HR certifications for every career path (2023)

Professionals with an HR certification earn higher salaries and receive more promotions than those without a certification. Certification also helps professionals move into specialized career paths.

What is an HR certification? Certifications demonstrate your career-related competencies and experience. Professional organizations offer HR certifications that demonstrate human resources, global human resources, and HR management expertise. After meeting eligibility requirements and passing an exam, professionals earn the credential.

Our guide walks through certification providers, the most common certifications, and the payoff of becoming a certified human resources professional.

What is an HR certification?

An HR certification demonstrates mastery over key competencies and skills related to human resources. Unlike a human resources certificate program, which is offered through a college and trains students for human resources careers, a certification recognizes prior experience and expertise.

Candidates for certification must meet experience and schooling eligibility requirements. They then pass an exam that tests their HR knowledge and skills. After earning a credential, professionals often need to recertify regularly.

Benefits of certification

HR professionals pursue certifications to prove their knowledge and value to employers. According to PayScale's 2018 survey of 102,000 HR professionals, certification-holders earned higher salaries and more promotions than those without a certification.

The survey also discovered more than one in three HR professionals holds some kind of certification.

HR certification providers

Several professional associations grant human resources certifications. These associations bring a track record in training and professional development.

Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management represents more HR professionals than any other membership organization. SHRM HR certifications take a competency-based approach.

Candidates choose from two options: the SHRM Certified Professional and the SHRM Senior Certified professional credentials. Both demonstrate experience in core human resources competencies.

HR Certification Institute

The HR Certification Institute boasts over four decades of experience granting human resources certifications. Over half a million HR professionals hold a credential from HRCI.

HRCI's many certification options include the Professional in Human Resources, Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), and global professional in human resources credentials.

Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching

The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching offers courses and certifications for professionals.

Human resources specialists typically pursue the Certified Professional Coach credential. The certificate, part of iPEC's broader coach training options, recognizes experienced professional coaches.

Association for Talent Development

The Association for Talent Development focuses on recruitment, training, and development.

ATD offers two certifications for human resources professionals. The Certified Professional in Talent Development recognizes experienced training and development specialists. The Associate Professional in Talent Development offers an entry-level certification.


A professional association dedicated to compensation specialists, WorldatWork offers several HR certification options. Popular picks include the Certified Compensation Professional and Global Remuneration Professional credentials.

WorldatWork also offers certifications for executive compensation professionals, benefits professionals, and sales compensation professionals.

The most popular HR certifications

Which HR certification ranks as the most popular? This section introduces the most common HR certifications, according to PayScale. It also details eligibility requirements and fees for each.

HR professionals who hold this cert: 17%

Offered by: HRCI

Eligibility requirements: One to four years of HR experience, depending on degree level

Application fee: $100

Exam fee: $395

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The Professional in Human Resources credential demonstrates technical and operational experience in human resources management. Candidates complete a two-hour exam focused on labor relations, business management, and talent acquisition. The popular PHR credential appeals to a broad range of professionals.

HR professionals who hold this cert: 15%

Offered by: SHRM

Eligibility requirements: Up to four years' HR experience, depending on education level

Application fee: $50, included in exam fees

Exam fee: $300-$475, depending on registration date and SHRM membership

The SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) certification recognizes experienced HR professionals who can implement strategies, deliver human resources services, and carry out HR functions.

The four-hour exam covers 160 questions, including situational judgment questions. SHRM-CP professionals can pursue the SHRM Senior Certified Professional credential.

HR professionals who hold this cert: 8%

Offered by: HRCI

Eligibility requirements: Four to seven years of HR experience, depending on education level

Application fee: $100

Exam fee: $495

The Senior Professional in Human Resources credential demonstrates leadership experience in human resources. Certified professionals show their mastery of policy-making, strategic planning, and HR management. The 115-question exam covers leadership, strategy, employee relations, and talent planning.

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HR professionals who hold this cert: 5%

Offered by: SHRM

Eligibility requirements: Three to seven years of HR experience, depending on education level

Application fee: $50, included in exam fees

Exam fee: $300-$475, depending on SHRM membership and registration date

The SHRM Senior Certified Professional requires several years of leadership experience in HR. Candidates with a master's degree, for example, must still hold three years of HR experience to qualify. The certification tests candidates on their strategic and management competencies through a four-hour exam.

