Human Resources Certification

Within the hypercompetitive business world of today, there are a number of reasons why a human resources certification matters. To begin with, one out of every two hiring managers prefer their candidates with certification. Fifty-three percent of the human resources supervisors surveyed claimed their company prefers candidates who have human resources certification, according to the HR Certification Institute’s Value of Human Resources Certification 2014 survey.

While assessing requirements for HR management jobs it’ll soon become evident that human resources certification quickly is moving from becoming preferred to becoming required. It’s a telltale indication that institutions, whether in the non-profit or for-profit industry, are seeing professional certification with a growing degree of respect.

As a matter of fact, human resources certification now is witnessed as a basic addition to any human resources professional’s resume, especially as today’s specialists in HR management face complicated challenges like a lack of skilled talent and business globalization.

The Human Resources Certification Institute commissioned an independent research organization to perform a study in 2010 which detailed the value of certification in HR. The research uncovered that:

  • Certification is the second most valued credential after a graduate degree
  • Perceptions of pro certification are much more positive than the ones of management certificate plans
  • Certification is viewed as the top opportunity for specialists who want to continue their education
  • Certification is thought to be a quality-based and highly valued credential by human resources professionals
  • Professional certification is seen by employers as a chance to advance the growth and positioning of an organization
  • Certification was the only kind of credential employers demonstrated a “high willingness” to pay for

Knowing the Value of Certification in HR

Generally, professional certification is identified as an examination-based credential which requires educational eligibility and work experience. Generally, certifying bodies supply students with examination preparation material which is created utilizing a validated and professionally developed knowledge base.

Professional recertification will require completing a professional development course and experience within the industry. Recertification is seen as valuable among HR employers and professionals, as it’ll:

  • Keep the human resources professional’s knowledge up-to-date
  • Continue education
  • Sharpen skills
  • Keep certification valid and relevant

The survey by the Human Resources Certification Institute discovered that most human resources professionals (96%) thought that certification is critical.

In addition, the survey discovered that for United States HR employers, certification in human resources:

  • Demonstrated the employee’s dedication to the human resources profession
  • Added credibility and validity to the human resources department
  • Assured that the staff member possessed up-to-date and current knowledge
  • Provided development opportunities

According to the survey, United States employees cite these benefits of certification:

  • Being viewed as more valuable to an organization
  • Having the advantage while applying for new job
  • Having the ability to show their understanding of and commitment to the human resources profession
  • Having the ability to demonstrate they are committed to continuing their education

Workers named these as personal advantages for certification:

  • To boost knowledge: 55%
  • To strengthen resume: 58%
  • To ensure human resources knowledge is current: 57%
  • To show commitment to human resources: 51%
  • To boost confidence in ability to do the job: 36%
  • To show commitment to lifelong development/learning: 39%

Employers named these as advantages for certification to the company:

  • It’ll increase an employee’s knowledge: 77%
  • It’ll ensure the employee’s human resources knowledge is current: 72%
  • It shows the employee’s dedication to human resources: 68%
  • It shows the employee’s dedication to learning: 61%
  • It is great for the organization’s reputation: 55%

Certification in Human Resources Options

There are a few organizations that are considered top-notch for HR certifications. A proper human resources education will prepare you to sit for these certifications, and their websites also provide study guides and resources.

There are numerous nationally recognized HR designations, which include:

SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management)

The Society of Human Resource Management provides these certifications:

  • SHRM-SCP (senior certified professional)
  • SHRM-CP (certified professional)


The SHRM-CP (Certified Professional) is for an HR professional who implements policies and strategies. If you are, or plan to, perform HR functions and deliver HR services, then you may need a SHRM certification for your job. With less than a bachelor’s degree, you must have served in a HR role for at least three years if you are working on a HR degree, or four years for a non-HR degree. With a bachelor’s in HR, you must have one year of HR work experience, or two years for a non-HR degree. With a master’s, you need only be in an HR role if your degree was in HR, or one year in HR with any other degree.

To sum up about the SHRM-CP, applicants might earn eligibility to take the Society of Human Resource Management certification exam in a variety of ways, even though all are based upon a mixture of experience and education. Applicants who have higher degrees must have less experience than the ones who do not have a degree.


