I had been in Human Resources for just a few years when my Should-have-been-my-mentor friend told me about HR certification. At the time, HRCI was the only game in town for HR certification and you had 3 choices: PHR, SPHR or GPHR. I was fairly new to the HR field so I went for the PHR (just barely qualified). I took a review course offered at the local university and passed!! I was one of the few in my office that had the certification and my boss made a big deal out of it. Since that time, HRCI has expanded their certifications and now offer 7 different certifications.
In 2014, SHRM introduced their own certification. There was lots of talk (and there still is) about the need for another certification. SHRM offered those certified by HRCI the ability to cross-walk to the equivalent SHRM certification for free in 2015, so I did take advantage of that and now hold both a PHR and SHRM-CP. I’ve had my PHR for 12 years and have no plans to give it up – just re-certified in August. My SHRM-CP is up in 2018 and I am currently debating to continue it, let it lapse or upgrade to the SHRM-SCP. SHRM currently offers 2 levels of certification: SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP (senior).
I’m also getting ready to lead a certification preparation course for our local SHRM chapter, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to familiarize myself with the different certifications available. This will simply be the different certifications each group offers. Which is right for you? Well, that’s up to you and hopefully knowing a little about each one, without “commentary,” will help you.
HR Certification Institution
HRCI has been in the HR certification business for over 40 years. They are an independent non-profit organization and work with businesses and organizations worldwide to offer certification and re-certification opportunities for their certified members.
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Credits can be earned through attending conferences and seminars to volunteering and contributing resources to the advancement of the HR profession. HRCI certification is good for 3 years. You can track your activities through the HRCI website and submit for re-certification through the same tracking page.
HRCI no longer has a testing window and eligible professionals can test at their convenience once they have applied and received approval for testing. Exam approval is valid for 180 days.
HRCI offers 7 different certifications:
The Associate Professional in HR is for the brand new professional with no extensive HR experience. The minimum requirement is a high school diploma. You would need to have some knowledge, but you may be able to get it from college course work or through the review materials.
The Professional in HR is for the mid-level professional who knows the technical and operational side of human resources. This professional has worked in the field for a few years and is familiar with laws and regulations (federal and state) that affect the work in the department.
Minimum qualifications to sit for the PHR exam:
- 1 year of professional level HR experience and a Master’s degree or higher
- 2 years of professional level HR experience and a Bachelor’s degree
- 4 years of professional level HR experience and a high school diploma
Wait, what is Professional level HR experience?? HRCI has a list of approved job titles, however, they also include this definition:
A professional HR position refers to an individual explicitly engaged and qualified within various aspects of the HR practice. Your level of actual work, experience and responsibilities make you accountable for day-to-day HR activities, practices and deliverables. To be considered “professional-level,” an HR position must include:
- The ability to use independent judgment and discretion in performing work duties.
- A level of specialized knowledge in the HR field with some authority for decision-making.
- In-depth work requirements, such as data gathering, analysis and interpretation.
- Interaction with a broad range of individuals, including key personnel.
- Individual accountability for results.
This definition is used in the remainder of their certification qualifications.
The Professional in HR – California is for the mid-level professional who has mastered the HR laws, regulations and practices specific to the unique laws in California. The PHRca is for professionals who either practice in California or are responsible for human resource management in California. You do not have to be located in California to earn a PHRca. Minimum qualifications are the same as for the PHR exam.
The Senior Professional in HR is, just as it sounds like, for the more senior HR professional who is responsible for strategic planning for not just the HR department, but the overall organization. These professionals will be familiar with the business as a whole and are able to think about how the HR processes affect the rest of the business. At this level, the practitioner is thinking about how HR fits into the organizational goals and how HR can help the organization achieve those goals.
Qualifications for the SPHR are the same as PHR, except you need 3 additional years of experience for each degree level.
The Global Professional in HR is for those HR professionals with experience in more than one country including strategies of globalization development of HR policies and initiatives that support organizational global growth.
Minimum qualifications for the GPHR:
- 2 years of experience in a global professional-level HR position and a Master’s degree or higher
- 3 years of experience in a global professional-level HR position and a Bachelor’s degree
- 4 years of experience in a global professional-level HR position and a high school diploma
Global HR experience is defined as having direct, cross-border HR responsibilities for two or more countries or regions.
PHRi and SPHRi
HRCI also has 2 certifications for professionals who work outside of the United States. The PHRi and SPHRi are just like their PHR and SPHR counterparts, the only difference that the experience is from a single international setting. So, if you work in the US, you would sit for the PHR or SPHR and if you are outside the US, the PHRi or SPHRi.
SHRM has served the HR profession for over 65 years. They are a non-profit organization, offering a variety of opportunities for the HR professional to learn and connect. SHRM uses their Body of Knowledge (BoCK) as the foundation for the certifications; the eligibility requirements, review materials and test are all built from the BoCK.
Credits can be earned through attending conferences and seminars to volunteering and contributing resources to the advancement of the HR profession. The SHRM certification is good for 3 years. You are able to track your activities online or through their app. Some SHRM sponsored events will automatically add your activities to your tracker.
SHRM offers 2 application and 2 exam windows each year. Their site will have the most recent information for application and exam deadlines.
The SHRM-Certified Professional is for the mid-level practitioner who implements policies and strategies, serves as a point of contact for staff and stakeholders, deliver HR services, and perform operational HR functions.
When determining eligibility, SHRM does give additional credit for a degree in an HR-related program. There are a few ways for a degree to be HR related and you can find them here.
Minimum qualifications for the SHRM-CP:
- HR related graduate degree and in first year of HR role
- Non-HR related graduate degree and 1 year of experience in an HR role
- HR related bachelor’s degree and 1 year of experience in an HR role
- Non-HR related bachelor’s degree and 2 years of experience in an HR role
- HR related less than a bachelor’s degree and 3 years of experience in an HR role
- Non-HR related less than a bachelor’s degree and 4 years of experience in an HR role
Wait, what on earth does Less than a Bachelor’s Degree mean?? Well, it’s less complex than it sounds: anything that comes after a high school diploma/GED and before an earned Bachelor’s degree.
And, how does SHRM define HR role? It’s HR-related experience that relates to work in any of the 15 functional areas of HR knowledge which comprise the technical competency HR Expertise, identified in the SHRM BoCK.
The SHRM-Senior Certified Professional is, again, for that Senior level practitioner who is developing strategies, leading the HR function, fostering influence in the community, analyzing performance metrics, and aligning HR strategies to organizational goals. The senior professional is looking at the organization as a whole, thinking about how HR fits into the organizational goals and how HR can help the organization achieve those goals.
Qualifications for the SHRM-SCP are the same as SHRM-CP, except you need 3 additional years of experience for each degree level.