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HR Law Online - A Graduate Certificate Program in Human Resources Law

The University of Pittsburgh School of Law developed Human Resources Law Online (HR Law Online) by working with experts in human resources, law, and online education. Our advanced, accelerated program will support you as you take on more advanced human resource roles.

Graduates of the program will be eligible to sit for some of the industry-based human resources certification exams offered by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the HR Certification Institute (HRCI).

Learn the relevant law, practical applications of law to human resource situations, and best practices, and explore current issues.

Interact with expert faculty—Pitt Law professors and employment law practitioners.

Network and collaborate with peers in other industries and locations through innovative online applications.

Study flexibly through weekly assignments.

NEW! MSL Online Combined Programs 

Students who successfully complete a Pitt Law Online Certificate—in Health Care Compliance Online or Human Resources Law Online—may apply the 15 credits earned in the online program to the Master of Studies in Law (MSL) degree. This option allows students to earn both the certificate and the MSL in 30 credit hours, at an accelerated rate, and with reduced tuition costs. Pitt Law offers a multitude of advanced degrees and certifications for non-lawyers who seek an alternative to the traditional three-year Juris Doctor. These programs are designed for graduates and professionals seeking to broaden their knowledge and understanding of legal systems and how they interact with their studies or professional field.

Who Should Enroll?

Human resources professionals who wish to enhance their understanding of HR laws and regulations.

Attorneys who wish to acquire an appreciation for the HR field, client needs, and HR issues.

Business administration program graduates who wish to develop a more thorough understanding of HR law and practices.

Professionals interested in an exciting career change.

College graduates with an interest in entering the HR field.

The 2019-20 cohort is closed.

Applications are being accepted for the 2020-21 Academic Year.


Apply Now


Affordable and Flexible

HR Law Online's total tuition is reasonably priced at $9,500 -- less than the cost of comparable programs from any other university.

HR Law Online course work is asynchronous, meaning there are no scheduled meeting times or locations. You will complete most courses in just eight weeks, working through weekly modules, based on your own schedule and from any location.

HR Law Online is eligible for Post 911 GI Bill® benefits. Learn more about your education and training benefits. GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).




For more information contact

Professor Joseph S. Hornack
Program Director
Phone: (412) 383-3489




Applicants must have earned a baccalaureate degree at an accredited institution. Admissions decisions will be made based on professional experience, academic credentials, and a personal statement. In some instances, an interview (online or phone) may be requested.

Our Mission

Our mission is to provide present and future human resources professionals with the legal and ethical tools to take on workplace challenges in a world of rapid technological, social, and legal change.

Our Guiding Principles

Authenticity – We value the thoughtful input of all students as we strive towards an honest and ethical, team-based approach to daily dilemmas. 

Proficiency – We seek the most complete level of knowledge for basic and complex legal concepts, so that those concepts can be applied to a wide variety of employment situations. 

Empathy – We recognize that there can be strong differences of opinion in working through the relationship between employers and employees, and we will attempt to understand the sincerely-held position of both sides in evaluating a workplace challenge.

Curiosity – We encourage critical thinking and creative problem-solving in the field of human resources.

Society – We appreciate that workplaces do not operate in a vacuum but rather within a larger community of stakeholders whose interests need to be respected (at the local, national and international levels)

HR Law Online aims to:


  • Provide an understanding of the laws and regulations that govern the field of HR
  • Promote a deeper understanding of the legislative, judicial and administrative agency context of human resources law
  • Teach the skills and knowledge necessary to identify the legal aspects of human resource issues and address those issues in an ethical manner within diverse contexts
  • Enhance awareness of when human resource legal knowledge and authority is required for problem-solving
  • Raise awareness of emerging trends and issues in human resource law (e.g., artificial intelligence; #MeToo movement)


  • Build proficiency and skills for managing workplace conflict
  • Improve communication and presentation skills
  • Facilitate peer-to-peer learning and networking opportunities with other legal professionals (including employment law attorneys)

Core Courses

Each course in HR Law Online awards three graduate-level credits, and all but the last are completed in eight weeks. The program starts in August of each year. Each year’s cohort takes four core courses that provide a strong foundation and clear understanding of HR law. After completing the core courses, students choose electives in areas for study in greater depth.

Introduction to the Legal System for Human Resources: Hiring and Firing (3 credits)

  • US Legal System
  • Job classification
  • Job selection and hiring
  • Employment contracts
  • Job termination

Wages, Hours, and Benefits (3 credits)

  • Fair Labor Standards Act
  • Recordkeeping
  • Employee benefits

Working Conditions (3 credits)

  • Occupational Safety and Health Act
  • Workers’ compensation laws
  • Employee handbooks and codes of conduct
  • Employee privacy
  • Labor-management relations

Anti-Discrimination Law (3 credits)

  • Federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws
  • Protected classes of employees
  • Employment discrimination enforcement mechanisms
  • Categories of employee discrimination claims
  • Selected Topics in Human Resources Law (3 credits)

Students select multiple seminars to customize their substantive focus in which they delve more deeply into one of the topics previously covered.

