The Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) holds the registered trademark for three professional designations for professionals whose work is necessary to HR issues certifications like Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR), Senior Professional Human Resources (SPHR), Professional Human Resources (PHR), and Global Professional Human Resources (GPHR).
Also, the HRCI offers California certification that you can turn on to your SPHR or PHR. An SPHR-certified professional who also is certified in California employment issues can do SPHR-CA to designate her credentials.
PHR vs. SPHR
Between the PHR and the SPHR, the latter is the most crucial classification, but the PHR is not a prerequisite for the SPHR. The eligibility criteria for the two designations change, based on expertise, experience, HR knowledge, and job title or position.
SPHR-eligible practitioners usually are included in strategic HR matters, such as long-range workforce planning and engaging in executive-level decisions.
On the other hand, PHR-eligible practitioners typically manage functional HR tasks, such as working group benefits enrollment and preparing job postings.
Taking the right exam, either the PHR or the SPHR affects more than merely making the preparation process less stressful. Choosing the proper test also can affect your future job and earnings potential.
Think about applying for an upper-level HR job that requires exposure, experience, and problem-solving in business management and strategy that may be approved by the SPHR credential.
Assume that you squeak by the SPHR exam and are successfully certified if you get the job based on an SPHR credential but do not have the depth and extent of practical experience that goes along with it, more than likely you will struggle in the role.
Taking the right exam also enables you to engage in proper recertification activities.
The professional certification process is an advance in your career, not a one-time shot at a credential. Beginning with the PHR is quite reasonable. You can see the baseline under your belt and then chase after the SPHR in the next year or two over another period of 12 to 14 weeks of studying.
The information obtained by studying has assisted many HR professionals’ well time and time over, opening doors that would have never opened without the credentials.
Each exam has its eligibility conditions. Take a look at the table to make sure you meet the at least requirements for your exam of choice.
Candidates for SPHR and PHR certification must prove that they are eligible to take the certifying exam. Examinees must have long, exempt-level HR work experience to make the SPHR or PHR test.
For the SPHR examination, you must have at least four years of work experience if you have a master’s degree, five years’ experience with a bachelor’s degree or seven years’ experience without a college degree.
The guidelines for taking the PHR is just one year of HR experience with a master’s degree, two years with a bachelor’s degree, and four years without a college degree.
Because the PHR is not a necessity for the SPHR, you might wonder why some HR practitioners use the PHR exam first and then sit for another problematic exam to become SPHR-certified. If you are in the early stages of an HR career, likely, you are not yet interested in developing HR strategic direction for your employer.
In some organizations, certification is essential. And if you are not yet performing high-level duties, getting your PHR certification first will validate your functional expertise. Once you begin handling higher-level responsibilities and are a member of the management team, apply to sit for the SPHR exam.
If you are already in a management role and you believe you are prepared to take the SPHR exam, then you should go for that one first because it is more closely matched with your position and level of authorization.
For example, an HR director with PHR certification might imply that she’s not well-versed in policy, which might call into question her ability to be an HR director.
Dig a Little Deeper: PHR or SPHR
Analyze each the working area of each exam to one another:
- The first section of the PHR exam has five contract statements.
- The first section of the SPHR exam content plan has ten responsibility statements.
Repeat this process for every section and note the distinctions between the two exams. You will see that the SPHR candidate is going to be tested on their knowledge to develop and assess various HR and business plans.
The PHR candidate is going to be tested on their ability to perform and maintain HR programs and activities.
At this point, you should have a much better idea of which exam is best for you. Although classes and books may better replacement for experience in some systems, you are most likely to be prosperous when you take the right exam at the appropriate point in your career.
Essential Tips for Making Your PHR or SPHR
Earning your PHR or SPHR is no simple task, but it is a step well worth taking. Getting your certification needs a dedication of undivided time and effort. Although the process is complicated, the benefits speak for themselves. Those who pass the exam join a prestigious group of HR practitioners and add unmatched HR credentials to their names.
While the destination is unique, the journey can be tough. HRCI certification exams test your experience in every sphere and facet of HR practice, and you must command a complete understanding to succeed.
