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Last updated on September 24th, 2023.

Getting some kind of certification in the human resources field is a great career move. But, with a busy schedule and other daily obligations to take care of, it can be difficult to find the time for an in-person course. This is when an online human resources certification course can be a great move.

There are many human resources certification programs available online. Some of these help you prepare to take the PHR or SPHR exam, while others offer their own certificate that students can put on their resumes. 

Below, we will discuss everything you need to know about getting a human resources certification online, then highlight seven of the best online courses to consider. Keep reading to learn more!

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Getting an HR Certificate Whether Online or In-Person

With today’s job market being more competitive than ever, you often need that slight edge over the competition to establish yourself as a big player in any industry. This is just as true for the human resources field as it is for any other field. One of the most popular ways to take your HR game to the next level is through a certification course.

While some people still choose to take in-person courses to further their careers, there are now a plethora of online resources that can help you take your career further than ever. Online HR certification courses are widely available, and often a better choice for busy professionals.

It can be taxing to finish a long day at the office, then drive down to your local college or learning center to sit through an hour or two of in-person instruction. Online courses, on the other hand, only require you to log in with your computer a couple of days each week. You can even complete your courses while you watch TV with your family before bed.

Is an HR Certificate Worth It?

Nowadays, many human resources professionals choose to undergo some kind of certification course. If you’re considering taking this big step in your career, you may be wondering if it’ll be worth it in the end. 

Generally, professionals find that obtaining some kind of human resources certification is worth it. Although these certifications are rarely required by employers, they typically come with a plethora of career-related benefits. 

The biggest benefit of getting a human resources certification is the potential to earn more money. Research shows that, even with the same job title, HR professionals who hold some kind of certificate tend to earn more on average than those who do not. In addition to this, HR certificate holders are more likely to be promoted and often hold positions of higher power within their companies.

If you’re in the market for a new job in the human resources industry, having one of these certifications under your belt can also give you an edge when it comes time for interviews. 

Although most employers do not require applicants to have them, they do generally prefer to hire those most equipped for the job. A certification can set you apart from other applicants and distinguish you as an expert in the human resources field. 

Overall, most certificate holders find that the result is worth the hard work and long hours of studying. Human resources certifications help establish you as a valuable, dedicated, and credible player in the organization and the human resources field as a whole. 

Which is the Best Certification for HR?

As you begin your search for human resources certifications, you will find many different options. Each option is best suited to different types of professionals, but generally, a PHR or SPHR certification is the best type to go for. 

If you don’t know which of these two options will work best for you, it’s typically advised that you start by looking at practice questions for each. There are many differences between the PHR and SPHR exams, as well as different prerequisites you must meet. See what each exam entails, then choose the one you’re most comfortable with. 

What is the Most Common HR Certification?

There are many different HR certifications available. However, the PHR (Professional in Human Resources) and the SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) are the most common. 

In addition to these two main types of HR certifications, there are several other exams you may choose to take based on the type of professional you are. Some of the other options you might come across when researching the PHR and SPHR exams include:

  • APHR. Best for those just entering the HR field. 
  • GPHR. For HR professionals who work in a global setting.
  • PHRi and SPHRi. Geared towards HR professionals who work remotely. 
  • PHRca. Specifically for HR professionals working in the state of California.

If none of these subsets apply to you, you’re probably better off going with a general PHR or SPHR certification. Now, let’s discuss the similarities and differences between these two human resources certifications.

What is a PHR Certification?

PHR stands for “Professional in Human Resources.” Recipients of these certificates have demonstrated a mastery of all the operational and technical aspects of the human resources field, as well as the relevant federal laws and regulations. 

Compared to the SPHR exam, the PHR exam asks questions in a more fact-based way. In order to qualify for this exam, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • One year of experience in HR and a Master’s degree or higher
  • Two years of experience in HR and a Bachelor’s degree
  • Four years of experience in HR and a high school diploma

Generally, this certification is best for newer professionals in the human resources field and those already well-versed in program implementation. 

What is an SPHR Certification?

An SPHR, or “Senior Professional in Human Resources,” certification is better suited for established professionals in the human resources field. While a PHR certification helps those in the HR field demonstrate their understanding of the fundamentals, an SPHR certification helps senior-level professionals demonstrate their knowledge of the policy-making and strategic aspects of the field.

Like the PHR exam, there are criteria you must meet before you can qualify to take the SPHR exam. Unlike the PHR exam, however, the questions you’ll see on the exam require more thought, often weaving different concepts into a single question. In order to qualify, you must have:

  • 4 years of experience in professional HR and a Master’s degree or higher
  • 5 years of experience in professional HR and a Bachelor’s degree
  • 7 years of experience in professional HR and a high school diploma

 In general, this is the most common certification for anyone looking to establish themselves as a leader in the human resources field.

