Which HR Certification Should I Get? HRCI or SHRM?

I’m being put in the middle of two friends. On one side I have HRCI. I’ve known HRCI ever since I got certified in my SPHR in 2001. I trust them, they were my first professional designation. They made me feel special.

On the other side, I have SHRM. I’ve known SHRM a bit longer. I trust them, they are ‘the’ professional organization of my profession. They are recognized the world over. To be recognized by SHRM for anything is an accomplishment in the field of HR.

We’ve all been in this scenario before, right?

Two of your friends, who don’t really get along anymore, but you want to stay friends with both. The problem is, both of these friends only want you to be friends with them and not the other. If you have your HRCI – PHR, SPHR and/or GPHR, or you have your SHRM-CP or SCP, or maybe, like me, you have both, you’re kind of being put in the middle of these two friends and being asked to choose.

It’s uncomfortable. It’s confusing. It’s frustrating.

I’ve gone on record to say I won’t have both my HRCI-SPHR and my SHRM-SCP. I said that. I said it was stupid and this past week I got an email from HRCI that my SPHR was up for recertification. Ugh. My initial reaction was, “oh, I need to get online and log my credits and get my certification up to date.”

Then I remembered, why am I doing this? I don’t want two certifications I only want one. But, which one do I want? Which one is going to be the best for my career? Which one is the right now?

That’s the question that neither HRCI nor SHRM has answered for us. I’ve told both of them this, specifically. They actually both feel they’ve answered this question for us (HR Pros and Leaders), but they haven’t. It’s the one question I get most asked by my readers via email, LinkedIn messaging, on Twitter, etc. “What HR certification should I get, Tim, HRCI or SHRM?”

Unfortunately, I also have that same question. My frustration level has gotten so high with this I’m currently thinking I’ll probably just keep both because no one has answered which one I really need, but having both is really redundant. You don’t need both. You only need one. Which one? That is literally the multi-million dollar question for both organizations!

If you’re waiting around for either organization to answer this question, you’ll be waiting a long time. Both have their marketing statements on why you should choose them, but it still doesn’t answer that one question. WHICH ONE IS RIGHT FOR ME!?

I think it’s going to take time for the market to flush out which one it finds to be the most valuable. I believe you’ll see organizations in the near future accept either because they don’t see a differentiation between them. Eventually, both organizations, SHRM and HRCI, will make changes to more clearly differentiate what their certifications will offer those going after each, respectively.

Don’t you just love it when your friends stick you in the middle and make you choose!? Great marketing strategy for organizations, don’t you think…

13 thoughts on “Which HR Certification Should I Get? HRCI or SHRM?

  1. I’m trying to decide between both friends myself. I’m a Sr VP of HR and unfortunately, other companies raise concerns not having the initials where work experience and keeping abreast of legislation is far more valuable in my opinion! Most job postings do request the PHR and SPHR certification rather then the SHRM designations. As much as I’d like to choose SHRM as my friend, I might have to go HRCI until SHRM can increase market awareness!

  2. Great read. I’m trying to get into the field. It appears SHRM may be the winner. As I look at HR job postings I see SHRM being “desirable.” No mention of HRCI. I like HRCI as they have the aPHR which is key for those trying to make a career change to HR with no HR experience.

  3. I cannot speak for HRCI. I had never heard of them prior to reading this article. Maybe it is a bit regional too. Here in the Dallas area it is all about SHRM. With that being said I don’t really get the SHRM test/certification. I have done the SHRM practice tests and there is so much nonsense on them that has nothing to do with HR that I have opted to even get certified. I do understand the value to the initials behind your name but…

    Thanks for the great post. I learned a great deal from it.

  4. The market will decide at the end of the day. Look at job postings. To date I have only seen a handful switch to SHRM certification. Most employers still ask for the PHR, SPHR designation. Unless SHRM does a better job communicating and selling to employers, it won’t be sustainable.

    • Maria,

      You are correct in that the market will decide, but that market still doesn’t really know the difference between HRCI and SHRM. Job descriptions are asking for PHR and SPHR, only because most JDs are just copied and pasted from the last time. It will take some time for the branding of SHRM to take hold, I look at SHRM’s next CEO to really have to tackle this challenge.

      Thanks for the comments!


  5. I think it’s going to come down to industry specific groups that don’t *need* SHRM that SHRM is going to have to appeal to. Someone in say the medical or education field that have their own HR groups to get certification credits will need to see what extra value the SHRM certification gives them. I know some who did get both who are now saying they will let the SHRM one drop because ASSHRA or CUPA gives them more of what they need and they can stay certified with HRCI.

  6. It’ll really depend on how quickly SHRM wants to effectively kill HRCI. SHRM chapters and state conferences are now killing themselves applying to both groups to get the meetings marked for recertification credits. This is a burden for volunteers, and the only reason that they continue to apply to HRCI is that there would be outrage on the part of many professionals who have earned the PHR/SPHR certification, if recert credit was no longer offered. SHRM would ideally like chapters and conferences to stop offering HRCI recert credit, and its only the likely backlash that is stopping it from happening.

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