13 HR Certifications To Further Your Career

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 22, 2021 | Published January 13, 2021

Updated February 22, 2021

Published January 13, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Certification in human resource management is growing in popularity among employers and can help HR professionals earn more money. Any certification highlights your qualifications and can set your resume apart from candidates who do not have certification. If you're considering a career in HR or already work in HR and are looking to advance your career, consider pursuing at least one type of certification. In this article, we define 13 types of HR certifications and explore what they require of candidates.

Related: Human Resource Management and Their Role in Your Job Search

What are HR certifications?

HR certifications are credentials that typically involve competency-based exams that result in earning a specific title when you pass them. Most HR positions do not require certification to apply to or secure the job, but adding a certification to your resume can make you a more attractive candidate to employers. Having an HR certification shows your commitment to the field and highlights the skills you have built through your work in HR. There is a variety of certifications you can work toward in HR, all of which focus on different HR skills and experience levels.

Related: HRCI Certification: Types of HRCI, Benefits and How to Prepare

13 HR certifications that highlight your HR skills

Here are some certifications that can help further your career in human resources:

1. PHR

PHR certification stands for Professional in Human Resources, and it is available from the HR Certification Institute (HRCI). This certification can be helpful for HR professionals who work under an HR director or other senior HR managers. To receive PHR certification, you'll take a three-hour test that covers subjects like implementing new programs and learning U.S. laws and regulations about HR. After passing the test, you are certified for three years and can apply for recertification after retaking the exam or presenting documents that prove professional development hours.

2. aPHR

The aPHR, or Associate Professional in Human Resources, certification is designed for new HR professionals who are just getting started in their careers and want to build their credentials immediately. Because the candidates are new to HR, aPHR training focuses on the basic operations of an HR professional and some general tactics for successful HR work. You can earn this certification after passing an exam that lasts about two hours, and it remains valid for three years. To renew it, you can either provide 45 hours of recertification credits or retake the exam.

3. SPHR

SPHR stands for Senior Professional in Human Resources, and it's available to senior HR managers. The exam for this certification includes multiple-choice questions about more complicated aspects of HR than the PHR certification, such as planning for long-term goals and maintaining accountability and authority over an HR department. The SPHR certification is valid for three years after taking the test, but you can get certified again after retaking the exam or proving that you engage in continuing professional development.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About SPHR Certification

4. PHRi

PHRi stands for Professional in Human Resources - International, and the certification is available from the HRCI. This certification is ideal for HR professionals who work internationally with employees in different regions inside or outside the United States. The exam for the PHRi covers subjects like talent acquisition, HR administration and talent management and development and lasts for just over three hours. You can take the PHRi exam if you have the following credentials:

  • One year of experience and a master's degree

  • Two years of experience and a bachelor's degree

  • Four years of experience and a high school diploma

After passing the PHRi exam and presenting the necessary credentials, you'll receive a PHRi certification that is valid for three years. To maintain the credential after three years, you can either prove that you have completed 60 recertification credits or retake the exam.

5. SPHRi

SPHRi, or Senior Professional in Human Resources - International, is similar to PHRi certification but is intended for candidates with more experience at a senior level of professional HR work. Because candidates work at an advanced level, the topics of the exam include business leadership, talent management and HR service delivery. You should also have knowledge of local employment laws wherever you intend to practice. In order to apply for the exam, you'll need one of these combinations of HR credentials:

  • Four years of experience and a master's degree

  • Five years of experience and a bachelor's degree

  • Seven years of experience and a high school diploma

Once your credentials are confirmed and you pass the SPHRi exam, you receive certification that lasts three years. The credential will then need recertification through proving 60 hours of professional development, with 15 in business management and strategy, or retaking the test.

6. GPHR

GPHR, or Global Professional in Human Resources, certification is especially useful for HR professionals who want to work in international human resources. Because candidates who pursue GPHR certification typically are interested in global HR practices, the necessary exam covers subjects like intercultural HR responsibilities and policies that help international employees and business operations. To apply for this certification, you need at least one of the following combinations of credentials:

  • Two years of global experience and a master's degree

  • Three years of experience (two of these years must be global experience) and a bachelor's degree

  • Four years of experience (two of these years must be global experience) and a high school diploma

After confirming the required credentials, you'll take an exam that provides you with certification for three years until you can apply for recertification with 60 hours of professional development credits.

