SHRM-CP or PHR? Today’s HR Certification Decision

*Updated with additional info from several anonymous sources I’m going to preface today’s discussion a bit. I have been a SHRM volunteer leader since 2009. I’ve been a long-time supporter of SHRM. I also have been a supporter of HRCI since 2009 when I became certified. I’ve watched the battle rage between these two organizations over the past two years and have refrained from commenting publicly. This is my opinion (as usual) and doesn’t mean I have stopped supporting either of these valuable organizations. My goal is to make HR better, and I think that each of these groups is trying to do the same in their own respective ways.  Many of you may know me as the person who talks about HR certification more than anyone else on the Internet. Why do I do it? Because I believe in the value. No, not the value in the certification, but in the value of the commitment to long-term improvement.

SHRM vs HRCI Certification

PHR SPHR SHRM-SCP SHRM-CPI just answered a few questions last week and I wanted to cover the topic here because it’s a theme that I am seeing more and more often.

I am considering certification because I think I would like to move somewhat more toward the HR field. I am wondering which certification is best (PHR or SHRM) and whether you think it would be beneficial to me in my quest toward a more focused HR career.

Also, this one:

I will be taking the SPHR in June 2016 : please answer my below questions 1. What all material I need to buy 2. i am confused – how could we use SHRM Study Material for SPHR certification – aren’t these two different institutions

For those of you who have been under a rock, SHRM stopped supporting the HRCI credentials (SPHR and PHR) back in 2014. Here’s what I wrote on the topic back then:

HRCI is not planning to discontinue providing PHR, SPHR, and GPHR exams to allow HR professionals to be certified. With SHRM moving away from those exams, it remains to be seen what the overall impact will be on the marketability over time for those of us with one of the “traditional” HR certifications.

My predictions offline at the time were fairly simple. I believed that HRCI was going to win in the short term and SHRM would win in the long term for a few reasons.

  • HRCI has an existing list of more than 100,000 certified HR pros it can market to and try to keep them recertifying.
  • SHRM is trying to turn a cruise ship, and that doesn’t happen overnight. I am still hearing, two years later, SHRM representatives talking about their certification’s value in an attempt to drive interest.
  • My key prediction at the time: SHRM’s influence at the chapter level would eventually turn the tide due to recertification credits and its stranglehold on the requirements for chapter leaders (requiring SHRM-CP/SCP training, for instance).

For those of you that didn’t know, SHRM pays its chapters for any SHRM members and SHRM-CP/SCP certified individuals. Those dollars, more than any marketing that HRCI can put out, will turn the tide in SHRM’s favor over time.

The Ongoing Battle

I think HRCI needs a bigger list to market to and must stop attacking SHRM at every opportunity. They also need to get their recertification people working harder/faster/smarter because from the feedback I’m hearing at different chapters around the country, SHRM is doing a better job at this. HRCI has recently piloted its aPHR, which is for early career pros as a way to get more of them into the fold (building that list, as I mentioned). This is a close approximation to SHRM’s Assurance of Learning Certificate which has been around for quite a while and is close to being a standard for colleges across the US.

What I think is very strange is that in the past, HRCI didn’t officially “endorse” SHRM as its only learning/prep tool for the exam, but they did a good job of highlighting it on their website. People often thought that SHRM’s Learning System was the official study tool for the PHR and SPHR exams, which is false. Now that the marriage between the two is broken up, HRCI has promoted other study tools, which means our tools have been selling like hotcakes. It feels like a race to the middle with each of them trying to outdo the other and the rest of us being caught in the middle, unsure of which direction to take. Don’t believe me? I’ve received a version of that question that started this post more than 30 times in the past year. Experience has shown me that if I receive a question a handful of times, there are more than 100 people interested in the same topic. This means there are thousands wondering the same thing.

What Does This Mean for HR Pros?

Last year SHRM used its “pathway” to allow those of us with current certifications to simply click a few buttons and get our SHRM certification. That was partly so SHRM could have some numbers to help it market its certification as the next big thing to HR pros and companies (update: SHRM announced early in December that it had 65,000 pathway participants, with more still completing the process in the final weeks). In a few years those of us with a SHRM cert will have to decide how we will continue. At the same time, we will have to do the same with our HRCI certifications and make the call if we continue or let it lapse.

For those of you making the decision to get certified, consider what I’ve written here. For what it’s worth, here is what I’ve been telling people for the past year: For now I would continue to pursue the PHR/SPHR. It is recognized as a standard and could even net you more money.