The 7 Best Human Resources Certification Online

If you’ve decided to take the plunge and get a human resources certification online, you’re probably searching for the best places to do so. There are a ton of virtual programs available, but not all of them will work best for every professional. 

Because of this, having a concise list of the best online HR certification programs can be a lifesaver. Seven of the best human resources certifications available online include:

  • Human Resources Management by eCornell
  • Villanova University Certificate in HR Management
  • Wharton HR Management and Analytics Certificate
  • UMass Amherst Certificate in Human Resource Management
  • Human Resources Management Certification by HR University
  • Southern New Hampshire University Human Resource Management Certificate
  • American Management Association Fundamentals of Human Resources Management Certificate

Below, we will discuss what each program entails.

1. Human Resources Management by eCornell

eCornell is Cornell University’s online learning branch. eCornell offers a complete human resources certification course, made up of nine different mini-courses.

Each mini-course in the Human Resources Management certification course takes approximately two weeks to complete. Each course teaches you the fundamentals of various HR-related topics, making it a great choice for anyone just breaking into the HR field. 

One of the best things about this course is that there are no enrollment requirements. Anyone can sign up, and it only requires a time commitment of between 3-5 hours per week. After completing all nine mini-courses, you will receive an HR Management certificate from Cornell ILR School.

2. Villanova University Certificate in HR Management

Villanova University’s HR Management certification course helps human resources professionals prepare to earn their certification from the SHRM, or Society for Human Resource Management.

The SHRM is one of the most prominent HR organizations in the country. They’ve partnered with Villanova University to create this course, offering access to all their exam prep materials while you’re enrolled.

HR Management is a self-study course that takes 18 months to complete. There are two required courses, Human Resources Management and Mastering Organizational Effectiveness, and one elective course you will need to complete to receive your certification. Elective options include:

  • The Agile Method
  • Team Effectiveness
  • Project Management
  • Finance and Accounting
  • Strategic Organizational Leadership

This is a more expensive certification program than some others. However, Villanova offers a range of payment plans to make the course more affordable. 

3. Wharton HR Management and Analytics Certificate

Offered by UPenn’s Wharton School of Business, the HR Management and Analytics Certificate course is a rigorous, two-month long program divided into seven different modules. These seven modules include:

  • Intro to People Analytics and Performance Evaluation
  • Motivation and Reward
  • Tasks, Jobs, and Systems of Work
  • Strategic Staffing
  • Collaboration Networks
  • Talent Management and Analytics
  • Managing Your Career as an HR Professional

This course combines pre-recorded and live video lectures, with a time commitment of approximately 4-6 hours per week. It’s the ideal certification course for seasoned professionals who want to learn more about how HR works in conjunction with data analytics.

4. UMass Amherst Certificate in Human Resource Management

UMass Amherst offers a five-course certification program in Human Resource Management through the Isenberg School of Management. Each of the five courses is required in order to gain your certificate at the end. These courses include:

  • Principles of Management
  • Human Resource Management
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Compensation Administration
  • Workforce Planning, Recruitment, and Selection

This course is perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about the key functions of human resource management. 

5. Human Resources Management Certification by HR University

HR University’s Human Resources Management Certification is ideal for new and established professionals alike. Through 70 lectures and various interviews with HR professionals, you will learn all the skills and responsibilities required for an HR manager position. Some of these include:

  • I-9 forms
  • New hire paperwork
  • Employment verification letters
  • Employee eligibility verification

Whether you’re starting your journey to become an HR manager or simply want to brush up on your skills, this is a great certification to have under your belt. 

6. Southern New Hampshire University Human Resource Management Certificate

Southern New Hampshire University, commonly known as SNHU, offers a hands-on course to help you earn your Human Resource Management Certificate. This six-course self-study program is designed to help entry-level professionals apply their skills in the real world. The courses you’ll take include:

  • Total Rewards
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Employee and Labor Relations
  • HR Strategy and Development
  • Human Resources Management
  • Human Relations in Administration

Through a combination of practical methods aligned with SHRM competency standards, you can complete SNHU’s certification course in just six months.

7. American Management Association Fundamentals of Human Resources Management Certificate

The American Management Association, or AMA, offers a Fundamentals of Human Resources Management Certificate for people who need a crash course in all the essentials of HR management. 

This certification course is accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training, or the IACET. It’s made up of four lessons, including:

  • Legal Components of HR and Employment Process
  • Benefits Administration and HR-Related Data Processing
  • Ever-Changing Role of HR and the Function of Human Resources
  • Compensation, Performance Management, Employee Development

If you’re looking for a course that will teach you all the essentials in a short period, consider AMA’s Fundamentals of Human Resources Management course.

Final Thoughts

Getting a human resources certification online is an excellent way to brush up on your skills and advance your career. There are many different certification courses available, and the best choice will depend on your unique career goals. After completing your course, you’ll gain an edge over others in the industry, making you a more viable candidate for higher-paid positions.

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