To Certify Or Not To Certify….That Is The Question For HR Today

Kelly Dingee HR, Kelly Dingee, SHRM

For years I’ve worked on the HR fringe as a sourcer.  And I say the fringe, because sourcing is truly a subset of recruiting which is a subset of HR.

I didn’t start my career with the intent of being a sourcer, I actually started focused on being an HR generalist, intent on eventually being an HR Business Partner.  Fresh out of school with my BBA in Human Resource Management, I was in my element in a generalist role, building on everything I’d learned in school and then some.

So a year ago, as I started to segue back into a more mainstream HR role, I decided it was time to do something to jumpstart my learning.  For years I had heard clients poo-poo HR certifications.  Many preferred an MBA, which makes a lot of sense.  With two kids in college, another at home and a full-time job, going back to school wasn’t realistic.

But I could invest in certifying.  And then the first hurdle surfaced…PHR or SHRM? I’m not the only one to struggle with this dilemma.  The PHR has been around for years, and it seems like so many job postings still reference it as a preferred qualification. So at first look, it seemed like a pretty good choice.

Then I compared the exams side by side.  Either would be okay, both looked challenging and well rounded.  And then….I checked my tuition reimbursement program.  Because yes, one of my favorite benefits is tuition reimbursement.  And that’s when the decision became clear, my SHRM study program was covered.

So CP or SCP? I had the qualifications for the SCP, but I had no idea what I was up against as far as the exam was concerned, and opted for CP.

I chose the self-study option, wanting to study when it was convenient for me as opposed to adding on a weekly class.  It meant I had to be really disciplined and come up with a plan, so I could really thoroughly prep.  And I needed to, I loved all my years in sourcing, but I had a lot of information to catch up on.

The experience? Eye opening.  There is a level of camaraderie that immediately develops when you find someone else studying for the SHRM exams.  CP, SCP, it doesn’t matter.  We were all in the throes of finding time to study, figuring out when we were solid on a topic and working our schedule.  As an added bonus, not only did I deeply refresh my HR knowledge, but I really found a translation manual for all the corporate HR speak I was finding in my new gig.  And I was surprised at how much I enjoyed really digging in and studying.

Of course, I did regress at one point to being the panicked student when I realized the exam was 2 weeks away and my pre-test results were not where I wanted them to be. Knuckling down and using every extra hour to study made a huge difference.  I focused on my weakest area (legislation and compliance).  And I practice tested like it was my job.

It paid off, I passed on my first try on a rainy summer Monday.  The reward? More confidence in my HR knowledge, and I’m excited to join the cadre of HR pros who have been in the trenches of studying and passing these exams. There is a rigor there that should be appreciated. Will I go for the SHRM-SCP? Probably.  Ultimately I took the exam for me, and not for how it will or will not impact my HR career.  And it made me realize if I do decide to go back and get the MBA I started years ago, it’s not a career thing, it’s a personal thing and it just may be worth doing.