How Much Is My Certification Really Worth?

By Amy Dufrane, SPHR, CAE, CEO of HR Certification Institute  

Throughout the past four decades, the education and professional development landscape has evolved in many ways. There are many more choices available for learners and career professionals — from specialized human resources undergraduate and graduate programs, delivered both in classrooms and online, to more segmented options like MOOCs (massive open online courses), badges and micro-credentials. In today’s competitive environment, people want to be assured that they are getting real value for their investment of time and money.

HRCI met this challenge head-on by commissioning an independent third-party research organization to conduct a comprehensive study on the value of its two most established credentials. The large-scale study, which was published in 2015, looked at the impact of certification on a series of outcomes that matter to HR professionals and to their supervisors.

The study’s results are based on responses from nearly 20,000 participants comprising:

  • 12,000 PHRs or SPHRs
  • 5,600 non-certified HR professionals
  • 2,400 supervisors of individuals in the previous two groups

More specifically, the organization surveyed a wide variety HR professionals throughout the United States, including both generalists and specialists with varying educational backgrounds in positions ranging from entry-level to senior management in the for-profit, nonprofit and public sectors. Those surveyed answered questions on opportunities for growth, promotions, compensation and career satisfaction. Direct supervisors rated their employees’ job performance, capability to perform strategic job duties, level of HR expertise, potential for higher-level roles and ability to handle challenging situations.

The findings were significant and demonstrated a clear link between certification and career success and satisfaction. Compared to their non-certified peers, PHRs and SPHRs who participated in the study reported:


Their supervisors said that PHRs and SPHRs, in comparison to their non-certified peers:

  • Have more expertise in core HR bodies of knowledge
  • Have greater potential for higher level positions
  • Perform at a higher level of excellence
  • Perform better on strategic HR tasks

(Source: An Evaluation of the Value of HRCI Certification for Individuals and Organizations, 2015)

Undertaking such a study takes time, money and tolerance for risk. There is no guarantee of a high participation rate or that the findings will be positive. However, in HRCI’s case, courage (and, of course, a solid study design) paid off, and there was a lot of good news to share with credential holders, potential candidates and employers.

Then, in early 2016, HRCI joined with one of its strategic partners, Top Employers Institute, to conduct research examining the impact of HR best practices — as demonstrated by individual certification of HR professionals and companywide certification of HR practices — on business performance.

The quantitative findings in this new research that were related to the individual certification of HR professionals and, more specifically, HRCI-certified professionals, demonstrated a positive correlation between companies employing more than five HRCI-certified professionals and

  • Higher ratings by current employees
  • Stronger stock performance
  • Greater compounded revenue growth rates

(Source: Emerging Evidence: Business Performance and the Validation of HR Best Practices, 2016)

This is powerful data to offer current and prospective certificants as well as organizations, which pay for or reimburse their employees for approximately 50 percent of the HRCI certification exams taken.

Additionally, this research, which links bottom-line metrics with the employment of a “critical mass” of individuals with HR certification, adds to a growing body of evidence demonstrating the impact of best practices on organizational performance. It also challenges future researchers to continue to press forward to further explore the business impact of exceptional — that is, certified — HR and other industry professionals.

A certifier takes risks but can realize many benefits in striving to provide measurable evidence of the value of its certification. In today’s competitive certification environment, it is likely an even greater risk not to.

Read the Full Studies:

Value of Certification Study PDF

Emerging Evidence Research PDF

Linda K. Anguish, SPHR, GPHR, was the first certified HR professional to be employed by the HR Certification Institute in 2004. As senior director of certification products, her team is responsible for the development of all of HRCI’s certification examinations and related products.  She is a frequent speaker on certification topics at conferences sponsored by ICE, the Association of Test Publishers and many HR-related organizations. She also serves as chair of the Board of Directors of the Certification Network Group.


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