Types of HR Certification – HRCI vs. SHRM

There are many types of HR certification that exists and that you can pursue. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the top HR Certifications that cover the entire HR spectrum that includes business strategy, talent management & acquisition, learning & development, total rewards and employee relations. All the HR certifications listed here are highly recognized by the HR and general business community alike.

In 2009, when I obtained my first HR certification, the process of deciding which type of certification to pursue was streamlined as the governing bodies of the top HR certifications (HRCI & SHRM) were strategic partners from 1976 until May 2014. In May 2014, SHRM launched its own professional certifications. Both are now completely independent of one another.

Between HRCI and SHRM, there are now a total of 10 different types of HR Certification offered. All with different eligibility requirements. As a result, this has created plenty of confusion, in particular for those that have entered the profession on or after May 2014. Two of the most common questions I am asked all the time is:

  • What is the difference between the HRCI and SHRM designations?
  • Which designations do I qualify for?

I will clear the air on these questions so you can begin to set your goal with the type of HR certification you qualify for!

All Things HRCI


HRCI (Human Resources Certification Institute) was established in 1976 by SHRM and operates as an independent nonprofit entity. According to the HRCI website, there are more than 140,000 professionals that hold one or more of their certifications. They are responsible for:

  • Defining the HR Body of Knowledge
  • Developing test items and maintaining the test bank
  • Determines eligibility to sit for the exam
  • Manages the details of test registration and the testing process
  • Approves recertification activities that enable the retention of HR Certification

All HRCI Certifications are accredited by the NCCA (National Commission For Certifying Agencies). In order to be accredited, the eligibility requirements for certifications must include specific work experience, competency and/or education. In addition, recertification is necessary, which makes sure you stay current through continuing education and allow you to utilize the designation after your name.

Let’s quickly look at the different types of HR certification that HRCI.

Types of HR Certification – HRCI


HRCI currently has 8 of the 10 different types of HR certification. 4 of them are primarily U.S. focused, with some Global HR Management concepts and the other 4 are Internationally focused, in which the ideal candidate will support multiple countries or is based outside of the U.S. We will focus on the U.S. based certifications as it overlays with the SHRM types of HR certification.

All Things SHRM


SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) was originally founded as the American Society for Personnel Administration (ASPA) in 1973 and is the world’s largest HR professional society. According to their website, SHRM currently have over 300,000 members in more than 165 countries. SHRM also formed the ASPA Accredation Institute (Now HRCI).

The SHRM Certification Commission is established to manage the certifying activities of SHRM. They are responsible for the overall development of the exam, eligibility requirements and issuance of recertification.

 

All SHRM Certifications are accredited by the Buros Center For Testing. In order to be accredited, the eligibility requirements for certifications must include specific work experience, competency and/or education. In addition, recertification is necessary, which makes sure you stay current through continuing education and allow you to utilize the designation after your name.

 

 

Let’s quickly look at the different types of HR certification that SHRM offers.

Types of HR Certification – SHRM


SHRM currently has 2 different types of HR Certification. Both of the certifications are universal, meaning that it is relevant regardless of where you are based or what type of company you support throughout the globe.

  • SHRM-CP – This designation is ideal for professionals that have experience in the execution of HR programs. Ideal roles that fit this profile are HR Managers, HR Generalists, Specialists (recruiting, benefits, compensation, payroll, HRIS, HR Support roles, etc.). This designation is ideal for early to mid level HR professionals. As of February 2018, the average pass rate for this exam is 69.5%. SHRM has not published the number of SHRM-CP professionals.
  • SHRM-SCP – This designation is ideal for professionals that focuses on business and HR strategy for an organization. This person uses influence to get it done vs. doing it themselves (the majority of the time). Ideal roles that fit this profile are HR VPs, Directors, Strategic HR Business Partners, Sr. HR Managers, Specialists (Organizational Effectiveness/Design, etc.). As of February 2018, the average pass rate for this exam is 56%. SHRM has not published the number of SHRM-CP professionals.

Eligibility Requirements – HRCI vs. SHRM


If you read the entire article, I am certain you noticed some similarities. Let’s bring both the HRCI and SHRM certifications together with eligibility requirements.

You must one of the eligibility criteria in order to sit for the applicable exam.

aPHR PHR SPHR SHRM-CP SHRM-SCP
High School Diploma 1 year of professional-level HR experience + a Masters OR 4 years of professional-level HR experience + a Master’s degree OR Currently in HR role + a Masters (1 year in HR role for non-HR program) OR 3 years in HR role + a Masters (4 year in HR role for non-HR program) OR
No HR experience required 2 year of professional-level HR experience + a Bachelor’s OR 5 years of professional-level HR experience + Bachelor’s degree OR 1 year in HR role + Bachelor’s degree (2 years in HR role for non-HR program) OR 4 year in HR role + Bachelor’s degree (5 years in HR role for non-HR program) OR
4 years of professional-level HR experience + High School Diploma 7 years of professional-level HR experience + High School Diploma 3 years in HR Role + Less than Bachelor’s Degree (4 years in HR role for non-HR Program) 6 years in HR Role + Less than Bachelor’s Degree (7 years in HR role for non-HR Program)

It is important to note the following definitions in determining your eligibility:

  • HRCI Professional-level HR Experience
    • The ability to use independent judgment and discretion in performing work duties
    • Some authority for decision-making
    • In-depth work requirements, such as data gathering, analysis and interpretation
    • Interaction with people at multiple levels including decision-makers; AND
    • Individual accountability for results
  • SHRM HR Role
    • Not required to hold a HR title
    • Must be able to demonstrate that at least 1,000 hours to HR-related activities in any calendar year to qualify as having a year of HR-related experience

Please note that if you do not meet the requirements for Professional-level HR experience or SHRM HR Role, you can still qualify for the aPHR exam as long as you have a high-school diploma.

Do You Qualify?


The exams are developed with the following in mind:

  • Early HR Career – aPHR and/or SHRM-CP
  • Mid HR Career – PHR and/or SHRM-CP
  • Senior HR Career – SPHR and/or SHRM-SCP

So can you now answer the fundamental question … Which types of HR designations do you qualify for?

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