HR Certifications: Everything You Need to Know

Are you an HR professional wondering how to advance your career and become more competitive in the job market? Or are you simply curious about what all those letters mean in an HR professional’s title? Either way, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the common types of HR certifications.

Essentially, there are two organizations that run the show when it comes to HR professional development: The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and The Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI). 

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM)

SHRM declares itself as “the voice of all things work.” They are the leading HR professional membership organization with over 300,000 members across 165 countries. There are two branches of SHRM: memberships and certifications. To be a member, you simply pay an annual fee. Members receive exclusive access to tools, resources, professional development opportunities, and local chapters. The certifications, however, are issued upon completion of knowledge and skills based exams.

There are two HR certifications issued by SHRM:

SHRM-CP (Certified Professional) is most appropriate for entry to mid-level HR professionals. Those who implement policies and strategies, perform operational HR functions, and serve as a point of contact for staff and stakeholders are best suited for this exam.

SHRM-SCP (Senior Certified Professional) is designed for senior level HR professionals with a large-scale role. This exam is suitable for those who develop strategies, lead the HR functions, and align HR strategies to organizational roles.

Both certifications last for 3 years, at which point you must recertify. Recertification requires either retaking the exam, or earning 60 professional development credits within the 3-year cycle.

For more information about SHRM certifications, exam requirements, and recertifications, click here.

Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI)

HRCI is the premier credentialing and learning organization for the human resources profession. They focus on providing learning and advancement opportunities for HR professionals, and administer a wider variety of HR certifications.

HRCI offers eight certifications:

aPHR (Associate Professional in HR) is designed for entry-level HR professionals who are just beginning their HR careers.

aPHRi (Associate Professional in HR International) offers an international perspective.

PHR (Professional in HR) is best suited for mid-level HR professionals who focus on their HR department rather than the organization as a whole, and who report to another HR professional within the organization.

PHRca (Professional in HR California) is specific to HR operations in California.

PHRi (Professional in HR International) offers an international perspective.

SPHR (Senior Professional in HR) is best suited for senior-level HR professionals who are responsible for planning, rather than implementing, HR strategy and focus on big-picture initiatives

SPHRi (Senior Professional in HR International) offers an international perspective.

GPHR (Global Professional in HR) demonstrates expertise of multinational HR responsibilities, including globalization, developing HR policies, and initiatives that support global organizational growth.

HRCI certifications are also valid for 3 years. You can recertify by retaking the exam, or earning the appropriate amount of professional development credits, depending on the certification.

For more information about HRCI certifications, exam requirements, and recertifications, click here.

HR Certifications: The Bottom Line

Whichever HR certification you choose, it will certainly distinguish you as an expert and a leader in the HR field (plus you get those fancy letters in your title!). SHRM certifications are more general, and they are universally applicable across industries and geographic borders. HRCI offers more specific certifications depending on your career level, and differentiates between local and international. The decision therefore may be a personal or organizational preference, or whichever aligns best with your career goals.

Continuing professional development is a great way to ensure you are a leader in your field, and maintain your competitive advantage as a candidate in the job market. Stay informed about our professional development resources, including webinars and top articles, by signing up for our newsletter!