5 Best HR and Talent Acquisition Certifications

By Kim Lindros
Business.com / Certifications / Last Modified: February 6, 2018
Image credit: Anzebizjan/Shutterstock

There is a broad range of responsibilities that fall to HR professionals. The right certification can help you rise up in the ranks.

Many of us think of HR as the people in charge of filling open positions within an organization, but it's much more than that. Talent acquisition is just one aspect; many HR professionals are also tasked with employee onboarding and training, gauging performance, administration of employee compensation and benefits, and higher-level policy and strategy development. These responsibilities are integral to the success of an organization, and achieving a respected certification helps you prove you've got the chops to handle the job.

Top 5 certifications, by the numbers

The following table lists top HR and talent acquisition certifications and the number of open positions on a single day that call for the certification specifically or experience with the subject matter. This isn't a scientific analysis in which every job description is examined, just an overall glance at search numbers.

Job site search results

CertificationSimply HiredLinkedIn JobsTotal
Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP)128142270
Professional in Human Resources (PHR)2,8652,1244,989
Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)2,0031,6493,652
SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP)1,0801,2402,320
SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP)7448251,569


The following sections provide details of the top HR and talent acquisition certifications according to job site searches, as well as other certifications that didn't make the top five but are still noteworthy.

Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP)

The Association for Talent Development (ATD), formerly the American Society for Training & Development, claims to be the world's largest association geared toward the training and development profession. ATD offers the CPLP and the newer Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD) credentials.

To qualify for the CPLP, you must have four to five years of work experience, depending on education level. CPLP certification requires you to pass a knowledge exam and a skills application exam. ATD members pay a $900 registration fee; the nonmember cost is $1,250. See the CPLP Candidate Handbook for complete details.

Professional in Human Resources (PHR)

The PHR, offered by the HR Certification Institute (HRCI), aims at those responsible for HR management and program implementation, while ensuring adherence to applicable U.S. laws and regulations.

The three-hour PHR exam, available through Prometric, covers workforce planning and employment, employee and labor relations, compensation and benefits, HR development, business management and strategy, and risk management. You must have at least one year of professional HR experience with a master's degree, two years of experience with a bachelor's degree, or four years with a high school diploma. The single exam costs $395 plus a $100 application fee, and the certification is valid for three years.

Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)

Another HRCI certification, the SPHR, covers many of the same topics as the PHR but with a focus on strategy and policymaking. The experience requirements are more stringent: Candidates must have at least four years of professional HR experience and a master's degree, or increasing levels of experience with a bachelor's degree or high school diploma. As with the PHR, candidates must pay a $100 application fee and $395 for the exam.

SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP)

The Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM, is a member-based organization that offers two competency-based certifications: the SHRM-CP and the SHRM-SCP, which is covered in the next section.

In addition to usual HR tasks, a SHRM-CP must understand policy implementation and strategy and service delivery. The SHRM-CP has specific work/education requirements, starting with three or four years of experience for those with less than a bachelor's degree. (See the SHRM-CP page for details.) The four-hour exam has 160 questions, which include a mix of knowledge items and situational judgment items. The exam is available during two annual windows of time – spring and winter – and SHRM members pay $300 (the nonmember price is $400).

Senior SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP)

The SHRM-SCP recognizes HR professionals with advanced knowledge of HR strategy, particularly how those strategies meet organizational goals. An SHRM-SCP acts as an HR lead and is experienced in dealing with employee performance metrics and alignment with key performance indicators (KPIs).

Work/education requirements for the SHRM-SCP start with six or seven years of experience for those with less than a bachelor's degree. The rest of the details, such as exam length, number of questions and cost, are the same as for the SHRM-CP.

What else?

AIRS offers the Certified Internet Recruiter (CIR), the organization's most widely recognized talent acquisition credential, and a number of other certifications, including the Advanced Certified Internet Recruiter (ACIR) and the Professional Recruiter Certification (PRC).

Some other sources of HR and talent acquisitions certifications are the Talent Management Institute, the National Association for Health Care Recruitment and the National Association of Personnel Services. Even LinkedIn has its own credential, the LinkedIn Certified Professional – Recruiter. It hasn't gained a lot of traction on job search sites yet (even LinkedIn Jobs), but that may be due in part to its lack of a unique abbreviation. If you use the LinkedIn Recruiter tool a lot, keep your eye on this one.

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