certificates usually consist of less than 20 credits, or four to five courses. Most programs feature courses in organizational behavior, change management, and intercultural issues in business communication and leadership — foundational knowledge for human resources managers.

Strategic human resources management

This course analyzes the various organizational roles played by human resources managers in a healthy organization, including hiring, training, and recruitment. Students examine the various regulatory procedures and requirements to which human resources managers must adhere.

Organizational behavior

This course surveys different theories of individual and group behavior within organizations. Learners explore concepts such as motivation, change, and leadership and learn how to leverage organizational behavior theory to improve performance and efficiency.

Intercultural leadership

This course investigates the different ways that an intercultural environment affects business communication, leadership, and decision-making. Students learn how to apply theories of culture and intercultural communication to a management career.

Leading change

For this course, students examine the theory and practice behind organizational change processes and management of change. Techniques for change management covered include team-development procedures, goal-setting, and strategic interventions.

Human resources degree levels

A human resources graduate certificate, like other kinds of credentials, fits a certain niche of learner needs. The different levels of human resources online degrees exist to help different kinds of learners. For instance, if you want to work in education, you might want to consider earning your human resources doctorate.

Certificate in human resources

  • Length: One year
  • Cost: $2,000-$5,000
  • Post-grad careers: human resources manager, training and development manager, program evaluator

A graduate certificate in human resources can help you progress from a low-level management position to a specialized human resources role, either as a manager, consultant, or change and development specialist. Most programs take less than a year to complete and cost far less than other graduate credentials.

You can expect to study fundamental topics such as intercultural issues in the workplace, organizational behavior, and change management in your graduate certificate program. The program also develops business communication and leadership skills.

Associate in human resources

  • Length: Two to three years
  • Cost: $2,000-$5,000
  • Post-grad careers: Recruiting assistant, human resources clerk, payroll assistant

A two to three-year human resources associate degree might be a good fit if you are a low-level clerk or associate looking to transition to a human resources role with long-term potential for promotion. The degree's curriculum usually touches on introductory topics in business, organizational behavior, and human resources management.

To succeed in this program, you need good written and verbal communication skills. The degree generally teaches some basic soft skills in business communication and critical thinking.

Bachelor's in human resources

  • Length: Four years
  • Cost: $40,000-$200,000
  • Post-grad careers: human resources manager, training facilitator, compensation and benefits manager

A four-year bachelor's in human resources management can significantly open up your employment opportunities in the management field. Generally, this degree qualifies you for a mid-to-high level human resources management job, or similar position as a compensation and benefits manager, recruiter, or training specialist.

Students in this degree program study more in-depth topics in human resources management, including more coursework on management science and organizational behavior. Many programs may offer electives in group collaboration, diversity issues in HR, and conflict resolution.

Master's in human resources

  • Length: Two to three years
  • Cost: $35,000-$100,000
  • Post-grad careers: human resources consultant, training and development manager, human resources executive

A two to three-year master's in human resources management can help you transition to a high-level management position in your company's HR department as a human resources manager, consultant, or organizational development specialist.

The program's curriculum usually covers specialized topics such as the history of human resources, racial and ethnic issues in human resources, and regulatory law as it applies to human resources. Some programs may give you the choice between completing an internship or a thesis as your culminating project.

Doctorate in human resources

  • Length: Three to five years
  • Cost: $40,000-$150,000
  • Post-grad careers: University professor, human resources executive, employee education consultant

A human resources doctorate best fits learners aspiring to work in education, research, or an executive human resources role. This terminal degree combines research, advocacy, and leadership.

The program generally expects learners to develop a dissertation that contributes to human resources and organizational behavior-related knowledge. As such, you can expect to take coursework in leadership theory and quantitative research. By the end of the program, you will know how to train executive-level leaders and conduct large-format organizational research studies.

In conclusion

A graduate certificate in human resources is a perfect credential for transitioning to a role in human resources management, consulting, or program evaluation. And since many schools allow certificate credits to be transferred to a related degree, your human resources certificate might lead you to earn a human resources management MBA or master's.

For more information on human resources management degrees and certificates, consult your local college or read more of our informational online guides.

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