As a senior-level designation, the SHRM-SCP requires extra expertise in human resources. The SHRM-SCP (Senior Certified Professional) is for senior HR professionals who are responsible for aligning HR goals with the organization, analyzing performance metrics and other senior-level tasks. The experience required is greater here, with a minimum of seven years of HR experience with a non-HR degree (less than a bachelor’s) ranging to three years in a HR role with a Master’s in HR.

For instance, applicants who have a human resources-associated bachelor’s degree have to have at least four years of expertise in a human resources role, whereas applicants who have an HR-associated master’s degree have to have at least three years in a human resources role to be eligible for the professional designation.

These certifications are highly regarded and so you must meet all of the criteria in order to sit for the examination and be eligible for these credentials. Recertification is also an involved process, requiring 60 continuing education credits and a renewal every three years.

The Society of Human Resource Management recognizes these HR-oriented degrees:

Graduate degrees

  • MA in HR Management
  • MS in HR
  • MA/MS in Industrial & Organizational Psychology
  • MA in Management w/ a human resources concentration

MBA w/ concentration in:

Bachelor’s degrees

  • BA/BS in HR Management
  • BA/BS in Management w/ concentration in HR
  • BA/BS in Management w/ concentration in HR
  • BA/BS in Business Administration w/ concentration in HR Management

BBA w/ emphasis in:

  • Management & Leadership
  • Organizational Development
  • Industrial Relations
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Human Resources

Associate’s degrees

  • Associate Degree – Human Resources Specialist
  • Associate Degree – Business: Human Resources Management
  • Associate Degree – Human Resources Administration

Human Resource Certificate Programs: Applicants who have less than a bachelor’s degree might finish a human resources certificate plan from an accredited organization; applicants have to complete these eight classes which cover the basics of human resources:

  • Performance Management
  • Employee Relations
  • Training & Development
  • Employment Law
  • Recruitment & Selection
  • Organizational Development
  • Compensation & Benefits
  • Principles of Human Resource Management

Both exams include the exact same content outline, even though the proportion of test questions within the categories varies between the tests:

  • Behavioral Competencies
  • Technical Knowledge
  • Strategy
  • Workplace
  • Organization
  • People

Applicants may take the exams at Prometric centers all throughout the United States. For more information, candidates may download the Society of Human Resource Management Certification handbook.

All SHRM-SCP and SHRM-CP credential holders have to earn at least sixty professional development credits within the three-year recertification span. The ones who don’t meet these criteria also may retake the exam to be recertified.

HRCI (HR Certification Institute)

The HR Certification Institute provides these professional designations:

  • California Certification for SPHR and PHR certified pros
  • HRBP (Human Resource Business Professional)
  • HRMP (Human Resource Management Professional)
  • GPHR (Global Professional in Human Resources)
  • SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources)
  • PHR (Professional in Human Resources)

Eligibility requirements differ for the aforementioned certifications, and all are based upon a mixture of experience and education. All applicants who have higher degrees must have less experience than the ones who do not hold these degrees.

Associate Professional in HR (aPHR)

This certificate is touted as the first-ever HR certification designed for professionals just beginning their HR career. No HR experience is necessary for this credential.

Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)

This is a higher-level certification requiring at least seven years of HR experience or four years plus a Master’s degree.

Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR)

A global HR professional is defined as having direct, cross-border HR responsibilities for two or more regions or countries.

Professional in Human Resources – International (PHRi)

Similar to the GPHR but only working in one international country, the PHRi must have international HR experience to be able to apply for this credential.

Senior Professional in Human Resources – International – (SPHRi)

This validates senior-level competency and mastery in HR strategy, policy development and service delivery in an international setting.

Professional in Human Resources (PHR)

Holders demonstrate mastery of the operational and technical aspects of HR management, including laws and regulations in the U.S. Not just anyone can sit for the PHR certification exam. In fact, you must meet the following criteria: Have a minimum of four years of experience in a professional-level HR position along with a high school diploma, a minimum of two years of experience in HR plus a bachelor’s degree, a minimum of one year of experience in HR plus a Master’s degree or higher.

