Professional Development Opinion

Human Resources Certifications - Does This Make Sense for Talent Managers in Education?

By Emily Douglas-McNab — February 05, 2012 2 min read
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Last October, I presented at the American Association of School Personnel Administrators (AASPA) conference in Reno, Nevada. After my session concluded, several participants approached me with questions, one of which caught me by surprise.

When I was working on my Masters in Labor and Human Resources at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, many professors advised my classmates and I to sit for the Professional Human Resources exam after we had earned the proper years of experience in the workforce. You can be certified as a PHR, GPHR, or SPHR. What do all of these acronyms stand for?

PHR: The Professional in Human Resources certification is designed for human resources professionals who focus on logistical aspects and the implementation of department work.

GPHR: The Global Professional in Human Resources certification applies to those who have responsibilities in multiple countries and understands global strategy and laws.

SPHR: The Senior Professional in Human Resources certification was created for professionals who serve as strategic partners and focus on the “big picture” in their organization.

Now, back to the AASPA conference... At the beginning of my presentation, I was introduced as having an SPHR certification. I was approached afterwards by many long-time school human resource professionals who asked how and why one would want to gain their certification. At the end of our conversation, all were interested in becoming certified. I know numerous businesses that will not hire HR professionals if they are not certified (even if they have a Masters degree in business or human resources), so I was surprised to learn that a group of HR veterans from the education community were not yet certified. When I asked why they had yet to take the test, many cited applicability (they were unsure as to whether or not this would help in our industry) and the passage rate.

As you can see in the chart above, these tests are not easy. The day I took my SPHR exam the two women in the testing center with me did not pass. One of the women told me that she had been in HR for more than 20 years, but admitted that she had not studied. (I studied more than 100 hours before the test).

Established in 1976, the Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) is an internationally recognized certifying organization for the human resource profession, offering four certifications, including the PHR, GPHR, and SPHR. As of January 2011, 117,374 talent managers were certificated with their PHR, GPHR, and SPHR (the state-by-state breakdown of certifications is very interesting).

So why pursue an HR certification? I sat for the SPHR exam because I knew that it would enhance my résumé, verify that my knowledge base was “worthy”, and provide access to a professional association of HR professionals. It has also proven valuable as I serve as a strategic partner for school districts in their human capital development efforts.

As a talent manager in education, would a certification make sense for you? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts!

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