Is PHR Certification Worth the Effort and Expense?

by Salary.com Staff - August 27, 2019
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Earning a PHR Certification is not very expensive compared to other HR Certifications, but it does require a significant amount of education and/or experience. Career human resources professionals should view a PHR as a long-term investment that will advance their knowledge and enhance their standing among employers.

What is a PHR Certification?

Obtaining a PHR certification signifies that a recipient has successfully gained a wide-ranging knowledge of the fundamentals of human resources management. These fundamentals fall into six main categories, including employee and labor relations, business management, talent planning and acquisition, rewards, learning and development, and employment law.

Who Grants the PHR Certification?

The Professional in Human Resources designation is granted by the HR Certification Institute (HRCI), a respected nonprofit organization that provides a variety of HR professional certifications. HRCI is considered the gold standard for HR professional development.

How to Become a Professional in Human Resources

Candidates for the PHR certification must meet minimum education and experience requirements and pass a rigorous exam. There are several options for satisfying the education/experience requirements. At a minimum, candidates must obtain

  • One year of professional HR experience plus a master’s degree; or
  • Two years of professional HR experience plus a bachelor’s degree; or
  • Four years of professional HR experience plus a high school diploma.

The PHR exam is a computer-based exam consisting of 150 questions that are predominantly multiple choice. Test takers are allowed 3 hours to complete the exam. HRCI does not endorse a particular resource or method of study as every candidate’s preparation needs are different.

HRCI provides self-study candidates with a variety of resources to help prepare for the test, including study guides and online practice exams. HRCI also publishes an exhaustive list of test preparation providers that use both Classroom and Virtual instruction.

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Professional in Human Resources Professional?

The PHR Exam fee is $395 and the Application fee is $100. The exam prep materials are more economical if purchased in a bundle together with the exam fees. Prices range from $75 for a practice exam to complete programs costing between $400 to $895. Non-bundled courses can go as high as $1,200.

Is the PHR Certification Worth the Investment?

Based on job posting data, most employers prefer or strongly prefer candidates for HR roles to have some type of a human resources certification. The PHR certification is mentioned frequently as a preferred qualification. Candidates with a certification give employers the assurance that a certain level of knowledge and skills has been attained.

Studies have estimated that pay levels could be up to 3% higher for HR employees with the PHR certification. For an HR professional; earning a salary of$50,000, an extra 3% translates to an additional $1,500 per year, meaning that candidates could earn back preparation fees in as little as two years depending on the chosen method of test preparation. Prospective PHR candidates may want to discuss potential opportunities with their managers before pursuing certification.

Based on the above, the PHR certification is likely worth the investment in time and money for those professionals that are seeking a long-term career in HR management.


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