Everything You Need to Know About SHRM Certification

You’ve heard people talk about the SHRM certification, seen the letters following other HR pros’ names, and may have noticed events or webinars touted as “SHRM accredited,” but aside from that, you might be feeling a little bit out of the loop.

Well, fret not. We’re here to tell you everything you need to know about SHRM certification in a nutshell, from the big picture of what is a SHRM certification and whether you need it to the details of how to get it and what the SHRM certification costs are. Ready? Let’s go!

What is SHRM and What is SHRM Certification?

The Society for Human Resources Management, or SHRM, is a 501(c) nonprofit professional membership organization devoted to promoting, educating, and connecting human resources professionals in the workplace. It has three main functions:

SHRM has been around since 1948 and has over 300,000 members, which gives it some serious clout in the HR industry. If you are already working in HR or have relevant experience, you are eligible for the SHRM HR certification. Best of all – you don’t have to be a member of the SHRM to get started.

What is a SHRM Certified Professional?

A certified SHRM professional is a HR or HR-related employee who has achieved a SHRM certification. Even if you are wishing to start a career in HR, you can get the certification, providing you pass certain eligibility criteria and SHRM requirements.

What are the SHRM HR Certifications?

SHRM offers two paid education certifications to its members: SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP. Holders of a SHRM certification often add these initialisms to their names, and since SHRM offers recertification credit through events, webinars, and other HR learning initiatives every year, it’s hard to be in HR and not hear about them. So, what is a SHRM-certified professional and what do the different initials stand for?


SHRM-CP is the first level of SHRM certification. The CP stands for Certified Professional, and the certification is targeted at the operational level of human resources. It includes training on foundational HR elements, such as policy implementation, technology and data collection, disciplinary action, and compliance.


SHRM-SCP stands for SHRM Senior Certified Professional and is the more advanced SHRM certification intended for senior and executive-level HR roles. It focuses more heavily on strategic elements of HR like engagement and retention, as well as workforce planning and policy creation for entire organizations.

How Important Is SHRM HR Certification? Do I Need to Be SHRM Certified?

If you’re wondering if you’re required to have a SHRM certification to work in the HR industry, the answer is no. The HR industry is not overseen by a licensing body like accounting, law, or medicine, and you don’t need a SHRM HR certification or any other HR certification in order to practice HR.

However, you don’t always need an undergraduate or graduate degree to work in many fields (including HR), yet both are viewed favorably by employers. One of the main selling points of getting a HR certification is that it can improve your chances of getting hired, and with 34 percent of HR professionals having at least one certification to their name, it’s certainly something worth considering.

Benefits of SHRM HR Certification

You might be asking, ‘is the SHRM certification worth it?’ As with all personal development opportunities, it’s ultimately down to you to decide if you think it’s worthwhile. However, the benefits of an SHRM certification can be a great way to boost your career and develop your self-confidence in the field of HR. If you are currently looking for a job, having a SHRM HR certification could boost your employability and even see you earning a little more compared to those without the certification.

Within your role, having an SHRM certification will allow you to implement your broad knowledge to help accelerate your workplace to being the very best. Through building positive company culture and mentoring, your qualification boosts your recognition and reputation by a considerable amount.

How Long to get SHRM Certified?

Becoming SHRM certified does take time and effort; it’s not just an expensive rubber stamp. The organization has a solid reputation in the HR industry, and a SHRM certification shows that you have gained core competency in human resources. It’s something employers recognize easily, which might make the difference between moving to the next round of interviews, negotiating a higher salary, or achieving that long-awaited promotion.

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What’s the Difference Between SHRM Certification and HRCI Certification?

The Human Resources Certification Institute, or HRCI, is another well-known HR education organization offering instructional courses and certification to HR professionals. The main difference between SHRM and HRCI certification is that while a SHRM HR certification offers two certificates, HRCI has eight different certifications that target a slightly broader audience, including brand-new HR professionals, international HR, and California-based human resources pros.

The eight certifications offered by HRCI are:


Associate Professional in Human Resources is the first level of HRCI certification and differs from the SHRM certification as it’s aimed at students and those just beginning a career in human resources. The aPHRI certification provides similar entry-level training but with a focus on international (non-US) HR practice.


Professional in Human Resources is the next level of HRCI certification. To apply, candidates must have some professional experience in HR or a combination of experience plus an HR-related graduate or undergraduate degree. PHRI and PHRca are the international and California-specific versions, respectively, of the PHR certificate.


Senior Professional in Human Resources is the HRCI senior-level certification that focuses on strategic and organizational development. These certifications require significant prior experience in HR, and they’re aimed at HR executives and HR pros who are either seeking advancement into a management role or are already in one. SPHRI is the international version of the SPHR certification and leans slightly more on HR service delivery and data analysis as a result.


