The Hidden Battle for SHRM and HRCI Recertification Credits

Today I’m going to talk openly and honestly about SHRM, HRCI, and things that matter to today’s HR professionals. I have my SHRM-SCP and my SPHR, and I expect to keep them both for the foreseeable future. I think both have merit as of today (February 2018). But maybe that is going to change…

Newsflash: if you get certified as an HR professional, you need recertification (or “recert”) credits to keep your certification (unless you want to take the test again every three years!) As a chapter leader AND a speaker, I see the other side of the equation that most HR practitioners do not. I have to submit my content for credits, and I also have to work with my chapter to submit our content as well to get the appropriate credits.

battle hr recertification creditsOver the years, HRCI has become increasingly stubborn and challenging about awarding SPHR-required business credits for sessions. After several failed attempts in 2016 to get credits awarded for our chapter (for sessions like “building a strategic hiring plan for your organization” and “evaluating the ROI of training initiatives,” we actually ran into an even BIGGER problem. We received business credits, promoted it with business credits to our members, and then HRCI changed their mind after the session was over and our attendees were stuck with general credits, despite paying an extra fee for a business-credit session. Madness, right?

I finally came away with this conclusion: if you want to get business credits, you have to attend a session that has 0% HR content. Take a marketing class. Go to a statistics program. Just don’t do anything that mentions HR in the title or the session abstract and you’re fine.

During my recent SPHR renewal in January, I actually had to plug in some master’s level marketing courses I took as my business credit hours because of the weird issues HRCI has given me (and my chapter) in the past about the higher level credits.

Here’s which certification to get if you are thinking about the SPHR and the SHRM-SCP

SHRM, on the other hand, doesn’t differentiate between business and HR credits, which means once you get approved you are good to go. You still need 60 credits but it’s up to you to find the mix that supports your career growth and development. If you want to be more strategic, take more strategic content. If you want to be a recruiting expert, take more recruiting content. Pretty simple.

In all transparency, I have been trying to contact HRCI to discuss this because I think they can do better. They need to do better, and we all know it. In the last few years more than 50,000 HR professionals have read the article I wrote about which HR certification to pursue, because there’s a ton of frustration and misinformation around.

At the outset of the SHRM/HRCI split, I said that HRCI had a great following, but SHRM had its hooks in the chapters at a local level, which means it can really be strategic with recertification credits, certification training, reimbursements, etc. to advance its goals.

If I was leading the strategy at HRCI at the time, I would have had two goals: first, I would have begun creating a grassroots network of HR leaders (maybe in conjunction with chapters, since they already represent an established network) to keep support for HRCI certifications and show the value at a local level. Secondly, I would have advised HRCI to become more flexible and supportive of the chapters and professionals as a way to compete with SHRM’s deep roots, yet it seems to have gone the other way, potentially hampering its long-term success and value to the everyday HR professional. I’m seeing and hearing comments like this more often than I’d like to admit:

In fact, I just finished an HR event last week with more than a dozen certified HR leaders, and several of them said they were letting their HRCI certifications lapse now that they had renewed their SHRM certifications for the first time. That could be 2-3 years out before it starts actually making a difference (if there’s a sizable population following suit), but it’s something HRCI needs to take seriously before it’s too late.

As I said when I started this conversation, I think both have merit and I just did an analysis of when to pursue a PHR vs a SHRM-CP certification, so there isn’t really a wrong answer at this point. I just think the recertification credit issue is going to keep pushing people like me who are “in the loop” on how recert credits are awarded away from HRCI due to the ongoing friction.

What are your thoughts? If you have your PHR or SPHR, are you keeping it? If you don’t, are you leaning one way or the other (SHRM vs HRCI)?

13 thoughts on “The Hidden Battle for SHRM and HRCI Recertification Credits

  1. Maryn Taylor

    I’ve had PHR since 2003, and I’ll continue to recert for the foreseeable future. (My SHRM-CP was granted through the SHRM pathway, so I don’t think of it as being earned. I do plan to keep it current.)

    I came to your website trying to decide if I should test for SHRM-SCP or SPHR. While I’ve read your post on PHR vs SHRM-CP, I’d still be curious to hear your thoughts specifically on the senior level certifications.

    1. Ben Post author

      @Maryn I see the senior level certifications similarly, though there is a lot of nuance to consider organizationally, which makes it hard to say “x is the right one” as it can change by person, career path, and company. I did a quick search on Indeed for the certifications and SPHR is listed on job advertisements four times as often as SHRM-SCP. If you’re looking for pure recognition, that’s your option!