7. HRMP

HRMP stands for Human Resources Management Professional and is designed for HR professionals who are at a high level of experience and work as HR managers. The exam for HRMP certification involves knowledge about topics such as HR strategy, developing new policies and being familiar with foreign employment laws. In order to apply for this certification and take the required exam, you should have one of these combinations of credentials:

  • Four years of experience and a master's degree

  • Five years of experience and a bachelor's degree

  • Seven years of experience and a high school diploma

Once you present the correct credentials, you can take the exam, which gives you certification for three years. After that, you'll need to prove 60 hours of professional development or retake the exam for recertification.

8. HRBP

HRBP, or Human Resources Business Professional, certification is designed for candidates who are still in the early stages of their HR career. Because of the basic level of foundational knowledge you might have, the HRBP exam tests your knowledge of operational skills as well as technical protocol and operational conventions for places outside of the United States. To apply for HRBP certification, you should have one of these combinations of credentials:

  • One year of experience and a master's degree

  • Two years of experience and a bachelor's degree

  • Four years of experience and a high school diploma

After reaching the necessary level of credentials, you can take the HRBP exam to earn your certification for three years. You can then apply for recertification by providing documentation of 60 hours of professional development or retaking the exam.

9. SHRM-CP

SHRM-CP, or Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional, certification is available from the Society for Human Resource Management. Candidates who are interested in this certification typically pursue it early in their HR careers. The certification focuses on applying new policies and strategies to the workplace as well as communicating to employees and performing basic HR services. Similar to the PHR, the certification covers topics like leadership, ethics, critical thinking and communication. To earn SHRM-CP certification, you must pass an exam and remain certified for three years until you can apply for recertification.

10. SHRM-SCP

SHRM-SCP stands for Society for Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional and is designed for HR professionals who are later in their career or hold higher positions in their HR department. The subjects covered in the SHRM-SCP exam include analyzing performance and developing ongoing goals for a company. Like the SHRM-CP certification, candidates who apply for the SHRM-SCP are not required to be members of the SHRM before taking the exam.

11. CPTD

CPTD or Certified Professional in Talent Development, certification is available from the Association for Talent Development (ATD) as a specialized certification program for business professionals, including HR workers. This certification focuses on improving a professional's personal, professional and organizational skills, such as managing compensation and benefits and resolving workplace conflict. To apply for the CPTD program, you need at least one of these combinations of credentials:

  • Five years of experience and 60 hours of professional development in the last five years

  • Four years of work experience and Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD) certification

Once you present the appropriate credentials, you can register for and take the CPTD exam, which lasts three hours and uses multiple-choice and case management questions. CPTD certification lasts for three years after taking the test, but you can earn recertification by proving continued professional development.

12. IPMA-CP

The International Public Management Association for Human Resources offers the IPMA-CP certification, which provides candidates the title of Certified Professional. A unique aspect of IPMA-CP certification is that it focuses on HR in the public sector, while most other certifications are designed to benefit private sector companies. Experience in the public sector is required at any level for this certification, and you can offer any of these credential combinations:

  • Two years of experience, a graduate degree and at least one year of public sector HR experience

  • Four years of experience (including at least one year in public sector HR) and a bachelor's degree

  • Six years of HR experience (including at least one year in public sector HR) and an associate degree

  • Eight years of experience (including at least one year in public sector HR) and a high school diploma

You can take the exam for IMPA-CP certification online, and certification lasts for three years until you need to apply for recertification.

13. PHR-CA or SPHR-CA

PHR-CA, Professional in Human Resources in California, and SPHR-CA, Senior Professional in Human Resources in California, are available for HR professionals in California. The HR Certification Institute offers these credentials, so they are similar to the PHR and SPHR certifications but contain additional information about regulations specific to California. The exams for the PHR-CA and SPHR-CA certifications focus on knowledge of HR operations as well as the law, regulation, and HR practices in California. Both PHR-CA and SPHR-CA certification are valid for three years before you need recertification.

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