HR Certification Preparation

Get everything you need to prepare for HRCI® or SHRM® Certification Exams 

Are you preparing for HR certification? Well, you’ve come to the right place. HR Cert Prep Pros has all the classes, courses, materials and resources you need to prepare for your exam. Our HR certification experts help you gain the knowledge, practice, and confidence you need to pass any exam.

 Have questions about getting certified? See our HR certification FAQs »

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Getting Started with HR Certification

Not sure where to begin? These three steps will set you on the right path to get certified with HRCI or SHRM.

1. Choose the Right Exam

There’s an exam for every stage of your HR career. Make sure you choose the right one for your level of experience and career objectives. Learn more about which exam is right for you.

2. Study & Prepare

Chose the method(s) that work best for you:

  • take a full course, accelerated course, or workshop;
  • self-study with prep materials and mobile apps;
  • or sign up for personal tutoring on exam topics or test-taking strategies.

Then plan and stick to your weekly study schedule and dedicate yourself to learning the material and mastering practice test questions. See below for available options for each exam.

3. Apply & Take Exam

Submit an application, get approved, and set a date to take your exam. 

apply for HRCI exams* »
apply for SHRM exams »

*Save when you purchase a discounted HRCI exam bundle from our store

Already know which exam to take? Explore ways to prepare…

aPHR certification prep

aPHR prep

Prepare for HRCI’s foundational knowledge-based exam.

aPHR certification prep

PHR / SHRM-CP prep

Prepare for HRCI’s PHR or SHRM’s CP mid-level exams.

aPHR certification prep

SPHR / SHRM-SCP prep

Prepare for HRCI’s SPHR and SHRM’s SCP senior-level exams.

GPHR

GPHR prep

Prepare for HRCI’s senior-level certification for U.S.-based professionals serving a global workforce.

HR Certification FAQs

Frequently asked questions about HR certification preparation.

How should I prepare for HR certification?

You have many options when it comes to preparing for HR certification. There is no one “right” way. Instead, choose methods that fit your learning style and preferences as well as your timeline.

  • Prep Courses: If you learn best in a traditional classroom setting, then consider an instructor-led course — either in-person or online. In our experience, this is the most comprehensive way to learn the material…and courses have a higher success rate for students because they provide accountability and personalized support. Courses are offered throughout the year and range from 7-14 weeks. See all of HRCPP’s prep courses.
  • Workshops: If you’re limited on time, workshops give you an accelerated way to master key exam topics or improve your test-taking skills. Workshops are offered throughout the year and range from 1-6 weeks. See all workshops.
  • Self-Study Materials: If you learn best by reviewing materials on your own, there are many study materials, apps and practice exams available. View all our study materials.
  • Tutoring: If you prefer one-on-one support to learn specific exam topics or test-taking strategies, tutoring may be the best way to prepare or supplement the materials above. Learn more about HR certification tutoring.
How long does it take to prepare for HR certification?

Studying for any HR certification exam requires a time commitment. For most people, it takes several weeks to several months to adequately prepare for test day. It really depends on these factors:

  • Your experience: No experience is required for the aPHR exam. For the remainder of the exams, if you have a strong generalist background in HR at the appropriate level for the exam you’re taking and therefore are already familiar with many of the exam topics, then you likely won’t need as much time to review and master the material.
  • Your availability & study habits: If you’re busy with a full-time job and family, you’ll likely need to spread your study sessions across more weeks or months. However, if you’re able to dedicate multiple days a week to studying the material, digest the entire body of knowledge quickly, and are diligent in taking practice tests, it’s feasible you can prepare in weeks rather than months.
  • The exam itself: Each exam is different in its focus and complexity. As you’d expect, it takes much longer to master the topics on the senior-level SPHR than the entry-level aPHR exam. So expect to spend more time preparing for the higher-level exams.
  • Whether you have studied for or taken an exam previously: If you are re-studying the material, either because you previously studied and didn’t take your exam or you previously studied and didn’t pass your exam, it will likely take less time to refamiliarize yourself with the material.
  • How long it has been since you studied for and took a standardized test: Just finished another certification or your degree? If not, you’ll want to build in some time, perhaps the first few weeks, to “gear up” to studying and retaining large amounts of content and establishing solid study habits.

