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Eligible to Sit for the PHR and SPHR? Don't Flinch, Opt for the SPHR...

My latest article is up at entitled "What are HR Certifications Worth?".  It's a compilation of some of the notes I've outlined here regarding whether certification is worth it or not.  Here's some new info on the scarcity of the certification that's changed since I talked about it here a month or two ago:

"The rarer the certification, the more it’s potentially worth. SHRM’s HR Certification Institute Web site shows that there are more than 89,000 certified professionals.  With that fact in hand, we next need a total number of HR professionals in the U.S. to determine how special the certifications make you. Here are the two numbers I considered:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that in 2004, human resources, training and labor relations managers and specialists held 820,000 jobs. I liked that number better for my rough math, since not all HR pros are SHRM members. The BLS number seems as reasonable as any I could find.

Using it, I estimate that about 11 percent of the HR professionals working across all positions and industries are PHR, SPHR or GPHR certified. That’s a big enough percentage to make people take the certifications seriously, but is also an elite enough group to make you want to be part of it."

Jump over to the article at Workforce and check it out.

Additionally, I've received quite a few emails on the topic and here's something I didn't include in the article.  The prep time to pass the class is a serious time committment, at least if you are trying to ensure you pass.  With that in mind, if you qualify to sit for the PHR and the SPHR, you should sit for the SPHR. 

While the SPHR is the tougher exam (more application-based questions, fewer questions based on pure facts), if the prep time is the same (and it is), why not get the Sr. level credentials?  If you take the PHR and pass, ultimately you'll be asking yourself in a few years whether you need the SPHR.  May as well get it all done the first time....


Roberta Matuson


Sorry, but I've got to disagree with your recommendation. Having or not having a certfication is not a deal breaker with most companies, particularly at the VP level. You should have advised readers to invest their time in an MBA, which is far more valuable than one's ability to pass one exam.

Roberta Matuson
Former HR Careers Expert for


Having the certification may not be a "deal breaker" but it does provide something important - up to date knowledge. Because you have to recertify every 3 years, you are constantly having to stay up on your HR education. Additionally, if you hold the SPHR, you are required to obtain Strategic hours in your continuing education. The well-informed employer should see the value in this, and the HR professional should not hesitate to point this out when seeking a new HR position.

VP by design

I totally agree with Roberta. An MBA or equivalent business course(s) will provide more opportunity and far more valuable for HR to be the strategic business partner necessary.


Some time before, I needed to buy a house for my organization but I didn't earn enough money and couldn't order something. Thank goodness my fellow adviced to take the loans at trustworthy creditors. Thence, I did that and used to be satisfied with my student loan.

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