SHRM’s certification doesn’t yet hold enough value in the workplace for companies and HR pros to put much stock in it. That may very well change but for now it is unproven and untested. I’ve passed both the PHR and SPHR and the knowledge gained helped me to be better at what I do. I took the SHRM pathway in half an hour and got my SHRM-SCP with about as much effort as you’d put forth pulling the prize from the cereal box. I received an anonymous comment from someone that is intimately familiar with the HR certification industry and the person had this to say:

One thing you might want to keep in mind regarding these two certifications, is that HRCI certifications are accredited and SHRM’s are not. From what I understand, SHRM is trying to get theirs accredited, but because they also develop the prep materials for the exams, they may not qualify.

Just another piece of the puzzle to consider.

A Few SHRM Positives

One of my friends is a SHRM volunteer leader and explained a few key points to me:

  • The accreditation process isn’t an overnight thing. It can take several years to get the initial stamp of approval. That’s good to know.
  • In addition, he took the SHRM exam since he is an instructor and has to teach classes on exam content. He said that it was much more reflective of the HR role of today than what he recalled the HRCI exam being several years back.
  • He also said that his state, and many others, will continue to offer SHRM and HRCI credits simultaneously for programs. This is good news for those of us holding dual certifications.

I’d love to hear from some of you about how you see this shift affecting you and the rest of the HR community. 

61 thoughts on “SHRM-CP or PHR? Today’s HR Certification Decision

  1. Bobbi

    As a conference director this “break-up” has caused more work and headache for HR volunteers. We found out Friday that HRCI will not approve “business credit” for individual sessions at our state conference. The only way HRCI will approve for business credit is if the ENTIRE conference is approved for business. So I guess us SPHR’s are SOL on business credits for both local, state and national conference. Seems like HRCI is shooting themselves in the foot.

  2. John Jorgensen

    Ben, as always your writing is very thought provoking. I need to research one or two items before I respond fully but wanted to bring up a couple of things. HRCI, when it first started, “gave” out certifications to a number who just submitted a resume, according to the history on their web site. Most chapters and state councils I have interfaced with will continue to support both certifications as long as both certifying organizations allow it.

    Like you, I obtained my SHRM-SCP by “clicking” on the Pathway but since, because I am an instructor for the SHRM Certification prep course, I took the exam. Not sure how many have taken both full exams, but I can say they are both worthy. The SHRM test, I feel, is more reflective on the current state of HR. The competency portion of the exam forces the HR pro to consider how to apply the knowledge that the HRCI exam focuses on.

    That said, I will continue to carry both my SPHR and SHRM-SCP certifications. I worked hard for both and I am proud to have them.

  3. Pete Eiden

    I agree Ben, HRCI will win in the short term and SHRM will win in the long term. I think SHRM has too much name recognition to fail. Even before SHRM had a certification, the waters were muddy between HRCI and SHRM. I can’t count how many job postings would list “SHRM Certification” preferred when they really meant HRCI. It’s been a number of years, but as a former Program Director for my local SHRM chapter the most difficult part of the role wasn’t lining up speakers or dealing with facilities, it was dealing with HRCI for recertification credit. It was needlessly complex and difficult. I’ve heard it hasn’t improved much.

    I saw that HRCI updated some elements of their recertification process, making it more friendly for those that use webcasts, books, podcasts, etc. as develop tools. I think that will help but it’s probably too little too late. I can’t see individuals paying to recertify both certifications for long and I think new individuals will eventually migrate towards SHRM certification.

    It’s unfortunate. I believe in HRCI’s mission and support them in spite of any shortcomings. I’ve been a support of SHRM as well but I think SHRM’s motivation for entering the certification space is more about money than desire to advance the profession. Hopefully I’m wrong and both certifications can live on.

    1. John Jorgensen

      You are mistaken on the SHRM is in it for the money idea. They have been working on competencies for years. Many people, in SHRM, in HRCI and in the HR profession knew this for years. As someone who has taken both the SPHR and SHRM-SCP exam, I can tell you as Ben mentioned the SCP exam is more focused on how the profession has evolved and is practiced.

  4. Sheena

    My biggest issue with SHRM is their practice material and study material. I have seen so many people fail HRCI’s certification exams using their material vs another method ( David Siler or HRCP).

    Also given the fact that HRCI is offering 2nd Chance insurance and there is more ‘test-like” material to prep with beforehand and SHRM is not, I’m sticking with them. SHRM’s name may hold weight but everyone’s knows what SPHR/PHR stand for.

  5. JC

    For someone such as myself that is trying to enter into HR, even before this post, I’ve been struggling with which one to go with. I understand through here (and saw it on LinkedIn) that HRCI recently created a PHR that’s geared towards those like me trying to enter (I’m an HRM major halfway through my studies).

