Human resource management for any organization is immensely important since it plays a vital role in almost all the aspects of business such as:

  • Recruitment and selection
  • Performance management
  • Determining the wages, salaries, and other benefits
  • Ensuring the employee health and safety
  • Training and development
  • Conflict management

This means that pursuing a career in HR can be truly rewarding both in terms of tangible and intangible benefits. Other than getting ample opportunities for career progression, you get a chance to make a difference in the overall business success and the employees’ life at the workplace.

However, it is also true that the HR job market is witnessing increasing competition than ever. One job opening receives an average of 250 applications. In particular, for an HR position, more and more employers are asking for HR certification as “required” in their eligibility criteria. The reason is that for an employer, HR certification ensures the employee’s competency and commitment as an HR professional. It also demonstrates that the applicant’s knowledge is up to date about HR practices.

From the perspective of the employee, an HR certification makes you more valuable to the company.  A study conducted in 2018 presents the finding that the percentage boost in pay associated with an HR certification is 31.6 percent. The study also measured that having HR certification has reasonably improved the chances of career progression.

HR Certification Impact on Career Progression

% Receiving Promotions in 5 Years

Job TitleWithout Any CertificationsWith at Least One Certification % Increase in Odds of Promotion
Human Resources (HR) Assistant67.8%82.4%21.5%
Human Resources (HR) Administrator62.7%70.6%12.6%
Human Resources (HR) Generalist56.8%65.9%16.0%
Human Resources (HR) Manager31.3%34.5%10.2%
Human Resources (HR) Director16.1%20.1%24.8%
Vice President (VP), Human Resources (HR)7.9%9.1%15.2%

Top Certifications for HR Professionals

If you are thinking of embarking on a career in HR, it is important to know what are the top certifications that you can choose from at various levels of your career. Here are some options for you.

PHR (Professional in Human Resources)

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PHR (Professional in Human Resources)

HRCI (HR Certification Institute)

The first option for an HR professional is to have Professional Human Resources Certification issued by one of the premier credentialing and learning organizations for the human resources profession, HRCI.

What is PHR Certification?

PHR demonstrates that you have a complete understanding and knowledge of technical and operational aspects of human resource management.  At the same time, you get mastery over the HR laws and regulations prevailing in the United States.

Who Should Get It? Why Should You Get It?

An HR professional with some basic experience in an HR position can apply for this certification. The PHR is designed for HR professionals who are directly engaged in the job of managing employees and labor relations. In simple terms, if your job in HR is operational and you are involved in the day-to-day HR management practices, this course is most suitable for you. 

When Should You Get It?

If you want to progress as an HR professional and are working at a junior level, you can apply for this certification. Here you should have worked at least one year in your HR job while reporting to at least one HR professional already.

What Jobs Can You Get With This Certification?

You can apply for any HR position which involves operational level HR management at the workplace. If you are already working, your chances to improve productivity and promotions at the workplace improves.

Prerequisites to Apply

To be eligible for a PHR, one of the following criteria related to education and experience must be met:

  • You must have at least one year of experience in an HR position along with a Master’s or higher degree.
  • If you have a Bachelor’s degree in hand, then you must have at least two years of work experience in an HR position.
  • You must have at least four years of HR work experience in case you are unable to present a Bachelor or Master’s degree.

Online Training Resources

According to the HRCI, the exam topics are divided according to the following plan:

  • 30 % – Employees and Labor Relations
  • 20% – Business Management
  • 16% – Talent Planning and Acquisition
  • 15% – Total Reward
  • 10% – Learning and Development

HRCI has packaged together exam preparation material that you can purchase at the time of submitting your application. You can practice your exam by choosing the HRCI practice exams available on their website. Timed or untimed practice exams can be purchased at varying prices.

Where To Take the Exam, Cost and Exam Duration

To get a PHR in hand, first you need to submit an application fee of around $100 and an exam fee of $395. Then, you can appear in a computer-based two-hour exam which consists of 25 pretest questions and 90 multiple-choice questions. The exam can be held at a Pearson VUE testing center or online from the comfort of your home or office using OnVue. The testing appointments are available online throughout the year.

What’s Next (Future Certification/Role, etc.)

Usually, those who have a PHR get a Senior Professional Human Resource (SPHR) certification.

CPTD (Certified Professional in Talent Development

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CPTD (Certified Professional in Talent Development)

ATD (Association for Talent Development)

Association for Talent Development offers a well-recognized certification for HR professionals called Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD).

What Is CPTD Certification?

Previously known as Certified Professional in Learning and Development (CPLC), CPTD is a certification for HR professionals specializing in the field of training and development.