HR professionals who hold this cert: 0.7%

Offered by: HRCI

Eligibility requirements: None

Application fee: $100

Exam fee: $300

An entry-level certification requiring no work experience, the Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR) tests candidates with a knowledge-based exam.

The 100-question test covers HR operations, employee relations, and recruitment. After earning the aPRH credential, professionals can pursue higher-level certifications.

HR professionals who hold this cert: 0.3%

Offered by: HRCI

Eligibility requirements: Two to four years of HR experience, depending on degree level

Application fee: $100

Exam fee: $495

The Global Professional in Human Resources credential showcases experience in international human resources. Candidates design HR policies for multinational organizations and promote global growth through human resources management.

The certification exam covers strategic global human resources, global talent management, and global mobility.

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HR professionals who hold this cert: 0.2%

Offered by: WorldatWork

Eligibility requirements: None

Application fee: None

Exam fee: $500 per exam

The Certified Compensation Professional credential requires passing scores on 10 exams. Candidates can sign up for HR certification courses, including two-day HR certification online courses. Alternatively, candidates can self-study. Certified professionals must complete 12 recertification credits every three years.

Which HR certification pays most?

According to PayScale research, every HR certification except the entry-level aPHR credential caused a boost in pay. In 2018, professionals with an HR certification earned 32% more than those without a certification.

For many professionals, certification also increases their chance of a promotion.

Advice from a certified HR professional

Jamie McCormick is an HR professional with over 13 years of experience across multiple industries. She holds both SPHR and SHRM-CP certifications.

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As director of HR at Betterworks, she is responsible for the global employee lifecycle.

In addition to her human resources experience, Jamie holds a master's degree in international studies from the University of San Francisco and a bachelor's degree in international relations from San Francisco State University. She also serves as a mentor to USF and San Jose State University students seeking to pursue careers in the HR field.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

ZDNet: What were the greatest takeaways from your HR certifications that helped you to be successful in your career?

Jamie McCormick: Both my certifications provide exposure to HR functions that are outside of my day-to-day work. They also afford me a strong generalist foundation that will help me continue to grow in the next steps of my career.

The recertification component helps me prioritize staying up to date with HR trends in an ever-changing industry.

ZDNet: How did you make the most of your HR program so that it prepared you for post-grad jobs?

JM: Like most HR professionals, I didn't attend university for human resources. As a result, most of my learning has been developed through hands-on experience. Having a certification and taking recertification courses helps me stay up to date on best practices and solidifies my expertise.

Common questions about HR certifications

What are the main HR certifications?

The most common HR certifications include the Professional in Human Resources, SPHR, SHRM-CP and SHRM Senior Certified Professional Credentials.

Which is better, PHR or SHRM?

PHR and SHRM credentials help professionals demonstrate their skills and increase their earning potential. Both are popular. The best certification depends on the professional and their career goals.

Can you get an HR certification without a degree?

Yes. Many HR certifications do not require a degree. While most certifications set minimum eligibility requirements, candidates can meet these requirements with a mix of education and experience.

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What are the most important HR certifications? ›

5 Best Human Resource Management Certifications In 2022
  • Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP)
  • Professional in Human Resources (PHR)
  • Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)
  • United International Business Schools (UIBS)
  • Senior SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP)
26 Feb 2020

What is the best career path in HR? ›

Chief HR Officer (CHRO) The human resources career path leads all the way up to the chief HR officer role, which is the highest position you can have. It is a purely administrative role. The CHRO works in tandem with the CEO and other senior and executive staff.

What are the 4 basic competencies that HR professionals will need? ›

Specific to the United States, the top five competencies senior HR leaders must possess are:
  • effective communication;
  • strategic thinking;
  • HR knowledge;
  • integrity; and.
  • ethical behavior.
3 Dec 2015

Which HR certification is easiest? ›

If you have a bachelor's degree and have had difficulty finding employment, you may want to consider earning the aPHR to bolster your resume and improve your job prospects. The aPHR is also the easiest credential to obtain, with a pass rate of 84% on the certification exam.

