HRCI: Is the HR Certification Institute Worth It? [Review + Tips]

HRCI: Is the HR Certification Institute Worth It? [Review + Tips]

Human resources management in 2019 is all about understanding employees and making sure they’re happy and engaged. To ensure you have a strong footing, it pays to be trained and certified by organizations, such as, the HRCI.

While being an expert in the human aspect of HR is a must, a bona fide certification from a known HR institute can help HRMs gain more in-depth knowledge of the profession.

In this article, we’ll review the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) and provide potential HRMs a closer look at the certifications it offers.

Read on to find out whether an HRCI certification is worth it, or jump straight to our list of tips for HR professionals.

What is an HRCI Certification?

An HRCI certification is a set of official credentials (offered by the HRCI) that serves as an added qualification for human resources professionals. An HR certificate can benefit HRMs looking to expand their skill set and secure better-paying jobs.

What is the HRCI?

The Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) is an independent non-profit organization that develops and provides academic credentials to HR professionals.

It is one of the premier HR organizations in the US, having provided study material, exams, and accredited certifications for 40 years.

The 8 Types of HRCI Certificates

Here are the different types of HR certifications offered by the HRCI – based on academic and professional qualification level.

1. HRCI Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR)

This is an entry-level HR certification offered by the HRCI. Students looking to start a career in HR will benefit from aPHR as a starter qualification.

The Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR) certificate helps to fast-track your way into the HR world. It delivers basic knowledge of human resources in the professional sphere, and prepares students for a fresh career in HR (with room for higher qualifications).

The aPHR is for HR professionals who:

  • Are adopting Human Resources as a profession and want some foundational knowledge in the field before their first HR job.
  • Want a basic HR qualification that can pave the way for higher qualifications along with professional progress.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Since it’s a basic qualification, aPHR requires just a high school diploma and no mandatory HR experience.

Overall Costs:

  • The aPHR costs $300 for the exam fee plus a $100 application fee.

To summarize, the aPHR certification is helpful as an entry-level qualification for fresh graduates or those new to HR as a whole.

Since you can take the course right after high school, it’s great for college students looking to work part-time in HR.

2. HRCI Professional in Human Resources (PHR)

This certification is a good standard for HR-study as a whole. It is also an effective way to establish a career in HR.

The Professional in Human Resources certificate focuses on the operational and technical areas of HR management. As a result, United States HR laws, regulations, and general practices are some of the areas where a PHR certificate will excel.

The PHR is for HR professionals who:

  • Have prior experience with program and strategy implementation.
  • Possess a logistical and/or tactical orientation when it comes to implementation.
  • Answer to a senior HR manager within the company.
  • Are responsible for maintaining and managing just the HR department, instead of the whole company.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Master’s degree or higher, plus 1 year of professional HR experience.
  • Bachelor’s degree, plus 2 years of professional HR experience.
  • High school diploma, plus 4 years of professional HR experience.

Overall Costs:

  • PHR costs $395 for the exam fee, plus a $100 application fee.

All in all, the PHR certification is a good all-in-one set of HR credentials. It will deliver all the valid technical training for in-office HR management.

3. HRCI Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)

These are the highest credentials, in terms of rank, offered by the HRCI. The Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification lends major credibility to HR professionals.

The SPHR certificate focuses on the policy-making and strategic aspects of HR management within the US. If you’re looking to manage the big picture, and create entire HR policies for a company, the SPHR is for you.

The SPHR is for HR professionals who:

  • Are looking to plan and strategize in the HR realm, and govern companies’ HR policy.
  • Have with prior knowledge of HR planning tactics and research.
  • Understand the areas of a business beyond just human resources.
  • Can create unique HR policies to suit the needs of each business, within US laws and regulation.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Master’s degree or higher, plus 4 years of professional HR experience.
  • Bachelor’s degree, plus 5 years of professional HR experience.
  • High school diploma, plus 7 years of professional HR experience.

Overall Costs:

  • The SPHR costs $495 for the exam fee, plus a $100 application fee.

To summarize, this is a high-level HR qualification that involves planning and strategy, instead of actual human resources management.

The SPHR certification is best for senior HR leaders with prior experience in HR on the operational level.

4. HRCI Professional in Human Resources – California (PHRca)

This certification is the standard for HR practice in California. If you’re a resident of California, or looking for an HR job that deals with California-specific HR laws and regulations, this certificate is for you.

Similar to the PHR certificate, the PHRca focuses on operational and technical HR aspects. However, it offers expertise in laws, regulations and HR practices unique to California.

The PHRca is for HR professionals who:

  • Currently practice, or are looking to practice in California.
  • Are California residents and want to practice locally.
  • Are located outside of California but want to add the PHRca credentials to their overall academic portfolio.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Master’s degree, plus 1 year of professional HR experience.
  • Bachelor’s degree, plus 2 years of professional HR experience.
  • High school diploma, plus 4 years of professional HR experience.

Overall Costs

  • The PHRca costs $395 for the exam fee, plus a $100 application fee.

