Why Are HR Certifications Important?

Jun 23, 2015

Why Are HR Certifications Important?

You do not need any certifications to work in the field of human resources (HR). However, if you browse through HR job postings, it is not uncommon to see requirements for PHR, SPHR, GPHR, PHR-CA/SPHR-CA, HRBP, HRMP, SHRM-CP, or SHRM-SCP. So what do all of these initialisms mean? Essentially, any of these certifications demonstrates mastery of the technical and operational aspects of HR practices, laws, and regulations. But is certification really worth your time and money?

The simple answer is yes. If you do not have any certification and you are seeking employment in human resources, chances are you are competing in a job market with people who are certified. Many applicant tracking systems will even automatically disqualify you if you lack any certification. Human resources certification demonstrates that the individual is committed to the profession and is competent in the field. In the eyes of employers, those individuals are more valuable employees.

Valued employees make more money. HR professionals who are certified make substantially more money than their noncertified counterparts. While the difference is less noticeable in lower levels, the gap becomes more significant in senior-level positions. According to Payscale, a popular salary, benefits, and compensation information company, a certified HR Generalist makes $50,700 compared to the same noncertified employee at $43,700.

Certified HR professionals are also more likely to be promoted. Let's continue examining Payscale's data for the HR Generalist position—with a certification, 48 percent receive a promotion within 5 years, whereas only 30 percent of noncertified individuals receive a promotion.

No matter which certification option you choose to pursue, realize that there are certain eligibility requirements for each. Education and years of experience are factors. This guide to the Best HR Training Providers can help you get started. 

Although adding professional credentials to your resumé may be well worth your effort down the line, achieving certification is not without sacrifices. Expect to spend money on study materials and perhaps a prep course, as well as the actual certification test itself. Also expect to invest your time in studying. If you aim to successfully pass your certification test on your first attempt, your weekends for several months will probably be dedicated to reading material in different study modules and taking practice tests. And if you fail your test, your subsequent attempts are not free.

The HR Certification Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management are the two main certificate-granting entities in the field of human resources.

The HR Certification Institute (HRCI) was established in 1976 and is an internationally recognized, independent certifying organization for the HR profession. Today, more than 145,000 HR professionals in 100 countries maintain the HR Certification Institute's credentials as a mark of professional distinction.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) was founded in 1948 and represents more than 275,000 members in more than 160 countries. SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China, India, and United Arab Emirates.

Consider your plans for your career in human resources. If you want to work in a large company or in a big city, or if you plan to become an HR consultant or participate regularly at human resources conferences, HR certification is a must. However, in smaller cities and in most small-sized businesses, certification may be less relevant. The option of certification is yours, but the benefits of being certified are real. You can be an expert in your field and, more than likely, you will be recognized and rewarded for your efforts.

Here are the complete names of the certification above:

  • GPHR = Global Professional in Human Resources
  • HRBP = Human Resource Business Professional
  • HRMP = Human Resource Management Professional
  • PHR = Professional in Human Resources
  • PHR-CA = PHR California Designation
  • SHRM-CP = Society for Human Resource Management-Certified Professional
  • SHRM-SCP = Society for Human Resource Management-Senior Certified Professional
  • SPHR = Senior Professional in Human Resources
  • SPHR-CA = SPHR California Designation

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