    SHRM has been sweating me down about the Assessment however, I (now graduated) HR student told me she took it and felt like it was a waste of her time and money because when she’d interview, employers didn’t/don’t know what they heck it is and she found herself explaining it (she now has her PHR and landed an HR gig right out of grad school last year).

    I don’t even know if taking the SHRM Learning Encasement will really help. I work in local govt and other surround ling localities that advertise HR positions want the PHR at a minimum.

    Yet in my area, SHRM seems to have more testing support and live courses at the local colleges/universities. So confusing!

    Thanks Ben as always for an eye opening chat!

    1. Karen

      I am also trying to decide which to test for. I have an application completed with SHRM it only lacks making the payment. But now I’m not sure. I am already in a secure position as an HR Director with over 10 years experience now. I do not hold any degrees. but have been to many workshops. I am leaning towards the SHRM path since it seems most user friendly and do not have to be concerned with applying to new employers. I would appreciate any input not already included above. It seems the more I read the more I realize I just need to make a personal decision on where my money is best spent.

      1. Ben Post author

        Hey, Karen! Good for you deciding to take a step toward certification. I hope that it benefits you as it has me and others I know that are “in the trenches” HR pros. The SHRM exam is new and is being adopted fairly quickly. However, HRCI has done research showing the value of the certification and what it can bring to the organization and you financially and career-wise. In the end, I don’t know that you can make a “bad” choice in working to improve yourself, but if I was starting out today I’d pursue the HRCI simply due to the credibility in the marketplace. The SHRM one will get there, but it hasn’t arrived yet. Good luck, and be sure to check out the course I created if you need help preparing.

  6. Michelle

    I just stumbled across your blog today after taking the SPHR exam and failing. I am beyond upset right now and feel like the class I took and the book I studied in no way prepared me for the actual exam. I would say it would have helped if I was taking the PHR only. I did sign up for the test insurance to retake it this winter but I am feeling so frustrated that I wasted so much time on insignificant material that I don’t even know what I’m going to do. I guess I’m not even sure of the point of my post, maybe I’m just using this as a place to get this off my chest in a place where others can probably relate. Thanks for listening. :-(

    1. Ben Post author

      Hey, Michelle! Sorry to hear that! You are not alone–I get those kinds of responses fairly often. Think about it–nearly half the people that take the exam do not pass, so you have plenty of company struggling with the same thing. What material did you end up using? Have you seen the HRCP tools, which offer a money back guarantee if you don’t pass?

      Also, did you check out the course I created? I think it’s a different angle than the typical book/course and would help you to prepare in ways that another tool probably wouldn’t. It’s meant to be blended with something else, and it uses recurring lessons and discussions to keep you on top of the most important topics you need to know for the exam.

      1. Barbara Hendricks

        Hi Ben,

        I would like to learn more about the HR certification course you created. Please advise.


      2. Joffre J. Miller

        I don’t know if anyone is still commenting on this article, but I had some points I wanted to present. HRCI has always been upfront with potential test takers that one source of preparation material is not sufficient to pass. HRCI PHR pass rate is still around 50%, where the SHRM-CP pass rate is about 70%. In my opinion, the pass rate of 70% is practically giving the certification away. The PHR and SPHR were difficult for a reason; the low pass rates gave the certification credibility. The demise of SHRM will be the fact that their certifications are not accredited. That is why HRCI and SHRM were separate entities from the beginning so that they could remain independent. I don't understand how our HR community does not see the problem with the same organization creating test preparation material also administering and granting the certification. This lack of independence probably explains the higher pass rates as well.

  7. Pingback: HR Certification Trends: An Interview with the CEO of HRCI | upstartHR

  8. Jerry Myers

    This may seem like a petty distinction to some, but I think HRCI is the more appealing option from a personal branding standpoint. Who wants SEVEN initials after their name for an unaccredited certification? SHRM-SCP after your name is unwieldy and looks bloated. PHR or SPHR is much more concise. Look at HR pros on LinkedIn. “Bob Smith, PHR, SHRM-CP” just looks like you’re overcompensating. For those with an MBA or JD, it becomes even more egregious.

  9. Ferdinand

    I am facing the same problem. I don’t know what to chose between the PHR and SHRM CP . I have been working in HR for the past 6 years, I have a degree but not in HR thus looking for a suitable certification to advance my career. It is really confusing. I leaning towards SHRM CP because of the user friendly platform and and excellent learning system. However, I fear it is not yet renowned with HR professionals especially outside the US. I think I need more time to finally decide.

