What's the Difference Between the PHR and SHRM-CP?

The PHR and SHRM are two different certifications available to human resources professionals who want to set themselves apart in the industry. The PHR (Professional in Human Resources) certification is granted by the HR Certification Institute, and the SHRM-CP (Certified Professional) certification is granted by the Society for Human Resource Management. Let's explore each of them now!

Exam Competencies and Topics

PHR Test Content

The PHR exam will test your knowledge of human resource-related responsibilities within each of the following functional areas:

Functional AreaWeight
Business Management 20%
Talent Planning and Acquisition16%
Learning and Development10%
Total Rewards15%
Employee and Labor Relations39%

As an example, an HR professional may be tasked with implementating an organizational training program as part of the Learning and Development function, and therefore would be expected to have some knowledge of the adult learning process.

This PHR Certification Exam Study Guide offers more specific information about what you can expect on the exam. You can also use the short video lessons, quizzes, and practice test when preparing for the real thing.

SHRM-CP Test Content

In contrast, the SHRM-CP exam will test your HR knowledge as well as your behavioral competencies across six topic areas.

Items in the Behavioral Competency Cluster will test your knowledge of the topics listed below. This section of the exam is comprised of both situational judgment questions (40%) that provide you with work place scenarios and foundational knowledge questions (10%).

Leadership 13%
Business 18.5%
Interpersonal 18.5%

Items in the HR Knowledge Domain will utilize HR-specific knowledge questions (50%) to test your knowledge of the topics listed here.

People 17%
Organization 17%
Workplace 16%

Eligibility Requirements

PHR Eligibility

Candidates who have a high school diploma will need four years of experience in an HR role to qualify for the PHR credential. Candidates with a bachelor's degree must have two years of experience in an HR role, while candidates with a master's degree or higher only need one year of related experience.

SHRM-CP Eligibility

Candidates who do not have a bachelor's degree must have four years of experience in an HR role. However, candidates who have completed less than a bachelor's degree, such as a certificate or an associate's degree that is related to HR, only need three years of experience in an HR role.

On the other hand, candidates who have an HR-related bachelor's degree must have one year of experience. Those with a non-HR bachelor's degree must have two years of experience in an HR role.

Finally, those who possess an HR-related graduate degree must currently be working in an HR position, while those with a non-HR graduate degree must have one year of related experience.

Test Dates, Costs, and More

For ease of comparison, the following chart includes information for both the PHR and SHRM-CP exams pertaining to pass rate, costs, test rates, and exam format.

Industry Pass Rate59% as of March 201970% as of Feb 2019
Exam Price $395 + $100 application fee$300 (SHRM members), $400 (non-SHRM members)
Test Dates Year-round Dec 1-Feb 15 and May 1-July 15
Exam Format Mostly multiple-choice questions: 150 scored and 25 unscored; 3 hour time limit 160 multiple-choice questions: 95 knowledge items, 65 situational judgment items; 4 hour time limit

Additional Resources

For those who decide to take the PHR exam, this PHR scholarship opportunity might be worth checking out.

If you are falling short of the eligibility requirements for the PHR but still dreaming of a career in HR, the aPHR Certification Exam Study Guide can offer you the opportunity to set yourself apart in the industry sooner rather than later.

If you're a human resources professional seeking the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification, or if you are looking to maintain your PHR certification, you can find resources to help you pass the exam below.

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