5 Top HR Certification Programs for HR Professionals in 2023

“As the HR function gravitates towards the center of organizations, HR Leaders are being called upon to make big-picture decisions for the business and create HR strategies that impact the bottom line.”

~AIHR 

HR is no longer a recruitment cum onboarding function; it’s ubiquitous, all-pervasive, and filters to every level in the organization today. It’s an ever-evolving discipline that needs constant upskilling and upgrading. Especially because human resource is a people-centric profession and directly impacts the health and well-being of the employees that make a company a functional unit. 

There is an increased demand for HR professionals with a multi-disciplinary and multi-functional view of their role to tackle the growing complexity of HR processes.  

Any HR professional seeking to outshine their peers and be successful must broaden the scope of their knowledge and skills. As such, HR professionals need to have a deeper understanding of administration and organization design, talent planning and acquisition, labor relations, and training and development. 

All these specifics are driven towards building an impactful HR strategy and operating models to get the best out of the teams and lead the organization toward better results while driving employee experiences. That looks like quite an effort! 

But with the right upskilling and HR certifications, HR professionals can advance their expertise and become better leaders. Let’s learn what an HR certification is and its importance for HR professionals. 

Importance of HR certificates and courses in the organization

Human resource management doesn’t constitute a specific task but a set of many tools and techniques like staffing, compensation and benefit, payroll, development, compliance, etc., that can make or break an organization. 

An HR professional needs to possess expertise in many or all fields to grow and evolve as an HR. These HR certifications help professionals grow their professional abilities and capabilities while expanding their credentials to attract current and prospective employers.  

To elaborate on the question ‘What is an HR certification’, let’s first define an HR certification. An HR certification is a distinction or certificate that can be earned through examinations, completing projects and assignments, and a given number of hours in professional training. 

These programs certify knowledge of HR practices, strategies, and regulations. Many credentialing institutions and professional organizations offer these certifications. The programs may be of varying lengths and may or may not require the professional to possess an HR degree or work experience in the HR field.   

There are certain types of certifications and courses available for different levels of HR professionals:

  • Entry Level HR Professional Certification

This type of certification is suitable for those HR people who are just starting their professional journey. These certifications, when added to any resume, can improve the prospect of any beginner seeking to build a career in HR. 

  • Certifications for Career Advancement

Professionals already working in the HR field seek these certifications to advance their careers further. 

  • HR Specialty Certifications

HR covers a broad area of roles and responsibilities, and if an HR professional wants to specialize in certain roles, then these kinds of certifications will come in handy.  

  • International HR Certifications

These types of certifications are necessary for those professionals who are trying their luck outside their home country in a foreign land or seeking remote/hybrid work opportunities across the border. In such cases, the professional needs to understand the work culture and norms of that country and would need such kinds of certifications to boost their chances. 

These certifications offer a multitude of benefits to professionals. Some of these benefits include:

#1 Affordability 

HR certifications are more affordable than any HR-related bachelor’s or master’s program. Also, these courses and certifications are for a shorter duration – a few weeks to a few months – and offer the flexibility to complete the course or program in a given duration at your convenience. 

#2 Role based specialization  

UG or PG programs in HR management usually have a broad set of subjects that need to be studied to pass the exam. But with certifications, you can choose a particular area, skill, or role to specifically upscale and become a certified HR professional. 

#3 Enables upskilling 

The certifications not only complete the job criteria for a position but they make HRs more productive and efficient in handling persons and tasks equally well. The programs help in developing a broadened perspective and extensive skill-set, which make HRs competent to handle a variety of challenges by using modern cum improvised techniques. 

#4 Suitability

The professional institutions offer these certifications for varying levels of HR people. So a beginner may choose a program that will enable them to become a professional, and a professional may choose a program to upskill a particular skill or rise to a senior level. 

#5 Facilitates Career Development

These certifications help HR people to grow their knowledge and practical skills around some new roles, grow their network, and improve their salary prospects by making them eligible for better HR positions. 

