The PHR and SPHR exams support a baseline of knowledge that you must have in order to best serve the multiple industries where you work. In fact, the process of preparing for these exams may make you feel like you're in graduate school.
In addition, these exams require recertification, which means those individuals certified must engage in development activities that support the variety of exam objectives based on best practices. The great news is that getting and staying educated has truly never been easier in the HR field.
Emerging trends in HR education must begin with a discussion of the virtual playing field. The traditional classroom is no longer the only place to go to learn, and options are available for every budget. If you have some money to invest, consider an online master's degree in HR from universities such as Cornell or Penn State. These programs are often a hybrid — a blend of online, virtual learning, and a few weeks of the year spent on campus.
If your budget or time has constraints, other options are available for you as well. The website HumanResourceWebinars offers an archive of previously recorded HR topics at no charge to participants. At bookboon, you can download and read books on just about anything (HR, project management, self-confidence), also at no cost. And the trend of open universities such as the one offered at MIT offers an education without the degree, also at no cost.
Although having a formal education is helpful in HR, it isn't always required, and certification is a great alternative place to start and get you up to speed.
When you're researching educational opportunities for your HR career or studying for either the PHR or SPHR exam, make sure the sources that you're using for your informal or formal online HR education are reputable. Just because something is on the Internet doesn't make it true. Look for clues such as websites ending in .org, .gov, or .edu. Don't rely on websites that are written by the general public or driven by opinions. Stay away from online groups that have political agendas or other bits that may render them biased advisors.