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Professional Development


    What Is Certification?

    Certification is a voluntary action by a professional group to establish a system to grant recognition to professionals who have met a stated level of training and work experience. Certified individuals are usually issued a certificate attesting that they have met the standards of the credentialing organization and are entitled to make the public aware of their credentialed status, usually through the use of acronyms (i.e., PHR, SPHR or GPHR) after their names.

    Certifications differ from certificate programs because certifications, by definition, include a work experience component. Certificate programs, on the other hand, award certificates once a course of study has been completed and do not require previous work experience.

    Why Is Certification Desirable?

    Certification sets those with the credential apart-or above those without it. There are a number of advantages to seeking certification. Certification becomes a public recognition of professional achievement-both within and outside of the profession. For many, achieving certification becomes a personal professional goal-a way to test knowledge and to measure it against one's peers. Others see certification as an aid to career advancement.

    Purpose and Use of Certification

    PHR and SPHR certification shows that the holder has accepted the challenge to stay informed of new developments in the HR field. The PHR and SPHR exams are completely voluntary. The PHR and SPHR designations are a visible reminder to peers and co-workers of the holder's significant professional achievement. PHR and SPHR certified professionals should proudly display their certificates and use the credentials on business correspondence.

    Exam Overview

    The exams are multiple-choice and consist of 200 scored questions plus 25 pretest questions randomly distributed throughout the exam (a total of 225 questions). Each question lists four possible answers, only one of which is the correct or "best possible answer." The answer to each question can be derived independently of the answer to any other question. Four hours are allotted to complete the exam. All exams are administered by computer at more than 250 Prometric testing centers. There are no paper-and-pencil exam administrations.


    Study Groups

    Akron SHRM is happy to connect individuals interested in forming study groups for upcoming exams. The 2008 testing windows for the PHR/SPHR are May 1 to June 30 and December 1 to January 31. Go to for registration details. A Study group is being formed by the Akron SHRM. If you are interested in preparing for your exam with others (current session or upcoming sessions), please contact Tamara Williams - chapter Certification Chairperson at

    HRCI Online Assessment Exam

    HRCI offers an online assessment exam comprised of actual exam questions that have appeared on previous exams but were removed from the item bank to develop the assessment exam. Before registering for the exam, consider taking this online assessment exam. The assessment exam exposes candidates to the types of questions on the actual exam. For more information about the assessment exam (including fees), visit the HRCI web site at

    Choosing the Appropriate Exam Level

    Candidates should choose the exam level that best represents their mastery of the HR body of knowledge. HRCI has found that appropriate exempt-level HR work experience and educational background contribute significantly to success on the exams.

    With this in mind, HRCI strongly recommends that PHR candidates have two to four years of exempt-level (professional) HR work experience and SPHR candidates have six to eight years of exempt-level (professional) HR work experience.

    The Ideal PHR Candidate
    • Focuses on program implementation.
    • Has tactical/logistical orientation.
    • Has accountability to another HR professional within the organization.
    • Has two to four years of exempt-level generalist HR work experience, but because of career length may lack the breadth and depth of a more senior-level generalist.
    • Has not had progressive HR work experience by virtue of career length.
    • Focuses his or her impact on the organization within the HR department rather than organization-wide.
    • Commands respect through the credibility of knowledge and the use of policies and guidelines to make decisions.
    The Ideal SPHR Candidate

    Designs and plans rather than implements.

    • Focuses on the "big picture."
    • Has ultimate accountability in the HR department.
    • Has six to eight years of progressive HR experience.
    • Has breadth and depth of HR generalist knowledge.
    • Uses judgment obtained with time and application of knowledge.
    • Has generalist role within organization.
    • Understands the affect of decisions made within and outside of the organization.
    • Understands the business, not just the HR function.
    • Manages relationships; has influence within overall organization.
    • Commands credibility within organization, community and field by experience.
    • Possesses excellent negotiation skills.
    PHR and SPHR Exam Functional Areas PHR SPHR
    Strategic Management 12% 26%
    Workforce Planning and Employment 26% 16%
    Human Resource Development 15% 13%
    Compensation and Benefits 20% 16%
    Employee and Labor Relations 21% 24%
    Occupational Health, Safety and Security 6% 5%
    Passing Score

    The passing score for both exams (based on a scaled score) is 500. The minimum possible score is 100. The maximum possible score is 700.

    For more information about scaled scoring, please see "Understanding the Score Report" and "How the Passing Score Was Set" in this handbook.

    About Computer Based Testing (CBT)

    Starting in 2004, HRCI will deliver all PHR and SPHR exams by computer at Prometric test centers. Here's what you need to know about this exciting development:

    Advantages to Computer-Based Exam
    • Exams will be administered exclusively by computer. Exams will no longer be available in paper-and-pencil format.
    • The exams will be administered at more than 250 test centers across the United States, U.S. territories and Canada. Exams will also be offered internationally wherever a Prometric test center is located. See Appendix D for more information about taking the exam outside the United States, U.S. territories or Canada.
    • There are two annual testing windows-May 1 - June 30, 2004 and November 15, 2004 - January 15, 2005.
    • Exams will no longer be offered at SHRM conferences.
    • Candidates can schedule their exams Monday through Friday and take their exams Monday through Saturday, during the testing windows.
    • Candidates will have access to a built-in clock and calculator.
    • Individual testing stations will allow for more privacy and test security.
    • Immediate (preliminary) pass/fail score results will be provided to candidates before they leave the testing center. Official score reports will be mailed within two to three weeks of testing.
    • There are more testing dates.
    • There are more test center locations.
    • There will be consistent exam administration and test-taking environments.
    • Candidates are able to mark more difficult questions to return to later.
    • Computer-based testing provides ease of use (no computer experience necessary).
    • A self-paced tutorial shows you how to take the test (including how to mark questions to return to later) to ensure that you are comfortable with the exam administration process.
    • Prometric, the leading provider of computer-based testing, will deliver the exams.

    For more information about PHR/SPHR Certification visit the HRCI homepage at or contact Tamara Williams, PHR, the AA-SHRM Certification Chairperson by email at