8 Easy Ways to Get Free HRCI Recertification Credits

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Like many other HR professionals, you’ve worked hard to earn your online human resources certificate from HR Certification Institute (HRCI). Plus, only one in four HR managers holds a professional designation, which means more opportunities for you to stand out and develop effective, agile strategies for long-term company success.

The letters after your name don’t just show your employer you’ve completed a human resource certificate program—they’ve likely helped you carve the career path you’ve envisioned for yourself. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an HR certification can help broaden your job opportunities. Many employers prefer job candidates who are certified, while others require it at their companies. But now that you’ve earned an HR credential, it’s time to work toward keeping it active.

HRCI certification is not a one-and-done deal. You have to get HRCI recertified every three years to hold your designation. But instead of putting in the time and effort to retake the test, you can simply earn recertification credits little by little. Credit hours are collected by volunteering, attending conferences, and other qualified activities. While some continuing education for HR professionals can be expensive, it’s pretty easy to earn free HRCI credits—even without leaving your office.

Along with award-winning HR software, BambooHR puts industry-leading insights and resources at your fingertips. In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of HRCI recertification, where you can find free credits, and why the effort is well worth it.

How Many Credits Do You Need for HRCI Recertification?

To maintain your hard-earned HRCI credential, you need to complete either 45 or 60 credit hours every three years. This includes receiving at least one ethics credit, which ensures you’re up to date on the latest workplace best practices. The total number of credits for HRCI recertification depends on your credential.

HR professionals with the following must earn 45 credit hours:

For HR professionals with the credentials below, 60 credit hours are required:

If you hold multiple designations, the number of credits required to satisfy HRCI’s recertification requirement may be less. Additionally, HR professionals with select designations must include either 15 California, 15 Business, or 15 Global credits in their total.

Once you’ve completed an activity, it must be submitted for review and approval via the HRCI recertification application.

How to Calculate HRCI Credits

As you complete activities, keeping track of your credit hours and knowing what does and does not qualify is essential. Calculating HRCI recertification credits is simple: one recertification credit hour is equal to one hour of learning time, and each calculation is made to the nearest quarter hour.

However, many qualifying continuing education sessions include non-educational portions. While these are necessary for the activity to run smoothly and keep everyone comfortable, they don’t count toward credit hours:

When counting HRCI recertification credits, the time spent on non-educational activities must be excluded from your total. For instance, if you attend a workshop that includes 3.5 hours of learning plus a 30-minute lunch break, you’ll receive 3.5 credit hours for the learning time alone.

Do Extra HRCI Credits Count?

Earning credit hours can come quite easily on the job and in other places, so it may be no surprise that you’ve naturally accumulated a few extras. If you’ve earned more than enough hours for recertification, you can carry over up to 15 credits. To qualify, you must be actively certified and have earned surplus credits during the last 12 months of your three-year recertification cycle.

But don’t feel like you have to overachieve to keep your designation. Earning more than the minimum number of HRCI credits is entirely up to you, as is submitting your surplus credits. As long as you meet the minimum, you’ll fulfill the requirements to keep your credential active.

What If My HRCI Certification Expires?

Just like with regular HR certificate programs, it’s your responsibility to stay on top of the current recertification requirements and submit activities for approval on time. HRCI will send email reminders when your credential is nearing expiration. Once past date, it’ll be suspended for up to 12 months. If you don’t recertify during the suspension period, your credential will expire.

At this point, you’ll need to apply for and pass the most current human resource certificate program exam offered by HRCI.

However, this is a preventable route. It’s fairly simple to log credit hours for activities you’re interested in doing or tasked with at work. That way, you won’t have to spend money on the full PHR® certification cost or study for your GPHR® certification all over again.

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8 Ways to Get Free HRCI Recertification Credits

HRCI recertification doesn’t have to be costly or complicated—you can earn free HRCI credits in many ways. Plus, diversifying your options makes it easier to stay on top of the most current information in your industry and do so in ways that work best for you personally and professionally. HRCI suggests several ways to obtain free or low-cost HRCI credits, such as:

Pre-Approved Programs

HR professionals can participate in programs taught by HRCI-approved provider organizations. HRCI pre-approved program IDs are distributed by the host organization and are only earned once the program is complete. Conferences often count under this category, but you can only use the HRCI pre-approved program ID to report general HR credit—not specified Business, Global, California, or Ethics credits. These must be self-reported individually under a separate category.

For example, HR professionals who attend BambooHR's annual HR Virtual Summit can earn HRCI and SHRM credits. The event is free to attend and entirely virtual, allowing you to glean insights from industry-leading thought leaders and experts—no travel or registration expenses required.

Self-Reported Programs

In-house training can qualify for HRCI recertification credit even if it was not pre-approved. You must be able to tie the activity directly back to the HRCI Exam Content Outline associated with your certificate, and it must add to your professional HR knowledge. You won’t be able to count activities focused on personal development, such as a time management class or stress reduction course.

