PHR or SPHR: Which Exam Is Right for You? - dummies

PHR or SPHR: Which Exam Is Right for You?

By Sandra M. Reed

One of the first decisions you’ll have to make is which exam to take. The Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) offers six accredited designations in the field of human resources. The institute’s generalist certificates are the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR).

The PHR exam is recommend for individuals with a broad knowledge of the operational side of the HR house whereas the SPHR exam is more suited toward individuals with a background in strategic HR management. Possibly the most common eliminator is that you must have a minimum years of exempt-level experience in order to qualify to take the tests, which means that your HR roles have been qualified by job duties to be paid as a professional (non-hourly).

You don’t need a college degree in human resources to be exam eligible to take the PHR and SPHR.

HRCI’s Certification Handbook identifies the ideal profile of a PHR and SPHR candidate, which is definitely worth a review while you’re making your decision. The table gives you a sample of that information.

Ideal Traits for PHR and SPHR Candidates
The candidate reports to another HR professional. The candidate is responsible for the HR function at the
company, either independently or with staff.
The candidate’s job responsibilities impact the function of HR
rather than the company as a whole.
The candidate manages the relationships necessary to achieve
organizational outcomes, including with employees and within
The candidate doesn’t have progressive HR experience due to
length of time in the industry.
The candidate understands both general business principles and
industry specific conventions (both HR and their company