Julie Reader
7 min readAug 29, 2019

In the HR profession, getting an HR certification is generally seen as a good way for HR pros to learn new skills and competencies, earn more and move up in their careers. But just how much value do these certifications hold? To find out, PayScale collected salary and demographic information from over 102,000 respondents who completed our online salary survey. These respondents have HR job titles and 34 percent reported that they have at least one HR certification. We analyzed the impact of various HR certifications on compensation and career trajectory for HR professionals in the U.S. For the study, we evaluated 10 distinct HR certifications from four HR membership organization.For this study, we evaluated 10 distinct certifications from four HR membership organizations including SHRM, HRCI, HRAcademia, World at Work and the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching.To determine the impact HR certifications have on compensation and career advancement for HR pros in the U.S., we looked at the dataset through a number of lenses. First, we built a statistical model to estimate the pay boost one can expect from having a particular HR certification, while controlling for other factors that impact compensation such as job title, industry and location.

In addition, we evaluated the median pay for HR pros with and without certifications, the percent pay boost of having a certification by metropolitan areas and by industry. Also, we examined how much compensation grew for HR certification holders over the last decade. Last but not least, we looked at the promotion velocity for those with HR certifications vs. those without. We found that for the most part, having an HR certification is beneficial from a pay perspective and a career advancement perspective.Below, we present the key findings.

Types of HR Certifications


HRCI — The HR Certification Institute — has been offering certifications for over 40 years. It’s well recognized in the HR community: More than 500,000 HR professionals in more than 100 countries have earned certifications from HRCI. HRCI offers several types of certificates:

  • The Professional in Human Resources (PHR)
  • Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)
  • Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR)
  • California Professional in Human Resources (PHRca), just for those practicing HR in California
  • California Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR-CA), just for those practicing HR in California
  • Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR)


HRAcademia is a leading online HR certification platform, offering 3 of the most demanding HR certifications. Hundreds of HR professionals are already on board with it and their course material is always updating based on global trends in Human Resource.

One very strong thing about HRAcademia is their support team and quality of exam. They give you 6 months to prepare for exam. The exam is pretty tough but if you actually read the given course material then it won’t be an issue. Once you pass the exam, you will have an online URL that you can put in your LinkedIn profile or share with companies in your resume.

HRAcademia offers following three certifications:

  • Certified Human Resource Professional (CHRP-Online)
  • Senior Human Resource Professional (SHRP-Online)
  • Certified Training & Development Professional (CTDP-Online)


SHRM — The Society for Human Resource Management — is the largest HR membership organization focused on professional development. It has supported more than 100,000 employers representing 140 million employees worldwide.

In 2014, SHRM launched a new, “competency-based’ certification program for HR professionals to give them another option for learning and professional development. According to SHRM’s website, the program provides practitioners with “job-relevant’ knowledge, and skills that are transferable across industries, geographic borders, job responsibilities and career levels. Certifications are also “focused on advancement’, “strategic’, accredited by the Buros Center for Testing, and backed by SHRM, the world’s largest HR membership organization.

SHRM offers just two types of certifications:

  • SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP)
  • SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM -SCP)

When SHRM initially rolled out their own certificates, they allowed existing HRCI certification holders to map their old certifications over to the new SHRM option.

World at Work

World at Work is the leading nonprofit professional association in compensation and total rewards. They provide professional development for those who design and deliver total rewards programs. World at Work’s most popular credential is the Certified Compensation Professional (CCP).

Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC)

The iPEC is one of the largest ICF-accredited coaching training schools in the world, it has helped over 15,000 graduates launch careers as Certified Professional Coaches. It offers the Certified Professional Coach (CPC) credential.

Which Certificates Are Most Prevalent in 2018?

The most popular credential to get from the HRCI is the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification; 16.9 percent of HR professionals who responded to our survey in 2018 said they have this certification.

The second most popular credential is SHRM’s Certified Professional certificate (SHRM-CP); 15.4 percent of all HR professionals who responded in our survey in 2018 said they have this.

The Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) is the third most popular option (this requires someone to already have the PHR); 7.9 percent of all HR professionals who answered our survey in 2018 said they have this. The SHRM-SCP was just a little bit behind, with 5.3 percent of all HR professionals saying they have this in 2018.

HR Certifications By Career Levels

Higher level HR professionals are more likely to have an HR certificate. While only 13.2 percent of HR administrators have at least one credential, 35.5 percent of HR managers are certified and 51.1 percent of Vice Presidents of HR are certified.

Does It Make Sense to Have Multiple Certifications?

It is not uncommon for HR professionals to have at least two certificates. Some choose to get the more senior-level certificate that follows the initial one. Others have gotten credentials from different certifying organizations. Certain pairs of HR credentials are fairly common:

50% of SHRM Certified Professionals (SHRM-CP) also have a Professional in Human Resource (PHR) certification offered by HRCI.

62.5% of SHRM Senior Certified Professionals (SHRM-SCP) also have a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification from HRCI.

41.8% of Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) certification holders also have a SPHR certification (both offered by HRCI).

50% of Certified Professional Coach (CPC) certification holders also have a SPHR (offered by HRCI).

14.1% of PHR (offered by HRCI) certification holders also have a SHRM-CP

How HR Certifications Impact Pay

How does having a certificate influence pay? How much does it vary by the type of credential one has?

For the most part, they do give HR professionals a boost in pay. But the amount of the pay boost varies significantly depending on the particular type of credential, industry, work location, and job level.

To determine that a pay boost can be attributed to having a particular certification and not other compensable factors, we used a statistical model to isolate the effect of HR certifications on pay among several HR jobs. We controlled for location, job survey response year, company size, years of experience and whether or not two credentials might be more valuable together.

Using this approach, we determined statistically significant measures of “percent pay boost”, which estimates the effect of having a particular certificate on an individual’s pay.

In other words, when we look at two people who have similar profiles, the person with a particular certificate can expect to see an X percent pay boost compared to the person without this certificate.

Several Types of Certifications Gave Workers Significant Pay Boosts.

The CPC, GPHR, and SPHR-CA gave their owners a double digit boost in pay. Those who have the Certified Professional Coach (CPC) certificate saw the highest boost in pay (28.8 percent), followed by those who have the Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR, 16 percent).

We also found that those with a SHRM-CP, SHRM-SCP, HRCI’s PHR and SPHR can expect a pay boost, albeit a more incremental one.

Meanwhile, we did not have enough aPHR or PHR-CA or CHRP certificate holders in our dataset to be able to make confident estimates about pay boosts for these three types of certifications.

HR Certifications Are Gaining Value Over Time

Over the last 10 years, getting certified has become increasingly valuable to HR professionals from a pay perspective and a career acceleration perspective.

In 2008, the percent boost in pay associated with having any certification was 17 percent. The percent pay boost has climbed up and up, reaching close to 40 percent in 2016 before dropping slightly in the last two years. In 2018, the percent boost in pay associated with having an HR certification is 31.6 percent.

How to Choose the Best HR Certificate for You

Overall, there are clear, quantifiable benefits to obtaining HR certifications. The degree to which becoming certified impacts pay and career development for HR pros varies among job levels, geographies, industries and the specific certification. However, if you’re wondering if getting an HR credential is right for you, you should ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Why do you want to get certified?
  2. What does it take to achieve certified status? Some require more courses and exams than others. Some even requires to physically appear in test and courses.
  3. How does the credentialing organization support its members?
  4. What’s the criteria for re-certification (or keeping your certificate current)?
  5. Can you get your employer to cover the cost of the exams?
  6. What is total cost of certification? Some companies charges you separately for every step like exam, re-exam, course material, updates etc.

Original Published at PayScale.



Julie Reader

A marketing & research analyst with 15 years of working experience in Digital Marketing and Research.