Certifications Every HR Professional Should Know About

October 16, 2018

Are you a rock star HR professional looking to take your career to the next level? Do you want to invest more in your professional growth and development? Have you noticed many of your colleagues have a string of credentials following their name?

If you said yes to any of those questions, you should learn more about some of the HR-related certifications that are available in the industry today. While this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list, here are some of the most well-known certifications that are worth learning more about.


The Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certifications are both offered by the HR Certification Institute (HRCI). Per HRCI, those who hold a PHR certification have demonstrated mastery of technical and operational aspects of Human Resources management, including U.S. laws and regulations. The Senior level certification is demonstrative of more strategic, big picture leadership examining HR’s role in relation to the rest of the organization, where the PHR is a better fit for someone in HR who reports to a senior leader and is solely focused on the HR department.

For a while, the PHR and SPHR certifications were the most well-known and widely held, as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) used to direct all its members to pursue this certification. In 2014, those joint efforts between HRCI and SHRM split, and SHRM came up with their own certifications, content and exams. You can read more on that here.

As a result of this shift, it’s fairly common for HR professionals to hold dual certifications from both HRCI and SHRM.


The SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) and SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) certifications are both offered by SHRM. These certifications represent mastery of similar concepts, as you’d get with an HR professional holding a PHR/SPHR certification. SHRM certifications are backed by – you guessed it: SHRM, which is the world’s largest HR membership organization with over 140 million members worldwide.

We asked several SHRM-CPs about how this certification has been valuable for their careers. One SHRM-CP said, “I believe that having a professional certification of any type puts you in a category above the rest of the practitioners in your field and can open doors that you may not know exist. The certifications are an excellent way to show your commitment to the HR field and others will know that you are a subject matter expert in many HR areas.”

Earning the PHR or SHRM-CP certification is worthwhile, even though there is a lot of knowledge and dedication required to obtain and maintain the certifications. The continuing education hours required to recertify every few years are a great way to stay current on applicable laws and regulations.


The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is the most widely recognized certification for project managers. PMP certifications are offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI).

We spoke with a consultant who chose to begin his PMP certification while working at a software vendor as a Client Services Manager. This consultant wanted to advance his career, so the next logical step was to become a certified Project Management Professional.

The consultant continued, “The PMP is a great asset for anyone involved in project work, regardless of your position. It helps you understand the key stakeholders of every project, how to handle difficult situations, and how to successfully complete a project from start to finish. While there are work history requirements around sitting for the PMP (including logged hours as a Project Manager), I would suggest that anyone able to apply for the PMP certification should do so. “


The Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) credential is backed by the American Payroll Association. And you guessed it – it’s focused solely on payroll, so if you’re not involved in the payroll function, this won’t be applicable to you. On the flip side, if you are involved in your organization’s payroll processing, this is a hugely valuable certification for you. Payroll professionals need to be compliant with many complex legislative and regulatory requirements, and the CPP certification helps demonstrate that.

Regardless of which certification you’re looking at, there are a few common threads amongst all: minimum experience to sit for the exam, an exam, and continued education requirements. So, if you’d like to pursue any of these certifications, make sure you understand those requirements before you begin the process, but I’m sure you’ll find that obtaining one or more of these certifications is well worth it!


About Samantha Colby

Samantha Colby

Samantha Colby is the Marketing Director at HRchitect, the leader in HCM systems strategic consulting. Samantha has several years of experience in the payroll and benefits administration space. Samantha has B2B and consumer marketing experience in several industries including consulting, higher education, and sports and entertainment. When not preparing for upcoming trade shows or executing marketing campaigns, Samantha can be found following Boston-based sports teams or reading a  book from the local library.