UPDATED BY
Brennan Whitfield | Nov 08, 2023

HR certifications are a great way for human resource professionals to gain knowledge, develop a specific area of expertise and ultimately advance their career.

These certifications prove to employers that you are proficient in HR responsibilities at each stage of your career. If you are just getting started in HR, a certification can demonstrate your commitment to the industry and your fluency in fundamental concepts. If you already work as an HR generalist or HR business partner, a credential could help you advance to a more strategic role as an HR director.

What Is an HR Certification?

HR certifications are credentials professionals in the field of human resources can earn to demonstrate their proficiency in HR-related concepts, practices and leadership efforts. They are often earned to help professionals advance in their HR career or transition into a career in HR from a non-HR role.

The data bears this out: A Payscale survey of more than 100,000 HR professionals found 34.2 percent of them had at least one certification. It also revealed that entry-level HR assistants were 21 percent more likely to get a promotion if they were certified, and certified HR directors were 24.8 percent more likely to get a promotion.

If you want to expand your horizons and take your HR career to the next level, here are 21 HR certifications to consider.

 

Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) Certifications

The Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) is one of the largest credentialing and learning organizations in the HR profession. It offers four certification programs for HR professionals at each stage of their career.
 

Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR)

The aPHR certification has no eligibility requirements, as it is designed for early-career HR professionals and people managers who aren’t in HR. This certification covers basic HR functions like talent acquisition, compensation and benefits, employee relations and compliance and risk management. An international version of this certificate is available for HR pros outside the U.S.

  • Cost: $300 exam fee and $100 application fee
  • Qualifications: None
  • Exam format: In-person or online; 65 scored questions and 25 pretest questions 
  • Certification length: Three years

 

Professional in Human Resources (PHR)

The PHR certification is for HR professionals who are more seasoned and have implemented HR programs. This was the most popular HR certification among those surveyed in the Payscale study. The exam certifies one’s knowledge of HR operations, such as business management, talent planning and acquisition and employee and labor relations.  This certification has also been adapted to meet the laws and regulations of California and countries outside the U.S

  • Cost: $395 exam fee and $100 application fee
  • Qualifications: One year of HR experience and a master’s degree or higher; two years of HR experience and a bachelor’s degree; four years of HR experience
  • Exam format: In-person or online; 90 scored questions and 25 pretest questions 
  • Certification length: Three years

 

Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)

The SPHR certification is aimed at HR leaders who work at the strategic level, such as leading an HR team and developing HR strategies. This was the third-most popular HR certification among those surveyed in the Payscale study. This certification is also available for HR professionals outside the U.S.

  • Cost: $495 exam fee and $100 application fee
  • Qualifications: Four years of HR experience and a master’s degree or higher; five years of HR experience and a bachelor’s degree; seven years of HR experience
  • Exam format: In-person or online; 115 scored multiple-choice questions and 25 pretest questions
  • Certification length: Three years

 

Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR)

While the previous three certifications are focused on employees residing in the United States, the GHPR certification is designed for HR professionals who work across multiple countries. The certification covers global talent management and other HR skills relevant to multinational organizations.

  • Cost: $495 exam fee and $100 application fee
  • Qualifications: One year of HR experience and a master’s degree or higher; two years of HR experience and a bachelor’s degree; four years of HR experience
  • Exam format: In-person or online; 100 scored multiple-choice questions and 25 pretest questions
  • Certification length: Three years

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Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) Certifications

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest HR membership organization. SHRM offers two certifications based on one’s seniority.
 

Certified Professional (CP)

The SHRM-CP certification is designed for people who work in HR or are pursuing a career in HR. The exam tests one’s proficiency in HR operations, such as implementing policies, supporting day-to-day functions and serving as a point of contact for the HR team. This was the second-most popular HR certification among those surveyed in the Payscale study.

  • Cost: Early-bird exam fee of $335 for SHRM members and $435 for nonmembers; standard exam fee of $410 for members and $510 for nonmembers
  • Qualifications: No HR experience required; student applicants must actively be enrolled in a degree program
  • Exam format: In-person or online; 110 scored multiple-choice questions and 24 field-test questions
  • Certification length: Three years

 

Senior Certified Professional (SCP)

The SHRM-SCP certification is reserved for HR professionals who have worked for three years in a strategic role, such as developing policies, overseeing the execution of operations or leading the alignment of HR strategies to organizational goals. This certification is also open to those who have held the SHRM-CP certification for three years and are looking to advance to a more strategic role. This was the fourth-most popular HR certification among those surveyed in the Payscale study.

