HR Certification Guide: Untangling the Web

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The HR certification landscape is now complex, political and often times confusing for practitioners.  Just last week HRCI announced their new aPHR certification for entry level or college student professionals. I can’t imagine what newbies feel like as they begin researching HR certification programs and testing. Some practitioners also feel forced to take sides with either HRCI or SHRM showing their support for organization or the other by recertifying with only one organization. Politics aside (I consider myself Switzerland here), the addition of yet another certification has left me wondering how many HR and human resource certifications are there exactly?

HRCI and SHRM Certification Program History

Beginning in 2014, SHRM and HRCI took two different paths for human resources certification. Prior to 2014, HRCI shared offices with SHRM and Hank Jackson was on HRCI’s board of directors. HRCI was fully embedded into every SHRM until the big announcement around their split. Practitioners received their HR certification through HRCI while preparing for the test using the SHRM learning system. The HRCI and SHRM was branded as the same entity which lent to the confusion that many consider SHRM and HRCI to be the same company. (Click here to read a collection of resources and information on the conscious uncoupling.) SHRM’s new certification program took a competency based approach while HRCI offers a mastery of principles. Both offer exams, learning systems, training programs and recertification to maintain the HR professional designation of your choosing.

The HRCI and SHRM certification programs are now two separate entities offering two different paths to HR certification. Personally, I am choosing to stay certified with HRCI as a Senior Professional of Human Resources (SPHR) as well as certified with SHRM as a Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP). This site also chooses to serve as an approved provider for both HRCI and SHRM programs. Our webinars on demand have over 50 podcasts, webcasts and webinars available for HRCI and SHRM recertification credits.

Untangling the HR Certification Web: 40+ HR Certification Designations

For folks who are new to HR, graduated or researching the possibility of HR certification, it’s easy to get confused. There are over 40 HR certification programs to choose from. We’re untangling the HR Certification web first with HRCI and SHRM certifications as well as some additional HR certification offerings you might not be aware of.

SHRM Certification Programs

  • SHRM-CP. Certified Professional certification program is designed for experienced HR practitioners who are engaged primarily in an operational role—implementing policies, serving as the HR point of contact for staff and stakeholders, and/or performing day-to-day HR functions. This certification requires a minimum of 4 years of experience with less than a bachelor’s degree, OR 2 years of experience with a Bachelor’s degree OR 1 year of experience with a Master’s degree. All listed degree requirements are for non-HR related degree fields. HR degree programs reduce the experience requirement by one year for those with HR degrees.
  • SHRM-SCP. Senior Certified Professional certification program is designed for senior HR practitioners who SHRM operate primarily in a strategic role and are developing policies and strategies, overseeing the execution of HR operations, analyzing performance metrics, and/or contributing to the alignment of HR strategies to organizational goals. This certificate requires a minimum of 7 years of experience with less than a bachelor’s degree, OR 5 years of minimum experience with a Bachelor’s degree OR a minimum of 4 years of experience with a Master’s degree. All listed degree requirements are for non-HR related degree fields. HR degree programs reduce the experience requirement by one year for those with HR degrees.

Both certifications have designated testing windows two times a year. You can click here to apply for either SHRM certification exam.

HRCI Certification Programs

United States Based

  • aPHR. Associate Professional Human Resources Certification. This certification is an early degree certification for those without the required exempt level work experience or education as required in the other HRCI offered certification programs but are interested in HR.
  • PHR. Professional Human Resource Certification.This certification demonstrates mastery of the technical and operational aspects of HR practices and U.S. laws and regulations. This certificate requires a minimum of 1 year of experience in a professional-level HR position with a Master’s degree or higher, OR 2 years of experience in a professional-level HR position with a Bachelor’s degree, OR4  years of experience in a professional-level HR position with a high school diploma.
  • SPHR- CA. Senior Professional Human Resources Certification – California. This certification is recognized as a professionally relevant credential for those who have mastered the strategic and policy-making aspects of HR management in the United States with a focus on California law and regulations as part of the exam. This certification requires a minimum of 4 years of experience in a professional-level HR position with a Master’s degree or higher, OR 5 years of experience in a professional-level HR position with a Bachelor’s degree, OR 7 years of experience in a professional-level HR position with a high school diploma.
  • PHR-CA. Professional Human Resources Certification – California. This certification is demonstrates mastery of the technical and operational aspects of HR practices and U.S. laws and regulations but focuses on California law and regulations as part of the exam. This certificate requires a minimum of 1 year of experience in a professional-level HR position with a Master’s degree or higher, OR 2 years of experience in a professional-level HR position with a Bachelor’s degree, OR 4 years of experience in a professional-level HR position with a high school diploma.