  2. Diana C.

    Hi Ben! Just found this article, which is timely because our local chapter has been struggling with HRCI credits for quite a while. They recently implemented some requirement for each chapter to get certified (at a cost, of course), then we still have to submit our program ahead of time, and we may or may not get certification credits, yada yada yada. At the end of the day, HRCI is a business and they exist to make money!! The split with SHRM has only magnified the holes in their business plan, and if they cannot adapt to the market, they will be extinct in a matter of time. Just my 2 cents worth…

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  4. s. abraham

    I am agreeing with renewals from HRCI being problematic. I renewed my SPHR certification at the 9th hour only to get a note back that I need to verify all my activities after they had accepted my $250 late fee. When I called to find out what was needed for the audit, it was not clear. The request was overwhelming and the process of scanning verifications for every entry on the recertification application was too much! I’m done with HRCI and will now default to SHRM as I was holding certification from both.

  5. Beth M

    I agree with Maryn, that the SHRM-SCP certification doesn’t mean much to me since it only required watching a short video to “earn.” Both my SPHR and SHRM-SCP certifications renew at the same time, and I just renewed them both. It took about 2 weeks to receive confirmation my SPHR recertification and it was instantaneous for SHRM. I have to say, it bothered me that literally no one had to review my entries for the certification to be renewed by SHRM… So, assuming the majority of the SHRM certified weren’t tested by SHRM for their knowledge (all of my peers have grandfathered HRCI credentials, not from testing), and their recertification credits aren’t checked, to me that doesn’t make me confident in the SHRM certification. It reinforces the HRCI certifications. Not that it should be a hassle as some above have indicated it was for them, but I do appreciate the oversight.

  6. Shauna Griffis

    It’s easier for me to maintain my PHR than it would be an SPHR, so I plan on keeping both as long as it remains this straightforward.


    To me, there are 2 purposes to gain letters behind your name such as the HCI or SHRM desginations:
    1. To demonstrate a mastery of knowledge (even if it may be generalized)
    2. To be at an “advantage” to future employers (clients if work for yourself) that you have acquired (maintained) this knowledge.

    I have not seen too many job ads that ask for SHRM-CP designation preferred but often see the SPHR designation preferred. So within the HR community, HR professionals may seem to lean on SHRM designations, but organizations seem to prefer the HCI designations.

  8. Christina

    I have had my PHR since 2009, so this is my 3rd renewal. I have to say, I’m pretty disappointed that HRCI is now charging for a paper certificate! How cheesy is that? I don’t care if it’s $5 or $50. It’s the principle.

  9. karen

    I hold SPHR and SHRM-SCP. The SPHR was earned, the SHRM was given. No question as to which I hold more valuable. I’m keeping both and plan to keep both for the foreseeable future.

    For the record, I renewed my SHRM cert this year and it was a nightmare. They wanted proof (which is fine) so I compiled everything and uploaded into one big PDF. I had highlighted and circled and underlined the relevant content for recert.

    They wanted me to upload everything singularly which was stupid and time-consuming. Since I was weeks ahead of the renewal, I didn’t do it but emailed them and called them about 3 times each. No response. Ever.

    Finally, I was about to upload them one by one, but the email came in that it was approved. Would have been nice for a simple response to my email letting me know they were reviewing the matter.

  10. Charlotte

    I have a question regarding who to renew with from a Provider standpoint. My org offers HR workshops. We are currently only an HRCI Approved Provider ($450/year). I am wondering the pros and cons of switching to SHRM Provider this year ($500/2 years)? My thought is that we should provide whichever Credits are harder for an individual to submit and get approval for on their own. It sounds like HRCI is the tough one. If we do the leg work of obtaining the HRCI credits for attendees, can they submit the same content to SHRM for easy approval on their own or vice versus?

    1. Ben Post author

      @Charlotte: good question! HRCI is harder for everyone. If you can get some things through there, they can submit those events for SHRM credits as well. There are occasional differences in how SHRM and HRCI calculate credits for multiday events (rounding to the half hour, for instance) but for discrete events that are 60/90 minutes long it would be easy for them to submit the proof that they attended the event and get SHRM credits.

  11. Karen

    Just earned my SPHR this year and saw no reason to take the SHRM SPC exam. I was told by many HR professionals and HR certification instructors that the PHR/SPHR is the Gold Standard. HRCI is also focusing on Global HR Certifications. I want to keep it simple and stick with 1 re-certification every 3 years.

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