5 Best HR courses and certifications for 2023

“HR certifications don’t just help you perform, they monetize your talent and louden your presence every day.” 

And rightly so, here is a list of 5 of the most popular HR certifications suitable for aspiring HRs and experienced professionals looking to kickstart or reignite their career: 

#1 HRCI Certification PHR 

HRCI PHR is among the best-reputed certifications for HR professionals. The HR certification is awarded by HRCI (Human Resource Certification Institute), one of the best human resource certification platforms in the space. The platform has been providing its services for the past 45 years and has earned the tag of the best credentialing organization whose courses have set benchmarks for excellence and rigor in the industry. 

The organization offers six certification courses in total to cater to different levels of HR professionals. The courses are offered to serve beginners just starting, professionals who want to upgrade their skills or those who want to acclimatize themselves to another HR area. 

HRCI certification PHR is suitable for HR professionals only. 

The course and certification cover the following subject areas:

  • Business Management 
  • Talent planning and Acquisition
  • Employee and Labor Relations 
  • Learning and Development
  • Total Rewards  

Eligibility Master’s or higher degree in HR with one year of experience 
Or 
Bachelor’s degree with 2 years of experience 

Or 
4 years of experience in a professional-level HR position 
Fees Examination Fees: $395Application Fees: $100
Examination Required 
Duration  of Examination 2 hours 
Online or In-person Both 
Type of Questions 90 multiple-choice questions and 25 pretest questions 
Hours of Instruction Variable 
Validity Remains valid for three years after which the professional is required to retake the exam or must earn recertification credits. 

#2 SHRM Certification  

SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) certification is best for professionals placed at a strategic or operational level. SHRM certifications are meant to help HR professionals enhance their effectiveness at the workplace and give a boost to their careers. SHRM has been a leader in HR certifications and has been providing these programs for 70 years. 

SHRM offers two types of certifications – SHRM-CP (Certified Professional) for professionals at the operational level and SHRM–SCP (Senior Certified Professional) for senior-level professionals. It covers the following subject areas:

  • Leadership & Navigation
  • Ethical Practice
  • Relationship Management
  • Communication
  • Global and Cultural Effectiveness
  • Business Acumen
  • Critical Evaluation
  • Consultation 

Eligibility SHRM-CP Master’s in HR and currently serving as an HR professional OrBachelor’s degree in HR and one year of experience in an HR role Or 3 years in an HR role 
SHRM-SCPMaster’s in HR and 3 years experience serving as an HR professional OrBachelor’s degree in HR and 4-year experience in an HR role Or 6 years in an HR role
Fees Examination Fees: $410 ($510 for non-members)Application Fees: $50
Examination Required 
Duration of Examination 3 hours 40 minutes (two 110-minute sections)
Online or In-person Both 
Type of Questions Two types of 134 multiple-choice questions: 80 knowledge-based questions and 54 scenario-based judgment questions 
Hours of Instruction Variable 
Validity Remains valid for three years after which the professional is required to retake the exam or must earn recertification credits. 

#3 Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP)

A Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) certification is suitable for professionals as the credential identifies them as learning experts. The course is offered by the Association of Talent Development (ATD) Certification Institute. 

The certification measures the professional’s knowledge and skill application against a board set of 22 talent development capabilities segregated into three broad areas:   

  • Professional capabilities
  • Personal capabilities
  • Organizational capabilities

Eligibility HR professionals with 5 years of experience And 60 hours of professional development in the last 5 years 
Or 
4 years experience as a professional in talent development AndAn APTD (Associate professional in talent development) certification 
Fees Registration Fees: $950 ($1,450 for non-members)
Examination Required 
Duration of Examination 3 hours
Online or In-person Both 
Type of Questions/Work Product150 multiple-choice questions 
And 
A successful work product on one of the four focus areas of expertise:Instructional Design,Training Delivery,Performance Improvement, orManaging Learning Programs
Hours/type of Instruction Available in three options:Cohort Study GroupInstructor Led WorkshopOn-demand
Validity Remains valid for three years, after which the professional is required to retake the exam or earn recertification credits. 

