Looking after day-to-day operations, managing finances, marketing, and dealing with the workforce are part and parcel of running a business.
For smaller and mid-size businesses, these responsibilities often fall on one individual or the Human Resources department. And many other tasks and responsibilities also fall under the purview of HR.
Considering HR’s impact on a business’s success, employers need reliable and capable people on the team—people with the right aptitudes, expertise, and preferably, ones with relevant HR certifications.
Human resources certifications equip HR professionals with the right skill sets and knowledge to help them do their jobs better, giving them a significant edge over their competition. Read on as we discuss the different kinds of HR certifications, along with some effective strategies and tools to help you pass the necessary exams.
Why Do Human Resources Certifications Matter?
A human resources certification is a designation that proves an HR professional has the knowledge and skills to excel at their job. People holding these certifications are more likely to know complex HR concepts and have an in-depth understanding of the different aspects of HR and their responsibilities.
Payscale found that 34.2% of all HR professionals have at least one HR certification. This means 34.2% of HR professionals already have additional skills and knowledge that makes them, and in turn, the company they represent, better at handling their daily affairs and getting better results. They are also more likely to move up the corporate ladder faster.
Therefore, when a business wants to grow, they want to hire employees with the relevant certifications and assist the existing HR team in polishing their skills by facilitating them to take the certification exams.
The HR Certification Institute (HRCI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) are the two major HR membership organizations that offer these certifications.
What Does Success Look Like?
HR certifications make HR professionals better at their jobs. When companies have talented and capable people in their HR department, the chances of achieving their business goals improve drastically.
Here are a few widely recognized benefits of a high-performing and certified HR department:
Increased Industry Knowledge
Getting complete knowledge is possibly the number-one benefit of human resources certification.
Whether you want to brush up on a skill you already possess or learn something new, your company can benefit tremendously from the technical knowledge, best practices, and industry trend data you learn from the course.
Having industry-specific knowledge makes HR professionals more credible and even opens new doors to professional opportunities.
Higher Employee Productivity
HR specialists assess employees better, which gives them a better understanding of their team’s strengths and weaknesses.
Using this knowledge, they can determine the kind of training and skills employees need to become more efficient at their jobs. In turn, employees will improve, and so will their productivity.
Greater Employee Satisfaction
As mentioned before, human resources certifications help professionals understand core HR topics better, including how to gauge employee satisfaction levels.
Certifications give HR specialists the expertise to design customized employee service, identify growth opportunities, and create an emphatic company culture to keep employees happy and flourishing. They can also determine the reasons for employee dissatisfaction and workplace conflicts and handle them effectively.
Better Budget Control
In addition to the workforce, the HR department is also responsible for budget adherence.
Using their new knowledge and expertise, HR professionals can devise ways to reduce costs associated with workplace management and cut down on unnecessary expenses. They can also decide on competitive wages and negotiate better rates for employee benefits.
Improved Company Results
Until now, we’ve discussed how HR certifications provide professionals with the skills and expertise to help them run a company better. They can assign individuals to jobs that suit them best based on their abilities and remove consistently low-performing employees.
All these factors have a cumulative (positive) effect on a company’s performance, which improves its profitability and employee turnover and assures long-term survival.
The HR Certification Institute commissioned an independent research company to conduct a study on the value of HR certification on a global level.
On being asked how valuable they consider the benefits of certification compared to its initial cost, HR professionals attributed a personal ROI of 253% and organizational ROI of 216% to professional certification. What’s more, over one-third of respondents believed that the benefits of professional HR certification were worth more than five times the cost.
As they say, numbers don’t lie.
One Secret Weapon to Master Human Resources
Companies want to hire certified HR professionals to secure their growth. They want individuals who can find and hire the right employees and then manage and maintain them successfully to reduce troublesome bottlenecks and improve results.
While having the right person for the job is undoubtedly necessary, you also need the right tools—or rather the right guidebooks and courses in this case.
We recommend using Mometrix Academy, a test preparation company with practice tests and prep courses for almost any exam you can think of. Mometrix offers tons of self-study prep classes, including the PHR and SPHR, which are detailed below. Most courses have a combination of lectures, quizzes, flashcards, and more that specifically follow the official testing guides.
Mometrix courses are billed monthly and average between $30 and $100 per month. Mometrix comes with a seven-day satisfaction guarantee, and you can cancel your account at any time.
Speaking of testing guides, you can also download the HRCI Certification and Procedures Handbook or the SHRM Certification Handbook with extensive details about the certification process. These guides will give you detailed information about the exam and the registration process, including payment information, how to book exams, exam schedules and breakdown, eligibility criteria, and exam transfers.
Going through the HR body of knowledge (HRBoK) guidebooks is another viable option to prepare for the exams.
5 Human Resources Certifications to Consider
Choosing the right HR certification is a surprisingly challenging task. Below is the list of five of the most prominent human resources certifications, along with the requirements for each.
Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR)
The Associate Professional in Human Resources certification is specifically designed for entry-level HR professionals with no previous work experience.
Primarily aimed towards college students planning careers in human resources, this certificate involves learning basic skills and HR knowledge, such as HR operations, recruitment and selection, human resources and retention, employee relations, compensation and benefits, health, safety, and security.
The eligibility requirements for the aPHR are:
- Application approval
- A high school diploma or global equivalent
- Passing a predetermined assessment
The aPHR exam consists of 25 pretest questions and 100 exam questions—most of which are multiple-choice. It lasts for two hours and 15 minutes. Once you’ve passed and have the certification, you’ll have to take 45 hours of continuing education and professional development credits every three years or pass the assessment again.
The cost of taking the aPHR is $400—$100 for the application fee and $300 exam fee.