  10. Lucas J


    My Name is Lucas Joseph, from India, i hold a bachelor degree in science. after my college, i started working, my carrier started with Infosys BPO company as HR Executive for 2 years, then i moved as HR Analyst in Global HR Operations (Back office) at Honeywell, then moved as HR Operations Specialist, handling few improvement projects in HR Back office operations (like, CSAT improvement, Accuracy, TAT and so on..) Then i moved to Hewlett Packard as Global HR Process Improvement lead for 3 years driving various improvement projects at a higher level resulting in Cost savings, Efficiency Savings. Now i am part of Transition and Transformation Team for HR Transitions, implementing the Process in BPO Process from the client. Overall i have 12 years of experience with a Bachelor degree, Six Sigma green belt certified, Trained and aware of basic lean principles (5 S concepts, trained and practiced).

    All my 12 years of experience are in HR Back Office and HR BPO Services – in HR Operations, HR Projects and HR Transitions.

    I do not want to do any Master Degree for now, Could you suggest me a Certification Course that will add value to my professional experience, or any other suggestion would be welcome.

    My email ID:

    Thank you,
    Lucas J

  11. Rajendra Shah Aman


    I’m confused too regarding perusing SHRM or S/PHR. I’ve 8 years plus experience in HR Field having MBA in HRM. My Focus is Gulf Market and i want to enhance my Career at the same time getting user friendly Certification. I have not come across a single Job Vacancy which requires HRMS but asking for CIPD or S/PHR so i’m in indecisive state. Please share your advice……


  12. JD

    Dear Ben and every commentator on this post, thank you for your feedback. If my post is offensive, I’m sorry but I don’t intend take a swipe out anyone. Any and every advice given is welcome.

    My wife and I live outside of the US and will be relocating there soon. Most of what my wife does is HR related, even though her degree is in Computer Science. She’s done the HR role for over 5 years and wants to get certified.
    So I, Mr. hubby, decided to do some research beforehand to help her in her decision. I’ve heard of SHRM (maybe because some colleague of mine mentioned) and also heard something about the HR divorce but never knew it would be this difficult for a certification seeking newbie to decide.

    Unfortunately, I’m sad to say to say that the article and comments may have done a great job of splitting my head into two and got me more confused. For me, it’s like opportunity cost, which will be the alternative to forgo. This become more pertinent when one is careful with every coin one earns.
    I’m now known the wiser on which to go for. From what I have read here, SHRM is more practical and not as difficult to pass compared to the more established HRCI who focused on the development of the profession, correct?

    What a smart university should do is offer a Masters that collaborated with both bodies and upon completion offered both certifications along with the Masters degree – win-win-win for everyone.

    My questions:
    1. Are there post-graduate degrees in HR within the United States which one can take and will issue out the University’s qualification as well as a certification from either HR bodies (or both)?

    2. What are the chances of getting hired from outside of the US with a PHR or SHRM certification?

    3. Yes, I know you guys are not immigration specialists but what the heck I’m here already, can one secure an HR job after doing an HR Masters in the US or will my wife be asked to leave the US :)

    Thank you for the time.


    1. Soraya Santoyo, MSHRM, SHRM-CP

      JD – Your questions are great and present real concerns. I recently passed the SHRM-CP exam in 2016 and hold a MSHRM degree from a top HR program from a university that is well-known for welcoming international students. Below are my thoughts (fair warning – it’s lengthy).
      1) Ten years back when the SHRM-CP did not exist, the masters program I participated in did not offer certification as part of the program. We were informed that the degree carried enough weight and was a significant accomplishment that a PHR wasn’t needed, but we could obtain it if wanted on our own. I wish I had done so as a student. By the time I wanted to get the PHR, it was more costly and I decided not to bother with it; it’s unclear how much that decision affected my career. NOTE: most of my classmates have great career success WITHOUT additional certifications.
      2) As a US-citizen, I can only provide feedback I’ve gathered from friends/classmates. International students do not have it easier when job searching, because while masters and certifications are great, typical US employers often don’t want to deal with the visas, or they are ill-prepared when they do want to hire from outside of the US. Large, global companies (multi-nationals) are certainly open and prepared to hire, but if you want to stay in the US, the job market is fierce and competitive. You may want to back up your HR experience with a masters and/or certification, if only to further help you stand out. Certification will certainly be the less expensive option.
      3) If you are already in the US and are considering a masters program, check out schools with MBA programs or HR specific masters, at the highest tier b-school that you can get into and/or afford. I’m biased towards Purdue, but there are MANY great schools and HR programs. I suggest top b-schools, because HR grad degrees are not unlike MBAs which are often deemed vanity degrees that allow you to leverage background/talent/experience with school prestige and networks. Can you secure a job without a masters-level degree? Perhaps. Will you “secure” a job AFTER? There is no 100% certainty and you would still have to do all of the work to job search and do well in the program. Does the masters help? Yes, I believe it does, especially for the networking and opportunities that can come about from the experience. I’m not an immigration expert, but typically spouses are able to stay in the US through a student/spouse visa, and a masters program IMO is the “more secure” route for this versus trying to secure visas as an employer-sponsored, HR employee.
      If you have stuck with this long response, I’ll leave you with two quotes from my mentors:
      “A good education will open doors for you in places you didn’t even know doors existed.”
      “Employers love students. They will take a chance as long as you are still a student or just graduated – once your out of school even 1-2 years, they will want to know what you did with all that education.”