Global Professional in Human Resources is another senior-level certification offered by HRCI, in this case, targeted at HR executives in multinational organizations. It takes the SPHRI certification a step further by covering the intricate challenges HR executives face when managing HR teams and employees in multiple countries.

In the world of HR certifications, HRCI is the Pepsi to the SHRM certification’s Coca-Cola; in fact, they’re even more closely tied, since HRCI used to administer certifications through SHRM until SHRM developed its own certification program. But both institutions are widely respected, and when it comes to choosing one or the other, it’s more a question of how their certification offerings match your career path than which one is preferred by employers.

That said, if you’re just getting started in HR and you feel you need a certification in order to get a leg up in the hiring pool, the fact that HRCI has an associate-level certification with no entry prerequisites makes them a good choice.

SHRM Certification & HRCI Certificates at a Glance

SHRM Certificate
HRCI Certificate
Good for:


aPHRI (International)

Entry-level HR professionals


PHRI (International)

PRHCA (California-specific)

Experienced HR professionals


SPHRI (International)

GPHR (Multi-national)

Senior / executive HR professionals

How to Get SHRM Certification

Finding out how to get SHRM certified is relatively straightforward. The steps to getting a SHRM certification and maintaining it are as follows:

1. Determine Your Eligibility

Before you decide which SHRM certification you’d like to acquire, you have to know which type you’re eligible for.

In order to apply for SHRM-CP certification, you must have at least one of the following SHRM requirements, like these educational and professional accolades:

Having a SHRM HR certification shows that you have gained core competency in human resources, and it’s something employers can see at a glance.

In order to apply for SHRM-SCP certification, you need at least one of the listed SHRM requirements:

SHRM certification shows that you have gained core competency in human resources, and it’s something employers can see at a glance.

In order to apply for SHRM-SCP certification, you must have at least one of the following combinations of education and experience:

2. Select Your Credential For Your SHRM HR Certification

Assuming you qualify for both SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP, you now have a choice to make. If your current HR responsibilities are operational in nature (e.g., that of an HR generalist or similar role that does not involve strategic work) and they will stay that way for the foreseeable future, you might choose SHRM-CP.

If you are in an executive-level or other HR role that involves a significant amount of strategic work, or you are highly experienced in operational HR and you aspire to a more strategic role, you are probably a better candidate for SHRM-SCP certification.

3. Apply for SHRM Certification

Once you’ve determined you qualify for a SHRM certification and you’ve selected the credential you want, you should check the dates and fees for upcoming exams. Then, apply for certification through the SHRM application portal where you’ll create an account, complete your application, and submit your payment. Once your application is approved, you’ll receive an authorization email that allows you to schedule your exam.

Exam fees range from $270 to $510, and the self-study version of the SHRM Learning System ranges from $795 (for military and SHRM members) to $1025 (for non-military and non-members). There may be additional fees for transferring or rescheduling your exam, and if you need to retake the exam, you must pay the same full exam fee.

4. Prepare for the SHRM Exam

You have a choice of two methods when it comes to preparing for your upcoming SHRM exam to fulfil the SHRM requirements:

Whether you choose to study on your own or take one of the SHRM courses, the material you will be studying is the same. The SHRM Learning System contains four learning categories based on the SHRM Body of Competency & Knowledge, or BoCK.

You can read more about the learning modules and what they cover here: Preparing for SHRM Certification.

5. Take the SHRM HR Certificate Exam

The exams for SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP certification both consist of 134 questions, divided into two categories: stand-alone knowledge and scenario-based judgment. The exams are timed, with a total of three hours and 40 minutes allowed for all questions. However, the exam timer doesn’t start at three hours and 40 minutes and count down to zero – each section is independently timed and minutes don’t “roll over” into the next section.

Once you have passed your SHRM certification exam, you’ll be officially SHRM certified and can add your SHRM credentials to your name. Congratulations!

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SHRM HR Certification: FAQs

What is a SHRM Certified Professional?

A SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) is an individual who has completed the SHRM certification and obtained the certificate. These individuals are people who have HR duties in the workplace or who have a background in studying HR in preparation for a career in HR.

What are the SHRM Certification Costs?

From start to finish, SHRM certification costs range from about $1000 to $1500 depending on a few factors (like whether you are already a SHRM member or you’re actively serving in the U.S. military). This covers the cost of the exam and the learning materials.

Is a SHRM Certification Worth it?

Having a SHRM HR Certificate can open many doors and boost your confidence in the world of HR. You can build on your knowledge and improve your current workplace and prove that you are a reliable employee who goes the extra mile to expand your personal understanding or HR credentials. Read more on the benefits of HR certifications in our blog post.