5 Things to HR Professionals Should Know About #HR Certification

This blog is part of a special series providing insights into HR certification. Look for a follow up article discussing HR certification options for our profession. 

There isn’t much debate anymore about the value of HR certification, but there is some confusion about which certification organization to choose. Here’s my perspective as a 30-year HR practitioner and educator.

What is the Benefit of Human Resources Certification?

The top benefit our cert prep program students say they get from certification – specifically, designations from HR Certification Institute (HRCI) – is as a resume sorter. They know their resumes will rise to the top of the pile with HRCI credentials.

Also, our students say they gain new skills and enhanced professional confidence from the process. You set yourself apart from your peers. You’re able to walk into a room with a swagger, knowing that you are an HR expert. Whichever certification you pursue, you’ll stretch yourself and expand your skills and knowledge. Guaranteed!

Should I Pursue HRCI or SHRM Certifications?

HRCI, hands down. I’m a proud 30-year SHRM member, have served on SHRM state boards and held chapter presidencies but I’m not in agreement with national on their new certifications. I’ve maintained my HRCI certifications — SPHR, GPHR, SPHRi, PHRi — for nearly three decades and recently passed the SHRM-SCP exam.

HRCI certifications have been and remain the gold standard, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.  Bottom line, you can get both, but I don’t think that’s necessary. I’m advising candidates to stick with HRCI for the foreseeable future. Currently, only HRCI credentials are accredited by the NCCA.

Which HR Certification Is Better in the Eyes of Employers?

Our studies find that over 50 percent of online HR job ads require or prefer certification. And HRCI certifications are preferred 4-to-1. For manager-level HR job listings, almost 80 percent require or prefer certification, and far more specify a preference or requirement for HRCI certifications.

It makes sense. Most employment managers already hold HRCI credentials. They want to recruit people with credentials they respect. They know just how challenging HRCI certifications are to earn.

How Do I Pass These Very Challenging Exams?  I’m a Terrible Test Taker. How Do I Fix That?

This is by far the question I’m asked the most. The exams are challenging, so you need to prepare.

Take a test prep class, if possible. Get preparation materials that match your learning style. Take practice tests. Most of us are trained to read a massive book to prepare for tests, but that’s not the way professional body of knowledge tests are structured. Situational problem solving is required, so you need to use critical thinking to answer the questions.

Am I Eligible to Earn an HRCI Certification?

Prior to the introduction of HRCI’s aPHR exam, a large percentage of HR pros who decided to pursue certification ended up being ineligible. With the addition of the aPHR, as long as you have a high school degree or equivalent, you will qualify.

The aPHR is really catching on. Colleges and universities are considering replacing their HR 101 programs with aPHR programs. Interest is high among retiring military, HR pros transitioning to civilian careers, as well as military looking to advance their careers while continuing to serve. Additionally, the aPHR is an entry-level portal for people just out of school looking to advance their careers and for younger and older folks alike looking to make a change into the HR field.

For more seasoned HR professionals, HRCI offers seven certifications for mid-to-senior level professionals no matter where in the world they practice.

We live in a world where professional credentials in any profession is expected and often required. Holding a certification from HRCI is tantamount to having the wind at your back in terms of your career.

This blog is part of a special series providing insights into HR certification. Look for a follow up article discussing HR certification options for our profession. Click here to connect to HR re-certification webinars and webcast resources. You can also read more about the 40+ different HR certification offerings

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    David Siler

    Reader Interactions


    1. John Jorgensen says

      a quick question, did you take and pass the full SHRM-SCP exam or just take the Pathway tutorial? Also, the SHRM certifications are not yet accredited as it is approximately a 2 year process and SHRM’s haven’t been out that long. They should be accredited around the end of 2016 or shortly thereafter. The newest certification from HRCI is not yet accredited as it has to go through the same process.

    2. Glenn Camp, SPHR says

      How do you stop others from claiming SPRH or other certifications when they don’t have it? I was recently replaced by someone claiming to have the SPHR certification, SHRM-CP certification and a degree in Human Resources Management. The last two items I have verified that he did not have. However, I ran up against a stone wall trying to verify the SPHR certification with the HRCI. Why bother with the time and expense to get a certification if anyone can claim it and not have it challenged (he claimed he was too modest to use it on his signature block, business cards, etc.)? I’m sure it will come up in the depositions.

      • Jessica Miller-Merrell says

        Hi Glenn,

        Employers can confirm verification by contacting SHRM or HRCI websites to see if the certification is current and active. I do believe the certification is an important part for HR professionals to demonstrate their expertise, but it’s up to the employer to make sure they are verifying active credentials. As someone who has certification, it is important to me to maintain my certification as it keeps me current on changes to employment law, HR best practices and industry standards. I hope this helps answer your question.



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