For instance, applicants might be eligible to take the PHR exam in numerous ways:

  • Less than bachelor’s degree, plus a minimum of four years of professional-level human resources experience.
  • Bachelor’s degree, plus at least two years of professional-level human resources experience
  • Master’s degree or greater, plus at least a year of professional-level human resources experience

Exam content for the above professional designations varies:

  • PHR (Professional in Human Resources): Concentrates on the operational and technical aspects of human resources practices, regulations, and law in the United States
  • SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources): Concentrates on the policy-making and strategic aspects of human resources management within the United States
  • GPHR (Global Professional in Human Resources): Concentrates on cross-border human resources initiatives, policies, and responsibilities
  • California Certification (SPHR-CA or PHR-CA): Concentrates on regulations, law, and human resources management practices that are unique to CA
  • HRBP (Human Resource Business Professional): Concentrates on operational and technical principles inside a geographic area outside the United States
  • HRMP (Human Resource Management Professional): Concentrates on human resources policy development, strategy, and service delivery, as well as employment laws inside geographic areas outside the United States

The Human Resources Certification Institute provides numerous resources on the internet that help applicants get ready to take their certification exams, which include webinars, prep packages, and short videos. Exams are offered through Prometric testing centers all throughout the United States.

All certifications will be valid for three years and credential holders either must finish at least sixty credit hours of human resources-associated continuing education tasks within their three-year recertification span or retake the exam to earn re-certification.

Re-certification credits may be earned in these categories:

  • Professional membership
  • Leadership
  • Publishing/research
  • On-the-job expertise
  • Instruction
  • Continuing education

IPMA (International Public Management Association for HR)

The International Public Management Association for Human Resources provides the IPMA-CP (IPMA-HR Certified Professional) designation, the only credential that’s concentrated on human resources work within the public sector. The credential is made to demonstrate competency in public sector HR.

IMPA-CP certification eligibility may be accomplished by having one of these:

  • No degree, a minimum of eight years of human resources experience, which includes at least one year in public sector human resources
  • Associate’s degree, a minimum of six years of human resources experience, which includes at least one year in public sector human resources
  • Bachelor’s degree, a minimum of four years of human resources experience, which includes at least one year in public sector human resources
  • Graduate-level degree, a minimum of two years of human resources experience, and a minimum of one year of public sector human resources experience

Qualified candidates are going to receive an examination password, ID, and website to take the exam on the internet.

Why should I get a certification in HR?

With the complicated application process and the fear of taking an exam every three years, many hopeful HR professionals wonder if they really need a certification to work in human resources. While the obvious reasons are that some employers require certifications to apply for or work in certain positions or departments, there are other reasons to get an HR certification that are not as clear-cut. Here are some of the reasons touted by professionals who work in the field:

  1. More powerful resume
  2. Personal satisfaction
  3. Differentiation from other, non-certified HR professionals
  4. Increases chances of getting a job internally or elsewhere
  5. Gain respect from superiors and colleagues
  6. Increases earning potential
  7. Greater impact on organizational success
  8. Helps them be more successful in their role in HR
  9. Proves worth and value to employer

How do I prepare for certification?

The clearest path into a human resources career is still a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources, an internship working in an HR department, and then transitioning to a paid role upon graduation. However, a lot of people who want to work in HR don’t have that sort of linear path.

If you are just starting your search for a bachelor’s degree, and you already know you want to work in HR, then go for a Bachelor in Human Resources. If you already have a bachelor’s in another field, all is not lost. You can earn a Master’s in Human Resources or a Master of Business Administration – Human Resources (MBA-HR) and follow a similar path.

But what if your educational and career path took you a different way for a while? Then, you can enroll in a certificate program, which are available at most major universities. There, you will earn an academic certificate, which is different than a certification. A certificate will provide you with another credential showing that you are serious about the field of HR, and it will often prepare you for one of the most common HR certifications. It should be noted that you will still have to apply for and sit for a certification exam, even if you have a certificate from a university in human resources.

Aside from earning an academic certificate, all of the major certification bodies have their own trainings, study guides and practice tests. You can also find lots of training and study help online.

Earning a human resources certification is almost like a rite of passage for today’s HR professionals. In the growing and changing world of human resources and the continued focus on people management, you can expect more and more to be required of those who take up these roles. Enjoy your new and exciting career in this fast-growing field with lots of opportunity for growth and learning.