Professional in Human Resources (PHR)
The Professional in Human Resources certificate is for HR professionals with a few years of experience looking to enhance their knowledge and skillsets.
It’s an advanced course covering technical skills and operational aspects of HR management and can result in a slight increase in your paycheck. It’ll give you in-depth knowledge about business management, employee labor relations, total rewards, talent planning and acquisition, and learning and development.
The eligibility criteria of the PHR are:
- At least one year of experience in a professional-level HR position and a master’s degree or higher
- At least two years of experience in a professional-level HR position and a bachelor’s degree
- At least four years of experience in a professional-level HR position and a high school diploma
You need to fulfill any one of the above conditions.
This two-hour-long exam comprises 25 pretest questions and 90 exam questions—most of which are multiple-choice. To maintain your certification, you have to earn a minimum of 60 recertification credits every three years by attending approved webinars, conferences, or online resources.
You’ll have to pay a $100 application fee and a $395 exam fee to take the PHR exam.
SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP)
The SHRM Certified Professional certification is designed for beginners looking to learn crucial HR skills and knowledge, making it an excellent alternative to PHR. But while the PHR prioritizes subject matter knowledge, the SHRM-CP emphasizes competency and intangible HR skills.
This can also be a good fit for professionals involved in policy and strategy implementation who want to deliver and perform operational HR functions.
The eligibility criteria for the SHRM-CP are:
- Three years of experience in an HR role if you‘re currently enrolled in an HR-related program or four years of experience in an HR role if you’re currently a part of a non-HR program
- One year of experience in an HR role, plus an HR-related bachelor’s degree or two years of experience in an HR role if you have a non-HR bachelor’s degree
- Currently in an HR role if you have an HR-related graduate degree, or one year in an HR role if you have a non-HR graduate degree
You need to fulfill any one of the above conditions.
This four-hour-long exam comprises 95 knowledge items and 65 situationally judgment items. Scoring this certification may help you see a 3.9% pay increment.
The cost is $375 if you’re an SHRM member or $475 if you’re a non-member to take the SHRM-CP exam. However, the prices are discounted to $300 and $400, respectively, for early birds. You will also be required to do 60 hours of professional development credits to maintain your certification.
SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP)
The SHRM Senior Certified Professional certification is suitable for ambitious HR professionals who want to be a part of the C Suite in the upcoming years. Getting this designation can help you transition to a senior leadership position faster and with greater ease.
It equips HR professionals with the skills to develop strategies, lead HR departments, and achieve organizational goals.
The eligibility requirements of the SHRM-SCP are:
- At least three years in an HR role, plus an HR-related graduate degree or at least four years in an HR role, plus a non-HR graduate degree
- At least four years in an HR role, plus an HR-related Bachelor’s degree or at least five years in an HR role, plus a non-HR bachelor’s degree
- At least six years of experience in an HR role if you’re currently a part of an HR-related program or at least seven years of experience in an HR role if you’re pursuing a non-HR program
You need to fulfill any one of the above conditions.
The exam includes 65 situational judgment items and 95 knowledge items, passing which can help you see an average of 5.7% pay boost.
Taking the exam costs $375 if you’re an SHRM member and $475 if you’re a non-member. Again, the prices are reduced to $300 and $400, respectively, if you take the early bird exam. You’ll need 60 professional development credits every three years to remain active.
Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)
The Senior Professional in Human Resources certificate is meant for experienced HR professionals looking to demonstrate and improve their industry knowledge. This certification is worth considering if you’re looking to move into a manager position or other leadership roles.
This is the highest-level certification offered by the HRCI to US-based professionals and covers leadership and strategy, employee relations and engagement, learning and development, talent planning and acquisition, and total rewards.
The eligibility requirements for the SPHR are:
- At least four years of experience in a professional-level HR position and a master’s degree or higher
- At least five years of experience in a professional-level HR position and a bachelor’s degree
- At least seven years of experience in a professional-level HR position and a high school diploma
Again, you only need to fulfill any one of the above conditions to be eligible for the exam. This may seem too comprehensive, but considering an SPHR certification can average a 9.7% pay increase, it is well worth it.
The exam covers 25 pretest questions and 155 scored questions and is two hours and 30 minutes long. Plus, you have to earn 60 certification credits in three years to maintain the designation.
The cost of taking the SPHR includes a $100 application fee plus an additional $495 exam fee.
Most Common Mistakes People Make When Taking HR Certification Exams
Want to earn your HR certification? Great, but you have to pass the exam first.
Below, we’ve listed a few practical tips to help you avoid common mistakes people make when preparing for the exam.
- Not following a study schedule: Most people take at least 45 days to prepare adequately for an HR certification exam. Based on your capacity and availability, you should create a realistic study schedule that includes studying course materials, watching webinars and videos, and taking mock tests. Once you make your schedule, make sure you stick to it!
- Not taking multiple mock tests: Taking mock tests and practice exams will give you a fair idea of questions that come up in the exam, time limit, format, and the topics covered. You can also go to the official HRCI and SHRM websites to see a full breakdown of their exams and what to expect. Try to familiarize yourself with the exam as much as possible. We highly recommend taking full-length practice tests to prepare mentally for the long exams, too.
- Not understanding your learning style: Everyone has a learning style that works for them. Some people can study well from textbooks and flashcards; some prefer audio and webcasts; some study well during the day, while others can only focus during the night. Find your writing style, and set up your study schedule accordingly. Using tools like Mometrix that combine different learning formats to cater to different learning styles can also help.
Having human resources certifications are prestigious for both the employee as well as the employer. Passing the exam takes effort, time, and lots of dedication, but it’s worth it if you consider the benefits.