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How Scarce is the PHR/SPHR Among HR Pros?

How scarce is the PHR/SPHR among HR professionals?  A student in a PHR/SPHR class asked me that after we completed the module I was teaching last weekend.   Pick the best answer from the group of potential answers I could have used below:

A.  Very scarce...Flare
B.  You're like a snowflake, you'll be so unique...
C.  As unique as a Crimson Tide T-Shirt on Iron Bowl Weekend in Tuscaloosa, AL...
D.  The PHR/SPHR pin is included in all displays of flare at Fridays (see photo to right)....
E.  I have no clue...

My answer was E.  But I told her I would find out, so here's what my back of the napkin research indicated...

The HRCI website shows that there are a total of 89,170 Certified Professionals, including the following:

-PHR: 50,174
-SPHR: 38,531
-GPHR: 826

With that hard fact in hand, I next needed a total number of HR professionals in the US to determine how special the certification makes you.  Here are the two big numbers I looked at:

-Per their website, SHRM has aound 225,000 members.  That number obviously doesn't capture all the HR pros in the U.S., so I looked for another number to get a ballpark figure.

-Workforce Week lists a total distribution of roughly 445,000 subscirbers to their print version and website combined.  I liked that number better for my rough math based on the fact that not all HR pros are SHRM members.  This number seems as reasonable as any I could find to base my math on...

Using the Workforce Week number, I estimate that around 20% of the HR professionals working across all positions, industries, etc. are certified with the PHR/SPHR/GPHR.

So you aren't a snowflake if you are certified.  But you much rarer than anything on the menu at Fridays.  So put on your PHR/SPHR flare and show your skilz!

Other certification articles:

-Are the PHR/SHPR Worth The Paper They Are Printed On?
-How much do you have to study to pass the PHR/SPHR?


Scott McArthur

Great post - I will post something along the same lines over at my blog about the UK CIPD - will be interesting to see what response we get.

Frank Giancola

These certifications would have more meaning if there were no pre-certification test courses which basically give you the answers to the questions before you take the test. Your ability to take tests and master a body of knowledge is better indicated through your college GPA and the quality of the school you went to.

Also, if there were no pre-test course, the test would serve to validate your HR work experience and education. If you need to take the pre-test course, I would question the quality of your experience and interest in the field.

I have passed the SPHR certification test and taught introductory Human Resouce Management courses at junior colleges. If you did well in my courses, you could pass the certification test, in my opinion. The test does not require advanced HR knowledge and I am surprised to learn the pass rate for is so low.


Frank -

I was surpised by the pass rate as well, but not because it was necessary easy. I thought the pass rate would be higher because HR folks would dedicate the time needed to pass when they invested the money...

I've got 3 degrees from real schools and found the tests, especially the SPHR, difficult. You are more than likely a very thorough teacher, because most of the HR courses I've been involved with would come nowhere close to preparing someone for the exams, especially the SPHR...

Just my 2 cents, but love the comments, keep them coming...


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