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Top HRIS certifications to boost your career

Top HRIS certifications to boost your career

As HR technology evolves, HR professionals need to understand not only how the solutions function, but also how to extract the most benefit from these systems’ emerging capabilities. 

The best way to accomplish this is through human resources information management (HRIM) and human resources information systems (HRIS) certification. While many HR pros pursue continuing education at community colleges, online schools, and for-profit universities, these options can be expensive and inconvenient. Progressive employers may sponsor participation in workshops, training seminars, and programs offered through local professional organizations, but these options don’t offer all the benefits that certification does.

HRIS certifications expand HR pros’ understanding of HR tech, functions, trends and best practices, while providing tangible proof that they have the knowledge, skills and experience to succeed.

Here are three of the best-known certification providers and their current offerings.

The Human Resources Information Program (HRIP) certification is provided by the  International Association of Human Resources Information Management (IHRIM), and covers all aspects of HRIM/HRIS, including technology, functions, latest trends and best practices. Candidates who pass the exam are certified for three years, after which recipients must recertify with proof of 60 credit hours of continuing education, which can be accomplished through IHRIM recertification courses and webinars. Initial certification or re-certification courses can also be taken through HRIS vendors, including ADP, Kronos, and WorkForce, and professional organizations like HR.com. The 90-minute multiple-choice exam covers technology strategy, assessment, selection, implementation, operations, and upgrades, as well as HR and business processes.

Qualifications: There are no prescribed courses or prerequisites, though five years of experience working with HR tech or information management is recommended.

Cost: $385 for IHRIM members; $485 for non-members

The HR Certification Institute (HRCI) offers certification exams for entry, midlevel and senior HR professionals in the U.S. and internationally. HRCI certification candidates must demonstrate dedication, credibility and a mastery of the principles of human resources as well as strict professional experience and educational requirements before taking the exam. HRCI certified professionals must recertify every three years. 

HRCI’s Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR) is designed for professionals just beginning their HR career journey. To be eligible for the aPHR, you must have a high school diploma or equivalent. No HR experience is required, as this is a knowledge-based credential. The 135-minute exam covers HR operations, employee relations, recruitment and selection, compensation and benefits, and HR development and retention, as well as health, safety and security.

Qualifications: High school diploma or equivalent

Cost: $300 plus a $100 application fee

HRCI’s Associate Professional in Human Resources International (aPHRi) is designed for professionals just beginning their HR career journey and proves knowledge of foundational HR across borders. To be eligible for the aPHRi you must have a high school diploma or equivalent. No HR experience is required since this is a knowledge-based credential. The 135-minute exam covers HR operations, recruitment and selection, employee relations, compensation and benefits, and HR development and retention, as well as health, safety and security.

Qualifications: High school diploma or equivalent

Cost: $300 plus a $100 application fee

The Professional in Human Resources (PHR) demonstrates mastery of the technical and operational aspects of HR management, including U.S. laws and regulations. The PHR is for the HR professional who has experience with program implementation, has a tactical/logistical orientation, is accountable to another HR professional within the organization, and has responsibilities that focus on the HR department rather than the whole organization. The 3-hour exam covers employee and labor relations, business management, talent planning and acquisition, total rewards, and learning and development.

Qualifications: Candidates must have either one year of experience as an HR pro and a master’s degree or higher, two years of experience as an HR pro and a bachelor’s degree, or four years of experience as an HR pro and a high school diploma.

Cost: $395 plus a $100 application fee

The Professional in Human Resources – California (PHRca) demonstrates mastery of the laws, regulations and HR management practices unique to the state of California. The PHRca is for professionals who either practice in California or are responsible for human resource management in California, though candidates do not have to be located in California to earn a PHRca. Many certification holders add the PHRca to their other HRCI credentials. The 135-minute exam covers employment and employee relations, compensation wage and hours, benefits and leaves of absence, and health, safety and workers’ comp.

