One of the major questions that faces HR pros considering certification: Should you take the PHR or SPHR exam? For some people, it’s fairly clear cut if you only qualify for the PHR, but if you have the experience to attempt the SPHR, which should you pursue?
Here’s some guidance from HRCI on their “candidate profiles.”
The Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification is designed for HR professionals whose primary responsibilities focus on HR program implementation, are tactical and operational in nature, and function primarily within the HR department. A PHR candidate is one who:
- Focuses on program implementation.
- Has tactical/logistical orientation.
- Has accountability to another HR professional within the organization.
- Has two to four years of exempt-level generalist HR work experience, but lacks the breadth and depth of a more senior-level generalist.
- Has not had progressive HR work experience.
- Holds a job that focuses on HR department responsibilities rather than on the whole organization.
- Commands respect through gaining knowledge and using policies and guidelines to make decisions.
The Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification is designed for the HR professional who designs and plans rather than implements HR policies. An SPHR candidate is also one who:
- Designs and plans rather than implements.
- Focuses on the “big picture.”
- Has ultimate accountability in the HR department.
- Typically has six to eight years of progressive and increasingly complicated HR experience.
- Has extensive HR generalist knowledge.
- Uses judgment obtained with time and application of knowledge.
- Has generalist role within organization.
- Uses judgment obtained with time and application of knowledge..
- Understands the business beyond the HR function and has influence within overall organization.
- Commands credibility within organization, community and field by experience.
From the people I’ve talked to, it is hard to know if there’s a large difference in the difficulty level of the exams. It seems that SPHR focuses much more on strategy and the “big picture” when it comes to the actual question content.
Have you taken either (or both) exams? What did you think? Be sure to check out the PHR study guide and other materials while you’re here!