      Best of luck!

  13. myhusband

    I think HRCI has make the PHR/SPHR nearly impossible to pass and I think it has to due with racking up testing fees. My husband has taken the test twice, has studied for months in preparation for both, has a Masters degree so he’s not an idiot, went in and didn’t pass twice. He’s done, he thinks it’s a racket for the organization to make money and I agree. I’ve been in the HR industry for 30 years and never obtained these certifications and I’m doing just fine. I fully believe the HRCI need to make their test more realistic and not as strategic. My husband spent nearly 800 bucks on testing. What an incredible waste of hard earned money.

    1. Vivian R

      I totally empathize with your husband. The struggle with the HRCI exams is real, and by “real”, I mean they are completely meant to trick you up. I mean, some of the questions are so ambiguous you might as well be pinning the tail on the donkey. I studied for 3 months solid and answered at least 1500 practice questions over the course of my studies and failed the PHR. This is important…I want to acquire certification, but I am so disenchanted with the testing structure that I don’t know if I can face it again. The alternative is the SHRM-CP, but like all the comments here, it’s anybody’s guess whether that is a good or bad move. Meanwhile, it’s money that we don’t want to waste. I have an Engineering degree and graduated Cum Laude, so I think I’m relatively intelligent. Right now I am paralyzed on the next move. Best wishes to all who figure it out!

      1. Shon

        Hi Vivian,

        I just happened upon this blog today and am currently in study mode for the SHRM-SCP. I have found the materials and online learning useful.

      2. Becca U

        Hi Vivian,

        I am in the same boat. I took the PHR a few years ago after studying for months (not to mention the blood, sweat, and tears to save the money to pay for the test and study material). I didn’t pass and was so heartbroken and disappointed in myself that I haven’t looked in that direction again, until now. It seems almost adding insult to injury to want to get back to it, just to be faced with deciding which certification to go with this time. Conquering the personal roadblock with the PHR would be awesome, but I ultimately just want to do what’s best for my career.

  14. Jennifer

    Ben, I’m curious to know where you stand on this topic now…a year since your article posted and nearly a year since your last reply above. I am currently trying to decide between getting my CP or PHR and would greatly appreciate any current information and insights you, or anyone, may have on the subject.

    1. Ben Post author

      Hey, Jennifer! I am still a full supporter of HRCI, but the SHRM certifications are gaining more traction in the marketplace. I still see more job postings asking for the PHR/SPHR requirements than the SHRM ones. Hope that helps!

      1. amy

        Hi Ben. I have a question too. I’m going to try to get both certifications this year. My thought process is to go for the SPHR and the SHRM-SCP as if I’m going to study for an exam, I’d rather go big or go home. Does that seem silly to go for the senior certifications and by-pass the others?

      2. Ben Post author

        Hey, Amy! It’s not silly at all. I have several students that come to me with 10+ years of experience that don’t even consider the “lower” level exams because they see no cert as better than having a lower cert, if that makes sense. It’s all about perception and they want to be perceived as senior level or just not draw attention to the certifications at all.

  15. Sandy

    I too am trying to consider which one I should take. I passed the SPHR on the first try years ago and have now let it laspe. Now I need to get certified again. Thanks for all the feedback on this topic.

  16. Sarah

    I agree with you Ben. I think that the HRCI credentials will stay relevant in the short-term, but the SHRM ones will surpass them in the long-run. I personally am partial to the HRCI credentials because I know how hard I worked for them, the merit they currently hold and that they are accredited; however, I did not miss out on the opportunity to obtain my SHRM credentials because I understand that standards change. I am up for recertification of both next year and plan to recertify both indefinitely while I see what the future holds for each. At this point, I think HRCI credentials still hold their merit. Nearly all position openings that I’ve seen indicate a preference or requirement for either HRCI credentials or either, but not exclusively SHRM credentials. I am sympathetic to those who are just starting out and need to choose between the two certifications.

  17. Amy

    Hi again. I have another question. Is the content that different between the SPHR and the SHRM-SCP exams? I’m contemplating sitting for both thinking the body of knowledge would essentially be the same for both. Am I correct or wrong in this assumption? Any insight you can provide would be great. Thanks!