#4 AIHR Strategic HR Leadership 

This certification is suitable for anyone who wants to upscale their HR skills. Offered by AIHR, the certification seeks to upskill HRs on parameters such as business-driven HR strategy, leadership skills, agility, and broadened perspective, among others.   

The course is available online and can be completed in a 12-month duration. It gives access to community and live events, personal coaching, and competency assessments and also offers a 60-day money-back guarantee for those professionals who do not like the program. 

This is a Beginner-level program for anyone who wants to upgrade their HR skills in the following:  

  • Business administration
  • Organizational design
  • Lean management

Eligibility No prior experience or specific eligibility needed 
Fees Single access at $997 and full access at $1,797 for 10 certificate programs
Examination/work assignments  No exam The applicant needs to complete 41 video lessons, some assignments, and a few quizzes to complete the certification.  
Duration  of Examination NA
Online or In-person NA 
Type of Questions NA
Duration/Medium of Instruction 2 hours a week for 10 weeks(The program can be completed in less than 12 months, and all the video lessons are available online.) 
Validity Remains valid for three years, after which the professional is required to retake the exam or must earn recertification credits. 

#5 Human Resources Certificate Program

This HR certificate program is offered by Cornell University’s ILR School and is a part of the 15 HR certification courses developed by the school. All these courses are 100% online, and instructor-led courses with a core focus on developing HR skills relevant to tackle real-world scenarios. 

The program also gives free access to Symposiums – live Zoom sessions held by Cornell faculty – covering contemporary HR topics like inclusion, equity, unconscious bias, psychological safety, cross-cultural conversations, etc. 

The certificate program covers the following areas: 

  • Rewards compensation
  • Labor relations
  • Staffing decisions
  • Training and development 
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Consulting
  • Others

The program will let you earn 90 Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM recertification and 90 credit hours towards HRCI certification. 

Eligibility 
Professionals from for-profits, NGOs, and governmental agenciesOrLine-level HR professionals with 0-5 years of experience OrProfessionals aspiring to get into HR 
Fees Available on request 
Examination Details available on request
Duration of Examination NA
Online or In-person Online/Instructor-led
Type of Questions NA
Duration of Course 2 weeks/90 professional development hours  
Validity Remains valid for three years after which the professional is required to retake the exam or must earn recertification credits.

Conclusion

These HR certifications can give HR professionals and people looking to enter the HR scene an edge and help in career progression via skillset expansion. But, those seeking certifications should remember that these certifications cannot be a substitute for hard work and consistency, and these certifications need to be earned with equal vigor and labor. 

As markets expand and HR functions grow more expansive and complex, HR professionals will be in greater demand. It is always better to certify and upskill your expertise and be job-ready and competitive for the next opportunity.      

FAQs on HR Certifications

What are the main HR certifications?

HR certifications are of many kinds. For beginners, entry-level HR certifications work best. For professionals, certifications for career advancement and certifications concerning any HR specialty can work wonders. For HR people looking to move abroad to find work, international HR certifications would be the best. 

Do certifications increase salary?

Besides helping professionals to upskill and perform better, HR certifications help to fulfill eligibility criteria for a promotion or a new role. This may not directly lead to a salary increase, but over time, as your performance improves, you may land a better job or get salary hikes. 
In many cases, such as IT certifications, certifications increase salary and earning potential.

Do HR certificates expire?

HR certifications are usually valid for a period of 3 years. In case of expiry, you need to retake the exam or earn the recertification credits or PDs to renew the certification. 

What is the highest level of HR certification?

The Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) is the highest level of certification a professional can earn. But the specialty certifications do not carry any levels but serve as ancillaries to boost HR skills.

Is an HR certificate worth it? 

Yes, HR certificates are completely worth it for professionals and aspiring HR people to distinguish themselves from their competitors and establish their profile as that of an expert. Not only that, but these certifications also stamp the HR’s efforts to consistently upskill themselves with dedication and credibility. 

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