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WGU Human Resource Management HRCI PHR Certification

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What Is HRCI?

Five business people sit shoulder to shoulder, each reading something in their hands.

The Human Resources Certification Institute—or HRCI—is a credentialing organization that has offered learning opportunities, professional development and certifications for HR professionals for more than 45 years. Everyone from HR managers to administrators can test and qualify for up to eight global certifications in addition to sharpening their skills with webinars, conferences and speaking events, and more.

If you’re pursuing a career path as a human resource professional, it’s important to set yourself up for success when the time comes for you to get certified. Choosing a school that prepares you for the HRCI PHR® certification can make all the difference when it comes time to do your job search. To really make an impact on hiring professionals, the HRCI PHR® certification is the way to go.

What are HCRI Certifications?

The eight global certifications offered by HRCI are:

  1. Associate Professional in Human Resources® (aPHR®): This certification is made for HR professionals who are new to the field and non-HR managers. An aPHR is a good first step in acquiring HR certifications.
  2. Associate Professional in Human Resources–International (aPHRi): Made for new HR professionals, no matter which state they work in.
  3. Professional in Human Resources® (PHR®): An excellent certification for those who wish to advance their career by showing their depth of knowledge and expertise.
  4. Professional in Human Resources–California® (PHRca®): HR professionals in California can prove their understanding of state management practices, regulations, and laws.
  5. Professional in Human Resources–International™ (PHRi™): No matter where in the world you work, this certification showcases your mastery of technical and operational principles.
  6. Senior Professional in Human Resources® (SPHR®): An important certification for a senior HR professionals in leadership roles, highlighting leadership and strategy skills, the SPHR is frequently obtained as a second step certification.
  7. Senior Professional in Human Resources–International Professional™ (SPHRi™): Supports local HR practices no matter the location, highlighting business leadership.
  8. Global Professional in Human Resources® (GPHR®): For multinational HR professionals, this certification focuses on strategic global human resources and global talent management.


The HRCI Professional in Human Resources® (PHR®) is a certification that prepares HR professionals to advance their careers. Not only does it highlight your understanding of the technical and operational aspects of management, it also certifies your knowledge of U.S. regulations and laws. For HR professionals who already have a logistical or tactical orientation and experience in program implementation, this certification can be a great way to signal to managers that you’re ready to step into a leadership role. This certification is best suited to HR professionals who are focused on HR department responsibilities, as opposed to the overall company.

HR manager leading presentation
Business professionals shake hands at the beginning of a bright new business relationship.

PHR® Cost

To obtain your PHR® certification, you’ll need to pay a $100 application fee, followed by an exam fee of $395. However, you won’t have to pay for the exam until your application is approved. Just remember: If you decide not to take the exam after your application has been approved, you won’t get a refund.

PHR® Exam Details

The PHR® exam is estimated to take two hours to complete, with 90 scored questions—most of which are multiple choice—and 25 pretest questions. The test can be taken via computer at a Pearson VUE testing center or you can do it at home with OnVUE.

The PHR® exam will test you on:

  • Employee and labor relations
  • Business management
  • Talent planning and acquisition
  • Total rewards
  • Learning and development

Study Tips:

As you’re prepping for the PHR® exam, consider these study tips to help prepare you for test day:

  • Make sure you schedule time to study—and keep your study dates
  • Study according to your learning style
  • Try group study if you usually study alone, and vice versa, to escalate your learning
  • Use the Exam Content Outlines to help you focus your study time on the subjects that matter most
  • Take a practice test (at a cost of $75) on the HRCI website to determine your weak spots
  • Consider a prep class to deepen your understanding of PHR subject matter

PHR® and WGU

Before you apply to take the PHR®, you’ll need to ensure you’re eligible by meeting one of these requirements:

  • Minimum one year of experience in a professional HR role and a master's degree (or higher)
  • Minimum two years of experience in a professional HR role and a bachelor's degree
  • Four years of experience in a professional HR role

By earning your HR degree at WGU, you’re setting yourself up for PHR® success. WGU’s online HR degree program has been recognized by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) as fully aligned with their HR Curriculum Guidebook and Templates. WGU has also aligned its curriculum to the body of knowledge created by the HRCI and prepares you for the PHR® exam.

“I received extremely high marks on both certification exams and have felt my WGU experience really helped prepare me for success.” —Brittney Vincent
B.S. Human Resource Management

Frequently Asked Questions

Before you get started and take the PHR® exam, you’ll need to pay an application fee of $100. If your application is accepted, you’ll then pay an exam fee of $395. Any additional study guides or sample tests that you use to prepare for the exam may cost you extra.

HRCI stands for Human Resources Certification Institute, which is known as the premier credentialing and learning organization dedicated to the advancement and support of human resources professionals.

PHR® stands for Professional in Human Resources, which is a credential that shows off your deep knowledge of the technical and operational aspects of human resources management. This also includes your knowledge and understanding of U.S. regulations and laws.

Yes! PHR® certification is a great way to show off your knowledge of human resources management from both a technical and operational standpoint, which will impress your potential employers. Not only does this certification grab the attention of hiring managers, it can also result in 3% higher pay compared to HR professionals without certification.

While the PHR® exam takes approximately two hours to complete, you’ll want to factor in additional time just in case. For example, there may be travel time involved if you’re taking the exam at an approved testing location.

Benefits of PHR Exam

Job Opportunity

In an increasingly crowded employment field, anything you can do to make yourself stand out from other candidates is worth it—and certifications tend to grab the attention of hiring managers.

Meets Hiring Requirements

A competitive employment field also means that many companies require professional certifications before they even consider a candidate for a role.


Studies have shown that HR employees with a PHR® certification can see a 3% increase in salary compared to HR professionals without certification. While 3% may not seem like a lot, it can add up, especially as you advance your career, and your salary increases.