12 Types of HR Certifications (+Requirements and Costs)

Lauren Pope
Lauren Pope  |  May 28, 2019

The talent market is becoming more competitive, so you need to do what it takes to stand out!

You’ve probably heard some buzz around the different types of human resources certifications over the last couple of years. While acquiring a human resources certification isn’t required, it’s quickly becoming preferred for most high-profile HR jobs. If you find yourself stuck in between stops on your human resources career path, you might consider a professional certification designed for HR professionals.

While there’s no guarantee that getting a human resources certification will land you a promotion or a hefty pay raise right away, you will learn a lot; from managing crises to simple disgruntled employees. Certification programs require critical thinking and skills development that will help you grow as a professional

Looking for a specific type of human resources certification? Use the links below to jump ahead:

Before you read ahead, get a started on planning your HR career path with our FREE downloadable career planning checklist.

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What are the best HR certifications?

Deciding which human resources certifications are right for you is all about identifying where you are in your career path. No matter if you’re in your first year on the job, an HR manager, or you’re vying for a C-Suite position, there are human resources certifications designed to fit your needs.

hr certification options

Source: Payscale

With so much information out there, it can be hard to cut through the noise. We’ve put together a list of the 12 most popular human resources certifications, who they might benefit, and the requirements for each.

Best entry-level HR certification

The following human resources certifications are perfect for anyone looking to get a head start at the beginning of their human resources career. These human resources certifications have the lowest requirement thresholds and can be completed within a couple of months.

Associate Professional in Human Resources™ (APHR™)

The Associate Professional in Human Resources™ certification is perfect for entry-level human resources professionals because it doesn’t require any previous work experience. That means college students studying for a career in human resources can get a head start by studying for and completing the APHR™ before graduating.

The eligibility requirements for the APHR™ are:

  • You must have a high school diploma or global equivalent
  • You must submit your application for approval
  • You must pass a predetermined assessment
  • Upon completion, you must acquire a certain number of continued education and professional development credits every three years or pass the assessment again

The APHR™ is also unique from other human resources certifications because it doesn't require any previous work experience or HR experience. This certification is perfect for anyone looking to make a career change to HR.


If you're ready to take the APHR™, the cost is as follows:

  • Application fee: $100
  • Exam fee*: $300

*Once an exam application is approved, no refunds will be made whether a candidate withdraws or no longer wishes to take the exam.


To learn more about the APHR™, visit the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) website.

Professional in Human Resources®

The Professional in Human Resources® (PHR®) certificate is designed for human resources professionals who are a couple years into their human resources career and are looking for advanced development.

The eligibility requirements for the PHR® require you to fulfill one of the following requirements:

  • Have at least one year of experience in a professional-level HR position + a Master’s degree or higher
  • Have at least two years of experience in a professional-level HR position + a Bachelor’s degree
  • Have at least four years of experience in a professional-level HR position + a high school diploma

As you can see above, your eligibility for the PHR® depends on your level of education and your current experience in an HR role. You may be eligible for the PHR® within your first year on the job, or you may need to wait until you are a couple years into your career. Whichever is the case, planning ahead is always a good idea.


If you’re ready to take the PHR®, the cost is as follows:

  • Application fee: $100
  • Exam fee*: $395

*Once an exam application is approved, no refunds will be made whether a candidate withdraws or no longer wishes to take the exam.


To learn more about the Professional in Human Resources® (PHR®), visit the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) website.

Best HR certification for career advancement

It’s not just increased knowledge you look to gain with a human resources certification, it’s more money throughout the length of your career. Studies show that HR professionals with human resources certifications are set to earn more money than their non-certified counterparts. 

Value of HR certifications

Source: Payscale

The following human resources certifications are perfect for anyone with a couple of years of human resources experience under their belt and/or an advanced degree to qualify. These human resources certifications are more time intensive than the previous certification and have a higher requirement threshold. 

Related: It's also important to make sure you've brushed up on HR Law, regardless of your position in the HR hierarchy.

SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM®–CP)

The SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM®-CP) certificate is a human resources certification offered by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). This certification is designed for HR professionals who have been in the field for several years and are seeking out management-level positions.

The SHRM®-CP certification program is a bit different than other certification programs because there are different requirements depending on whether or not you graduated with an HR-related degree. We’ll break down the eligibility based on the degree program requirements.

