Navigating the HR Certification Maze

I worked hard to earn my Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification. I studied evenings and weekends forgoing time with friends and family to read materials and review terms on flash cards. In December 1997 I sat in an auditorium at the University of Colorado Denver campus and took the exam on paper with a pencil. I waited six weeks to receive the letter that said I had passed. At the time, I was pursuing a Master’s degree and was more excited when I received that letter than I was when I successfully defended my dissertation. In 2005, I hit the books again and took the Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) exam. This time, the exam was on a computer, and I found out right away that I had passed. Over the years, I have diligently recertified through ongoing education and job experience. I had no desire to take those tests—or any test—again.

When I heard that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) had parted ways with the Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI)—the issuers of the PHR, SPHR and GPHR— and was rolling out a new certification, I was miffed. I didn’t know why the HR profession needed another certification. In June, at the annual SHRM conference in Orlando, the buzz was all about the new certifications, which had just been named the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP. Conference attendees were also told about the “tutorial” that would give anyone with a current certification, i.e., a PHR, SPHR, or GPHR the ability to obtain one of the new certifications easily and at no charge. I took the tutorial in January of 2015 and found that yes, it was easy and free.

The tutorial took me about an hour to complete and was broken up into two parts. The first and longer part fully explained SHRM’s new competency model and how it differs from other certification models. In this section, participants answer questions about their own background and receive a one page summary of their expertise compared to SHRM’s competencies. The second part of the tutorial consisted of about 10 situational judgment test questions. Each question describes a workplace scenario and asks multiple-choice questions pertaining to the scenario. After choosing the best answer, you receive either a “correct” with an explanation of why it is the best answer and why the others were not correct, OR you are given a second chance to select the best answer. It did not take me more than two tries to get a “correct” response, so I don’t know what would happen if it took three or more tries to get the answer right. My understanding is that every eligible participant passes.

So that was it, I now had the right to add the SHRM-SCP to my list of credentials. But the privilege felt hollow. In my role as a consultant to other HR professionals, I could be asked about the exams for either certification. With the financial support of my employer, I signed up to take the SHRM-SCP exam. On the first day of the first testing window for the new designations, I will once again sit in front of a computer screen at the Prometric center in Greenwood Village and take a certification exam.

One final point: I fervently hope I will pass the exam and will be studying with that goal in mind, but the reason I am doing this is to experience a SHRM certification exam so I can be helpful to anyone who embarks on that journey.

If you are taking one of the SHRM certification exams this spring, you can join Tammeron and other MSEC staff in the MSEC Group Study Program running five consecutive Monday nights from 6:00 to 9:00 beginning March 31. Click here for more details.