As a profession, human resources has taken great steps forward in recent years. The expectation that HR professionals focus purely on transactional activities such as running payroll and shopping for benefits has been replaced with the modern talent leader, setting workforce strategy in a highly competitive global economy.
As the job has grown more complex, professional certification has also become more widely expected. The higher you go up the career ladder, the more likely you are to hold at least one HR credential, a Payscale study found.
The most common professional certifications in HR are earned through HRCI® or the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). There are different levels of certifications, depending on your professional expertise. Whether you choose to certify with one or both organizations, here’s how holding those credentials can support your career growth.
Testing Validates Your HR Expertise
Certification exams test your expertise in a wide range of topics. “It runs the gamut from the bare minimum — compliance and legal issues — to how HR becomes strategic for an organization,” says Sonali Das, PHR®, SHRM-CP. She also has two master’s degrees in HR. Passing the exams requires deep knowledge in particular areas of HR.
Successfully achieving certification demonstrates mastery over broad HR subject matter and competencies. “Many HR professionals see holding credentials as a way to prove ‘they know what they are supposed to know’ to be a successful HR practitioner,” says Shelly Trent, SHRM-SCP, SPHR®, CAE, who works as a writer and career coach. “It gives us a certain confidence that our certification equals knowledge, experience, and expertise.”
Re-Certification Keeps Your Practice Up-to-Date
When you become certified, you make a commitment to life-long learning if you want to maintain that credential. While you don’t have to retake the exam, you will need to earn a minimum number of recertification credits each year. You can earn these in a variety of ways, including attending live and virtual events, reading industry articles and books, and spearheading new, strategic HR initiatives at your organization. Your recertification activities must be approved by the certifying body.
The recertification process pushes HR practitioners to carve out time for professional development, Das suggests. “When you're looking at recertification that you have to get within a specific timeframe, you make this a priority and ensure that you’re going through all of this education,” she says.
This is especially critical during volatile and uncertain times like those we’ve been experiencing through the pandemic, Das says. In recent months HR leaders have been called upon to navigate new laws, revamp processes for a remote work environment and support stressed-out employees as they learn to balance work and home life during the crisis. Taking the time to learn and implement the latest best practices brings immense value to your organization and helps you maintain your certification.
Certification Signals Your Passion and Experience
Earning the letters behind your name signals that your expertise and experiences have been ratified by a third-party certifying body, and hiring organizations are becoming more and more aware of the immense value this provides. “I have been able to see the pendulum move towards certifications,” Das says. “Within the last decade or so, organizations that see HR as a critical part of their success portfolio have truly honed in on hiring professionals who have certifications.”
For many organizations, certification is the preferred credential for HR professionals, Trent points out. “HR certifications have been more well-known and recognized by HR practitioners than by CEOs and other business leaders, but that is changing,” she says. “In most job postings for HR roles, employers prefer or require HR certification.”
The Payscale study found that HR certifications are most valued in the healthcare, retail and customer service and accommodation & food service industries. These tend to be high-turnover industries, suggesting that employers rely on certifications to help them select HR professionals who can spearhead strategic engagement and retention initiatives. A 2016 study co-conducted by HRCI even demonstrates a correlation between certified HR professionals and improved financial performance outcomes for organizations. Certification supports not only your professional development but also your organization’s overall success.
There’s no time like the present - check out your options for certification today!