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Comparing HRCI vs. SHRM Certifications

Feb 7, 2022

Human resources professionals oversee everything from talent acquisition and onboarding to conflict resolution and labor law compliance. They play a pivotal role in fostering a positive work environment and advancing organizational goals. One way HR professionals can continually develop their skills and stay up to date with the latest HR trends and best practices is to earn certifications. HR certifications are valuable credentials that demonstrate expertise and a dedication to professional growth. Several well-regarded organizations provide certifications designed to meet the needs of professionals at varying stages of their careers. HR certifications differ in scope and content, with some focusing on core HR principles and others venturing into advanced HR strategies in specialized areas. Keep reading to explore the certifications offered by the Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and learn how these credentials can benefit professionals and students alike. 

What Are HRCI Certifications? 

The HR Certification Institute (HRCI) offers eight certifications to help HR professionals refine their skills and showcase their abilities. HRCI certifications are well respected and can lead to numerous opportunities for those seeking to advance their careers. To earn HRCI certifications, professionals must meet the relevant prerequisites and pass an exam covering competencies in HR principles and techniques. Exam fees vary by certification type. Certifications last three years, and the recertification process requires candidates to complete continuing education programs or retake the exams.

HRCI Certifications

The HRCI presents certification options for individuals across a spectrum of HR roles and areas of expertise. Whether someone is just starting their career journey or has many years of professional experience, there is an HRCI certification to meet their needs. The following certifications are invaluable tools for professionals seeking to improve their skills and establish their credibility:

  • Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR) 
  • Professional in Human Resources (PHR) 
  • Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) 
  • Associate Professional in Human Resources—International (aPHRi)
  • Professional in Human Resources—International (PHRi)
  • Senior Professional in Human Resources —International (SPHRi)
  • Professional in Human Resources—California (PHRca) 
  • Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) 

HRCI Experience

Before deciding on a certification, professionals should consider the prerequisites for each option. Some HRCI certifications are ideal for students and entry-level HR professionals, while others require several years of professional experience. For example, the aPHR cert does not require any HR experience because it’s designed for novice HR practitioners and non-HR professionals seeking to enhance their understanding of HR principles. In contrast, the PHR and SPHR certifications require previous HR experience, and the specific prerequisites vary depending on the candidate's level of education. 

The professional experience requirements for the PHR certificate include the following: 

  • Candidates without a bachelor’s degree need four years of experience. 
  • Candidates with a bachelor’s degree need two years of experience. 

The professional experience requirements for the SPHR certificate include the following: 

  • Candidates with a master’s degree or higher need one year of experience.
  • Candidates without a bachelor’s degree need seven years of experience.
  • Candidates with a bachelor’s degree need five years of experience.
  • Candidates with a master’s degree or higher need four years of experience. 

HRCI Benefits

Because there are several certifications to choose from, HRCI certifications can be highly beneficial regardless of experience or expertise. Earning a certification can help individuals elevate their skills and HR knowledge and stand out as leaders in their field. Mastering a certification exam requires focused preparation and a commitment to continuous learning. By studying for and completing the exam, HR professionals can gain a deeper understanding of HR tools, techniques, and principles. In addition to skill development, becoming a certified professional increases the chances of being hired and promoted in the competitive job market. HRCI is a well-respected institution, and many employers prefer to hire and promote candidates with one or more HRCI certifications. 

What Are SHRM Certifications?

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is another respected human resource organization providing professional development, certification, and networking opportunities for HR students and professionals. SHRM offers the SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) credential and the SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) credential. Both offer valuable opportunities for individuals to expand their industry knowledge and demonstrate their expertise. The SHRM-CP certification is designed for operations-level HR professionals who handle day-to-day HR activities and policy implementation. This certification helps individuals polish and showcase their capabilities in leadership, interpersonal communication, technical competency, and business acumen.

The SHRM-SCP certification is aimed at senior HR professionals with three or more years of experience in strategic HR roles as HR managers, directors, and consultants. This certification is also recommended for individuals who have held the SHRM-CP certification for at least three years and plan to transition to a strategic-level role. The SHRM-SCP exam includes knowledge-based and situational judgment questions covering advanced HR strategy. Exam fees for the SHRM-SCP and SHRM-CP certifications vary depending on several factors, including whether the candidate is a current SHRM member. The certifications are valid for three years, and professionals can maintain their certified status by completing professional development activities. 

SHRM Experience 

The SHRM-CP certification is intended for professionals who perform general HR duties and students pursuing an HR role, making it ideal for individuals just starting their careers. Candidates don’t need professional HR experience, an HR title, or a degree to apply for the SHRM-CP certificate. However, the SHRM recommends that candidates have at least a basic working knowledge of HR before attempting the SHRM-CP exam. 

The SHRM-SCP certification is designed for advanced HR professionals with proficiency in strategic-level HR responsibilities. To be eligible for the SHRM-SCP certification, individuals must have at least three years of experience performing strategic HR duties such as developing policies, overseeing HR operations, or aligning HR strategies with organizational objectives.

SHRM Benefits

By offering two different certification options, the SHRM ensures that professionals can earn a certification regardless of their previous work experience or career ambitions. From students enrolled in an HR degree program to HR managers, anyone interested in HR can benefit from earning a SHRM certification. 

Those who earn a SHRM certification deepen their knowledge of the latest HR strategies, tools, and best practices, thereby increasing their effectiveness as HR professionals. The SHRM is a reputable association that helps guide the development of HR policies and learning systems worldwide, so SHRM certifications are held in high regard. Obtaining a SHRM certification indicates to employers, peers, and stakeholders that an individual possesses the knowledge and skills required to excel in an HR role. Many employers prefer candidates with a SHRM certificate, and earning a certificate can enhance a person’s chances of qualifying for advanced positions with higher salaries. A recent study evaluating HR salaries found that, on average, individuals who hold a SHRM certification earn 35% more than those without a certification. SHRM certifications also require periodic recertification, providing valuable opportunities for professionals to engage in continuous learning and remain up to date in this evolving field. 

Human Resources Programs

If you’re interested in the dynamic and rewarding field of HR, earning an online human resources degree can establish the foundation of a thriving career. At WGU, you can earn a B.S. in Business Administration–Human Resource Management, a B.S. in Business Administration–Business Management, or an M.S. in Human Resource Management. WGU’s online HR degree programs are SHRM- and HRCI-content aligned, meaning that students are well prepared to pass exams, stand out among other job applicants, and become certified professionals in HR. Our HR master’s degree program includes a WGU certificate in HR Technology and Analytics for Decision-Making and the opportunity to earn the SHRM Inclusive Workplace Culture specialty credential at no added cost. Students can also build their résumés and make meaningful connections by joining WGU’s SHRM Virtual Student Chapter. Begin your journey toward a fulfilling career by applying today! 

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