  18. Ben Post author

    Hey, Amy! The SHRM exams do not cover much, if any, legislation and legal areas. That was the biggest surprise to me. The SPHR is more focused on applying knowledge, but the SHRM exam is more focused on situational awareness and applying the competencies in the SHRM model. Not sure if that helps, but it’s a quick run down on what I keep hearing from people taking the exams.

  19. Mandy

    New SHRM-SCP here. I tested for my certification in February and was incredibly nervous. I’d heard for years how hard the HRCI exams were, and having prepared strictly through self-study, I was reasonably sure I would not past my first attempt.

    While waiting to enter the testing area, I sat next to a lovely woman with over 30 years’ HR experience who is an HR Director with a Fortune 500 company, who holds 3 degrees and teaches college-level HR courses. This was her first attempt at the SHRM-SCP, and she had previously taken the SPHR twice with no success.

    I did not get to talk to her following the exam, but I connected with her on LinkedIn and noticed that she had passed the exam.

    My perspective is that an exam that not even a 30-year, highly educated HR professional can pass is intentionally, needlessly, too difficult and not practical. I’ve never taken the HRCI exams, but I found the SHRM exam to be practical and relevant and identified my own professional experience in many of the situational questions.

    Like others, I am nervous that my SHRM certification won’t be enough in the short-term, but as I pursued it more as a point of pride than out of professional necessity, I’ll adopt a wait-and-see approach between now and when my certification needs to be renewed before deciding if I will stick with SHRM, switch to HRCI, or pursue both in the future.

  20. Jessie Salsbury

    I can qualify for the SHRM SCP – but I am newer to HR, so I am considering sticking with the CP based on the fact I haven’t been an HR Manager and I’m having a harder time grasping the global concepts. Has anyone chosen SCP or CP over the other? Since I qualify to take the SCP, and they audited me and I verified I qualify, should I go ahead and do it? I just feel weird since I am not a senior HR professional.

    1. Amy

      Hi Jessie. I am in a similar situation as you but I’m going for the SHRM SCP. I figure go big or go home. :)

      Good luck!

  21. ranjit kummar


    Can any one suggest me about SHRM recertification Exam coaching available on line or any institutes which provides such training. Especially for corporates.

    Thanks in advance

  22. Thomas Ng

    As far as I am aware professional certification bodies should be independent, and should not be also running prep programs. This is the case with most professional certification bodies which I am aware of, like Chartered or Certified Accountant Societies, Project Management Institute, Societies for Professional Engineers etc.

    My problem with SHRM is that they are running the exams as well as providing prep. According to ANSI standards, when you do that, you are a training organization, not a professional certification body. No matter how independent SHRM claims to be, the potential conflict of interest is surely obvious.

  23. Ola Ismail-Alabi

    Hi! I am planning on taking the SHRM-CP certification exam this December (seems to be the next time it’s being offered) and wanted some advice on study time. How long do you think is enough time to study for the exam? 1month? 2? Also, would you recommend any study aides? The organizations offering prep courses seem a bit pricey and I’m wondering if its worth it seeing as the SHRM offers some preparation material?


    1. Ben Post author

      @Ola, I studied for 12 weeks for each of my exams and was very prepared. I have a friend that just passed the SHRM SCP that studied about a week. It all depends on your own comfort level, experience level (generalist background with deep roots or just a specialist with a narrow focus?), etc. HRCP’s tools are less expensive and have been used by many to study for and pass the SHRM CP and SCP exams. More info:

  24. Rhonda Hanes

    Hello – thank you for the information. It has all be great to read. I currently hold my PHR and have just scheduled my SHRM – SCP. Can you please direct me to the HRCP tools specifically for the SHRM – SCP? Thank you again!

  25. Gio

    Ben, thank you for sharing your professional thoughts and advice on the topic! I am considering pursuing the SHRM certification by February 2018. I know you recommend the HRCP for individuals that are planning to take the PHR cert. exam – what about individuals like me that are planning to take the SHRM-CP cert. test instead? Do you have any advice on alternative materials for that one? Thanks in advance! Gio

  26. ShawnMarie

    I’m currently taking a PHR/SPHR prep class and have been studying for over a month. I’m scheduling my PHR exam for early December. Since I’m already studying, I’m considering taking the PHR, then SHRM-CP or SCP a week or two later. Have you ever know anyone to take both exams in this short timeframe? Do you know if the material for HRCI will cross over to the material for the SHRM exams?

    1. Ben Post author

      I’ve heard of it but most people don’t do it because it is really hard. The material for both will be similar in some respects. SHRM does not have case law and legal requirements as a core part of its exam like HRCI does but otherwise there can’t be that much difference.

