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Human Resource Certification

Human resource certification can equip those in the HR industry to better perform their jobs.

A human resource certificate can be acquired through the HRPA or online outlets. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
A human resource certificate can be acquired through the HRPA or online outlets.

Human Resource Certification

When speaking of human resource certification, human resources (HR) professionals are generally referring to specialized certifications obtained by professionals already in the field. This certification takes place after professionals are already practicing human resources and serves to augment or bolster their career. This certification is generally through the national-level Human Resources Professionals Association.

However, other offerings are available, typically through an online outlet or through a college, which are not reserved for the practicing professional and are not associated with the professional association. These may carry undergraduate college credits or may simply be self-contained certificates.

Example Certifications and Descriptions

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is a national-level professional association for those in the HR field and is the accepted leader in the HR industry. SHRM is an affiliate of the Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI). This institute provides the accepted industry standard in HR certifications and possesses National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA) certification.

The HRCI offers three general certifications: the Professional in Human Resources (PHR), the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and the Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR).

The HRCI sets its certifications apart as a professional component of human resources versus an educational program in two ways. First, it notes the difference between certifications (such as it offers) versus certificate programs (offered by other agencies or colleges) is that certifications require a professional experience component, whereas certificate programs do not. Second, it requires all examinees to first complete at least two years working as a human resources professional. In addition, it recommends many more years, based on each certification. For example, the Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) certification recommends up to eight years in the industry.

Once a candidate chooses to pursue certification, the HRCI recommends taking an assessment exam to ascertain the candidate's true readiness. These practice exams carry a fee.

Outside the HRCI, some certificate programs are available. Professionals should keep in mind HRCIs note about the difference between HR certification through that agency versus certificate programs, which do not require work experience. However, acquiring a certificate through a program can be the right step for the HR candidate.

One such certification program is offered by HRCertification.com. This agency offers a unique combination of certificate programs dealing with HR-centric subjects, such as the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 401(k) plans and payroll management. A benefit of this agency's courses is that the HR professional can pick and choose the subjects in which he or she wants to be certified.

Other educational options are the technology-focused certifications offered by the International Association for Human Resources Information Management (IHRIM). These courses, which focus on issues like data management and metrics, count toward the mandatory recertification requirements for PHR, SPHR or GPHR professionals.

The American Management Association offers self-study modules in human resources-related subject areas, which end in a Continuing Education Unit certificate. These modules have the distinct advantage of being self-paced without a formal time limit.

Professionals seeking college credit with their certification may be interested in the University of Virginias certification program, which is deemed appropriate for undergraduate or graduate students, or Villanova's online Masters Certificate in Human Resources.

Education and Training

The training and education leading up to the HRCIs PHR, SPHR or GPHR certifications are intense worthy of their industry status.

The HRCI recommends students first begin with the pre-assessment exam, available online for a fee. This pre-assessment is said to show students their likely weak areas in taking the real exam.

The HRCI then offers two printed study guides: The HR Certification Institutes PHR and SPHR Certification Guide or The HR Certification Institutes GPHR Certification Guide.

Those seeking more personal or interactive preparation are directed to the SHRMs Global Learning System, which is a multimedia training set consisting of computer-based and printed materials, case studies, flashcards, practice exams and a final certificate of completion.

Agencies unaffiliated with SHRM or the HRCI also offer preparation courses for the PHR, SPHR and GPHR certifications. Examples include SkillSoft and Human Resource Certification Preparation.

Degree or Certification?

Because candidates are unable to obtain the industry-standard PHR, SPHR or GPHR certifications without some amount of professional experience, a degree may be indirectly required. Most upper-level human resource positions require a degree, so having one is almost a prerequisite for taking the exams; students cannot take the exams without experience and cannot obtain experience without a degree.

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