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The SPHR and Money - Chicken or the Egg?

We've talked a lot in this space about value of the SPHR and PHR for today's HR professional.  Is it worth doing?  I've always taken the stance that it's a checkbox - good to do and ultimately will pay off, but it's always been hard to quantify.  

A recent study attempts to quantify it....Below are other highlights from PayScale's Sugar Coating or Career Sweetener? report:

  • HR professionals with an SPHR make 93% more overall than those without any certification (overall median annual pay without any certification is $45,600 versus $87,900 with SPHR).
  • Holding either a PHR or SPHR will boost salaries for HR professionals by more than $20,000, across various metro markets in the US.
  • HR certification has a greater positive impact on salary for HR professionals in cities located on the East Coast than it does for West Coast cities.
  • Certified HR professionals tend to advance to senior roles more quickly; 63% of HR assistants with certification received a promotion within five years, compared to only 34% of those without certification.
  • The likelihood of holding HR certification increases with seniority; nearly half of HR Vice Presidents are certificated with 25% holding a SPHR and 19% holding a PHR.

You can go get the entire report here.  It's pretty interesting and is one of the best attempts I've seen to date at quantifying what certification is worth to HR pros.

But if you take the data outlined above, you can still argue it a couple of different ways, including:

1. HR pros with an SPHR make more than 93% more overall because let's face it, only the best and brightest - or more aptly stated - the ones really, really into the craft of HR - take the time to get certified.

2. It's 93% more duckets for HR pros with an SPHR because only the most experienced get an SPHR.

3. The value of certification is overplayed even with all this data since more than 50% of VP-level HR pros have no certifcation.

Your thoughts?  In any event, it's a good data set to go out and get, then soak on.




You're right that it's a bit of "causality" issue. Yea more people with certification do better, but those who are already doing better probably go for certification.

I like the HR assistant data (not that part that you get a promotion in 5 years, yikes that's a long time) but rather the comparison with control group...
63% of HR assistants with certification received a promotion within five years, compared to only 34% of those without certification.

I think it depends on your specialty too. Want to get into recruiting? Sure PHR, we'll let you run background checks. Want ER investigations? Hmmm.


Definitely an aptly titled post. As an SPHR for 12 years (yikes!), I personally don't think the test itself meant a damned thing. The thing that I *do* like about seeing someone with the certification is that it means they will continually learn because the HRCI requires recertification every 3 years. It forces new learning, new experiences, etc that might otherwise not have occurred. But I am of the camp that the most successful are the ones who get certified, not the certification causing the success.

Jim Durbin

It could also be that HR Executives are notoriously bad at hiring, and thus fall back on industry certifications because their screening process lacks rigor.

Or it could be simple bias - if you have a certification, you'd want to justify the cost, time and expense in hiring someone else with the same certification.

That second example happens all the time with college degrees. Someone with a worthless degree demands a new employee have a degree as well, even when it's not required. It's an easy filter, one that isn't challenged much yet.

Or it could be that SPHR certifications are superior to engineering certifications in their selection of candidates. But I don't have one, haven't ever hired anyone that has one, so what do I know?


I know far too many people in my workplace with SPHR or PHR who can't even spell FLSA or FMLA. The certification is essentially meaningless. People who apply to sit for the exam with little practical knowledge or experience in HR get certified the same as the HR professional successfully practicing for 20 or more years.

It's not a true measure of KSAs, but some employers think it is and therefore value the person that has HRCI certification. I'm an SPHR because my employer put it forward as an initiative and paid for the course and exam, but I will put my graduate degree and job experience up against my SPHR any day and prevail. HR is a profession that matures over time with experience and exposure. It cannot be learned in a 12-week prep course and the HR professional's effectiveness cannot be proven with a mutiple-choice exam no matter how difficult the measure is perceived to be.

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