Are HR certificates worth it? ›

Certified HR professionals earn significantly more than their uncertified counterparts, according to data from PayScale. For example, those with the SPHR certification make 93 percent more money overall (an average salary of $87,900) than those without a certification (an average salary of $45,600).

What HR qualifications do I need? ›

You'll need:
  • administration skills.
  • knowledge of human resources and employment law.
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail.
  • the ability to work well with others.
  • the ability to monitor your own performance and that of your colleagues.
  • excellent written communication skills.
  • business management skills.

How do I get an HR job with no experience? ›

Another way to break into human resources without experience is by starting off as a recruiter at a staffing company. Extroverts comfortable in the sales and networking aspect of talent acquisition could leverage that experience into an employee services (customer service) role at the UCPath Center, for example.

Is HR good career for introverts? ›

Introverts are often good listeners—which is a key asset for HR professionals as well as an opportunity to engage with others.

What HR should focus on in 2022? ›

Going forward in 2022, one of your HR goals should be to focus on a more holistic view of employee wellbeing. What do your employees need to be healthy and safe? If your employees work from home, make sure they have the right tools, support, and resources to perform to the best of their abilities.

What are the 4 types of HR? ›

Types of Human Resources Management Jobs
  • Recruitment and Selection. Human resource management jobs include professional recruiters who filll vacancies within an organization. ...
  • Compensation and Benefits. ...
  • Health and Safety. ...
  • Labor and Employee Relations. ...
  • Training and Development. ...
  • Risk Management. ...
  • Managers and Directors.

What are the 7 core HR functions? ›

Human Resource activities fall under 7 core functions: Recruitment and Selection, Training and Development, Performance Management, Employee Relations, Employment Law and Compliance, Compensation and Benefits and Administration, Payroll & HR Systems.

What are three 3 characteristics a successful HR manager needs to have? ›

Here, we outline four essential qualities of a good HR managers that one can develop in order to advance up the career ladder.
  • Be a Great Communicator. ...
  • Be Aware Of Ethical Responsibilities. ...
  • Develop Outstanding Leadership and Conflict Management Skills. ...
  • Become an Expert in Organization and Multitasking.

What if I fail my SHRM exam? ›

According to the SHRM Certification handbook, “There is no limit to the number of times a candidate can reapply and test.” Yes, you do have to pay to retake the exam. “Candidates who wish to retest are required to apply as a new candidate, which includes remittance of the full examination fee.”

What HR certifications can I get without a degree? ›

Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR)

The aPHR certification is one of the best credentials for individuals with no HR experience because it requires no previous education or experience.

What is better SHRM or PHR? ›

PHR/SPHR has more compliance related content (39% weightage) whereas SHRM has less legal compliance and more practical application oriented content.

Is HR certification hard? ›

Yes, the PHR is difficult, but it's not unbeatable. You can help your learners overcome the PHR's famous rigor with personalized learning pathways that emphasize strengths and eliminate weaknesses. Provide your employees with a path to success, and they'll be able to show you—and the HRCI—what they can do.

Do HR certificates expire? ›

SHRM credential holders are required to recertify every three years and are provided with two options to do so: by earning PDCs (60 per 3-year cycle); or by retaking the exam.

What percentage of HR professionals are certified? ›

Which Certificates Are Most Prevalent in 2018?
Certifications% of HR Pros
Has at least one certification36.4%
Professional in Human Resources (PHR)16.9%
SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP)15.4%
Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)7.9%
7 more rows

How can I grow a career in HR? ›

6 Tips For Climbing the HR Career Ladder
  1. Be Proactive. A proactive attitude can help in any career, but it's especially important in HR. ...
  2. Learn the Full Scope of HR. ...
  3. Consider Certification. ...
  4. Spend Time Outside the HR Bubble. ...
  5. Utilize Free Resources. ...
  6. Highlight Relevant Skills.

What are the five major HR trends? ›

What are the new HR trends?
  • Navigating The Great Resignation Landscape.
  • Reskilling, Upskilling, and Flexible Development Opportunities Are Top Priorities For HR Leaders.
  • People Analytics And Automation Are On The Rise.
  • Workplace Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Stays At The Forefront.
30 Aug 2022

Is working in HR good pay? ›

Human resources or HR professionals play an important role in an organisation as they help hire suitable employees and cultivate a positive work environment. Human resources is a rapidly growing and dynamic field, making it a good career choice that offers job security, higher salaries and development opportunities.