Here are tips curated to decrease your test stress and increase your likelihood of becoming certified.
1) Schedule Your Test Early
One straightforward way to decrease the stress of sitting for this intense exam is to schedule as soon as you are cleared to take the exam. This may look like common knowledge, but scheduling is often overlooked until the last minute.
Registering early may not guarantee you the exact date and time that you need, but it does raise the likelihood of getting a time that works best with your schedule.
If you wait too long to schedule, there is the added stress of either not having time available or having to travel to an unknown location. Scheduling early for the exam gives you more control and more confidence. Planning soon is a simple way to determine those potential pitfalls before they develop.
2) Learn the SPHR or PHR Exam Layout
Most candidates have the assumption that the certification exams follow the same layout as graded tests, but the simple fact is that they do not. Understanding how the exam is laid out before entering the testing facility helps test-takers with determination and preparation.
The required multiple-choice questions are a part of the certification exams. Still, candidates should also expect to see other types of questions, such as fill-in-the-blank, drag-and-drop, or scenarios that require integrating learned material.
The more people understand what kinds of questions they could be facing, the more comfortable they will be when taking the actual exam.
Luckily, this is not proprietary knowledge HRCI equips candidates with the information they require to prepare for and succeed on the exams. Before you go too far into your preparation timeline, check out this analysis of what to assume on the exam.
3) Figure Out Your Learning Style
There are multiple learning styles, and every individual learns in a completely different way, typically within some combination of methods. No two learners are alike, so do not expect to find a one-size-fits-all study solution. Just because a co-worker studies effectively using flashcards does not mean that that is the right method for you.
It is critical to determine how you best retain and understand the information before you spend time studying for the exam. Think back to your past educational experiences.
Some people learn from hearing material, for example, so audio preparation courses or webcasts might be a good study option. Those who get by doing might make the best links into actual practice.
Once you have determined the learning styles that work best for you, there are several preparation courses and study options that you can leverage, including individual self-paced study, online practice tests, and actual classroom environments.
4) Use a Study Schedule
Everyone has a busy life, but certification can only be achieved through a dedication of time and effort. It is essential to set and stick to a study schedule. The certification exams have a general scope. To pass, you have to manage knowledge in every aspect of HR practice.
You are engaging with the content at least once a week, though more frequent study sessions are highly advised. Be regular if you are serious about getting certified. Your study time is non-negotiable.
A goal-driven study session has the best possibility of success, so do not enter into one without having goals in mind. HRCI gives content outlines for each exam; use these to prioritize study topics and to develop an overall study plan and timeline.
The content outlines are entirely free for you to use, and they are a great tool to help you prioritize what you require to study. The sooner you understand where your strengths and weaknesses are, the more effective your study tools and sessions will be.
Putting time into planning and preparation cement the magnitude of the task you have undertaken, and aids ease the anxiety you will feel going into the exam.
Pausing, on the other hand, causes cramping and last-minute anxiety, and these are not healthy study habits. Setting a robust study schedule from the start enables you to take the exam with faith and the information that you did your best.
5) Prepare for Test Day in Advance
Stress is often a leading factor in success or failure, and fear on test day can be exhausting. Luckily, there are steps you can take to alleviate that concern.
This allows you to make sure you understand where you are going and discover how long it takes to get there. This will aid you to be on time on the day of your exam.
Additionally, weak accommodations are available, but the testing facility must be notified ahead of time. If that is a resource you need, plan so you can receive those accommodations. Get details on this and other questions in the certification handbook.
Eat a well-balanced meal before going in and have a cup of coffee if that is part of your routine. Staying in a healthy headspace will help to ease your anxiety. And recognize that your gut reaction to a question is probably right do not second guess yourself! You have spent four months preparing.
As you can see, the exams vary in multiple ways. The essential thing to do is pick the one that is the right fit for you and then develop a study plan that provides you enough for the test.
Your preparation is not meant to come simply from a book–your experiences and communications with other HR professionals both serve to drive your certification preparation.