As the name suggests, this certification enables you to manage corporate training programs including assessing the training needs, planning and arranging the seminars, and other development programs.

Who Should Get It? Why Should You Get It?

Any HR professional who is engaged in handling the training and development programs or foresees that he or she will be responsible for such tasks in the future can pursue this certification. Having this certification accredits you as a complete training and development professional. Also, the designation is gaining popularity, and more employers are hiring for training and development positions.

When Should You Get It?

You can apply for this certification if your role is managing the learning and development programs at an organization, and you want to expand your skillset and look forward to assuming a senior-level position. You need a few years of experience in a training and development position before applying.

What Jobs Can You Get With This Certification?

You can look forward to applying or assuming a senior-level training and development job after having this certification in hand.

Prerequisites to Apply

All CPTD candidates must have five years of work experience related to the training and development field and should have completed 60 hours of professional development. In case you already have Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD) certification (offered by ATD), then four years of professional work experience can suffice. Click here for full eligibility requirements.

Online Training Resources

This course tests the professionals on 22 capabilities from the Talent Development Capability Model. These capabilities can be broadly categorized as follows:

CapabilitiesWeightage in Exam
Building Personal Capability 
Emotional Intelligence & Decision‐Making
Collaboration & Leadership
Cultural Awareness & Inclusion
Project Management
Compliance & Ethical Behavior 
Developing Professional Capability 
Learning Sciences 
Instructional Design 
Training Delivery & Facilitation
Technology Application
Knowledge Management
Career & Leadership Development
Evaluating Impact
Impacting Organizational Capability
Business Insight
Consulting & Business Partnering
Organization Development & Culture
Talent Strategy & Management
Performance Improvement
Change Management
Data & Analytics
Future Readiness
Data Source

According to the association for training and development, there is no one best way to prepare for the CPTD examination. It primarily depends on the candidate’s personal experiences and knowledge. Some useful resources and preparation guidelines are mentioned on ATD’s website.

Where To Take the Exam, Cost and Exam Duration

There is a 3-hour computer-based exam and consists of multiple-choice questions and case management questions. The exam is conducted via remote proctoring or at convenient testing centers located worldwide.

The exam fee is $900 for ATD members and $1250 for non-members.  You can register for this exam through an online portal and the registration should be done at least approximately 30 days before the testing window.

What’s Next (future certification, role, etc.)

After CPTD, you can go for SPHR or SHRM-SCP certification, both of which are advanced level HR credentials that focus on planning and strategic skills in HR. They can help you progress towards a leadership position in human resources.

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SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources)

HRCI (HR Certification Institute)

SPHR is also one of the topmost accreditations by HRCI.

What Is SPHR Certification?

This certification helps HR professionals to develop an in-depth understanding of strategic and policy-making aspects of HR management as practiced in the U.S.

Who Should Get it? Why Should You Get It?

Having this certification solidifies your credibility as an HR leader and is designed for big-picture thinkers who are responsible for planning the HR policy. Many people prefer getting both PHR and SPHR. Once they master the operational level HR practice, they apply for strategic level accreditation, that is SPHR.

When Should You Get It?

A senior level HR professional with at least 4+ years of experience should consider applying for this certification.

What Jobs Can You Get With This Certification?

SPHR supports applying and working for strategy-level positions, such as Chief Human Resources Officer or Chief People Officer.

Prerequisites to Apply

One must fulfill the following criteria to be eligible to appear in an SPHR exam:

  • Five years of professional-level HR experience is required with a Bachelor’s degree.
  • Four years of HR professional level experience is required with a Master’s degree or higher.
  • If you do not have a college degree, then you need at least 7 years of experience in a professional level HR position.

Online Training Resources

The course is divided into the following functional areas with varying weightage.

SubjectExam Weightage
Leadership and Strategy(40%)
Employee Relations and Engagement(20%)
Talent Planning and Acquisition(16%)
Learning and Development(12%)
Total Rewards(12%)
Data Source

Just like the PHR certification, HRCI offers a choice of paid online courses to prepare for the exam. You can also purchase the practice exams online through their website.

Where To Take the Exam, Cost and Exam Duration

The duration of the SPHR exam is two hours and 30 minutes and consists mostly of multiple-choice questions. The total number of questions is 115 including multiple choice and 25 pretest questions. Just like PHR, this is also a computer-based test, and you have an option for an online test or at a Pearson VUE testing center.

The exam fee is $495 with an initial application fee of $100. Just like the PHR, your SPHR certification validity is 3 years, and you need to earn 60 recertification credits over a span of three years to maintain your credentials.

