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HRCI vs SHRM: Which HR Cert is Right for You?

Earning an HR certification is becoming the new standard for human resources professionals. Whether you are new to the HR field or are a seasoned professional seeking management opportunities, an HR certification can expand your knowledge and strategically position you for advancement.

There are two widely respected HR certification providers: HR Certification Institute (HRCI) and Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). HR Education Network offers certification test preparation for both HRCI and SHRM, and we are proud to be approved by both as a recertification credit provider.

If you are in the process of choosing a certification provider, it’s important to know the requirements and benefits of each before choosing which one is right for you. 

HR Certification Institute (HRCI)

HRCI has a strong reputation among HR professionals for their 40 years of expertise in HR certification. They offer eight different HR certifications, including international, global, and state-specific specialties. The three primary HRCI certifications are:

Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR)

The aPHR certification is designed for individuals just beginning their HR careers. This certification will fast-track your professional growth and give you confidence as you launch your career in HR. (HR Education Network doesn’t currently offer the aPHR prep course but is working to offer this in the near future.) 

Professional in Human Resources (PHR)

The PHR certification is designed for HR professionals with some experience and/or education in HR. This certification helps you establish yourself in the HR field and demonstrates your mastery of the technical and operational aspects of human resource management. 

Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)

The SPHR is designed for experienced HR professionals who wish to pursue HR management or leadership. This exam has a heavy focus on the HR professionals’ understanding of business and strategy.

The requirements for HRCI’s certifications vary.  Required education levels range anywhere from a high school diploma to a master’s degree and there are certifications for those with no professional experience as well as those who have been in the industry for seven years or more. There is a $100 application fee, and the cost to take HRCI exams ranges from $300 to $495.

eligibility requirements for HRCI certification

Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

SHRM prides itself on providing competency-based exams, meaning their tests focus on the implementation and application of knowledge on the job. They also offer a membership program with local SHRM chapters, allowing for in-person professional development and networking. 

The SHRM model focuses on eight behavioral competencies, grouped into three clusters: leadership, interpersonal, and business. There are two SHRM certifications:

SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP)

The SHRM-CP is designed for HR professionals with some HR experience who want to establish their career and expand their knowledge. This certification is comparable to the PHR.

SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP)

The SHRM-SCP is designed for HR professionals with experience and education in HR who want to pursue HR management or leadership. These individuals excel at leading an HR team and aligning HR strategies to big-picture organizational goals.

The eligibility requirements for SHRM’s certification courses also vary. They offer certifications for individuals with less than a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field as well as those with a graduate degree in a related field. In terms of professional experience, the SHRM certifications require anyway from less than one year experience in HR to more than four years of experience. The cost of an SHRM certification ranges from $300 to $475.


If you earn an HR certification through HRCI, you are required to recertify every three years by demonstrating professional development and achievement. If you earn an HR certification through SHRM, you are required to recertify every three years by earning 50 professional development credits or retaking the exam. HREN makes recertification seamless with approved recertification accredited online courses.

Both HRCI and SHRM are well-respected HR certification providers, which is why we are proud to provide test preparation courses and recertification credits for both. It’s important to find the right HR certification to support your next steps as an HR professional, and you cannot go wrong with these reputable and knowledgeable providers. 

Our experts at HR Education Network are happy to help you choose the right course for your next step as an HR professional. Contact us or check out our course catalog to get started!

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