How do I start a career at 40? ›

The basic steps for changing careers at 40 are:
  1. Think about the kind of career you would like and set a clear goal for yourself.
  2. Research the sector for roles that appeal to you.
  3. Find out what qualifications you will need and how to get them.
  4. Gain any necessary accreditation.
  5. Build a professional network.

What is the lowest level HR job? ›

In addition to assistant and intern, other entry-level HR jobs include recruiter, analyst, staff coordinator, associate, and trainee.

Is HR a lonely job? ›

Though HR helps drive culture and improve morale for everyone else, it can be a lonely job. You handle hiring, firing, and everything in between, and are privy to information that most employees, including managers, never see.

What are examples of entry level HR jobs? ›

5 Great Entry Level Human Resources Jobs
  • Human Resources Assistant.
  • HR Coordinator.
  • Recruiter.
  • Temp Agency Assistant.
  • HR Specialist.

Is HR a high burnout job? ›

As a result of workplace transformations and the Great Resignation, 98% of HR professionals are burned out, according to the survey. A clear trend of employee burnout emerged over the past 18 months, as people dealt with remote and hybrid working transitions.

Can I work in HR if shy? ›

Futures in Human Resources as a Career for Introverts

Managing company payrolls, statistics and ergonomics is often quiet and therapeutic, involving few people and fewer interactions. This allows introverts to pursue their job's goals without daring the dangerous social waters of the office.

Is working in HR stressful? ›

According to a Perkbox survey of over 16,000 people across 50 cities, a whopping 79% of Human Resource employees reported unhealthy levels of job stress, making them the most stressed out profession. If you're involved in the field, this may not surprise you.

What is trending in HR now? ›

The greatest trend HR is facing is the demand to recruit, hire, and retain great talent. Many companies are becoming quite competitive to attract great talent with unique perks, increased salaries, unique PTO options, work-from-home or hybrid options, title promotions, stock grants/equity, and much more.

What will HR look like in 2025? ›

In 2025, HR departments will have to understand better how technology is changing to embrace the changing industry standards. The future of HR will be driven by automation and innovation, with little human involvement needed for routine tasks.

What are the biggest HR challenges in 2022? ›

Let's dive into the top 9 HR challenges in 2022 and how your organization can take steps to solve them.
  • Employee engagement. ...
  • Supporting leadership. ...
  • Recruiting and onboarding great talent. ...
  • Retaining employees. ...
  • Employee health and wellness. ...
  • Learning and development. ...
  • Adapting to remote work. ...
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion.
28 Jun 2022

How many HR certifications are there? ›

The four most recognized types of HR certifications are: SHRM-CP®, SHRM-SCP®, PHR® and SPHR®. The SHRM-CP stands for the Society of Human Resource Management Certified Professional, and the SHRM-SCP stands for SHRM Senior Certified Professional.

What is HR job salary? ›

HR Manager salary in India ranges between ₹ 3.0 Lakhs to ₹ 18.0 Lakhs with an average annual salary of ₹ 7.0 Lakhs.

What are the six core HR processes? ›

The six main function of HR are recruitment, workplace safety, employee relations, compensation planning, labor law compliance and training.

What are the 15 functional areas of HR? ›

2. Key Functions Of Human Resource Management
  • Human resource planning.
  • Recruitment.
  • Performance management.
  • Learning & development.
  • Career planning.
  • Information sharing.
  • Rewards & recognitions.
  • Compensation & benefits.
30 Oct 2022

What are the 8 RS of HR? ›

Human Resources Functions: 8 Areas to Focus on
  • Recruitment and selection. It takes time and planning to attract and recruit highly talented employees. ...
  • Training and Development. ...
  • Company Brand and Culture. ...
  • Safety and Health. ...
  • Performance Management. ...
  • Succession Planning. ...
  • Compensation and Benefits. ...
  • Compliance and Legal.
16 Jul 2019

What are the 3 elements of HR? ›

Generally, there are three phases of Human Resource Management namely, the pre-hiring phase of the employee, Training and Development phase and the post-hiring phase of the employee.