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SHRM-CP (SHRM Certified Professional)

SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management)

Another highly acknowledged certification for HR professionals in the United States is (SHRM-CP) BY SHRM.

What is SHRM-CP Certification?

SHRM-CP certification provides a roadmap for achieving goals that lead to personal and organization success for HR professionals. SHRM-CP is for professionals who are engaged in HR policy implementation and day-to-day HR operations.

Who Should Get it? Why Should You Get It?

The individuals who are serving as a point of contact for staff or organizational stakeholders, who perform operational level HR functions, or who deliver the HR services should go for this certification.

When Should You Get It?

You should get it once you have some experience with policy implementation and HR operations. See the prerequisites section below for eligibility criteria to figure out an appropriate time to apply for it.

What Jobs Can You Get With This Certification?

You can apply for a senior-level HR position with a strategic planning role.

Prerequisites to Apply

According to SHRM, the detailed criteria to apply for this accreditation is as follows:

DegreeExperience Required + (HR Related Degree / Program)Experience Required + (Non-HR Related Degree / Program)
Less than a Bachelor’s Degree*3 years in an HR role HR-Related Program  4 years in an HR role Non-HR Program  
Bachelor’s Degree1 year in HR role HR-Related Degree  2 years in an HR role Non-HR Degree  
Graduate DegreeCurrently in HR Role HR-Related Degree  1 year in HR role Non-HR Degree  
Data Source

Online Training Resources

You can prepare for the exam using self-study or instructor-led training. The SHRM facilitates you both ways through the SHRM learning system. You can buy resources for self-study, attend webinars, or find an instructor for various courses. As far as the course content is concerned, it is divided into the various subject areas and weightage as follows.

Behavioral Competency ClusterItem Type
Leadership (13%)
Business (18.5%)
Interpersonal (18.5%)
Situational Judgment (40%)
Foundational Knowledge (10%)
HR Knowledge Domain Item Type
People (17%)
Organization (17%)
Workplace (16%)
HR-Specific Knowledge (50%)
Data Source

Where To Take the Exam, Cost and Exam Duration

The SHRM-CP exam consists of two types of multiple-choice questions. The first type is knowledge-based questions to assess the candidate’s understanding of factual information. The second type is scenario-based questions to assess a candidate’s skills of judgment and decision-making. This is a 4-hour computer-based exam with 160 questions in total.

The standard exam fee for this certification is around $375 and the application fee is $50.

What’s Next (future certification, role, etc.)

You can apply for SHRM-SCP offered by SHRM to move a step further.

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TMP (Talent Management Practitioner)

TMI (Talent Management Institute)

Another one of the world’s leading HR accrediting bodies is the Talent management Institute. TMP is a basic HR certification issued by TMI.

What is TMP Certification?

This certification is considered as a first step in launching a profession in Human resources and Talent Management. This accreditation is considered as proof of your in-depth understanding of theory, critical principles, tools, and techniques used for Talent Management in organizations.

Who Should Get it? Why Should You Get it?

It is appropriate for both the professionals who are beginners in their HR job or have just recently graduated with an HR major or a relevant discipline.

Not merely in the United States, having accreditation as a TMP will make you a more attractive option for recruiters around the world along with a high pay offer.

When Should You Get it?

Talent management practitioner is a certification particularly designed for newbie HR employees.

What Jobs Can You Get With This Certification?

You can apply for a junior-level HR positions after getting this certification.

Prerequisites to Apply

There are six convenient tracks covering professionals from diverse backgrounds and experiences to earn a TMP. Details regarding each track can be found here.

Online Training Resources

Once you are registered as a candidate for TMP, you will receive the study material and reference resources in printed format which includes The Talent Management Handbook for Practitioners. You don’t have to pay additional money to get these resources once you are registered for the exam.

Where To Take the Exam, Cost and Exam Duration

The TMP exam fee is all-inclusive USD 625. You will have to fill out an online application and once approved you can take the virtual exam. The exam time is 120 minutes.  Typically, a TMP exam consists of 60 questions that include both the awareness and concept-related questions and critical thinking and judgment-based questions.

These exams are structured to validate the candidate’s potential to perform various talent management functions in a complex business environment. Both the theoretical and practical understanding is measured to achieve their performance excellence.

What’s Next (future certification, role, etc.)

You can go for a Senior talent management practitioner certification to further advance your career and skill base after TMP.


Summing up, if you are passionate about making a career in HR and progressing in a short period, it is important to invest in acquiring one or more of these certifications for HR professionals to improve your market value as a professional and to make a real difference at your workplace.