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How to Decide Which HR Certification Exam to Take – Ask #HR Bartender

HR Certification, SHRM Certifications, human resources, SHRM, professional certifications, SHRM logo

Today’s reader note touches on the two most difficult decisions that human resources professionals consider in their development. First, should I seek professional certification. And second, which one?

Hi. For the past five years, I’ve been working for a company doing HR. Prior to that, I worked in the family business for 10 years doing payroll and HR. My highest education is a high school diploma with some college.

I would like to get certified. I was going to take the SHRM-CP HR certification. Is this the best place to start? Thanks in advance for your help.

Becoming a certified professional is a big decision. It’s best to do your homework before investing time (and money) into the process. That being said, I also think deciding to become certified is a personal decision. I can tell you about my experience, but the decision is yours.

But when it comes to which exam to take, there are experts that can help. I reached out to Michelle Sparacino, vice president of certification services and operations at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). She is responsible for developing the strategy for the SHRM-SCP and SHRM-CP credentialing programs.

Michelle, first things first, why should a person consider HR certification?

[Sparacino] Today’s employers are citing a lack of soft skills, such as communication and leadership, as a big concern when recruiting talent. SHRM’s competency-based certifications, the SHRM-CP & SHRM-SCP, are how HR professionals can set themselves apart and standout as strategic HR leaders.

When you look at the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge (SHRM BoCK) – which the exams are based on – communications as well as leadership and navigation are represented among the 8 core behavioral competencies every HR professional should possess to be successful, along with business acumen, ethical practice, relationship management, consultation, critical evaluation, and global & cultural effectiveness. It’s not a coincidence that the SHRM BoCK focuses on the skills that employers are saying many professionals are lacking – SHRM did the research, we saw the gaps and created the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP exams to address those gaps.

competencies, SHRM competency model, SHRM, human resources, HR competencies, knowledge, action

When an HR professional displays their SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP credential, they have an advantage over their non-SHRM-certified peers. Employers are able to make the connection between their SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP and their knowledge and understanding of the competencies and most importantly their ability to apply that knowledge to real-life work scenarios.

Where can readers find the SHRM certification exam requirements?

[Sparacino] The SHRM certification website is a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP exams (www.shrmcertification.org). I’d also recommend your readers download and really take some time to review the SHRM Certification Handbook, also available through the SHRM certification website.

Why is education a requirement to take the SHRM HR certification exam?

Michelle Sparacino, SHRM, SHRM Certification, Society for Human Resource Management, SHRM-SCP, SHRM-CP[Sparacino] Education is an important part of your experience as a professional. Many of us, especially when we first enter the workforce, rely on what we’ve learned to supplement our on-the-job experience. Which is why a strong combination of education and professional experience is key to being prepared to earn a professional certification.

SHRM values competency-based education and has recently launched its student eligibility program. The program allows final year students, attending a college or university aligned to the SHRM curriculum guidelines, the opportunity to earn their SHRM-CP alongside their bachelor’s or master’s degree.  In addition to attending an aligned college/university students must also complete a minimum of 500 hours of relevant HR experience – again, emphasizing the importance of both education and experience to becoming a SHRM-certified HR professional.

When it comes to the experience requirement, does working in the family business still qualify as HR experience?

[Sparacino] If you perform HR duties for a minimum of 1,000 hours per calendar year, then that experience count towards your eligibility requirements – whether they are performed in a family business or a Fortune 500 company.

Having said that, I would encourage your readers to really examine their work experience and how strategic of a role they play within their organization. Selecting the right exam is one of the very first steps to success. Another great tip for your readers, is to really study the SHRM BoCK before applying for the exam. Afterwards, they should ask themselves, how familiar am I with the competencies, and if they aren’t already they should start implementing the competencies at work – practical application is an excellent way to supplement studying.

Is there some kind of sample exam, book, etc. that can help someone make the decision about pursuing certification?

[Sparacino] As I mentioned before, the SHRM Certification Handbook and the SHRM BoCK are great resources for examinees.  A short sample exam is available on shrmcertification.org/practice, and we encourage your readers to check it out, so that they can get a feel for the formatting of questions on the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP exams. Participants will not receive a score at the end of the sample exam, but they will get feedback throughout the sample exam so they can understand the process behind each correct answer, as well as why the other answers were not the best choice.

What kind of study / exam prep advice would you give someone who is considering certification (so they can factor it into their decision)?

[Sparacino] I’ve given a few study tips already, but one thing I would definitely encourage for anyone who is preparing for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP is to get the SHRM Learning System. We’ve heard from so many HR professionals who attribute their exam success to the Learning System. It really helps individuals get in the habit of thinking more strategically when answering questions, and analyzing scenarios. Another important element of preparing is understanding your personal study style. For example, do you process information better on your own, or are you better in a more structured, classroom setting? Whatever your style, SHRM has the resources to help you create a personalized study plan.

I want to thank Michelle for sharing this information about SHRM Certifications with us. You guys know I’m very pro HR certification. I’ve held multiple certifications throughout my career. I’ve taught certification prep courses and been an item writer for exams. HR certification is near and dear to me. Hopefully, Michelle’s information has emphasized the importance of certification in your professional career development.

For those of you who are certified, how did you make the decision? Leave us a comment!

SHRM Certification and BoCK logos used with permission

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About Mildred Blankson

I am a Human Resource Professional with a Masters Degree in Human Resource Management. I have several years of experience in Human Resources and i hope this blog will be a great resource in helping you find the perfect job or candidate that you seek.

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