If an activity was not pre-approved by HRCI, you’ll need to explain on your recertification application how the learning opportunity relates to your Exam Content Outline so it can be evaluated by an HRCI Reviewer. This may mean uploading relevant documentation, such as an email confirmation, certificate, registration form, and others that prove attendance/activity type.

HRCI Resources

Take advantage of the HRCI resources to earn free recertification credits, such as a rotating schedule of live webinars and videos. When a meeting gets canceled and an extra hour opens up in your day, browse the HRCI pre-approved books that also count toward recertification credit. From free ebooks to publications you can likely find at your local library, titles include:

The HRCI learning center also offers a wealth of courses on subjects like DEI, women in the workplace, leadership, and more. Costs vary, but several are on the lower end of the spectrum. Additionally, the institute connects professionals to its network of HR partners, broadening your options for free resources.

On-the-Job Experience

Do you have new projects coming up at work? Those can qualify for HRCI recertification credit. For example, if you’re in charge of rewriting your employee handbook, the hours you spend working on it can earn credit. To qualify, you’ll need to send a sample of your work (you may exclude any confidential information) and a letter from your supervisor detailing your contribution.

Repeat activities may also count toward recertification credit. If this task is something you’ve already done before, some of it will need to be new or updated to count toward on-the-job credit. For instance, if you expand upon a company performance review program you’ve already implemented, the hours you spend on this new portion may be submitted for review.


You can earn credits by volunteering in a position for an HR-related organization, its local chapter, or HR organization board. A volunteer or mentorship role can take a lot of work, but it can get you up to 40 free recertification credits, not to mention the experience will look fantastic on your resume. In your HRCI recertification application, simply include at least one form of documentation, such as:


Are you an expert on an HR topic? Look for an opportunity to teach a class, lead a workshop, or host a webinar and earn a few HR credits while doing so. This can be a great way to show off all the valuable information you’ve picked up while getting and staying HRCI certified. Simply upload proof of your efforts in the form of a syllabus or email.

HR Research and Publishing

If you’re planning to share your wisdom with the world, the hours you spend conducting primary research can earn credit. Your professional content may be published in a book, article, or journal, and it may also be used for HR-related videos and blogs. The amount of credit earned depends on word count and several other factors, such as:

These activities can come with some level of financial investment on your part, but many HR professionals can do these for free on their own time.

HR Membership

As an HR professional, you’re probably already a member of an HR group or two. Send in a copy of your membership card or a receipt that includes your membership dates, and you’ve just earned yourself up to 12 credits. Joining most HR associations at a national or local level can cost you a bit, so be sure to claim these easy credits if you’re already a member.

Free HR Webinars (Approved by HRCI)

Attending free HR webinars is such a fantastic way to get your recertification credits that it gets its own section in this blog post. For most, all you have to do is sit back and watch. You’ll gain exciting insights from HR thought leaders and, in many instances, only spend about an hour. Here are a few places that offer free HRCI webinars to get you started:

BizLibrary HRCI Webinars

If watching live doesn’t always fit into your schedule, you can check out on-demand, for-credit webinars from BizLibrary. Not all of their on-demand webinars will get you credit, so be sure to look for the HRCI symbol at the bottom of the page. To get a taste of the BizLibrary’s HR webinars, try out some of these:

Human Capital Institute (HCI) HRCI Webinars

You can find a large selection of pre-approved webcasts at HCI. Just sign up for a free HCI membership to get started. These webcasts run at different times, so it’s easy to find one that fits your schedule. HCI has covered a myriad of topics, such as:

HR Daily Advisor HRCI Webinars

HR Daily Advisor will link you to events from all over the Internet. Be sure to verify the online events are HRCI-credit approved. Some require you to watch live to earn credit while others allow you to earn credit while watching on your own time. At HR Daily Advisor, HR pros have access to the following:

HR.com HRCI Webinars

While a majority of HRCI recertification credits are just general credits, you may need a few specialized credits to fulfill the requirement for your designation. The filtering tool on HR.com lets you find HRCI General, Global, Business, and California credit webinars, making it simple to target your efforts.

Next Steps: Reap the Benefits of HR Recertification

The job market for HR managers is expected to grow, but getting recertified after completing your human resources certificate online is about more than making your resume stand out. HRCI recertification credits are learning opportunities for you to stay current with the HR industry and ongoing sources for new ideas to make your organization an even better place to work.

The amount of time and effort you put into HRCI recertification can go a long way throughout your career. Beyond collecting credits, you can enjoy several advantages throughout the process, such as:

Don’t feel daunted by needing 45 or 60 credits to recertify. Keep track of the eligible activities you complete and thoughtfully spread them out over the three years. If you take advantage of free opportunities, HRCI recertification can be a decently low-cost endeavor and a great experience builder in the long run.

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