Human Resource Certification

When reviewing requirements for human resource management jobs it soon becomes evident that HR certification is quickly moving from being preferred to being required. This is a telltale sign that organizations, whether in the for-profit or non-profit sector, are viewing professional certification with an increasing level of respect.

In fact, HR certification is now seen as a fundamental addition to any HR professional’s resume, particularly as today’s professionals in human resource management face complex challenges such as a lack of qualified talent and the globalization of business.

The HR Certification Institute commissioned in independent research company to conduct a study (2010) that detailed the value of professional certification in human resources. The study revealed that:

  • Professional certification is the second most valued credential after graduate degrees
  • Perceptions of professional certification are far more positive than those of management certificate programs
  • Professional certification is seen as the best opportunity for professionals looking to continue their education
  • Professional certification is considered a highly valued and quality-based credential by HR professionals
  • Professional certification is viewed by employers as an opportunity to advance the positioning and growth of the organization
  • Professional certification was the only type of credential that employers showed a “high willingness” to pay for

Understanding the Value of Professional Certification in Human Resources

Professional certification is generally identified as an exam-based credential that requires work experience and educational eligibility. Certifying bodies generally supply students with exam prep material that is created using a professionally developed and validated knowledge base.

Recertification requires the completion of professional development courses and experience in the field. Recertification is viewed as valuable among human resources professionals and employers, as it:

  • Keeps the HR professional’s knowledge current
  • Continues education
  • Sharpens skills
  • Keeps certification relevant and valid

The HR Certification Institute’s survey found that the vast majority of HR professionals (96 percent) believed that professional certification is important.

The survey also found that for U.S. human resources employers, professional certification in HR:

  • Demonstrates an employee’s commitment to the HR profession
  • Adds validity and credibility to the HR department
  • Assures that the employee possesses current and up-to-date knowledge
  • Provides opportunities for development

U.S. employees, according to the survey, cite the following advantages of professional certification:

  • Being seen as more valuable to the company
  • Having an advantage when applying for a new job
  • Being able to demonstrate their commitment and understanding of the HR profession
  • Being able to show their dedicated to continuing their education

Employees named the following as personal benefits for professional certification:

  • To increase my knowledge: 55 percent
  • To strengthen my resume: 58 percent
  • To ensure that my HR knowledge is up to date: 57 percent
  • To demonstrate my commitment to HR: 51 percent
  • To increase my confidence in my ability to do my job: 36 percent
  • To demonstrate my commitment to lifelong learning /development: 39 percent

Employers named the following as benefits for professional certification to the organization:

  • It increases the employee’s knowledge: 77 percent
  • It ensures the employee’s HR knowledge is up to date: 72 percent
  • It demonstrates the employee’s commitment to HR: 68 percent
  • It demonstrates the employee’s commitment to learning: 61 percent
  • It’s good for the reputation of the organization: 55 percent

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Options for Professional Certification in HR

There are a number of nationally recognized human resources designations, including:

Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM)

The SHRM offers the following professional certifications:

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

Applicants may earn eligibility to take the SHRM certification examination in a number of ways, although all are based on a combination of education and experience. Applicants with higher degrees are required to possess less experience than those without these degrees.

The SHRM-SCP, as a senior-level designation, requires additional experience in HR. For example, applicants with an HR-related bachelor’s degree must possess at least 4 years of experience in an HR role, while applicants with an HR-related master’s degree must possess at least 3 years in an HR role to qualify for this professional designation.

The SHRM recognizes the following HR-related degrees:

  • Graduate degrees
    • MA in Human Resource Management
    • MS in Human Resources
    • MA/MS in Industrial and Organizational Psychology
    • MA in Management with an HR concentration
    • MBA with a concentration in:
      • Human Resource Management/Organizational Leadership
      • Leadership Development with an HR concentration
      • Human Capital Development
      • Organizational Behavior
      • Labor Relations
      • Industrial Relations

  • Bachelor’s degrees
    • BA/BS in Human Resource Management
    • BA/BS in Management with a concentration in Human Resources
    • BA/BS in Management with a concentration in Human Resources
    • BA/BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resource Management
    • BBA with an emphasis in:
      • Human Resources
      • Organizational Behavior
      • Industrial Relations
      • Organizational Development
      • Management and Leadership

  • Associate’s degrees
    • Associate Degree – HR Specialist
    • Associate Degree – Business: HR Management
    • Associate Degree – HR Administration

  • HR Certificate Programs: Applicants with less than a bachelor’s degree may complete an HR certificate program from an accredited institution; applicants must complete the following eight courses that cover the fundamentals of HR:
    • Principles of Human Resource Management
    • Compensation and Benefits
    • Organizational Development
    • Recruitment and Selection
    • Employment Law
    • Training and Development
    • Employee Relations
    • Performance Management

Both examinations include the same content outline, although the proportion of test questions in the categories differs between the two tests:

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

Applicants can take the examinations at Prometric centers throughout the U.S. Candidates can download the SHRM Certification handbook for more information.

All SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP credential holders must earn at least 60 professional development credits during the 3-year recertification period. Those who do not meet this requirement may also retake the examination to become recertified.

HR Certification Institute (HRCI)

The HRCI offers the following professional designations:

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

Eligibility requirements vary for the above professional certifications, and all are based on a combination of education and experience. Applicants with higher degrees are required to possess less experience than those without these degrees. For example applicants may qualify to take the PHR examination a number of ways:

  • Master’s degree or higher and at least one year of professional-level HR experience
  • Bachelor’s degree and at least 2 years of professional-level HR experience
  • Less than a bachelor’s degree and at least 4 years of professional-level HR experience.

Examination content for each of the above professional designations differs:

  • PHR: Focuses on the technical and operational aspects of HR practices, law, and regulations in the U.S.
  • SPHR: Focuses on the strategic and policy-making aspects of HR management in the U.S.
  • GPHR: Focuses on cross-border HR responsibilities, policies, and initiatives
  • CA Certification (PHR-CA or SPHR-CA): Focuses on law, regulations, and HR management practices unique to California
  • HRBP: Focuses on technical and operational principles in a geographic region outside of the U.S.
  • HRMP: Focuses on HR strategy, policy development and service delivery, and employment laws in geographic regions outside of the U.S.
  • GPHR: Focuses on cross-border HR responsibilities, policies, and initiatives

The HR Certification Institute offers a number of online resources to help applicants prepare to take their certification examinations, including short videos, prep packages, and webinars. Examinations are administered through Prometric testing centers throughout the U.S.

All certifications are valid for 3 years and credential holders must either complete at least 60 credit hours of HR-related continuing education activities during their 3-year recertification period or take the examination again to earn recertification.

Recertification credits can be earned in the following categories:

  • Continuing education
  • Instruction
  • On-the-job experience
  • Research/publishing
  • Leadership
  • Professional membership

International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA)

The IPMA offers the IPMA-HR Certified Professional (IPMA-CP) designation, the only professional credential that is focused on HR work in the public sector. This credential is designed to show competency in public sector human resources.

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Eligibility for IPMA-CP certification can be achieved by possessing one of the following:

  • A graduate-level degree, at least 2 years of HR experience, and at least 1 year of public-sector HR experience
  • A bachelor’s degree, at least 4 years of HR experience, including at least 1 year in public-sector HR
  • An associate’s degree, at least 6 years of HR experience, including at least 1 year in public-sector HR
  • No degree, at least 8 years of HR experience, including at least 1 year in public sector HR

Eligible candidates will receive an exam website, ID, and password to take the examination online. More information on this professional credential can be found here.

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