14 Best Certification Courses for HR Professionals

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14 Best Certification Courses for HR Professionals

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated March 30, 2021 | Published January 5, 2021

Updated March 30, 2021

Published January 5, 2021

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Human resources (HR) covers a wide range of professional expertise in staffing, compensation, development and compliance. HR-related certifications allow professionals to increase their professional abilities and expand their credentials to current and prospective employers. In this article, we explain the benefits of human resources certifications and list top HR certification programs.

What are human resources certifications?

Human resources certifications are distinctions earned through examinations to certify knowledge of HR practices, regulations and programs. Many professional organizations within the human resources industry offer specialized certifications relevant to different HR positions.

Most certifications require previous work experience in the HR field and related degrees. Examinations vary in length and question style based on the area of human resources expertise.

Related: Essential HR Career Competencies

Why should you get certified in human resources?

Earning certifications in human resources can provide professionals with a variety of benefits:

  • Employment outlook: Employers may ask for specific certifications in job postings, making you a more likely candidate if you hold the distinction.

  • Salary prospects: Certifications also prove industry knowledge and experience, which can lead to advanced earnings.

  • Networking: HR certifications connect you to professional networks and organizations that offer resources to members.

  • Development: Earning a certification may also provide you with necessary continuing education credits as you study or take courses to pass an exam.

  • Employee relations: HR Certifications equip professionals with the tools to help staff members understand essential job components like compensation and benefits.

  • Contribution to the workplace: Certified human resources representatives can better their organization through ongoing learning.

Related: Top Human Resources Skills for a Resume (Plus Sample Skills Section)

List of HR certifications

Here are the major HR certifications you can earn, separated by the awarding organization. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. For the most up-to-date qualifications, costs and fees, visit the certifying organization's website.

Programs from the Human Resources Certification Institute

The following certifications are provided by the Human Resources Certification Institute:

Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR)

The aPHR certification is made for those who are entering the human resources field. The exam for certification is based on fundamental knowledge, so those with no professional experience are encouraged to begin their careers with this distinction and prove their foundational understanding of HR.

Here are more details about the aPHR certification:

  • Qualifications: No HR experience is necessary for this exam

  • Exam length: Two hours and fifteen minutes

  • Number of questions: 100

  • Type of questions: Multiple-choice

  • Topics covered: HR operations, employee relations, recruitment and selection, compensation and benefits, human resource development and retention, health, safety and security

  • Exam fee: $300

  • Application fee: $100

Professional in Human Resources (PHR)

This certification is for human resources professionals who work under the direction of an HR director. PHR focuses on professionals who work mainly within the responsibilities of the HR department to make sure the organization follows all laws and regulations. They also oversee operational orientation and implement programs.

Here are more details about the PHR certification:

  • Qualifications: Complete one to four years of HR work experience depending on your level of education (high school diploma to master's degree).

  • Exam length: Three hours

  • Number of questions: 150

  • Type of questions: Multiple-choice

  • Topics covered: Employee and labor relations, business management, talent planning and acquisition, learning and development, total rewards

  • Exam fee: $395

  • Application fee: $100

Global Professional in Human Resources

This certification is for HR professionals who work in the global marketplace to prove their expert knowledge of multinational responsibilities and policies. Here are the specifics for earning this certification:

  • Qualifications: Complete two to four years of HR work experience depending on your level of education (high school diploma to master's degree).

  • Exam length: Three hours

  • Number of questions: 140

  • Type of questions: Multiple-choice

  • Topics covered: Strategic global human resources, global talent management, global mobility, workplace culture, total rewards, risk management and compliance

  • Exam fee: $495

  • Application fee: $100

Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)

The SPHR certification demonstrates mastery in HR management. This certification is recommended for HR leaders who create strategic plans for human resource needs and take a broader view of business functions. HR professionals who help their departments meet goals and inspire a clear vision can benefit from this certification to prove their deep knowledge in the HR field.

Here are more details about the SPHR certification:

  • Qualifications: Complete four to seven years of HR work experience depending on your level of education (high school diploma to master's degree).

  • Exam length: Three hours

  • Number of questions: 150

  • Type of questions: Multiple-choice

  • Topics covered: Leadership and strategy, employee relations and engagement, talent planning and acquisition, learning and development, total rewards

  • Exam fee: $495

  • Application fee: $100

Related: Human Resources Online Classes To Advance Your Career

Certifications offered by the American Staffing Association (ASA)

Here are several of the certifications offered by the ASA:

Certified Staffing Professional

This credential focuses on federal and state labor and employment laws for HR staffing professionals. The ASA recommends this certification for anyone who works as a staffing professional to certify their knowledge of essential rules for the workplace.