If you hold an HR-related degree, the eligibility requirements for the SHRM®-CP require you to fulfill one of the following:

  • Must currently be working in any HR related role + a Graduate Degree
  • Have at least one year in an HR role + a Bachelor’s Degree
  • Have at least three years in an HR role + less than a Bachelor’s Degree*

If you do not hold an HR-related degree, the eligibility requirements for the SHRM®-CP require you to fulfill one of the following:

  • Have at least one year in an HR related role + a Graduate Degree
  • Have at least two years in an HR role + a Bachelor’s Degree
  • Have at least four years in an HR role + less than a Bachelor’s Degree*

*Less than a bachelor’s degree includes: working toward a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree, some college, qualifying HR certificate program, high school diploma, or GED.

 It’s important you double check the education requirements for the SHRM®-CP because your eligibility requirements will change depending on whether or not you hold an HR degree.


If you’ve done your research and you’re ready to take the SHRM®-CP, the cost is as follows:

  • Application fee: $50
  • Exam fee: SHRM members: $300
  • Exam fee: Non- SHRM members: $400

*Once an exam application is approved, no refunds will be made whether a candidate withdraws or no longer wishes to take the exam.


To learn more about the SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM®-CP), visit the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) website.

Senior Professional in Human Resources® (SPHR®)

The Senior Professional in Human Resources® (SPHR®) certificate is designed for seasoned HR professionals looking to demonstrate their industry knowledge. This is human resources certification is designed for people who are looking to advance their careers toward leadership roles.

The eligibility requirements for the SPHR® require you to fulfill one of the following:

  • Have at least four years of experience in a professional-level HR position + a Master’s degree or higher
  • Have at least five years of experience in a professional-level HR position + a Bachelor’s degree
  • Have at least seven years of experience in a professional-level HR position + a high school diploma

As you’ll see with many of these more advanced human resources certifications, eligibility for the SPHR® certification depends on your level of education and your current experience in an HR role.


If you’re ready to take the SPHR® the cost is as follows:

  • Application fee: $100
  • Exam fee*: $495

*Once an exam application is approved, no refunds will be made whether a candidate withdraws or no longer wishes to take the exam.


To learn more about the Senior Professional in Human Resources® (SPHR®), visit the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) website.

SHRM Senior Certified Professional® (SHRM–SCP®)

The SHRM Senior Certified Professional® (SHRM–SCP®) is certificate a human resources certification offered by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). This certification is designed for HR professionals who are looking to make the jump to the C-Suite within the next couple of years.

The SHRM–SCP® certification program is a bit different than other certification programs because there are different requirements depending on whether or not you graduated with an HR-related degree. We’ll break down the eligibility based on the degree program requirements.

If you hold an HR-related degree, the eligibility requirements for the SHRM–SCP® require you to fulfill one of the following:

  • Have at least three years in an HR role + a Graduate Degree
  • Have at least four year in an HR role + a Bachelor’s Degree
  • Have at least six years in an HR role + less than a Bachelor’s Degree*

If you do not hold an HR-related degree, the eligibility requirements for the SHRM–SCP® require you to fulfill one of the following:

  • Have at least four years in an HR role + a Graduate Degree
  • Have at least five years in an HR role + a Bachelor’s Degree
  • Have at least seven years in an HR role + less than a Bachelor’s Degree*

*Less than a bachelor’s degree includes: working toward a bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree, some college, qualifying HR certificate program, high school diploma, or GED.

 It’s important you double-check the education requirements for the SHRM–SCP® because your eligibility requirements will change depending on whether or not you hold an HR degree.


If you’ve done your research and you’re ready to take the SHRM–SCP®, the cost is as follows:

  • Application fee: $50
  • Exam fee: SHRM members: $300
  • Exam fee: Non-SHRM members: $400

*Once an exam application is approved, no refunds will be made whether a candidate withdraws or no longer wishes to take the exam.


To learn more about the SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM®-CP), visit the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) website.

Best specialty HR certification

The above human resources certifications outline a linear path from the beginning of your HR career toward the top, but what if you still have the feeling you haven’t found the right certification for you?

Regardless of your career aspirations or goals, there is an HR certification that is right for you. The fact is that human resources certifications are back on the rise after a dip between 2014 and 2017. A stronger economy and a more competitive job market make human resources certifications more valuable than ever.

types of hr certifications

Source: Payscale

The following certifications are for HR professionals who have specialty skills they want to highlight to make them stand out. Not everyone will meet the qualifications for these human resources certifications, but if you do, you might want to consider exploring your options.