What is a checklist in HR? ›

Checklists can outline key HR processes, including: Open positions (how to request and fill an open or new position) Onboarding new employees (identifying paperwork that needs to be completed) Offboarding/exit interview process. Annual benefits enrollment.

What are 10 examples of human resources? ›

What are the functional areas of human resources?
  • Recruiting and staffing employees.
  • Employee benefits.
  • Employee compensation.
  • Employee and labor relations.
  • Human resources compliance.
  • Organizational structure.
  • Human resources information and payroll.
  • Employee training and development.

How many types of HR are there? ›

What Are the 5 Types of Human Resources? There are numerous, important human resources functions carried out by an HR Department. Five well-known types of these responsibilities could include: Recruiting, hiring, and onboarding new employees.

What kind of person is good at HR? ›

Empathetic. The ability to show empathy to other people on a range of topics is essential for a good HR manager. HR managers are responsible for ensuring that employees are happy and supported in their place of work and often have to deal with a breadth of issues impacting employees in the workplace.

What are HR soft skills? ›

Soft skills, on the other hand, are a mix of personality traits, behaviors, and social attitudes. They allow people to communicate effectively, collaborate, and manage conflict well. They are subjective, meaning they're not so easy to measure and can be more complex to learn.

What strengths should HR have? ›

What soft skills are required to work in HR?
  • Organisation. Being organised is imperative to succeed in an HR role. ...
  • Time management. Time management plays heavily into the organisational skills required of HR professionals. ...
  • Communication. ...
  • Confidentiality. ...
  • Adaptability. ...
  • Teamwork. ...
  • Problem Solving. ...
  • Leadership.
20 Jan 2020

Is PHR or SHRM better? ›

The PHR certification will help you learn business law HR-oriented business law, and you are working with less than 250 people. The SHRM-CP will be a better option if you are interested in consulting behaviors or leadership aspects while working in a larger organization.

What are the 5 most important human resources? ›

Human Resources manages 5 main duties: talent management, compensation and employee benefits, training and development, compliance, and workplace safety.

What certifications do you need to be an HR manager? ›

Earning an SHRM certification demonstrates that you can apply learning and HR theory to on-the-job situations. The certifications require at least a bachelor's degree in human resources or a related field, and each requires varying years of professional HR experience to qualify for a certification exam.

What is the hardest HR certification? ›

SPHR is the highest level of certification offered by HRCI for U.S.-focused professionals. Requiring at least four years of HR experience, this is a great certification option for senior HR professionals or those in HR management hoping to become a director, vice president, or even a CHRO.

Do employers prefer PHR or SHRM? ›

Many of the employers simply posted “HR Certification preferred (PHR or SHRM-CP)” so they did not indicate a preference. Over on LinkedIn's job boards, we found 221 jobs that requested PHR certification and 1,216 requesting SHRM-CP certification from candidates.

Is getting your PHR hard? ›

Earning your PHR or SPHR is no easy task, but it's a step well worth taking. Getting your certification requires a dedication of undivided time and effort. Although the process is difficult, the benefits speak for themselves.

What are the 7 major HR activities? ›

On this page, you'll find the main functions of an HR department, and what each entails:
  • Recruitment and Hiring.
  • Training and Development.
  • Employer-Employee Relations.
  • Maintain Company Culture.
  • Manage Employee Benefits.
  • Create a Safe Work Environment.
  • Handle Disciplinary Actions.

How do I know if HR is right for me? ›

HR professionals work with confidential information, so you may be a good match for an HR career if you're discrete and respectful at all times. Dedicated: You can manage the multiple roles of HR jobs by being self-motivated and dedicated to your work.

What are the two HR certifications? ›

Nationally Recognized HR Certifications

The four most recognized types of HR certifications are: SHRM-CP®, SHRM-SCP®, PHR® and SPHR®. The SHRM-CP stands for the Society of Human Resource Management Certified Professional, and the SHRM-SCP stands for SHRM Senior Certified Professional.

Can I take the PHR without experience? ›

To be eligible for the PHR you must meet one of the following conditions for education and/or experience: Have at least one year of experience in a professional-level HR position and a Master's degree or higher, Have at least two years of experience in a professional-level HR position and a Bachelor's degree, OR Have ...


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