Qualifications: Candidates must have either one year of experience as an HR pro and a master’s degree or higher, two years of experience as an HR pro and a bachelor’s degree, or four years of experience as an HR pro and a high school diploma.

Cost: $395 plus a $100 application fee

The Professional in Human Resources International (PHRi) is the midlevel credential for internationally based practitioners, and validates professional-level competency, knowledge and skills and demonstrates mastery of generally accepted technical and operational HR principles in a single international setting. The 3-hours exam covers talent acquisition, HR administration and shared services, talent management and development, compensation, benefits, work experience, employee relations, risk management, and HR info management.

Qualifications: Candidates must have either one year of experience as an HR pro and a master’s degree or higher, two years of experience as an HR pro and a bachelor’s degree, or four years of experience as an HR pro and a high school diploma.

Cost: $395 plus a $100 application fee

The Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) demonstrates mastery of the strategic and policy-making aspects of HR management as practiced in the U.S. The credential is designed for big-picture thinkers responsible for planning rather than implementing HR policy. SPHR professionals have proven accountability for HR department goals, for breadth and depth of knowledge in all HR disciplines, and for understanding business issues beyond the HR function. The 3-hour exam covers leadership and strategy, employee relations and engagement, talent planning and acquisition, learning and development, and total rewards.

Qualifications: Candidates must have either four years of experience as an HR pro and a master’s degree or higher, five years of experience as an HR pro and a bachelor’s degree, or seven years of experience as an HR pro and a high school diploma.

Cost: $495 plus a $100 application fee

The Senior Professional in Human Resources International (SPHRi) is for internationally based HR leaders. This credential validates senior-level HR competency and mastery of generally accepted HR principles in strategy, policy development and service delivery in a single international setting. The SPHRi also requires documented knowledge of local employment laws. The 150-minute exam covers business leadership, talent development and management, HR service delivery, measurement and analysis.

Qualifications: Candidates must have either four years of experience as an HR pro and a master’s degree or higher, five years of experience as an HR pro and a bachelor’s degree, or seven years of experience as an HR pro and a high school diploma.

Cost: $495 plus a $100 application fee

The Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) demonstrates expertise in multinational HR responsibilities, including strategies of globalization, development of HR policies, and initiatives that support organizational global growth. Global HR experience is defined as having direct, cross-border HR responsibilities for two or more countries or regions. The 3-hour exam covers strategic HR management, talent and organizational development, global talent acquisition and mobility, global compensation and benefits, and workforce relations and risk management.

Qualifications: Candidates must have either two years of experience as an HR pro and a master’s degree or higher, three years of experience as an HR pro (at least two in global HR) and a bachelor’s degree, or four years of experience as an HR pro (at least two in global HR) and a high school diploma.

Cost: $495 plus a $100 application fee.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers two competency-based certifications, the SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) for early- and mid-career professionals and the SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) for senior-level practitioners. The SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge (The SHRM BoCK) is the foundation for these certifications. The SHRM BoCK organizes eight competencies into three clusters: leadership (leadership  and navigation, ethical practice), interpersonal (relationship management, communication, global and cultural effectiveness), and business (business acumen, consultation, critical evaluation). In addition, there are 15 HR knowledge areas critical to the success of any HR professional. 

The SHRM-CP is for HR professionals who implement policies and strategies, serve as point of contact for staff and stakeholders and deliver HR services, and perform operational HR functions. The SHRM-SCP certification is for senior-level practitioners who develop strategies, lead the HR function, foster influence in the community, analyze performance metrics, and align HR strategies to organizational goals.

Each 4-hour exam offers stand-alone, knowledge-based questions, as well as scenario-based situational judgment questions that assess a candidate’s judgment, application and decision-making skills, according to SHRM. 

Cost: $300 for SHRM members; $400 for non-members

This story, “Top HRIS certifications to boost your career” was originally published by

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