Global Based

  • SPHR. Senior Professional Human Resource Certification. This certification certification is recognized as a professionally relevant credential for those who have mastered the strategic and policy-making aspects of HR management in the United States. This certification requires a minimum of 4 years of experience in a professional-level HR position with a Master’s degree or higher, OR 5 years of experience in a professional-level HR position with a Bachelor’s degree, OR 7 years of experience in a professional-level HR position with a high school diploma.
  • GPHR. Global Professional Human Resources Certification. This certification is a global, competency-based credential that is designed to validate the skills and knowledge of an HR professional who operates in a global marketplace. This certification requires of 2 years of global experience in a professional-level HR position with a Master’s degree or higher, OR 3 years of experience (with 2 of the 3 being global HR experience) in a professional-level HR position with a Bachelor’s degree, OR 4 years of experience (with 2 of the 4 being global HR experience) in a professional-level HR position with less than a Bachelor’s degree.
  • HRBP. Human Resources Business Professional. This certification is a global, competency-based credential that is designed to validate professional-level core HR knowledge and skills. The credential demonstrates mastery of generally accepted technical and operational HR principles. A minimum of 2 years of professional-level experience in an HR position with a Bachelor’s degree or global equivalent, OR Minimum eligibility  1 year of professional-level experience in an HR position with a Master’s degree or global equivalent OR four years of practitioner experience are also eligible to take the exam. (Note: This is being renamed PHRi beginning February 1, 2016) 
  • HRMP. Human Resources Management Professional. This certification is a more senior level global, competency-based credential that is designed to validate professional-level core HR knowledge and skills than the HRBP. A minimum of 4 years of professional-level experience in an HR position with a Master’s degree or global equivalent, OR 5 years of professional-level experience in an HR position with a Bachelor’s degree or global equivalent, OR 7 years of professional-level experience in an HR position with a high school diploma or global equivalent. (Note: This is being renamed SPHRi beginning February 1, 2016) 

All certifications have designated testing windows two times a year. You can click here to apply for all of the HRCI certification exams.

Other HR & Recruiting Certification Programs

It’s important to note that SHRM and HRCI are not the only HR certification games in town. There are a number of additional programs that also offer learning, resources and information when it comes to human resources. A number of the certification programs are specific to certain very complex human resources sub-categories.

  • ATD Certification. Called the CPLP or Certified Professional in Learning and Performance this certification program takes a year to complete and combines a competency exam and work project that you will present. This certification requires 5 years of related work experience or equivalent. Click here to learn more.
  • HR.com HR Certification. Called IHR Certification or the Institute for Human Resources focuses on niche markets and specializes in domain experience across several HR verticals. Ten credits must be obtained through watching of webcasts in order to be eligible to sit for their 40 question exam. Up to 18 verticals. No education or work experience requirements. Click here to learn more.
  • International Association of Employee Benefit Plans Certification. The CEBS (Certified Employee Benefits specialist) certification program offers four highly renowned designations in the U.S. and Canada covering all aspects of benefits and compensation. They offer the CEBS (Certified Employee Benefit Specialist, GBA (Group Benefit Associate), RPA (Retirement Plans Associate) and CMS (Compensation Management Specialist. Courses offered can be online or self-study. Certification program includes an exam. Click here to check out their course catalogue.
  • World at Work Certification. The WOW Certification program offers 8 different certification programs for compensation and benefits experts to choose from. Designations include: CCP (Certified Compensation Professional), GRP (Global Renumeration Professional), ACCP (Advanced Certified Compensation Professional), MCCP (Master Certified Compensation Professional), CECP (Certified Executive Compensation Professional), CSCP (Certified Sales Compensation Professional), CBP (Certified Benefits Professional) and WLCP (Work Life Compensation Professional). Each certification includes courses both online and in person as well as an exam. Click here to learn more.
  • AIRS Recruiting Certification. AIRS certification programs focus on  passive candidate searches using all aspects of the latest recruitment strategies including internet sourcing, social sourcing, and professional networking recruiting tactics. They offer seven certification programs including CIR (Certified Internet Recruiter), ACIR (Advanced Certified Internet Recruiter), ECRE (Elite Certified Recruiting Expert), CDR (Certified Diversity Recruiter), CSSR (Certified Social Sourcing Recruiter), CSMR (Certified Social Media Recruiter), and PRC (Professional Recruiter Certification). Each certification offers a course in combination with an exam. Click here to learn more.
  • Sourcing Certification from Boolean Strings. Called CSSP (Certified People Sourcing Professional). Offers a combination of webinars, webcasts and an exam to complete your certification. Click here to learn more.
  • American Staffing Association Certification. The AMA offers four different staffing certifications including the CSP (Certified Staffing Professional), TSC (Technical Services Certified), CSC (Certified Search Consultant) and CHP (Certified Health Care Staffing Professional). Exam available 365 days a year. Online test available. More information by clicking here.

I had no idea there were over 40 HR Certification programs designation offerings, but I’m not surprised considering how broad the human resources industry actually is. What certification designation do you have or are considering?

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