1. Why has Pitt Law decided to offer this new program?

Pitt Law commissioned a survey which found that the education market is relatively positive about career-type certificates in general and that understanding human resources law in particular was important to many of the respondents.  Respondents most interested in a human resources law certificate said a program ought to sharpen their skills, stimulate their desire to untangle the intricacies of HR laws and regulations, and be taught by people who are experts in their field.  Pitt Law has created such a program.

2. Who should enroll in this program?

HR Law Online is ideal for human resources professionals who want to augment their professional development by enhancing their understanding of HR laws and regulations. It is an excellent program for attorneys who wish to acquire an appreciation of the HR field, client needs, and issues. Our program is also suitable for graduates of business administration programs who wish to develop a more thorough understanding of HR law and practices, professionals interested in an exciting career change, or college graduates interested in entering the HR field.

3. How long does the program take?

HR Law Online is a 40-week online program.  The fall semester, which contains the first two courses, begins in late August ends just before the Christmas/New Year’s break.  The spring semester, containing the third course and fourth courses, begins in early January and ends in April.  In the summer semester from May to early July, students choose a number of short elective courses in their areas of interest.

4. Who are the faculty?

Our expert faculty is composed of Pitt Law professors and practicing employment law experts.

5. Are the courses also taught on campus?

No. Each course was developed specifically for an online environment. Courses are tailored to meet the needs of working professionals who enroll in this program while maintaining their full-time professional pursuits. 

While our campus is beautiful, and we welcome visitors, you will not be required to come to campus as part of the program. 

6. What resources will be available to me as a student?

You will have full access to the University of Pittsburgh library system, the Writing Center, and a host of other support services. To learn more, visit Pitt Online.

7. Do I need to be an expert with technology? Will I receive any technical training? What kind of computer equipment do I need?

While you needn’t be a technology expert to take an online class, you should have some proficiency with a computer, e-mail, downloading, saving and writing electronic documents, and navigating the Internet. Additionally, your computer will need to meet our minimum technology standards in order to access online course content. Make sure to check our technology requirements on our Support page.

As a Pitt Online student, you will have access to our online Student Orientation course, tutorials and the student handbook. Additionally, you’ll have access to our 24/7 technical resources to support any questions about the online course system and materials.

8. How much does the program cost?

HR Law Online provides 15 graduate-level credit hours for $9,500, plus $75 in fees and the cost of books. Payment of the entire tuition fee is not required at the beginning of the program.  Program costs are billed by the semester. Students should check with their employers to see if they offer tuition reimbursement for this program. 

9. How much should I expect to pay for books in this program?

Most books are available both as new and as used textbooks. Students who will buy new books can expect to spend approximately $550.00 on new books over the five courses. Students can reduce this cost by buying used books or taking advantage of book rental programs through providers like Amazon. 

10. Is financial aid available?

Unfortunately, financial aid for this program is not available through the University of Pittsburgh.

11. If I have federal student loans, will they be deferred during the time I am in HR Law Online?

Students who are enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh on a part time basis (at least six credit hours per semester) are entitled to federal student loan deferment. In the HR Law Online program, students take two 3-credit courses in the fall semester, two 3-credit courses in the spring semester, and 3 credits in the summer semester. This means that federal student loans are deferrable for the fall and spring semesters, but not for the summer semester.

12. What are the requirements for admission?

Applicants must have earned a baccalaureate degree at an accredited institution. Admissions decisions will be made based on professional experience, academic credentials, and a personal statement. In some instances, an interview (online or phone) may be requested. 

13. How much work should I expect?

There is a significant amount of work in the program because of the intensive and accelerated nature of the program. Students should plan on at least 12 hours per week for course work. However, because most of the work is self-paced, you choose when and where you do your work.

14. Do I have to be online at a specific time to complete the course work?

No. All course materials can be accessed at any time and students can work on their own schedules to complete assignments by course deadlines. However, some courses may have group projects that will require coordination among your online team members. 

15. How will my work be evaluated?

Students should expect to complete weekly assessments. Faculty provide feedback on their progress toward learning goals. Assessments can take multiple forms, such as discussion board participation, case studies, quizzes, and individual and group projects.

16. Do the credits earned in HR Law Online transfer to other University graduate programs?

Students earn 3 graduate credits from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law for each course completed in the HR Law Online program. Students interested in applying HR Law Online credits toward other graduate degrees should check with the degree program and institution of interest to determine if the credits will be accepted by that program.

17. Will I be eligible to take human resources certification examinations upon completion of the program?

Organizations such as the HR Certification Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management offer different certification examinations.  Eligibility to take these exams is based on the applicant’s level of education and work experience.


In this Section

  • Apply Now

    Apply Now

    Students and professionals who wish to enroll in the HR Law Online graduate certificate program should apply online at Pitt Online.

  • Course Descriptions

    Course Descriptions

    Explore each of the courses in the HR Law Online graduate certificate program.

  • Faculty


    The HR Law Online faculty is composed of professors at Pitt Law and expert employment law practitioners.