To summarize, the PHRca is a strong basic HR qualification for residents of California , or those looking for an HR position in California.

Please Note: Since the credentials are unique to California’s HR regulations, you may not be able to work in HR in other states.

5. HRCI Associate Professional in Human Resources – International (aPHRi)

Similar to the aPHR certificate, these credentials will establish HR professionals looking to start their careers internationally.

The aPHRi certificate functions as an international qualification for students based in the US. It is designed to create a more well-rounded HR professional with basic knowledge of HR in multiple geographical areas.

The aPHRi is for HR professionals who:

  • Want to be more versatile in terms of basic HR management.
  • Are looking for more diverse foundational knowledge of HR.
  • Want to work outside their state, or even outside the US.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Since it’s a basic qualification, aPHR requires just a high school diploma (OR any global equivalent) and no mandatory HR experience.

Overall Costs:

  • The aPHRi costs $300 for the exam fee, plus a $100 application fee.

To summarize, the aPHRi certification is for junior HR staff who want all-around credentials in HR management. It is also an ideal first step for HRMs looking to gain higher-level credentials later on in their careers.

6. HRCI Professional in Human Resources – International (PHRi)

Much like the PHR certificate, these credentials are a standard for HR study, but on a wider front than its basic counterpart.

The PHRi certificate focuses on building HR professionals who can get an HR job internationally, while having the skills to grow in the HR field outside of the US. PHRi candidates learn all internationally known practical aspects of HR in a singular setting.

The PHRi is for HR professionals who:

  • Are based outside of the US.
  • Looking to work within their own locales.
  • Want to be more well-rounded with regards to international HR practices while working within the US.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Master’s degree (OR a global equivalent) plus 1 year of professional HR experience
  • Bachelor’s degree (OR a global equivalent) plus 2 years of professional HR experience OR
  • High school diploma (OR a global equivalent) plus 4 years of professional HR experience

Overall Costs:

  • The PHRi costs $395 for the exam fee, plus a $100 application fee.

Ultimately, the PHRi certification is for professionals looking to learn and implement HR concepts and management, regardless of where they work or live.

7. HRCI Senior Professional in Human Resources – International (SPHRi)

These are high-level HR credentials that establish the professional as an HR planning and strategy expert, regardless of their geographical location.

If you’re looking to develop HR mastery that makes you valuable as a complete human resources strategist, this certificate is for you.

The SHRPi is for HR professionals who:

  • Are HR leaders based outside of the US.
  • Senior-level HR staff and policy-developers.
  • International HR service delivery managers.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Master’s degree (OR a global equivalent) plus 4 years of professional HR experience.
  • Bachelor’s degree (OR a global equivalent) plus 5 years of professional HR experience.
  • High school diploma (OR a global equivalent) plus 7 years of professional HR experience.

Overall Costs:

  • The SPHRi costs $495 for the exam fee, plus a $100 application fee.

To summarize, the SHRPi certification is for senior HR strategists working internationally, or in multinational firms. It will also help HRMs with the SPHR certificate expand their scope internationally.

8. HRCI Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR)

Unlike the HRPi, the Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) certificate makes you an expert in international-standard HR management. Above all, these credentials establish you as a true HR manager-without-borders.

The GPHR certificate focuses on multinational HR practices, globalization of HR policies and creating organizational growth worldwide. In other words, you will look beyond the company to create and improve HR practices on a global scale.

The GPHR is for HR professionals who:

  • Want to become international experts in HR planning and strategy.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Master’s degree, plus 2 years of professional HR experience in a global setting.
  • Bachelor’s degree, plus 3 years of professional HR experience (minimum of 2 years in global HR).
  • High school diploma, plus 4 years of professional HR experience (minimum of 2 years in global HR).

Overall Costs:

  • The GPHR costs $495 for the exam fee, plus a $100 application fee.

To summarize, the GPHR certification will benefit HRMs (located worldwide) looking to work across international borders and understand the HR policies and practices of the regions they’re operating in.  

How HRCI Certification Benefits Potential HR Professionals

The following is a table that demonstrates how professionals with HR certifications have an advantage over their non-certified peers.

CERTIFIED HR PROFESSIONALSNON-CERTIFIED HR PROFESSIONALS
Higher compensation ($19,712 higher than average for SPHR, and $4,547 higher than average for PHR certificate holders).Industry average income
Higher employment rate (90% for PHRs and 87% for SPHRs)Lower employment rate (69% overall reported employed)
Steady income growth over time and greater job satisfactionStagnant income and average job satisfaction.
2/3 HR supervisors prefer certified over non-certified HRMsFewer job opportunities due to less preference for non-certified candidates.
1/5 supervisors made certification a mandatory requirement for HR candidates20% of candidates potentially unemployed due to lack of HR certification.

Additionally, HRCI certification delivers all the practical HR skills (onboarding strategy, performance management, scheduling etc.) necessary for the modern day workplace.