Associate Professional in Talent Development Credential (APTD)

The Associate Professional in Talent Development Credential (APTD) certificate is a human resources certification offered by the Association for Talent Development (ATD). It’s designed specifically for HR professionals who work in talent management. This certification is perfect for someone who is a few years into their career and looking to move into a management position.

The eligibility requirements for the APTD require you to fulfill the following:

  • You must have at least three years of experience working in talent development
  • You must complete a maximum of 60 hours of studying for the exam
  • You must pass the exam with at least a 70%

Other than having experience working in talent development, there is no required educational background to take the APTD.


If you’re ready to take the APTD the cost is as follows:

  • Exam fee: ATD members: $400
  • Exam fee: Non–ATD members: $600

To learn more about the Associate Professional in Talent Development Credential (APTD), visit the Association for Talent Development website.

Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP)

The Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) certificate is a human resources certification offered by the Association for Talent Development (ATD). It’s designed specifically for HR professionals who work in employee learning and performance. This certification is perfect for someone who is a few years into their career and looking to move into a management position.

The eligibility requirements for the CPLP require you to fulfill one of the following:

  • Have at least five years of full-time professional work experience in the talent development or related fields
  • Have at least four years of full-time professional work experience in the talent development or related fields AND one year of college or university study in talent development
  • Have at least four years of full-time professional work experience in talent development or related fields AND successful completion of an ATD Master Series program.

In addition to the above requirements, you must be able to apply talent development principles and practices globally, across cultures and borders, as defined by the Foundational Competency: Global Mindset in the ATD Competency Model


If you’re ready to take the CPLP the cost is as follows:

  • Exam fee: ATD members: $900
  • Exam fee: Non-ATD members: $1,250

To learn more about the Associate Professional in Talent Development Credential (APTD), visit the Association for Talent Development website.

Professional in Human Resources – California® (PHRca®)

The Professional in Human Resources – California® (PHRca®) certificate is a special human resources certification designed for HR professionals living in the state of California. This certification is perfect for HR professionals looking to show they understand the unique state laws California has regarding employment.

The eligibility requirements for the PHRca® require you to fulfill one of the following requirements and experience:

  • Have at least one year of experience in a professional-level HR position + a Master’s degree or higher
  • Have at least two years of experience in a professional-level HR position + a Bachelor’s degree
  • Have at least four years of experience in a professional-level HR position + a high school diploma

This certification would likely only benefit someone who is currently managing employees within the state of California or someone looking to make a move to California.


If you’re ready to take the PHRca®, the cost is as follows:

  • Application fee: $100
  • Exam fee*: $395

*Once an exam application is approved, no refunds will be made whether a candidate withdraws or no longer wishes to take the exam.


To learn more about the Professional in Human Resources – California® (PHRca®), visit the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) website.

Best international HR certification

If you’re an HR professional who works who cross-continental teams, you may be looking for a certification program designed specifically for your needs. The HR Certification Institute has an entire certification program designed specifically for people who work with international teams.

The following certifications are best taken in order as your career progresses. However, if you find you already qualify for a more advanced certification, you’re more than encouraged to skip ahead to that one.

Associate Professional in Human Resources – International™

The APHR™ – International™ is very similar to the APHR™ with a few key differences: the APHR™ – International™ is designed for any human resources professional outside of the United States or anyone who will be working with an international team.

The eligibility requirements for the APHR™ – International™ are:

  • You must have a high-school diploma or global equivalent
  • You must submit your application for approval
  • You must pass a predetermined assessment
  • Upon completion, you must acquire a certain number of continued education and professional development credits every three years or pass the assessment again

Much like the APHR™ this program doesn’t require any previous human resources experience.


The cost for the APHR™ – International™ is as follows:

  • Application fee: $100
  • Exam fee*: $300

*Once an exam application is approved, no refunds will be made whether a candidate withdraws or no longer wishes to take the exam. To make certification more accessible worldwide, HRCI offers a global allowance for the aPHRi exam which provides the exam at a reduced fee. Applicants who live in low-income, lower middle-income, and upper middle-income economies as defined on the Global Allowance Pricing (GAP) List will pay a reduced exam fee of $150 USD.


To learn more about the APHR™ – International™, visit the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) website.

