Guess What? HRCI Didn’t Die!

So, back in March, I told you that HRCI was going to die! You know the whole SHRM started their own certification and why would anyone want two certifications. If given the choice the smart HR pro is going to choose SHRM over HRCI. I assumed, at that point, HRCI would pack up camp and just slowly go away.

Well, they packed up camp! Move across the street from SHRM (I mean literally across the freaking street!) and set up a new camp. I think that’s funny and cool, and shows some of the spunk the HRCI crew has in them.

We all know the story. HRCI was in bed with SHRM for 39 years, then SHRM decides it wants to be in bed by itself and start their own certification. My take then, and now, is the same, smart move by SHRM to drive more revenue. Good decision for the business, mass confusion for the membership.

So, HRCI, like most companies facing survival, did some things to make sure they will go on another forty years and some things I really like. Check these out:

Year around continuous testing. One major problem with most certification bodies is they get stuck in having their one or two times per year testing. Great for them, awful for the people wanting to certify. Technology now allows you to test anytime, anywhere. No waiting. Test when you’re ready. Smart.

Voucher program. Allows organizations to buy exams in bulk. So, you have a large HR shop and want to get all of your people certified, buy in bulk and save money. Also, certifying prep organizations can also buy in bulk and sell packages for prep and testing all in one. Again, this is something organizations like because they can pay for it all at once. Smart.

APHR – Associate Professional Of HR – HRCI was super smart with this one. Before students couldn’t truly get their PHR. They could take test exam but had to wait like two years before HRCI would issue the certification. Now, HR students (and there are 1,700 HR college programs around the country) can take this exam as a student and get the certification. Brilliant on so many levels! You now lock up students with an HRCI cert from the beginning and they’re more likely to move forward with additional HRCI certs. Plus, it’s a huge audience to go after that just keeps getting bigger each year.

2nd Chance Insurance – Currently for $150 you can hedge your bets on failing your HRCI exam and almost 45% of people fail! It’s tough! This is a little insurance policy to take it again the second time for a fraction of the cost. Smart. People love buying insurance! Smart.

Top Employer’s Institute – HRCI partnered with Top Employer’s Institute out of the Netherlands to certify complete organization’s HR shops. Basically, this is a third party coming in and ensuring your HR shop is providing best practices to your organization and you have your shit together. Everyone loves trophies! Smart.

I still don’t know how all of this will end, but my declaration of HRCI dying might have been premature! What I like is they’re moving fast and adapting to what HR pros want. This is a weakness of SHRM who tends to move much slower in making changes, even obvious changes.

HRCI has nothing to lose. They’re smaller. More nimble. They’ve got a little brother edge to them which I like. They’ve still got some huge marketing challenges ahead. First and foremost is SHRM’s advantage of messaging and marketing to their full membership about the advantages of their own certifications. That will be tough to overcome, but I don’t see them going away anytime soon.

13 thoughts on “Guess What? HRCI Didn’t Die!

  1. We worked long and hard to have the business community acknowledge the HRCI Certifications as having value and carrying weight. SHRM was part of that struggle and success. To have SHRM then break off and create their own certification felt like a defection; a traitor in our midst. For me, it negatively impacted my opinion of SHRM. I have been a HR Professional for over 30 years, and Management for most of that time. I am tactical and I am strategic. I do hold both certifications. I did get the SHRM Cert when they offered it without testing. I don’t need another test. I stay certified because I stay informed, my experience stays relevant, and I continue to work in HR. I am interested to see how it all shakes out and I will maintain both certifications. But I will never look at SHRM in the same way – i.e. as committed to the HR Profession. It has become just another business looking for my money in many ways. Sadly.

    • Laurie,

      Best line, “I don’t need another test. I stay certified because I stay informed, my experience stays relevant, and I continue to work in HR.”


      It’s what every good HR pro and leader should be doing!


  2. HRCI designations continue to be the gold standard and what employers still ask for. Not to mention that the SHRM certifications are not yet accredited or validated. The aPHR has been an awesome addition to the mix and so glad to see how many new certificants there are. I agree with one poster above that SHRM did a disservice to serious HR practitioners by giving away their designations. I’ve voiced my opinion of that in many ways in many forums over the last two years.

    • Linda,

      I don’t buy this. I know HRCI has done an excellent job making people think this, but what I find is that most employers have no idea the difference between the HRCI cert and the SHRM cert. We get it because we’re HR Pros and leaders and we geek out about this stuff, but 99% of executives have no idea. I’ve actually recruited on multiple HR leadership positions over the past year, with various large organizations, and not one could tell me the difference or even had an idea that there was a difference.

      Also, let’s not kid ourselves, this is all about money on both sides. Always has been!


  3. I DID take the SHRM-SCP exam (the full one). I had studied for the HRCI exam but never took it because the timing was right around the split. It was NOT a cake walk. I can say that I think the situational judgment questions were good and I appreciated less of an emphasis on memorization of dates and cases – I can look that stuff up if needed.

    I think it was a mistake to make the “tutorial” so easy – it damaged the credibility of the SHRM exams. I like that you can get re-cert credit for projects done at work in addition to conferences, etc.

    I think HRCI does some things very, very well – they ought to, after being the only game for 40 years. As Tim said, it’s a personal preference for professionals as to which certification to go for. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out.

  4. I agree with HRCI’s smart moves as of late and I’ll continue to keep my certifications with them current. On the other hand, I have not been impressed with SHRM’s new certification. It was rushed to market and the back-end systems needed to support it still aren’t up to snuff. To my knowledge the new SHRM certifications still aren’t accredited. And there’s also the mental hurdle that I didn’t have to work very hard at all to get the new SHRM certification. As a current HRCI certification holder I only had to watch a video to get the SHRM certification. Since I didn’t have to work hard (at all) to get it I’m not sure I appreciate it as much. And finally, the SHRM folks are being royal pains in the fanny by limiting the number of recertification credits that can be earned from webinars and other online learning venues. –I’ll recertify my SHRM-SCP once. If SHRM doesn’t get their systems in order, secure accreditation and make it easier to recertify then I can’t see much point in keeping it.

  5. I recently reentered the HR field and am a Generalist with a succession plan for Manager and then Director. My employer has agreed to pay for certification and I ordered all of the SHRM materials. I did not realize at the time that they’d developed their own certification.

    Now, I’m unsure if I should sit for the SHRM or HRCI and if I do HRCI will my SHRM materials work out?

    • Nakisha,

      No, you’re SHRM materials will not help you with the HRCI exam. Two differnt sets of exams and study materials. So, if you bought SHRM materials, I would take the SHRM exam. There is some crossover of the material, but not enough where I would risk it.

      Good Luck,


  6. Nice to see HRCI hanging in there. I always considered it to be one of my major professional accomplishments that I was able to pass the SPHR Exam with no prep. It was a hard exam and I fully expected not to pass, but I did!

    • Kelly,

      That’s the million dollar question! It’s a personal decision for most folks. Taking the SPHR through HRCI was one of the most difficult exams I’ve taken in my life. I was proud that I passed the first time. I’ve used my SPHR as a sign throughout my career to let people know my HR chops are for real!

      I do believe, though, that those taking the SHRM exam will have a similar experience, plus I think SHRM will eventually do all those new things HRCI is doing. Let’s face it, if people like it, they’re all easily copied. I still believe SHRM has a huge advantage to control this segment, but HRCI is making it very difficult on them!


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