Yes, HR Certifications Are Worth It

HR certifications
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Liz Strikwerda

Content strategist and corporate blogger (2000+ posts). Her work has been featured on G2's Learning Hub, Human Resources Today, Better Buys and over 500 business websites. She plays bluegrass mandolin and enjoys sailing her catamaran and hiking in the red rock wilderness of southern Utah. Connect with me on LinkedIn

If you’re on an HR career path, you’ve no doubt considered HR certifications. But you probably have many questions.

How difficult is it? Will I have to take time off to study? Will it really help me in my career?

In today’s post, we examine whether or not an HR certification is worth it.


The HR certifications are offered by SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) and HRCI (Human Resources Certification Institute).

SHRM offers two levels, Certified Professional and Senior Certified Professional:

  • SHRM-CP Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional
  • SHRM-SCP Society for Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional

HRCI offers several different flavors:

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

So, is HR certification worth it?

Short answer: yes. As measured by several different metrics, certification pays off. The senior-level certifications generally have a greater impact on pay.

Let’s look at the numbers.

The compensation research firm, PayScale, conducted a massive national study. They analyzed 40 million salary profiles and 250 factors that affect compensation. The time period studied was March 2012 to March 2013. They included 10 industries in the 10 largest cities.

The following comes from PayScale’s data analysis.

Will I Earn More With Certification?

HR professionals with an SPHR earn 93% more than those without a certification. Those with the SPHR earn 49% more than those with a PHR. Not surprisingly, salaries increase with the level of certification.

How Do HR Salaries Compare Across The Country?

HR professionals with either certification earn the most in Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. For example, the average salary for those with certification in Washington D.C. is $77K vs. $66K in Miami. On average, the certification commands $20K more in the largest cities.

When compared per state, California HR professionals see the greatest boost in pay for certification.

CPC, SPHR-CA, GPHR Most Valuable

The CPC (Certified Professional Coach) is especially valuable. Those with the CPC credential earn 28 percent more. The CPC is offered by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC).

The Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) increases pay 16 percent on average. The GPHR is offered by the HRCI. GPHR holders also earn the highest—$155K on average.

California Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR-ca) corresponds with a 14 percent salary increase.

Does Industry Matter?

The PHR is most valuable in healthcare where it commands a salary that is 27 percent higher on average. Followed by retail/customer service at 25 percent. Accommodation/food services came in third at 22.1 percent.

The industries in which the PHR doesn’t increase salary as much are technology at 11 percent and finance/insurance at 14.8 percent.

SPHRs correspond to a larger increase in real estate, arts, entertainment/recreation, and retail/customer service.

The SPHR has less impact for nonprofits, agencies and consultancies, and energy and utilities.

The PayScale study also determined that HR certifications have more value now than they did ten years ago.

What Do The HR Certification Tests Measure?

If you are trying to decide which certification to earn, consider the differences in topics covered.

The PHR test is organized as follows:

  • Workforce planning and employment (25%)
  • Employee and labor relations (20%)
  • Compensation and benefits (19%)
  • HR development (18%)
  • Business management and strategy (11%)
  • Risk management (8%)

The topics covered for the SHRM are:

  • Leadership (Leadership & Navigation, Ethical Practice)
  • Interpersonal (Relationship Management, Communication, Global and Cultural Effectiveness)
  • Business (Business Acumen, Consultation, Critical Evaluation)

How Do I Become Eligible to Take The Certification Tests?

The education and experience eligibility requirements are as follows:

PHR Eligibility

  • A minimum of 1 year of experience in a professional-level HR position with a Master’s Degree or higher, or
  • A minimum of 2 years experience in a professional HR position with a Bachelor’s Degree, or
  • A minimum of 4 years of experience in a professional-level HR position with less than a Bachelor’s Degree

SHRM-CP Eligibility

If you have less than a Bachelor’s Degree:

  • Partial HR-related degree requires 3 years in HR role
  • Partial non-HR degree requires 4 years in HR role

If you have a Bachelor’s Degree:

  • If it’s an HR-related degree, you need 1 year in HR role
  • If it’s a non-HR degree, you need 2 years in HR role

If you have a Graduate Degree:

  • If HR-related degree, you must currently work in HR role
  • Non-HR degree, you must have 1-year work experience in HR role

If you decide to become certified, it’s good to know that your investment will more than pay for itself. The team at SwipeClock wishes you success in all of your career goals.

By Liz Strikwerda

Simplify HR management today.

Simplify HR management today.

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