SHRM to Stop Supporting PHR, SPHR Certifications

how do i get a phr certification

Posted on May 14, 2014 by Ben

So if you’re a SHRM member and/or volunteer leader, you probably saw the news yesterday that SHRM is no longer supporting the PHR and SPHR exams after 2014. Read on for how this impacts you, and for those considering a SHRM Learning System alternative, I have a recommendation for that as well at the end. Here’s the note that many of us received earlier this week:

Dear Volunteer Leaders,

As an important and valued member of the SHRM community, I am pleased to share some exciting news with you.  The Board of Directors of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has approved a plan to create a competency-based certification program for human resource professionals.

The new HR certification is based on the SHRM HR Competency Model, which consists of nine primary competency domains defined with behavioral proficiency standards across four professional levels — entry, middle, senior and executive.  The new certification will be the first of its kind focused on teaching and the testing of this practical, real-life information that HR professionals need to excel in their careers.

“The differentiator for HR professionals will not be what you know, but what you can do with what you know,” said SHRM Board Chair Bette Francis.  “SHRM has a responsibility to lead the profession towards a certification process that proves competencies.  That will benefit the individual, the profession and employers by aligning HR with the changing demands of business.”

Over the last three years, SHRM had conducted and validated research on behavioral competencies and has developed its own competency model to serve as a foundational resource for all HR professionals.  SHRM is currently working on a certification program that will create a testing regime and governance model to provide integrity to the exam process.

SHRM plans to offer the first exam for the new competency-based certification in mid-2015.  However, to ensure that no applicants are disadvantaged by this transition, SHRM will continue to support the PHR and SPHR certifications programs through the December 2014 – January 2015 test window.  Other exams will be supported through their last test window in 2014.

“We have been working towards this for several years and are taking steps to ensure a smooth transition for SHRM members and HR professionals,” said SHRM CEO and President Henry G. (Hank) Jackson.  “We are creating a clear pathway for HR professionals who are already certified under knowledge-based credentials so they can move to the new SHRM competency-based certification.  This certification will be relevant to all career levels, across all industries, and organizations around the world.”

I know you are as excited as I am about SHRM’s focus on competency-based certification and SHRM will be sharing updates with you about the new program in the coming weeks and at the Annual Conference.

Warmest regards,

Elissa C. O’Brien, SPHR

Vice President, Membership


This news was followed up yesterday by a note from Hank Jackson, CEO at SHRM talking about how the change will impact those of us with a certification by allowing us to map it over to the new SHRM option.

Dear SHRM Volunteer Leader:

SHRM announced a significant change yesterday regarding a new competency-based certification, and I wanted to make sure that we follow-up with you to provide more details.  Serving the professional development needs of HR professionals and advancing the profession is and always has been SHRM’s mission.

We know our announcement may affect you both personally and professionally. This new competency-based certification will involve a transition and SHRM will make it as smooth as possible.  We know you have many questions, and we are committed to keeping you apprised of progress as we move forward with this new initiative.

Moving to a Competency Based Model

We believe a competency-based certification is the new standard for HR professionals around the globe. Our members have told us this; and we have listened. The SHRM Competency Model is the culmination of over three years of research and was built and validated by more than 30,000 HR professionals around the world. These HR pros identified the skills needed to grow and succeed in

HR careers and we validated that individuals who demonstrate these skills positively impact business outcomes. This is what will separate SHRM’s assessments from others on the market.  We plan to offer the following components as part of the new model:

  • A new global Body of Competency and Knowledge (BOCK)
  • A comprehensive exam
  • World-class instructional materials, and
  • Certification prep tools you have come to expect from SHRM.

We are in the process of finalizing each of these components so that we can offer a more modern and relevant certification for today’s HR practitioner.


Again, transition is the key to making this new certification work for SHRM members and the HR profession.  Our critical stakeholders include existing certified professionals and those HR practitioners who want to become certified.

Existing Certified Professionals

Current certified professionals will have a seamless path to transition their existing credential to the new global competency-based standard at no additional cost to you.

We plan to roll out an online education module for existing certified professionals for you to learn about the new competency based certification.  You will be able to view it, answer some embedded questions and then be able to transfer your PHR®, SPHR® and GPHR® to the new SHRM credential.* You will need to document your existing generalist HR certification and sign a code of ethics.

Volunteer leaders will have the opportunity to convert their designation to the new SHRM certification during the SHRM Volunteer Leaders’ Summit in November, and all others will be invited to participate in the conversion process from January 1 – December 31, 2015. More details regarding the transition will be unveiled at the SHRM Annual Conference from June 22-25, 2014 .  There will also be periodic updates from SHRM in the weeks prior to the Conference.

Future Certified Professionals

SHRM will continue to provide certification preparation material and support for the PHR® and SPHR® through the December 2014 – January 2015 exam window.

In July 2014, we will begin providing the new competency-based information and marketing materials.

On December 1, 2014. we will provide the new certification preparation materials (SHRM Learning System) and instructor training for you to use during the Winter/Spring 2015 training period in preparation for SHRM’s first Competency-Based Exam test window (May-July, 2015).

Moving Forward

The HR profession and the business community are looking for and recognize the need for a competency based assessment. This will require an investment by SHRM but, we feel that as the leader of the profession, SHRM needed to respond.

We believe this new certification is the future of the HR profession and we want to make sure you hear from us as we continue to move forward.

We understand that change involves many moving parts. These components will continue to be developed and communicated to you as SHRM volunteer leaders and to our membership as a whole.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we take the HR profession forward.

What does it all mean?

One of my sources at HRCI says that they were not expecting this, and they are not planning to discontinue providing PHR, SPHR, and GPHR exams to allow HR professionals to be certified. With SHRM moving away from those exams, it remains to be seen what the overall impact will be on the marketability over time for those of us with one of the “traditional” HR certifications.

SHRM Learning System Alternative

This would probably be a good time to mention my friends at HRCP. Their PHR/SPHR prep tools are an excellent alternative to the SHRM Learning System. They are already looking at ways to prepare for the increased number of certification applicants that will come their way with SHRM discontinuing the SHRM Learning System. I’d highly recommend that you check them out. Friendly service, 100% money back guarantee if you don’t pass, and (from my experience helping others) a higher than average pass rate. Plus you can get a discount on the materials here .

What are your thoughts on this change? What impact will it have on the HR profession, if any?


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