What’s the Difference Between the PHR and the SPHR?

What’s the Difference Between the PHR and the SPHR?


What is the PHR? 

PHR stands for Professional in Human Resources and is issued by the HR Certification Institute (HRCI). The PHR is for the HR professional who is experienced with program implementation, has a tactical or logistical orientation, is responsible for other HR professionals within the organization, and has obligations specifically to the HR department rather than the whole organization.

What is the SPHR? 

The SPHR, or Senior Professional in Human Resources designation, is also issued by the HRCI. The SPHR demonstrates your mastery of the strategic and policy-making aspects of HR management as practiced in the U.S. The credential is designed for big-picture thinkers responsible for planning rather than implementing HR policy. 

What is the Difference Between the PHR and the SPHR? 

In general, the amount of expertise and knowledge needed to achieve each certification is the fundamental distinction between PHR and SPHR. Whereas SPHR is for senior-level HR professionals with a strong emphasis on strategic HR management, PHR is for HR professionals with general knowledge and hands-on experience in all HR domains.

Frequently Asked Questions About HR Certification


What is a passing exam score with HRCI and SHRM? 

A passing score with SHRM for their SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP exams is 200. A passing score with HRCI for their aPHR, PHR, and SPHR exams is 500. Both use weighted scoring meaning that every test question is worth an unknown and different number of points for getting the correct answer. There is only one correct answer per exam question. 

What is the average HR certification exam pass rate for your course? 

Our average pass rate for our Ace the HR Exam with Workology is 95% – meaning that 95% of students who complete our course pass their exam. This includes exams for HR certifications with SHRM and HRCI including the aPHR, PHR, SPHR, SHRM-CP, and SHRM-SCP exams.

How many hours do I need to study to pass my HR certification exam? 

How many hours you need to study depends on your exam type whether it be the aPHR, PHR, SPHR, SHRM-CP, or SHRM-SCP exams. The aPHR with HRCI averages 20-40 hours of review. The PHR with HRCI averages 40-60 hours of review. The SPHR with HRCI averages 60-80 hours of review. The SHRM-CP with SHRM averages 80-100 hours of review. The SHRM-SCP with SHRM averages 80-100 hours of review.

Workology’s Ace the HR Exam program allows you to customize your review based on your unique needs!

What is the best HR certification prep course for HRCI and SHRM?

The best HR management certification preparation course depends on your needs. For example, if you are an individual looking for an on-demand HR certification exam developed by an HR professional with over 20 years of experience, Workology’s Ace the HR Exam course is a great choice for you. We recommend it because it provides a custom and comprehensive exam review for HR certification exams including the aPHR, PHR, SPHR, SHRM-CP, and SHRM-SCP exams. 

Is an HR certification worth it?

HR certification with SHRM or HRCI offers lots of benefits for HR leaders. Obtaining your HR certification will help you in increasing your income in your current role and in obtaining promotions in as little as 6 months. 

According to a study from PayScale.com, those who earn HR certification make $10,000 or more per year every year and get promoted 14% faster than their non-certified HR peers.

How much does it cost?


Exam Fee: $395

Application Fee: $100


Exam Fee: $495

Application Fee: $100

What is the passing rate? 

The PHR exam pass rate is 65% while the SPHR pass rate is 58%. Learn more about passing rates here

How many hours should I study? 

We recommend at least 12 weeks of studying 3-7 hours a week.

What study materials do you recommend for the PHR and SPHR?

Our most robust offering is our comprehensive Ace the HR Exam Suite which includes digital and on-demand resources for all types of learners who are preparing for the PHR and SPHR Exams.

When is the testing window for the PHR and SPHR?

Testing periods for the PHR exam are normally available in January, March, May, July, September, and November. It’s crucial to remember that the precise testing times and windows may change depending on the location and testing facility availability.

Testing for the SPHR is available year-round, subject to test center availability. You may schedule your exam as soon as your application is approved, however, you must take your exam within 120 days of your application approval date.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell is the founder of Workology, a digital resource that reaches more than a half million HR and workplace leaders each month and host of the Workology Podcast. Jessica lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, daughter, and an assortment of furry family members.

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