  • Cost: Early-bird exam fee of $335 for SHRM members and $435 for nonmembers; standard exam fee of $410 for members and $510 for nonmembers
  • Qualifications: Three or more years of strategic-level, HR-related work experience; student applicants must actively be enrolled in a degree program
  • Exam format: In-person or online; 110 scored multiple-choice questions and 24 field-test questions
  • Certification length: Three years

 

Association for Talent Development (ATD) Certifications

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) offers two certifications for HR professionals interested in talent development, a subspecialty of HR focusing on upskilling, employee development and learning and development (L&D) programs.
 

Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD)

The APTD certification is available to talent development professionals with at least three years of experience in talent development or a related field such as human resources or higher education. The certificate covers foundational talent development topics such as instructional design, leadership development and talent management.

  • Cost: $499 for members; $699 for nonmembers
  • Qualifications: Three or more years of work experience in talent development or related field (HR, higher education, etc.) and 28 completed hours of professional development in talent development within the last three years
  • Exam format: In-person or online; 115 multiple-choice questions 
  • Certification length: Three years

 

Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD)

The CPTD certification is more advanced than the APTD certification, assessing one’s strategic approach to talent development. While covering many of the same topics, the CPTD certification places greater emphasis on talent management, performance improvement and organizational development. Applicants are required to have five years of related experience. Those who have earned the APTD certificate need only four years of experience.

  • Cost: $975 for members; $1,350 for nonmembers
  • Qualifications: Five or more years of work experience in talent development or related field (HR, higher education, etc.) and 60 completed hours of professional development in talent development within the last five years
  • Exam format: In-person or online; multiple-choice and case management questions 
  • Certification length: Three years
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American Staffing Association Certifications

The American Staffing Association has been a professional association for recruiters and staffing professionals since 1966. It offers certifications for four different staffing specialties.
 

Certified Staffing Professional (CSP)

The CSP certification program teaches staffing professionals about federal and state laws and regulations such as Equal Employment Opportunity, Family and Medical Leave Act and wage and hour laws.

  • Cost: $405 for members; $810 for nonmembers
  • Exam format: Online; 100 true-or-false and multiple-choice questions
  • Certification length: Three years

 

Certified Search Consultant (CSC)

The CSC certification program is for recruiters and search consultants. The program focuses on federal employment laws that pertain to recruiters, as well as state licensing and registration laws that affect direct hire firms.

  • Cost: $405 for members; $810 for nonmembers
  • Exam format: Online; 50 true-or-false and multiple-choice questions
  • Certification length: Three years

 

Technical Services Classified (TSC)

The TSC certification program is aimed at recruiters and hiring managers in technical industries like information technology. This program includes all of the material from the CSP program in addition to information about per diem rules, worker classification and H-1B visas. Staffing professionals who earn this credential automatically earn the CSP credential as well.

  • Cost: $405 for members; $810 for nonmembers
  • Exam format: Online; 120 true-or-false and multiple-choice questions
  • Certification length: Three years

 

Certified Health Care Staffing Professional (CHP)

The CHP certification is for staffing professionals in the healthcare sector. This program teaches healthcare recruiters about employment and labor laws relevant to healthcare, such as medical malpractice issues, the Anti-Kickback Statute and The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

  • Cost: $405 for members; $810 for nonmembers
  • Exam format: Online; 120 true-or-false and multiple-choice questions
  • Certification length: Three years

 

Talent Management Institute (TMI) Certifications

The Talent Management Institute (TMI) specializes in training for talent management, which is a framework for attracting, hiring and developing employees to drive retention. It offers three certifications tweaked to professionals at each stage of their career. 
 

Talent Management Practitioner (TMP)

The TMP certification is aimed at HR professionals who have just graduated college or have been working in HR for one to two years. The program covers foundational talent management concepts, from building a talent pipeline to talent engagement. To determine eligibility, TMI has outlined six candidacy tracks with varying education and experience requirements.

  • Cost: $625
  • Qualifications: Completed bachelor’s degree in HR, business, management or related field and six or more months of HR-related work experience 
  • Exam format: Online; 60 multiple-choice questions
  • Certification length: Three years

 

Senior Talent Management Practitioner (STMP) 

The STMP certification is for mid-career HR professionals who want to specialize in talent management. The certification covers many of the same topics as TMP, with an additional section on talent leadership capabilities. To be eligible, candidates must meet the requirements of one of TMI’s six candidacy tracks, which vary based on education and professional experience.

