The Dumb HR Guy Guide to Recertifying for HRCI & SHRM

“My three years is up!”, he said as if it was a prison sentence. If you’re a regular to the professional recertification process of HRCI (SPHR, PHR, GPHR), you know this feeling well. Your HRCI certification lasts for three years and you can then retake the test or turn in continuing education credits for recertification. The first round of the new SHRM recertifications won’t take place until later this year for the SHRM CP and SCP certs.

It’s pretty simple. The first time you got your HR certification you took a test. For most of us, it sucked! It was hard, we had to study for weeks and months, and in the end when you walked out of the room you had no idea if you passed or not! It was at that point you made a pack with yourself, “I will never take that exam again!” With that statement, you signed yourself up for the three-year sentence!

Most professionals certification in other fields work in a very similar manner. In lieu of taking the certification exam over, you can do continuing education and receive credit. If you get so many credits over a certain period, you don’t have to take the test and you continue to have a valid certification. It’s a good business deal for both sides. I don’t want to take a test again, and the professional body would rather keep collecting my money.

With the breakup of HRCI and SHRM, we HR pros now have a decision to make:

  1. Maintain my HRCI certification only.
  2. Maintain my SHRM certification only.
  3. Maintain both certifications.
  4. Screw them both, this is too confusing!

I’ve maintained that having both certifications is ridiculous. You don’t need both, there isn’t enough differentiation in the eyes of employers, and there is still confusion in the market over which one you really need.

February 20th is my birthday. My SPHR certification through HRCI will expire. So, now I have a decision to make. I’ve maintained my SPHR certification since 2001. I still remember sitting in that room taking the test, finishing, and having no idea what the heck some of those answers were! I was proud when I got certified. It’s a hard certification to get and give up.

Most of you aren’t like me. In fact, I did a quick poll of some of my HR friends to find out how they recertify. It came down to three basic ways to HR pros recertify:

  1. You put in your recertification credits immediately as you earn them. This is 40% of you. These are my smart friends.
  2. You have a set schedule for inputting your earned credits (Monthly, quarterly, bi-annual,etc.) This another 40% of you. These are my slightly less smart friends.
  3. Dumb HR Guy way – you wait three years then put them all in at once. This is about 20% of us.

So, I made the decision to recertify my SPHR through HRCI. I go to and speak at a lot of conferences, I lead webinars, I get enough credits in one year for all three years, so this should be super simple!

Okay, let me stop for a second and explain, it wasn’t. But, it’s mostly my problem and my Dumb HR Guy way of doing things! Also, I think HRCI and SHRM could make this process a little easier, so I’ll give you some tips that I hope will help you not be dumb like me!

Tip #1 – Each thing you do for recertification comes with a “Program ID #”, turns out these numbers, and remembering these numbers are pretty important to the simplification of recertification! Also, both HRCI and SHRM have different numbers, which adds to the complexity of this. My suggestion to both would be to each have a simple search function on their recertification website allowing you to look up these program ID #’s so you don’t have to save all this documentation or find a way to remember them. Which leads me to Tip number two.

Tip #2 – Don’t be a Dumb HR Guy! Once you get your “Program ID #” input it into your recertification application right away. This is one million times easier! Now, SHRM also has made it super simple by providing a new mobile app so you can actually do this task in seconds while you’re at the event and you first get told the Program ID #. Super cool, super easy, go download it now if you have the SHRM CP and SCP. I’m guessing HRCI is probably not far behind in launching their own mobile app, it just makes sense for this kind of thing.

Tip #3 – Both HRCI and SHRM make it very hard for you to find Program ID #’s because they think you’ll cheat. Even though both audit and the reality is people applying for HR recertification would rarely cheat just based on their demographic and fear of being caught, let’s make it super hard for our ‘members’ to find the information you want. Even if you call them, they are not very forth giving on those IDs! Basically, we HR pros are untrustworthy to the associations we belong to. Oh, what’s the tip? It’s not one, I was just still upset over not easily being able to find the Program ID #’s of the events and webinars I attended to make it easier for me to fill out my recertification! Okay, rant over.

Tip #4 – HR blogging is pretty much worthless in the eyes of HRCI and SHRM. You get a max of like 6 credits over three years. I write every day, doing research, keeping up on the biggest HR topics on the planet, working to advance the HR profession, but somehow I don’t get credit for that. Instead, I go listen to Charlie at a local SHRM monthly luncheon talk about 401K participation for the third straight year, with the exact same presentation, and I’ll get three credits for attending those three exact presentations over three years. Doesn’t seem equitable, does it?

The moral of this story is this. SHRM and HRCI have figured out there is one really good way to recertify and if you follow their way, you’ll find this process easy and awesome. If you’re a dumb HR guy like me, you’ll find it painful.

The other moral is this, I’m recertifying for both, even those I still think it’s ridiculous. Until employers show us which certification they prefer you can’t be left not holding the one that will be most valuable to you. Unfortunately, right now, you don’t know which one that is!


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