PHR vs SPHR: Which is Right Certification for You?

The most, it would appear that the HR certification examinations like PHR, SPHR through the HR Certification Institute are taken in high consideration. After all, you can browse through HR job postings without seeing the necessary “PHR or SPHR required” towards the end of the post.

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You might be asking yourself whether or not the tests are worth it.  After all, it invests of your time and money.  The certifications and examinations are optional, so it is not like you need to get them to get started in your HR career.

Do HR People with Certifications Make More?

HR professionals who are certified also favor active and tend to hold positions of higher authority compared to their non-certified colleagues. According to the salary research report, the median pay for an HR professional with any certification was $87,980 while those without certification earned around $68,960.

The report showed that even when HR professionals carried the same title, those with certifications tended to make more on average. The numbers change over different industries and parts of the country, but on average the certification pays off in terms of dollars.

Should You Go for the HR Certification?

While the PHR and the SPHR are the most known of the HRCI exams, there are now many other exams that may better fit your experience and goals.

PHR vs. SPHR-Which is Right for You?

One of the significant questions that face HR pros considering certification: Should you take the PHR or SPHR exam? For some people, it’s relatively clear if you only qualify for the PHR, but if you have the experience to attempt the SPHR, which should help you pursue?

The Difference Between the PHR and SPHR Certification Exams

The winter testing window is coming up with HRCI, and you might be wondering what the difference is between the PHR and SPHR exams. With both of the exam pass rates floating around 50% (54% PHR, 53% SPHR), it is critical to making sure you concede the requirements of each and develop a proper plan for preparing.

PHR Candidate:

The Professional in Human Resources certification is designed for HR professionals whose primary responsibilities focus on HR program implementation, are tactical and operational, and function fundamentally in the HR department.

A PHR candidate is one who:

  • Concentrates on program implementation.

  • Has tactical/logistical familiarization.

  • Has the responsibility to another HR professional within the organization.

  • Has two to four years of outside-level generalist HR work experience, but lacks the breadth and depth of a more senior-level generalist.

  • Has not had progressive HR work experience.

  • Holds a job that concentrates on HR department responsibilities rather than on the whole organization.

  • Posts respect through gaining knowledge and using policies and guidelines to make decisions.

SPHR Candidate:

The Senior Professional in Human Resources certification is intended for the HR professional who designs and plans rather than implements HR policies.

An SPHR candidate is also one who:

  • Designs and plans first than implements.

  • Concentrates on the big picture.

  • Has final responsibility in the HR department.

  • Typically has six to eight years of progressive and more complex HR experience.

  • Has broad HR generalist knowledge.

  • Uses judgment obtained with time and application of knowledge.

  • Has generalist role within an organization.

  • Uses judgment concerned with time and application of knowledge.

  • Understands the business beyond the HR function and influences within the overall organization.

  • Commands credibility within the organization, community, and field by experience.

Eligibility Criteria for Exam:

aPHR Certification

  • A high school diploma or global equivalent.

  • aPHR is the perfect program for recent college graduates, armed services men and women making the transition to civilian life, or other professionals attempting a career change into the HR field.

PHR Certification

  • At least of 1 year of experience in a professional-level HR position with a Master's degree or higher, OR

  • A minimum of 2 years of experience in a professional-level HR position with a Bachelor's degree, OR

  • At least of 4 years of experience in a professional-level HR position with less than a Bachelor's degree

Exam Content:

The most noticeable difference is the one that HRCI tells you about. The exam content for each has a somewhat different focus. This is because for lower level HR roles, it is more necessary to have a hold of the laws and other legal requirements. For SPHR exam takers, they are typically in higher level roles that need more planning and strategy, hence the big push in the Business Management and Strategy content area.

PHR Exam Content Outline

  1. Business Management (20%)

  2. Talent Planning and Acquisition (16%)

  3. Learning and Development (10%)

  4. Total Rewards (15%)

  5. Employee and Labor Relations (39%)

SPHR Exam Content Outline

  1. Leadership and Strategy (40%)

  2. Talent Planning and Acquisition (16%)

  3. Learning and Development (12%)

  4. Total Rewards (12%)

  5. Employee Relations and Engagement (20%)

Specialized Knowledge Requirements:

The content for the exams can run over a change of topic areas. The guide provided by HRCI is just a starting point, but it encourages us to see some of the essential differences in PHR and SPHR exam topics.

Here is a sampling of the SPHR only topics that PHR exam taker should not have to bother about. That’s not to say they are not important, but when you are prioritizing PHR study time and might not have to focus on every topic, skip these. If you are going for the SPHR, prioritize these.

Participate as a contributing partner in the organization’s strategic planning procedure, for example, provide and lead workforce planning dispute with management, develop and present a long-term estimate of human capital needs at the organizational level.

Develop and utilize business metrics to estimate the achievement of the organization’s strategic aims and objectives, for example, key performance indicators, balanced scorecard. Perform cost/benefit analyses on proposed projects.

Develop policies and plans to support corporate governance enterprises, for example, whistle-blower protection, code of ethics. Identify and assess alternatives and recommend strategies for vendor selection and outsourcing.

Oversee or lead the transition and implementation of new systems, service centers, and outsourcing. Determine the strategic application of combined technical tools and systems, for instance, new enterprise software, performance management tools, self-service technologies.

Develop, implement and assess the succession planning process. Evaluate the effectiveness of employee training programs in the use of metrics for example participant surveys, pre, and post-testing.

Again, this is just a selection of the SPHR-specific content that shows up on the exam, but it is critical to creating sure you understand these not only in theory but in the application as well.

Application vs. Combination Thinking:

The PHR is more on learning terms, concepts, and ideas and then getting them for the exam. Easy memorization might not work, because you still want to know the best answer in some cases, and that requires some analytical thinking.

The SPHR is more about combination knowledge from a division of areas into a coherent strategy. The strategy is the number one way explain to students that the SPHR is different when they are planning for the exam.

Wrapping Up

As you can see, the exams change in multiple ways. The most important thing to do is choose the one that is the right fit for you and then begins a study plan that provides you enough for the test. Your preparation is not meant to come only from a book your experiences and communications with other HR professionals both better to drive your certification preparation.

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