Definition of PHR Certification

The responsibilities of human resource professionals include recruitment, hiring, training, labor relations, compensation and benefits. Small businesses usually need a full-time human resource specialist only when they exceed 50 employees, according to “Inc.” magazine. Most companies prefer to hire HR professionals with college degrees and relevant work experience. The PHR, or professional in human resources certification, provides additional proof that a human resource specialist is well-qualified for the position.

PHR Certification

The professional in human resources certification is designed for those whose primary occupation is human resource procedures and operations. This basic level certifies primarily those who focus on the logistics of implementing an HR program within a company and report to another human resource specialist. The credentialing organization is the HR Certification Institute, which has certified more than 120,000 HR professionals since 1976. The institute also offers the senior professional in human resources credential for those with more experience and greater responsibilities. When a PHR qualifies for the SPHR credential, the higher credential replaces the PHR.

Advantages of Certification

The PHR certification helps human resources specialists demonstrate their superior qualifications to an employer. Similarly, a HRM Exam owner who hires a PHR knows that the employee meets high standards, according to the HR Certification Institute. The credentialed individual has qualifying work experience and substantial knowledge of standard human resource practices. In addition, she has kept up-to-date with changes in the profession through continuing education.

Exam Prerequisites

Candidates for the PHR designation need from one to four years of human resource work experience before taking the credentialing examination. Applicants need four years of HR work if their educational level is less than a bachelor’s degree. With a bachelor’s degree, they need a minimum of two years of experience, and they need a minimum of one year with a Master’s degree or higher. In the United States, all work experience must be “exempt” under the definition of the Fair Labor Standards Act. This means the employee receives a “substantial” salary, rather than hourly pay, and does not qualify for overtime.

Application and Scheduling

Apply online for the PHR exams, which take place from May to June and also from December to January. Begin by creating a user profile on the HR Certification website. Supply personal data and details about qualifying work experience in human resources. When notified of acceptance, schedule an exam by phone or online at one of more than 600 Prometric testing centers around the world. The PHR exam fee comes to $250 for members of the Society for Human Resource Management and $300 for nonmembers at publication time.


The HR Certification Institute website provides online study and practice resources for the PHR examination. The exam consists of 175 multiple-choice questions in six sections. The topics include business management, planning and employment, development of human resources, benefits and compensation, employee relations and management of risk. The final scores are scaled from 100 to 700 points, with 500 the minimum to pass. Those who succeed must complete 60 hours of continuing education or retake the exam every three years to maintain certification.

2016 Salary Information for Human Resources Managers

Human resources managers earned a median annual salary of $106,910 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, human resources managers earned a 25th percentile salary of $80,800, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $145,220, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 136,100 people were employed in the U.S. as human resources managers.

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