Advantages of An HRCI Certification Over Other Certificates

The following are some of the advantages you can expect from an HRCI certificate, over rival certification firms:

  • Globally Valid: The general HRCI certification, especially the Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) certificate, is valid throughout the world. In addition, HRCI offers various geographic area-centric credentials. Consequently, over half a million HR professionals, from over 100 countries, have attained an HRCI certification.
  • Preferred by Businesses:  According to a HumPRO study, the HRCI certification was found to be preferred by companies. Similarly, HRCI-certified professionals were promoted better, and more often.
  • Third-Party Accreditation: HRCI has third-party accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) for each of the credentials it offers. Additionally, it collaborates with known certifying bodies, such as, the South African Board for People Practices (SABPP).
  • Continuous Learning Programs: HRCI-certified professionals can renew their certification with more recent knowledge and updated modules every 3 years, as part of a continuous learning program.

Additionally, an HRCI certification works well as a sole qualification for HR professionals looking to grow and learn in the field.

However, a valid graduate degree in Human Resources is always advised, with HRCI certification as an add-on.

Is the HRCI Worth It?

Overall, the verdict is yes, an HRCI certification can and does benefit, both, potential and current HR professionals.

As there are various levels of HR certification offered by the HRCI, students have room to choose how extensively they want to adopt Human Resources as a profession.

5 Tips for HR Professionals in 2019

While attaining a certification is helpful, it is not the only way to become a better HR professional.

Here are 5 tips modern HRMs can act on to become better and more efficient in their day-to-day activities.

1. Be Empathetic

According to Businessolver, 92% of surveyed employees say that empathy on the employers’ part is important for employee engagement.

An empathetic HR professional will be:

  • A better listener – This means more time and space for employees to explain why they’re unsatisfied.
  • More approachable – This makes employees more confident about coming to you with their issues.
  • Efficient in following up – They will keep in touch with employees and counsel them after they’ve delivered bad news.

HRMs can practice empathy by relating to their employees, understanding their points of view, and establishing a friendly environment –  resulting in a positive employee experience.

2. Keep Lines of Open Communication

According to McKinsey, it is possible to achieve a 20-25% increase in productivity with open lines of communication in the workplace.

Through open communication, HR managers can:

  • Better understand what employees want at each stage in the product/process life cycle (such as better employee incentive programs, more engagement activities, etc.).
  • Build trust and rapport with employees to better communicate company policies and strategy.
  • Resolve conflicts quicker by sitting down with employees and even solving more manageable problems in real-time.
  • Provide positive employee feedback and help them improve their performance.

A HR professional can develop better communication skills through assessing their interactions with employees, or requesting feedback.

3. Stay Up-to-Date on Employee Engagement Trends

According to the Corporate Leadership Council, an 87% drop in employee turnover can be expected with higher employee engagement. However, this number is based on the engagement needs of the modern worker.

By being aware of modern employee engagement trends, HR managers can:

  • Increase engagement among younger employees and their immediate managers, as well as, within the workforce itself.
  • Satisfy the generally millennial-centric workforce and maintain engagement towards company goals.
  • Use employee engagement tools and programs (like HCM software) to address disengaged employees and keep them happy with their managers and the company.

One way of staying up-to-date is by using social media to your advantage. Following the right people & companies on platforms, such as, Twitter or LinkedIn, can keep you informed on any new trends, tools, tips, or software.

4. Use HR assistance tools to your advantage

Expanding on the previous point; there are more than 220 HR assistance tools and software currently available to HR managers.

By using HR assistance tools, HR managers can:

  • Cut back on time and money dedicated to record-keeping and other related processes.
  • Free up their time to focus more on direct communication and discussion with employees.
  • Help employees in areas that previously needed extra manpower, such as financial assistance and official record-keeping and maintenance.

A recently certified HR professional will already be up-to-date with modern HR assistance technology, as they will be trained with said technology as the standard.

5. Help Employees Manage their Finances and Student Debt

According to the Federal Reserve, Americans now owe over $1.53 billion in student debt. Therefore, it’s widely admitted that employees welcome any and all financial assistance such as regular bonuses, a defined benefit plan like a 401(k), student loan repayment programs, etc.

By helping employees with their debt, HR managers can:

  • Increase employee engagement with the company through regular bonuses (monthly/annual).
  • Relieve employees of their financial stress and concentrate their efforts on company goals.
  • Build a positive relationship with employees, retaining them in the long term.

An HR manager will make efficient use of student debt assistance tools, such as FutureFuel, to manage student debt without dedicating significant resources to the task.

Alternative to the HRCI

The HRCI began as an extension of another organization, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). But in 2014, it became independent and launched its own set of exams. SHRM is one of the largest human resources organizations in the world. They offer two certifications:

1. SHRM-CP  for early to mid-career HR professionals

2. SHRM-SCP for senior-level HR practitioners

If you want something different than the HRCI credentials, the SHRM certification is a good option.

Final Word

The HRCI has very practical HR certifications which are updated every 3 years as part of their continuing education program. This makes their courses’ modern offerings beneficial to any HR professional whether beginner or experienced.

As the HR sphere is expanding to include a diverse range of methodologies and management techniques, having a versatile HR certification has significant benefits for HRMs.

Go for it!