  • Cost: $850
  • Qualifications: Completed bachelor’s degree in HR, business, management or related field and seven or more years of HR-related work experience 
  • Exam format: Online; 60 multiple-choice questions
  • Certification length: Three years

 

Global Talent Management Leader (GTML)

The GTML certification is for mid-career talent management professionals who want to grow their career and become a global talent management leader. This program leverages learning materials from global knowledge leaders to demonstrate how a multicultural talent approach can drive business results for global organizations.

  • Cost: $1,750
  • Qualifications: Completed bachelor’s degree in HR, business, management or related field and 10 or more years of full-time HR work experience 
  • Exam format: Online; 60 multiple-choice questions
  • Certification length: Five years
Find out who's hiring.
See all HR jobs at top tech companies & startups
View 492 Jobs

 

WorldatWork Certifications

WorldatWork is a professional association for HR professionals interested in total rewards, which includes compensation, benefits and other rewards offered to employees.
 

Certified Compensation Professional (CCP)

The Certified Compensation Professional certification is aimed at entry- to mid-level HR professionals with an interest in compensation and benefits. The certification includes 10 courses and exams, covering topics such as total rewards management, regulatory requirements and how to conduct a competitive pay analysis. WorldatWork offers several other compensation-related certifications for global organizations, executive compensation, sales compensation and more.

  • Cost: $13,500 for members; $19,290 for non-members
  • Exam format: Online; 10 exams with 855 total multiple-choice questions
  • Certification length: Three years

 

Certified Benefits Professional (CBP)

The CBP certification teaches entry- to mid-level HR professionals how to design and manage employee benefits programs. Similar to the CCP program, the CBP certification consists of 10 courses and exams. The coursework covers retirement plans, health and welfare plans and benefits outsourcing, among other topics.

  • Cost: $13,500 for members; $19,290 for non-members
  • Exam format: Online; seven exams with 621 total multiple-choice questions
  • Certification length: Three years

 

Certifications From Other Organizations

Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS)

The CEBS certificate is ideal for HR professionals who specialize in benefits administration. This certification, which was created by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans in partnership with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, consists of five exams and courses. Within the CEBS program, students can earn the Group Benefits Associate certification, which details how to design and administer benefit programs, and the Retirement Plans Association certificate, which focuses on retirement plans.

  • Cost: $2,475 for exams; $1,250 for study guides; $1,020 for textbooks
  • Exam format: Online; five exams with 500 total multiple-choice questions

 

Strategic HR Leadership (SHRL)

The SHRL certificate, which is overseen by the Human Capital Institute, teaches HR executives how to be better leaders and grow their HR teams. This certification can be used to gain credits for HR professionals seeking recertification for HRCI, SHRM or ATD programs.

  • Cost: $1,995
  • Exam format: Online; multiple-choice questions

 

Cornell University’s HR Analytics Certificate

HR analytics is an increasingly important skill that ensures HR decisions are based on data instead of gut instincts. Cornell University’s HR Analytics certificate helps HR professionals learn the basics of the concept and consists of four two-week classes that teach HR professionals how to source, analyze and visualize data to inform their decision-making.

  • Cost: $3,900 or $1,025 per month
  • Exam format: Online

 

Human Resource Information Professional (HRIP)

The HRIP certification, developed by the International Association for Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM), tests HR professionals’ understanding of HR technology. While there are no eligibility requirements for this certification, ideal candidates have three to five years of experience in HR tech solutions or workforce information management.

  • Cost: $445 for exam only; 645 for exam and membership; $1,100 for exam, membership and prep course
  • Qualifications: None
  • Exam format: In-person or online; 90 multiple-choice questions
  • Certification length: Three years

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need any certifications for HR?

Certifications are not required to work in human resources, but HR job descriptions sometimes state a preference for applicants with a PHR or SHRM-CP certification.

Which HR certification should I get first?

HR professionals just beginning in their careers might want to gain foundational knowledge through the Associate Professional in Human Resources certification. Those who have a working knowledge of HR may decide to start with a PHR or SHRM-CP certification.

What are the most popular HR certifications?

The most popular HR certifications for mid-career employees are the PHR and SHRM-CP certifications. The most popular certifications for HR leaders are the SPHR and SHRM-SCP certifications.

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