Human Resources is such an important part of any organization, and it sometimes doesn’t get its due respect. Usually, HR is the front line of the company where candidates get screened by recruiters and hiring managers. The HR function is critical in getting candidates screened and onboarded. Projects succeed or fail based on its people, so it’s important to get the correct candidates in the door. Additionally, HR has to deal with personnel records, disciplinary actions, and most unfortunately, the firing/laying off of employees. It’s at times a thankless and difficult job, so I have respect for HR and all that they do. With all that they have to deal with, it comes as no surprise that HR certifications are a key piece of the equation.

The Making of Good HR Personnel

What makes a good HR representative or executive? Is it in the way that they carry out their job day in and day out? Or maybe the way in which they handle tough personnel issues. I don’t think it is one singular thing that makes a good HR rep, but rather, it’s a mix of all those traits and skills. These skills don’t always come naturally, and some individuals need training and certifications to get them there. In the IT career field, there are so many different certifications out there that will validate your skills and talent on a certain technology. The same applies with HR skills; there are certifications and training you can take to improve your knowledge and skills in the HR career field.

Top 5 HR Certifications

Here is a list of the top 5 HR certifications that will validate your skills as an HR professional and open up many opportunities for you to advance your career and/or land your dream job.

1. Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP)

One of the most widely respected HR cert is the CPLP which was created by the Association for Talent Development (ATD). ATD has created a broad curriculum focused on the training and development of HR professionals. The thing that makes the CPLP cert stand out from the crowd is the prerequisite to have four to five years of HR experience. This is definitely not an entry level certification, but more of a mid-level or journeyman type of cert.

The CPLP exam consists of a knowledge exam and a skills application exam. The cost of the exam for ATD non-members is $1250 and the member cost is $900.

2. Professional in Human Resources (PHR)

The HR Certification Institute (HRCI) has created a certification program that will enhance prospective HR professionals’ skill sets and give them an advantage in the workplace. Some of the items covered on the PHR exam are:

  • Workforce Planning
  • Employment Planning
  • Employee and Labor Relations
  • Compensation and Benefits
  • HR Development
  • Business Management and Strategy
  • Risk Management

The exam is a three hour exam and will cost $395 plus an additional $100 application fee. Upon passing the exam, you will get a certificate and credentials that are valid for 3 years.

3. SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP)

The SHRM-CP is a competency-based cert that requires three to four years of experience in human resources or talent acquisition. The SHRM-CP exam is four hours long and has 160 multiple choice questions that will test your knowledge and understanding of policy implementation and service delivery. The exam questions are situational, and your answer will be a measure of your judgement in those situations. If you have a bachelor’s degree plus three to four years of experience, you should be able to pass this exam.

4. Senior Talent Management Practitioner (STMP)

For those with many years of experience and other HR certifications, the STMP is a good next step, as it is more of a senior level certification. As an STMP, you are able to see the trends in talent acquisition and guide your employer in the right direction to stay ahead of the technology curve and changing market. Those with the STMP cert should be more of an HR strategist, looking for trends and analyzing the market. The STMP can also serve as a launching pad pre-qualifying for the TMI-Wharton Fellows program. If this seems like a logical next step for you, don’t waste any time, apply now.

5. Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC)

Managing personnel inside of an organization is a crucial skill to have. The National Association of Personnel Services (NAPS) offers the CPC certification for skilled professionals to validate their ability to manage personnel. Passing the CPC exam validates your knowledge of employment laws and legal implications on the work of the direct-hire and temporary staffing industry. This cert isn’t a one and done endeavor; there are continuing education requirements that must be met. CPCs are required to earn 17 continuing education hours. The CPC exam consists of 150 multiple choice, true/false, and case study questions. Obtaining this certification can boost your career and your earning potential.

Determine Your Path and Get Certified

There are many paths to take, and it will likely depend on your education, experience, and current skill level. Not every certification on this list may apply to what you want to do, and that is ok. Do your research, look at jobs listings, and see what kind of certs specific programs are looking for. When you choose your path and obtain one or more of these certifications, update your resume and network with your new certs and see how many doors open to you.

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Greg Stuart is the owner and editor of He's been a VMware vExpert every year since 2011. Greg enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids. He has 20 years of IT experience and currently works as an IT Consultant both in the private and public sector. Greg holds a BS in Information Technology and an MBA degree. He currently resides in Southeast Idaho. You can follow him on Twitter @vDestination, read his blog ( and listen to his podcast (