Professional in Human Resources (PHR®) – International™

The Professional in Human Resources (PHR®) — International™ certificate is the next step upwards after you’ve completed the APHR™ – International™. Once again, this designation is perfect for HR professionals who work outside the United States or work with international teams.

The eligibility requirements for the PHR® – International™ require you to fulfill one of the following:

  • Have at least one year of experience in a professional-level HR position + a master’s degree or global equivalent
  • Have at least two years of experience in a professional-level HR position + a bachelor’s degree or global equivalent
  • Have at least four years of experience in a professional-level HR position + a high school diploma or global equivalent

Much like the PHR®, the PHR® – International™ certification depends on your level of education and your current experience in an HR role.


If you’re ready to take the PHR®, the cost is as follows:

  • Application fee: $100
  • Exam fee*: $395

*Once an exam application is approved, no refunds will be made whether a candidate withdraws or no longer wishes to take the exam. To make certification more accessible worldwide, HRCI offers a global allowance for the PHRi/SPHRi exam which provides the exam at a reduced fee. Applicants who live in low-income, lower middle-income, and upper middle-income economies as defined on the Global Allowance Pricing (GAP) List will pay a reduced exam fee of $200 USD/$300 USD.


To learn more about the Professional in Human Resources (PHR®) – International™, visit the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) website.

Senior Professional in Human Resources – International™ (SPHRi™)

The Senior Professional in Human Resources – International™ (SPHRi™) certificate is the third step in the international human resources certification ladder. Once again, this designation is perfect for HR professionals who work outside the United States or work with international teams.

The eligibility requirements for the SPHRi™ – International™ require you to fulfill one of the following:

  • Have at least four years of experience in a professional-level HR position + a master’s degree or global equivalent,
  • Have at least five years of experience in a professional-level HR position + a bachelor’s degree or global equivalent, OR
  • A minimum of seven years of experience in a professional-level HR position + a high school diploma or global equivalent.

The SPHRi™ – International™ also requires documented knowledge of local employment laws. As with the SPHR® certification, eligibility for the SPHRi™ depends on your level of education and your current experience in an HR role.


If you’re ready to take the SPHRi™, the cost is as follows:

  • Application fee: $100
  • Exam fee*: $495

*Once an exam application is approved, no refunds will be made whether a candidate withdraws or no longer wishes to take the exam. To make certification more accessible worldwide, HRCI offers a global allowance for the PHRi/SPHRi exam which provides the exam at a reduced fee. Applicants who live in low-income, lower middle-income, and upper middle-income economies as defined on the Global Allowance Pricing (GAP) list will pay a reduced exam fee of $200 USD/$300 USD.


To learn more about the Senior Professional in Human Resources –International™ (SPHRi™), visit the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) website.

Global Professional in Human Resources® (GPHR®)

The Global Professional in Human Resources® (GPHR®) certificate is the final step in the international human resources certification ladder. As always, this designation is perfect for HR professionals who work outside the United States or work with international teams.

The eligibility requirements for the GPHR® require you to fulfill one of the following requirements and experience:

  • Have at least two years of experience* in a global professional-level HR position + a Master’s degree or higher,
  • Have at least three years of experience* in a professional-level HR position (at least two in global HR) + a Bachelor’s degree, OR
  • Have at least four years of experience* in a professional-level HR position (at least two in global HR) + a high school diploma.

The GPHR® also requires global HR experience. Global HR experience is defined as having direct, cross-border HR responsibilities for two or more countries or regions. Eligibility for the GPHR® depends on your level of education and your current experience in an HR role.


If you’re ready to take the GPHR®, the cost is as follows:

  • Application fee: $100
  • Exam fee*: $495

*Once an exam application is approved, no refunds will be made whether a candidate withdraws or no longer wishes to take the exam.


To learn more about the Global Professional in Human Resources® (GPHR®), visit the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) website.

Congratulations, you’re a certified know-it-all!

Now that you know everything (and I mean everything!) there is to know about human resources certifications, you’re ready to take your career to the next level! Remember, the above descriptions are just a high-level summary of each certification program. We encourage you to do your own research before committing to a certain human resources certification program.

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Lauren Pope
Author

Lauren Pope

Lauren is a Senior Content Specialist at G2 with five years of content marketing experience. You can find her work featured on CNBC, Yahoo Finance, and on the G2 Learning Hub. In her free time, Lauren enjoys listening to podcasts, watching true crime shows, and spending time in the Chicago karaoke scene.