Whether you’re already certified or are looking into certification for the first time, there are lots of questions floating around surrounding certifications right now. SHRM-CP, SHRM-SCP, PHR, SPHR, GPHR… That’s a lot of letters! And what about the California certifications and all the rest? It’s enough to make your head spin.

At NOARK, we know that all of the changes happening in our industry right now can seem daunting. Here, we attempt to simplify it for you and give a little more clarity.

  1. What are the differences between the PHR/SPHR certifications that I’ve always seen and the new SHRM-CP/SHRM-SCP?

    The PHR and SPHR, along with the somewhat less common GPHR, HRBP, HRMP, and California certifications, are provided by HRCI (HR Certification Institute), which has long been the leading certifying body for HR professionals. Prior to 2015, HRCI was aligned with SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) to act as the certifying body for HR professionals across the globe.

    In January 2015, SHRM began offering the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP certifications to HR professionals as a replacement for the certifications previously offered by HRCI. However, HRCI still offers the certification options listed above, and is now positioned as a competitor to the SHRM certifications.

  2. I already have a certification through HRCI (PHR, SPHR, etc.). Do I really need both certifications?

    Within the 2015 calendar year, all HR professionals who are currently certified through HRCI are eligible to complete an online tutorial with SHRM and to receive the new certification through SHRM at no cost. The tutorial takes less than one hour, on average. 

    NOARK recommends that HR professionals who currently hold an HRCI certification go through the SHRM tutorial to receive the SHRM-CP (for current PHR or PHR-CA certification holders) or SHRM-SCP (for all other certification holders) for free. After 12/31/15, the SHRM certifications will no longer be free to those who currently hold certifications and will require additional exam procedures.

  3. The new SHRM certifications will require an additional 60 CECs per 3 years, the same as my current PHR/SPHR certification. Does that mean that I now need to complete a total of 120 CECs in the 3-year period?

    The CECs you earn can be submitted to both certifying bodies, so the 60 CECs you would normally earn in the 3-year period will cover both requirements at the same time. You will not need to complete additional CECs; you will only need to submit them to both organizations.

  4. If I get the new SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP certification, should I let my PHR or SPHR lapse?

    NOARK recommends that HR professionals who currently hold an HRCI certification obtain the SHRM certification and keep both in good standing.

  5. How should I format my post-nominals for my email signature, LinkedIn, etc. if I have both certifications?

    NOARK board members agree that HR professionals with both the SHRM and the HRCI certifications should place the SHRM certification first in their signature. For example:

    John Smith, SHRM-CP, PHR or Jane Smith, SHRM-SCP, SPHR

    Additionally, if you have a Master’s degree or higher and include those post-nominals in your signature, you should put those first, before your HR certifications. For example:

    Janet Smith, MBA, SHRM-CP, PHR or James Smith, MHRM, SHRM-SCP, SPHR

    As a rule of thumb, one would typically put post-nominals related to an advanced degree first, sorting multiple designations alphabetically, then would follow that with post-nominals associated with certifications, again, sorted alphabetically. However, because the HRCI certifications begin with P and S, respectively, the more consistent way to arrange multiple HR certifications has arisen; SHRM credentials first, HRCI credentials second.

  6. I heard that I can get a free learning system to prepare for the new SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP if I own a set of PHR/SPHR 2014 books and either failed the PHR/SPHR exam or postponed the exam. Is this true?

    Yes, and here are the steps that someone needs to follow to obtain the 2015 SHRM Learning System at no cost. (Note: you have to have a 2014 Learning System in your name, and be registered for the SHRM-CP/SCP exam):

    Step 1: Apply for the spring SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP exam at

    Step 2: Contact SHRM Member Care to receive the 2015 SHRM Learning System request form.
    Phone U.S.: 800.283.SHRM (7476)
    Phone International: +1.703.548.3440
    E-mail: eat0@eau0eav0eaw0

    Step 3: Complete the electronic 2015 Learning System form and submit.   Your 2014 SHRM Learning System purchase will be verified and a 2015 SHRM Learning System will be shipped to you within two weeks.

  7. If I own a set of (PHR/SPHR) 2014 books and either failed the PHR/SPHR exam or postponed the exam, should I just get the Learning System and study on my own rather than taking a SHRM-CP/SHRM-SCP prep course?

    It’s your choice if you want to take the new prep course for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP, or just follow the steps to obtain the study materials. However, please keep in mind that the SHRM-CP/SHRM-SCP exams will test for very different material than the material that is studied in preparation for the PHR/SPHR.  The new SHRM Body of Competency Knowledge takes an entirely different approach to HR mastery and focuses on how HR practitioners apply the nine competencies identified by SHRM as integral to HR practice. The exam will consist of both HR knowledge questions AND situational judgment questions, i.e., mini cases with four possible solutions. The new Body of Competency Knowledge will prepare you to answer both types of questions. The prep course will focus on both content and test-taking techniques for this new approach.

For more information, visit:
HRCI’s Common Questions:
Or email eat1@eau1eav1eaw1 with questions.