  27. Ron

    I’m currently thinking about taking the SHRM-SCP after not successfully passing the SPHR a few years ago. I almost gave up but decided I’d to try again. I would like prep materials that would be useful and cost effective. Will the existing study materials I have from the SHRM learning system for SPHR or HRCP-SPHR study materials work for the SHRM-SCP preparation?

    1. Ben Post author

      Hey, Ron! I would say that the ones you have will be applicable. Despite a lot of commentary about how the exams are different, most of the core concepts are very similar (it’s not like there are two distinctly separate methods for doing HR). Good luck! If you’re looking for something to give you some motivation and help you stay on top of your studies with practical ideas and examples, check out our self study resources:

      I’ve had many students use it for the SHRM exams successfully.

  28. Cindy

    Good information. Took the SHRM- AOL, right after graduation. Passed with no problems. as I was getting ready to test, I saw that there is now an exam for new grads, aPHR…the cost it double for that exam in comparison but I am considering taking it. Although, I have an extensive career in business, but I can’t seem to break into the HR field. Debating the risk/reward.

  29. Nadia Choudhry

    Thank you everyone for all this information. Since I am just beginner in the HR field and just started interning with the HR dept. for a company, I am not yet eligible to sit for the SHRM-CP or the PHR exams just yet. However, does any one know if taking the aPHR (Associate professional in human resources) is even worth it? It’s basically an exam for certification for those just beginning their HR career “and proves threir knowledge of foundational Human Resources”. Should I even take this? Or should I wait till I have at least a years worth of experience in the HR field before I can sit for the SHRM-CP or the PHR? Any word of advise at this point would be a huge help! Thank you!!

  30. Melissa

    Thanks for the comments. I have been looking for an honest opinion on which certification to prefer!

  31. Erin

    I came across this discussion while trying to formulate an argument supporting the value and credibility of the SHRM-CP credential.

    I have almost 12 years of HR experience and at about year 4, I started looking at HRCI and the PHR certification. At the time, I was coming up against a stumbling block of meeting qualifications to sit for the exam due to lack of a degree. Eventually, I hit the experience AND degree requirements, but decided to go with the certification offered by SHRM, thinking that a credential offered directly by the society would hold equal if not more weight.

    My immediate supervisor is PHR credentialed. When I announced that I had earned my SHRM-CP credential, the response was underwhelming and I was left with the impression that they are not convinced that it is on par with the PHR credential. That in and of itself kind of goads me into wanting to attain the SPHR, however, there is no career ladder available so the credential would just be a matter of pride.

    We are in the process of updating a Professional Development policy for our company and I’d really like to be able to present an argument for recognizing the SHRM-CP as equivalent to the PHR. I’ve done a bit of looking online, but have yet to see anything that clearly compares the two credentials.

    Any help or input would be greatly appreciated!

  32. Pingback: Which HR Certification is Better? An Analysis of the SHRM-CP and PHR | upstartHR

  33. Alanna

    I just took the SHRM-CP exam today and preliminarily passed. Is states the following in the SHRM Certification Handbook: “Candidates will receive a provisional pass/did not pass decision at the testing center upon completion of the exam. Provisional results are provided as a convenience to the examinee, and examinees' official scores may differ from their provisional results. Additional evaluation of the functioning of all exam items is done during and at the close of each exam window. This additional review is to ensure that all examinees are evaluated accurately and fairly.”

    If I’m interpreting this correctly, it is saying that an initial “pass” be revoked following the close of the exam window. Has anyone heard of anyone experiencing this. I could imagine that it would be quite devastating, I must say I’m extremely nervous.

    Once it is confirmed that I did, in fact, pass the SHRM-CP, I plan to attain my PHR. I don’t see the harm in obtaining both (other than the excessive amount of credentials following my name as pointed out in a previous comment). Regardless of which certification you are pursuing, I wish you the best of luck!

    1. Ben Post author

      @Alanna, the only reason you’d fail following a provisional pass is if there were some irregularities with your test, such as cheating. You shouldn’t have anything to worry about! Congrats!