This is the essential information about the exam for this credential:

  • Exam length: Two hours

  • Number of questions: 100

  • Type of questions: Multiple-choice, true or false

  • Topics covered: State and federal specific laws and regulations

  • Exam fee: $250 for members, $500 for non-members

Certified Search Consultant

This certification is for search and placement professionals ready to add to their qualifications. The program covers federal employment laws specific to recruiters and registration laws affecting direct hire firms. Recruiters, HR professionals, search consultants and talent acquisition managers are all encouraged by the ASA to pursue this certification.

The specifics of this exam are as follows:

  • Exam length: One hour

  • Number of questions: 50

  • Type of questions: Multiple-choice, true or false

  • Topics covered: Search and placement laws and regulations

  • Exam fee: $250 for members, $500 for non-members

Certified Health Care Staffing Professional

This specialized certification allows health care staffing professionals to verify their knowledge of health care staffing laws and practices. The distinction certifies staffing professionals to work with both employees and clients in the health care industry. This comprehensive exam, created in collaboration with legal, health care and development professionals is one of the only certifications of its kind within the staffing industry.

Here's a breakdown of the basics for this exam:

  • Exam length: Two hours

  • Number of questions: 120

  • Type of questions: Multiple-choice, true or false

  • Topics covered: Health care staffing laws and regulations

  • Exam fee: $250 for members, $500 for non-members

Certifications offered by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

Here are the certifications offered through SHRM:

SHRM CP Certified Professional

The Society for Human Resource Management issues this certification for professionals who provide HR services to an organization. HR representatives can certify their knowledge of operational functions, policies and strategies.

Here's additional information for earning this certification:

  • Qualifications: Complete one to four years of HR work experience depending on your level of education (high school diploma to master's degree), or currently hold an HR position with a doctorate in human resources.

  • Exam length: Four hours

  • Number of questions: 160

  • Type of questions: Multiple-choice related to both knowledge and situational judgment

  • Topics covered: Leadership, business, interpersonal communication, people, organizational practices, workplace knowledge

  • Exam fee: $300 for members, $400 for non-members

SHRM CP Senior Certified Professional

HR professionals in leadership roles can earn this certification to verify their work as strategic planners and community influencers. Senior HR representatives can add this distinction to their experience and credentials in leading HR departments.

Here's more information about earning this credential:

  • Qualifications: Complete three to seven years of HR work experience depending on your level of education (high school diploma to graduate degree).

  • Exam length: Four hours

  • Number of questions: 160

  • Type of questions: Multiple-choice related to both knowledge and situational judgment

  • Topics covered: Leadership, business, interpersonal communication, people, organization, workplace

  • Exam fee: $300 for members, $400 for non-members

Other HR certifications

The following certifications are offered through various professional HR organizations:

Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS)

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans offers this five-course certification program. HR professionals who want to specialize in employee benefits can also earn their Group Benefits Associate and Retirement Plans Associate designation while completing the coursework to earn a CEBS. Credits earned towards a CEBS certification may also help HR professionals meet continuing education requirements.

Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP)

This certification is offered by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), the largest organization dedicated to training and professional development. The ATD is the parent organization that sets standards for the talent development profession and certifies through their ATD Certification Institute. The certification measures 10 areas of expertise including integrated talent management and coaching.

To qualify for the exam, you must have five years of talent development experience. The two-part assessment is composed of a knowledge and skills application exam. Certification testing costs $900 for ATD members and $1250 for non-members.

Certified Payroll Professional (CPP)

The American Payroll Association gives this distinction to HR professionals in charge of payroll accounts. To take the CPP, applicants must first pass a rigorous series of prerequisite courses and work in a payroll position for three out of five years before certification. Before taking a final set of courses, payroll professionals must first earn their FPC designation.

Certified Compensation Professional

Certification as a Compensation Professional is offered through World at Work, a Total Rewards Association. This certificate program marks a professional's expertise in compensation. The certification consists of 10 exams ranging from total rewards management to business acumen for compensation professionals.

Human Resources Information Professional

This certification assesses professional knowledge of information management in human resources. The International Association for Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM) proctors the exam remotely and offers continuing education for recertification every three years.