Organizational Wellness

Get SHRM Certified: The Ultimate HR Guide

Aug 4, 2023
Last Updated Apr 22, 2024

If human resources is your passion, you want to do everything you can to expand your knowledge and put it into practice. After all, the more you know, the more effective you'll be in designing and implementing HR policies that benefit your organization — like improving employee engagement and talent acquisition

One of the best ways to boost your skill set is obtaining a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) certification.

A SHRM certification can be your golden ticket to exciting career opportunities, fresh HR ideas, and even a salary boost. In fact, getting a SHRM certification can increase your long-term earning potential by as much as 15%, so the work you put into it could pay off big time. Achieving certification shows your dedication to HR and that you've learned the competencies necessary to be an effective leader.

Whether you're simply considering your options or ready to dive into the certification process today, knowing what to expect sets you up for success. So, let's get started!

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What is a SHRM Certification? How to Pick the Right One

The SHRM is a global organization of more than 340,000 HR and business leaders dedicated to supporting human resource practices. It offers a broad range of tools, programs, and other resources for HR professionals. Through this organization, you can network with other like-minded HR professionals or work toward a SHRM certification.

SHRM offers two types of certifications: SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP. 

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SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP)

The SHRM-CP is ideal for HR professionals acting as the day-to-day point person for their organization. It's best for individuals early in their careers who want to set the stage for future growth. To become a candidate for the SHRM-CP, you don't need any prior HR experience or a degree. However, it's recommended that you have basic knowledge of HR principles and practices. 

SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP)

The SHRM-SCP is an upper-level certification. It requires applicants to have at least three years of strategic HR experience or hold the SHRM-CP certification credential for a minimum of three years while transitioning into a strategic-level role. Like the SHRM-CP certification, there's no degree requirement. However, applicants must show they have at least 1,000 hours per calendar year of HR-related work. 

Certificate holders might take on more complex responsibilities like designing HR policies and procedures, developing wellness programs, and aligning HR strategies with other departmental goals.

Which SHRM Certification is Right for You?

A SHRM-CP certification is best for individuals in the early stages of their HR careers. If your goal is to earn an HR leadership position and you have the requisite three years of experience, it's a good idea to go for a SHRM-SCP. 

The SHRM Exam Process

SHRM exams are offered in early summer and again in winter. 

During an open registration window, you can apply on the SHRM website and pay your exam fee. The SHRM will email you an Authorization to Test letter within 10 business days. Once you have this, you can schedule an in-person or remotely proctored exam.

Both SHRM certification exams consist of 134 multiple-choice questions and take about four hours. Some questions are fact-based and others are scenario-based to assess your situational judgment skills.

How to Prepare for the SHRM Certification (4 Steps)

If you're aiming for that SHRM certification, it's best to tackle the exam head-on! Here are some practical tips to get you prepped and primed for success.

  1. Get Familiar With Exam Content

The foundation for both SHRM certifications is the SHRM Body of Applied Skills and Knowledge (SHRM BASK). It defines nine different HR behavioral competencies and a single technical competency necessary to be successful in the HR profession. 

The SHRM certifications derive all content from the BASK principles. If you review and understand them, you'll be familiar with the test's framework. 

The SHRM Certification Handbook provides a comprehensive analysis of what to expect. 

  1. Carve Out Study Time in Your Schedule

Candidates need between 40 and 120 hours of study time to prepare for the exams, according to SHRM. Of course, the time you need to prepare may vary depending on your HR experience and education. It's a good idea to make a concrete study plan and stick with it so you can make consistent progress over time.

  1. Read the SHRM Certification Exam Book and Take Practice Exams

SHRM provides lots of preparation tools through the SHRM Learning System, including a SHRM certification exam workbook. You can also find practice exams, online classes, and other resources to help you ace the exam. 

Here are a few popular SHRM webinars to help you prep for the test:

There are also self-study and instructor-led courses you can sign up for:

  1. Join a Study Group

If you're finding it hard to stay motivated, you may wish to join a study group of people working toward their SHRM certification like you are. You can find a study community through the SHRM Certification Prep Group on SHRM Connect.

Maintaining Your SHRM Certification

Congratulations on passing your exam! Your SHRM certification will last you three years. To maintain it, you have two options:

  1. Retake (and pass) the exam before your certification expires, or

  1. Complete 60 hours of qualifying professional development activities

Recertification helps you stay on top of continuing changes and trends in the HR profession.

SHRM Certification FAQs

Here are answers to common questions about the SHRM certification process.

How much does it cost to get SHRM certified?

The standard SHRM certification exam fee is $410 for SHRM members and $510 for nonmembers. However, discounted pricing is available for early-bird registrants, qualified students, corporate exam takers, and military service members. 

If you purchase exam prep materials, they'll increase your overall costs.

How long does it take to get SHRM certified?

From start to finish, the time to become SHRM certified is typically four to five months. Once you schedule your test, you'll have the remaining time to prepare for your exam. 

How hard is it to get SHRM certified?

If you meet the eligibility requirements and put in the time and effort to prep for the exam, you're well on your way to snagging that certification. 

According to SHRM stats, recent pass rates for the SHRM-CP exam are 71%, while SHRM-SCP candidates have a pass rate of 54%. Consider teaming up with other test-takers and using practice tests to keep motivation high. You've got this!

Stay on Top of Where HR is Headed

Acquiring a SHRM certification is a great way to master key HR concepts, build confidence as an HR professional, and increase your lifetime earning potential. Plus, the knowledge you gain can inspire you to make positive changes in your workplace — like enhancing employee wellbeing.

Improving workforce wellness is a key responsibility in modern People departments. Wellbeing programs are a great way to advance many of an HR professional’s key metrics: Thriving employees translates into lower turnover, higher productivity, and decreased healthcare spending. 

Wellhub’s holistic wellbeing platform makes it easy to support workforce wellness. Speak with Wellbeing Specialist today for help advancing employee wellness!

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Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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