Based on our own and our students’ experience, the following general guidelines may be helpful. These estimates include reading, attending class and/or listening to online content, studying flashcards and glossary terms, and taking practice tests:

  • aPHR: 40-80 hours
  • PHR/CP: 80-140 hours
  • SPHR/SCP: 100-160 hours
  • GPHR: 60-100 hours

Our best HR certification prep courses meet once or twice per week and take 7 to 14 weeks depending on the exam. For a faster timeline, check out our accelerated prep courses and workshops which may be completed in 1 to 6 weeks.

What certifications do I need for HR?

While you don’t technically need formal certification to work in the HR field, getting certified can have an impact on your credibility, career path, and salary. If you’re just starting out in HR, we recommend getting a solid foundation by preparing for the aPHR exam.

  • If you want to become a trusted generalist, specialist, HR business partner, or HR manager: having a PHR or SHRM-CP certification is ideal.
  • If you are or aspire to become an HR leader or executive: having an SPHR or SHRM-SCP certification will set you apart and provide more opportunities for career advancement.
Are HR certifications worthwhile?

For a majority of HR professionals, the answer is a resounding YES.

Granted, HR certification is an investment — in both time and money — but ultimately it’s an investment in yourself. Studies show that over time, certified HR professionals make more money, get promoted faster, and are generally happier in their jobs. If that’s important to you, then HR certification is most definitely worth it.

Outside of higher-level job titles, increased responsibilities, and larger salaries, HR certification also gives you credibility among your peers and colleagues. Plus, the work environment is only getting more complex. Understanding the HR body of knowledge gives you the skills and confidence to tackle the most complex HR situations.

If you take all of this into consideration, then yes, getting certified through HRCI and/or SHRM is worth the time, effort, and expense.

How hard are HR certification exams?

HR is a broad and complex profession, so yes, to accurately test the competency of HR professionals, the HR certification tests are challenging. Not only can the subject matter be difficult, but the format and duration of the exam add to the challenge.

The exams are continually changing, and average national pass rates range from 50-85%.

  • The aPHR had an average pass rate of 86% in 2020. While it covers more foundational topics and is considered easier, it is essential to study for this exam. There are still topics that can surprise you if you’re not fully prepared.
  • The PHR, SPHR, and GPHR are notoriously difficult and had average pass rates of 71%, 60%, and 77% respectively, in 2020. Most HR professionals who take the GPHR have already passed their PHR or SPHR exam, which may contribute to the higher pass rates.
  • For the two SHRM testing windows in 2020, the average pass rates for the SHRM-CP exam were 66% and 67%. The average pass rates for the SHRM-SCP exam were 41% and 54%.

In our experience, the more you study and the more methods you use to prepare, the better prepared you will be to take these difficult exams.

Which is better: HRCI or SHRM?

Both HRCI and SHRM’s exams and certifications are widely recognized and accepted around the world.

  • HRCI has a wide range of exams, both generalist and specialist — aPHR, PHR, SPHR, GPHR, PHRca, aPHRi, PHRi, and SPHRi. Each HRCI exam is based on its own Body of Knowledge. The exams are fully accredited by NCCA,* include more operational and legal HR knowledge, and track more closely with the progressive stages of a typical HR professional’s career. HRCI has been credentialling HR professionals for more than 45 years and their exams are generally considered to be the gold standard of the industry.
  • SHRM launched the CP and SCP exams in 2015. They are intended to be more broadly applicable to HR professionals around the world and are based on SHRM’s HR Competency Model and Body of Knowledge.

Better is a relative term…
The key question is, which certification is better for YOU? Want to learn more? Attend or download “Which Exam is Right for You?“; then give us a call at 303-670-3366 and we’ll be happy to assist you in making the best decision.


*The NCCA’s Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs were the first standards developed by the credentialing industry for professional certification programs and are consistent with The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (AERA, APA, & NCME, 1999).

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