What is Human Resources Certification?

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What is Human Resources Certification?

Professional certifications are a valuable way to demonstrate knowledge, qualification, achievement, and commitment to your profession. There are several certifications that apply to human resources, with the two most common being PHR and SPHR certification.

PHR and SPHR Certifications

Overview of Certifications

The PHR and SPHR certifications are HR certifications that are awarded by the Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) to individuals who meet the eligibility requirements and pass the certification exam.  HR certification signifies that an individual is both knowledgeable and experienced in the field of human resources. A professional certification in HR is different than a certificate program in that certification requires specific experience and education, requires recertification, and allows an individual to add the letters of the certification after their name.

The Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification demonstrates that an individual has mastered technical and operational aspects of human resources practices, laws, and regulations. This credential is for individuals who focus on program implementation, have responsibilities that focus on the HR department rather than the whole organization, have a tactical orientation, and are accountable to another HR professional within the organization.

The Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification is designed for individuals with a higher level of experience and responsibilities than the PHR certification. SPHR certification demonstrates that an individual has mastered strategic and policy-making aspects of HR management. This certification is for individuals who plan HR policy, focus on the whole organization, have depth and breath of knowledge in all HR disciplines, and have ultimate accountability in the HR department.

Advantages of Having PHR or SPHR Certification

According to HRCI, one out of two recruiters prefer applicants with an HR Certification. By having a PHR or SPHR certification, an HR professional will stand out among other applicants and potentially receive preference over applicants without certification. Certification also shows commitment to and knowledge of the field.

More than 130,000 HR professionals around the world are certified and by becoming certified, an individual becomes connected to this network of professionals. Out of the 130,000 certified HR professionals, 8% hold positions of VP and above, 21% are directors, 33% are managers, and 38% are in specialist roles.

How to Attain PHR and SPHR Certification

In order to qualify for the PHR certification test, an individual must meet a few requirements. They must have a minimum of 1 year experience in an exempt HR position with a Master's degree or higher, have a minimum or 2 years of experience in an exempt HR position with a Bachelor's degree, or have a minimum of 4 years of experience in an exempt HR position with a high school diploma.

If the eligibility requirements are met, the individual must create an online profile on the HRCI website, complete the application, and pay $400 in order to take the certification test. All individuals must pass the PHR or SPHR exam in order to attain certification.

Other HR-Related Certifications

Though much less common than the PHR and SPHR certifications, there are a few other reputable certifications for HR professionals.

Global HR Certification

The Global Professional of Human Resources (GPHR) is a certification designed for the global HR professional. This credential is for individuals with HR responsibilities in globalization strategies, development of global HR policies and initiatives, and creation of programs and processes that achieve global business goals. This certification is achieved by meeting certain experience requirements as well as passing an exam.

Compensation and Benefits Certifications

WorldatWork is an association for human resources management professionals and offers several certifications, including the following:

  • Certified Compensation Professional (CCP)
  • Certified Benefits Professional (CBP)
  • Global Remuneration Professional (GRP)
  • Certified Executive Compensation Professional (CECP)

CCP, the most common of the certifications offered by WorldatWork, demonstrates that an individual possesses the essential knowledge about integrating compensation programs with business strategy, designing and administering base and variable pay programs, complying with legal and regulatory requirements, and effectively communicating compensation information. This certification is for individuals who are responsible for their organization’s base pay and incentive compensa­tion programs. This certification is achieved by earning a passing score on nine examinations through WorldatWork.

CBP demonstrates that an individual possesses essential knowledge about integrating benefits programs with business strategy, designing and administering benefit plans, complying with legal and regulatory requirements, outsourcing and working with benefits service partners, and communicating benefits information. This certification is for individuals who are responsible for reviewing, designing and implementing the organization’s practices, policies, and programs that support efforts to help employees achieve success at both work and home. It is achieved by earning a passing score on seven examinations through WorldatWork.

GRP demonstrates that an individual possesses essential knowledge about integrating global reward programs with business strategy, designing and administering base and variable pay programs, managing  the impact of globalization and regional influences on the design and delivery of global reward programs, and communicating total rewards program information. This certification is for individuals who are responsible for their multina­tional organization’s compensation/remuneration programs. It is achieved by earning a passing score on eight examinations through WorldatWork.

CECP demonstrates that an individual possesses the knowledge, experience and critical skills to design, evaluate, implement and manage effective executive compensation programs. This certification is for individuals who are involved in multiple aspects of executive compensation. It is achieved by passing a comprehensive exam based on experience in the field of executive compensation and the overall executive compensation body of knowledge through WorldatWork.

Training and Development Certification

The American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) is an association dedicated to the training and development profession. ASTD offers the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) which is a certification focused on training and development.

CPLP is a broad-based certification and addresses nine areas of expertise as defined by the ASTD Competency Model. CPLP is for professionals in the training and development field who have a minimum of three years related work experience, though five years and higher is preferable. This certification is achieved by passing both a knowledge exam and a work product assessment through ASTD.


Certifications in HR can be highly beneficial to an HR professional's career as they help establish credibility, enhance knowledge, and show a commitment to continuing education and development in the profession. While the PHR and SPHR certifications are the most popular, other certifications such as the ones described above, can also be extremely valuable for certain specialists in HR. 

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