  34. T

    I am from Canada and we have the CHRP as our HR designation. Unfortunately, several years back they made it so you had to have a 3 or 4 year university degree in order to write the exam – years of experience do not matter. When I wanted to get my designation it was too late. I am middle aged, have tons of real life experience, and do not feel that it should be necessary to hold a degree in order to obtain the much sought after designation to continue being employable in this industry. I decided in 2013 to write the exam for the PHR, thinking that something was better than nothing and that maybe employers here in Canada would have a clue what the PHR is, and being convinced of the legitimacy of the designations and their relevance even in Canada by HRCI / SHRM. I failed the first time, passed 6 months later, have recertified, have also got the SHRM-CP and guess what, none of it matters here in Canada. Employers don’t recognize the US based designations, and US employers won’t hire designated individuals if they are from Canada because of immigration rules, of course. My point is that it has all been a waste of time and money. Now, when I am being asked to recertify for SHRM and I call to ask questions of them, nobody seems to have the answers about recertification credits and SHRM employees get rather pissy with you when you question the legitimacy of their designation, and suggest that because HRCI has been around for so much longer, that the PHR is the way to stay recertified, SHRM employees hang up on me. What does that say about a supposedly “professional” organization. It is kind of a gong show, and tells me that these are just businesses, and like any other business, they are in it only to make money. I am truly disappointed in all HR certifications – US and Canada. What ever happened to school of hard knocks and knowing how to deal with people and situations in the workplace??

  35. stephanie

    Ben, You have been so kind to share your thoughts and knowledge and I was hoping I could lean in that today. I know you have answered this question in different formats based on the person asking the question I could really use your feedback. I have been an HR/Staff Development professional for about 20 years. I have a Masters in HR. In 2010, I was laid off and have been struggling with my career ever since. To keep meals on the table, I have been an office manager of some sorts since that time. Last year, I got my ODCP certification (through HRCI), but I see that employers still don’t see my HR background, education and OD certification on my resume. So, I have been thinking about getting my SPHR or SHRM-CP certification. I am cautious since it sounds like many who have more experience than me have failed the exam. I trust your opinion and advice. Should I go with the SHPR or SHRM-CP? Since it has been a few years since SHRM/HRCI split, I was wondering if certification was going into one particular direction. Seems like both have a high fail rate, but I am determined. Whichever I go with, does it make more sense to get your SPHR study guide book and the HRCI study materials? Thank you so much for reading and responding to my questions. Blessings.

    1. Ben Post author

      @Stephanie with your experience you could pursue the PHR if you’re worried about it. If you have the budget you can take PHR AND SPHR in the same window, which means you are covering all your bases just in case the SPHR gets you. HRCP materials plus our study course would be the preferred method for preparation as it will give you the compliance essentials along with some practical ideas on how to make it work.

  36. Mike

    Having just passed the SPHR exam, I was wondering if it would be worth it to pursue SHRM-SCP just to cover all my bases. Having looked at the exam application window, I have missed my opportunity for a Spring exam at this point, I would have to wait until December. One advantage to HRCI is that the tests can now be taken year round…which I’m sure is another lure when compared to the SHRM certifications. You may want to include this tidbit in the article.

  37. Susan

    Hi Ben,

    It’s been a couple years since you wrote this and now 3 years since those of us who grandfathered into the SHRM-CP/SCP status using the free and fast pathway method gained our shiny new SHRM certs. This means that this year they’re expiring and we’re faced with a decision point. I wonder if you have a finger on the pulse of what’s happening now that that’s the case. My gut reaction is: “Thanks a lot SHRM, now I have to track classes and pay twice for carrying two credentials that mean basically the same thing.” I’m not immediately inclined to renew it, especially since I’ve recently taken a sidestep from my 20 yr HR career and may or may not go back. Are you hearing anything from the HR masses on continuing to renew and pay for both SHRM and HRCI credentials?

    1. Ben Post author

      @Susan, some people are dropping one or the other. Some say SHRM isn’t worth it, others say HRCI is too difficult to deal with. I haven’t yet heard an overabundance of evidence for either specific one.

  38. Ola Ismail-Alabi

    Help please
    Does anyone have access to the SHRM Learning Management System (2017-2018) that they are willing to ‘share’?
    I really need help. I’m studying to re-take the exam for the winter window and the license I was using to study just expired. I have the book version, but I just need access to take the practice exams.


  39. Kimberly

    Thank you for your very interesting articles and comments from readers. I passed the SPHR a year before SHRM decided to launch the new certification. The test was intimidating but very possible to pass with experience and some studying. I was not happy with SHRM’s decision to start their own certification. I think SHRM’s actions did nothing for the reputation of the Human Resource community and was focused on money. I just had to recertify my SHRM-SCP certificate this month (which I do not value) because I am unsure of the future of the two certifications.

    I have been a Human Resource Manager for various government agencies for the past 20 years. Here are my thoughts for those wondering which test to take. If I was the hiring manager, I would like to see the PHR or SHRM-PC equivalent if you were applying for a lower level professional position. If you were applying for a higher level position or a position focused on employee relations, I would like to see the SPHR or SHRM-SCP. I would try to keep an open mind of where the certification was earned, but I have to say that I would place more weight on the HRCI SPHR since I know the subjects on the test.

    Thank you for the insightful articles.

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