Thursday, January 1, 2007—Vol. 6, No. 1

Human resource certifications—what do they
mean to you?
Loretta Kinderman
Associated Financial Group

PHR, SPHR, SHRM, HRCI. What does it all mean? Does having such a credential really make HR professionals better at their job? Does such an acronym after your name help your career, or does not having one hurt it? If you are an HR professional, chances are you have asked yourself some of these questions. If not, you might be after reading this! Considering the number of questions I receive on this topic, I would say it is definitely worth exploring.

Employers are increasingly requiring certifications

Recently the Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) announced an unprecedented period of growth and activity, with an estimated 24,000 professionals seeking certification worldwide in 2006. During the past decade, the number of human resource professionals taking HRCI's certification exams each year has more than doubled to 18,500 in 2005 from 7,700 just ten years earlier! HRCI attributes the dramatic increase in part to the changing nature of the role of HR professionals within organizations.

I often get asked about which is a better idea, graduate programs or certification. Only you can decide what is right for you, but certification is definitely worth considering as an economical and effective alternative to graduate school. HR professionals can increase their value in their current positions, and it can demonstrate to a potential employer that you are qualified.

Background on PHR and SPHR

PHR (Professional Human Resource) and SPHR (Senior Professional Human Resource) are two certifications offered by HRCI.

SHRM (the Society for Human Resources Management) is recognized as the world leader in human resource management. The society services the needs of human resource management professionals by providing essential resources. They are also the voice for the HR profession and work to ensure that HR is an essential and effective partner in developing and executing organizational strategy. Today global membership is over 200,000.

The Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) is the HR credentialing organization founded by SHRM to promote the establishment of professional standards. HRCI exists to promote the establishment of standards for the profession and recognizes HR professionals who, through demonstrated professional experience and the passing of a comprehensive exam, have met HRCI's requirements for mastering the HR body of knowledge. Since HRCI first began certifying in 1976, it has awarded its certification designation to more than 70,000 HR professionals. HRCI is directed by its own Board of Directors.

HRCI did an extensive market survey and found that three out of five of the survey respondents agreed they would choose an individual with PHR or SPHR over one without if all factors are equal. After initial screening, they would be more likely to interview candidates with the PHR and SPHR certification. More and more employers filling HR positions are stating that certification is either a required or desired qualification.

Which one is for you?

Here is how HRCI defines the ideal PHR and SPRH candidate.

PHR candidate:

  • Focuses on program implementation.
  • Has tactical/logistical orientation.
  • Has accountability to another HR professional within the organization.
  • Has two to four years of exempt-level generalist HR work experience, but because of career length may lack the breadth and depth of a more senior-level generalist.
  • Has not had progressive HR work experience by virtue of career length.
  • Focuses his or her impact on the organization with the HR department rather than organization wide.
  • Commands respect through the credibility of knowledge and the use of policies and guidelines to make decisions.

SPRH candidate:

  • Designs and plans rather than implements.
  • Focuses on the "big Picture."
  • Has ultimate accountability in the HR department.
  • Has six to eight years of progressive HR experience.
  • Has breadth and depth of HR generalist knowledge.
  • Uses judgment obtained with time and application of knowledge.
  • Has generalist role within organization.
  • Understands the effect of decisions made within and outside of the organization.
  • Understands the business, not just the HR function.
  • Manages relationships; has influence within overall organization.
  • Commands credibility with organization, community and field by experience.
  • Possesses excellent negotiation skills.

If you are considering HR certification, a prep course is highly recommended. The University of Minnesota is officially endorsed by SHRM and offers a course and instructors that consistently beat the national pass rate.

Next month the University of Minnesota will be offering such a course at Associated Financial Group's offices in Minnetonka. HR Consultant David Flotten (SPHR) will be the instructor. For more information on these programs and to register, please visit the U of M continuing education web site at: