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HR Certifications: How to Choose the Best Ones

Human resources professionals are the glue that keeps many companies together. There are several HR certifications available, but which should you choose?

Aspiring HR professionals can select from a PHR, SPHR, GPHR, SHRM, CHRP, or CPLP certification. Each exam focuses on different areas of human resources and can be valuable at different points of your career.

We know we just threw a ton of abbreviations at you, many of which you may not recognize. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know what each of these certifications requires so you can prepare for the next step in your future career!

Which Certification Is Best for HR?

As promised, let’s dive right into what these various certs entail so you can determine which is the best HR certification for you.

Professional in Human Resources (PHR)

The first certification you might consider for your aspiring career is the Professional in Human Resources or PHR certification.

According to certifying body the HR Certificate Institute or HRCI, 39 percent of the PHR exam covers labor and employee relations.

Another 20 percent is dedicated to business management, 16 percent covers talent acquisition and planning, 15 percent is about total rewards, and 10 percent of the exam covers learning and development.

To be eligible to take the PHR exam, you must have four or more years of experience in a professional HR role. If you have a bachelor’s degree, then you only need two years of professional experience.

Those with a master’s degree can have a year of professional HR experience and are eligible to take the exam.

Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)

Those who have spent many years as an HR professional should look into taking their careers to the next level with the Senior Professional in Human Resources certification.

The SPHR exam covers areas such as workforce planning, workforce employment, labor relations, human resource development, risk management, business strategy, compensation benefits programs, and employee relations.

You need between four and seven years of professional HR experience to be eligible to take the exam. Earned degrees lessen the amount of experience required to take the exam.

Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR)

Take your HR career anywhere with a Global Professional in Human Resources certification. You’d prove your proficiency in human resources on a multinational level in areas such as global HR initiatives and policies.

The eligibility requirements are two to four years of professional HR experience. Two years are allowed with an earned master’s degree and three years of experience is allowed with a bachelor’s degree.

The exam requires you to answer 100 questions, which roughly takes two hours and 15 minutes.

Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

The Society for Human Resource Management or SHRM is both a certifying body and a certification you can earn.

You have your pick between the SHRM Certified Professional or SHRM-CP and the SHRM Senior Certified Professional or the SHRM-SCP.

The SHRM-CP exam includes 134 questions in total. The questions are split into topics of situational judgment and HR knowledge. The test roughly takes four hours to complete.

You don’t need previous HR job experience or an HR degree to take the SHRM-CP exam.

The SHRM-SCP exam also has 134 questions and lasts four hours. You must have accumulated 1,000 working hours over a calendar year to be eligible to take the exam.

Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP)

The Certified Human Resources Professional certification tests your knowledge across 175 multiple-choice questions. Eligibility for the CHRP exam also requires membership in the Human Resources Professionals Association or HRPA.

Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP)

The Association for Talent Development or ATD offers the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance certification. There is a fee to join the ATD and take the CPLP exam.

Another factor of eligibility is that you must have between four and five years of professional HR work experience.

How Hard is an HR Exam?

You’ve read through the descriptions as well as the eligibility requirements of the above HR certifications and you believe you found the one you wish to start with.

Is an HR certifying exam considered difficult? If so, how hard is it?

That question in and of itself is hard to answer as it depends on several factors. They are which of the certifying exams you’re taking, how much you’ve prepared and studied, and how much HR experience you already have.

If you’re brand-new to the world of HR, then yes, you will feel overwhelmed by the amount of material you’re expected to master before taking the test.

Those who have enrolled in a college or university will find themselves better prepared. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about much of the material that will be covered on the exam.

Plus, some online HR certificate programs even offer you the opportunity to take an HR certification exam without having to pay for it.

Outside of your courses, you should also spend some of your personal time studying. Some certifying organizations might offer practice tests, which you should take advantage of if they’re available to you.

Although the test questions won’t be exactly the same as those that appear on your certification exam, you can get a better feel for what kinds of information you will be tested on.

Go to bed early the night before your exam so you’re well-rested and eat a nutritious breakfast in the morning.

Above all, stay calm. Even if you don’t pass your HR certifying exam the first time around, you can always retake it.

You will have to pay for all future attempts to retake the exam, but it’s not a one-and-done by any stretch.

Is an HR Certificate Valuable?

Between the hours upon hours spent studying, the expense to take the exam, and then the agonizing wait to determine if you passed or failed, you might wonder if an HR certification is really that valuable.

To that, we say yes, absolutely! Here are some of the perks that only professional HR certificate holders can enjoy.

Makes You More Appealing to Hiring Managers

It’s every job seeker’s dream to walk into an interview and wow the hiring manager.

When you’re just starting your career, you might not have that many aces up your sleeve that you can use to differentiate yourself.

Having an HR certification is certainly one of them and arguably the biggest at this stage of your professional HR career.

You’re showing every hiring manager you meet (which hopefully will not be many) that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to prove that you’re passionate, proficient, and ready to change a company for the better by fulfilling an HR role.

Can Lead to Higher Pay

According to an insights piece by salary resource Payscale, while the amount varies, HR-certified professionals generally out-earn their fellow peers who don’t hold any certifications.

Certifications Are Becoming More Useful

Payscale also noted that, within the last decade, the value of a certification in human resources has only gone up. This correlates with the above point, that HR professionals with at least one certification earn more money.

Allows You to Climb the Career Ladder

Stagnating in one’s career can be a worrisome thought. You want to be able to keep expanding upon your job responsibilities, taking on new titles, and earning more pay as you climb the corporate ladder.

Having an HR certification unlocks the door that allows you to do that. As you begin earning more senior-level certs that correspond with your level of experience, more opportunities for advancement should come your way.

Ready to Begin?

If you’re ready to begin building towards your future in HR, Bryan University could be just the online college to help.

We offer an Associate Degree in Human Resources Management program that can kickstart your HR knowledge so you’re readier for the certifying exam.

You’ll learn about HR topics such as critical thinking, communications, teamwork, financial statements and accounting, management and leadership, and employee relations.

You’ll work in Microsoft Office, utilizing the same workplace technologies that real HR pros use every single day.

Further, you’ll become well-versed in employee benefits, payroll, and compensation as well as employee development and training, performance management, and human resources management.

Your time in the Associate Degree in Human Resources Management program through Bryan U includes one certifying exam attempt for the Associate Professional in Human Resources or aPHR exam through the HRCI.

Your tuition covers all courseware, books, and learning technology, making learning a cost-effective choice for your future!

Learn more about Bryan University’s Associate Degree in Human Resources Management program today!

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