Top HRIS Certifications for 2022

What is HRIS software?

Human Resources Information System software is a comprehensive solution for a host of HR functions that are essential to business operations. HRIS software helps HR professionals manage everything from payroll to performance goal setting and tracking. By automating and tracking these tasks and functions, HRIS software helps HR teams run more efficiently.

What is HRIS certification?

HRIS certification, also called HR certification, is an optional educational component of your HR career that keeps you abreast of HR-related technology, trends in the field, and evidence-based practices. Individuals who get HRIS certified send a clear signal to employers that they take the profession seriously and are committed to educating themselves about its core functions. 

Aside from appearing more attractive to employers, HRIS certification may earn you a pay raise as well. The latest data from 2018 reveals that HR professionals who receive at least one HRIS certification earn 31.6 percent more than those who do not. However, the salary benefit will differ, depending on which certification you choose to pursue. In spite of the dated information, the estimated salary increases give a general idea of how each certification may boost your salary. 

Historically, HR certifications have tended to increase in value over time. In 2008, for instance, the percentage increase in salary due to certification was 17 percent and reached close to 40 percent in 2016 before dipping in 2018 to 31.6 percent. We can reasonably conclude that the estimated salary bumps in 2018 are higher today, especially now that employers are vying for talented, qualified candidates. With an HRIS certification under their belt, professionals may feel more empowered to advocate for higher salaries.

Who is HRIS certification for?

HRIS certifications are for working professionals looking to break into the field of HR or advance in their current HR career path. Each certification integrates with full-time professional schedules and targets various segments of the HR professional community. Therefore, we won’t be covering full-time programs offered at institutions of higher education here, as they require full-time study commitment. 

Top HRIS certifications

CertificationCertifying BodyExam PriceExperience LevelFocus
Human Resources Information ProfessionalIHRIM$445-645mid-levelHRIS technology
Society for Human Resource Management-Certified ProfessionalSHRM$300-475entry-levelbasic HR
Society for Human Resource Management-Senior Certified ProfessionalSHRM$300-475mid-level to advancedHR strategy
Associate Professional in Human ResourcesHRCI$300entry-levelcompliance
Professional in Human ResourcesHRCI$395mid-levellabor law
Senior Professional in Human ResourcesHRCI$495mid-level to advancedHR strategy/management
HR Analytics CertificateCornell University$3,600all levelsHR analytics
People Analytics HR CertificationHCI$1,995all levelsHR analytics
Associate Professional in Talent DevelopmentATD$499-699entry-level to mid-leveltalent development
Certified Professional in Talent DevelopmentATD$975-1,350mid-level to advancedstrategic application of talent development

Human Resources Information Professional (HRIP)

The most tech-oriented certification currently available is the Human Resources Information Professional (HRIP) certification exam offered by the International Association of Human Resources Information Management (IHRIM).

The HRIP certification exam tests competencies of professionals in the HR information management field. Passing the exam certifies your expertise in HRIM/HRIS concepts and processes.  

IHRIM poses no barriers to eligibility but recommends having at least three years of professional HR tech or information management experience

To prepare for the test, IHRIM schedules several three-week online exam review courses that take place throughout the year. For extra practice, practice exams are available for purchase.

When you’re ready to take the exam, you have the option of taking the exam through an online proctoring service or at an authorized testing center. The fees depend on whether you’re currently a member of IHRIM. Packages that roll exam fee and course prep resources into one are available to membership holders.

This certification requires renewal every three years to ensure that the certification stays current. HRIP recipients earn an average annual salary of $75,000.

Best for: individuals with some experience who want to advance their knowledge of HR tech solutions

Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP)

The Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) is available through the Society for Human Resource Management. The SHRM-CP is intended for those who perform general HR tasks and those who are pursuing a career in Human Resource Management. Upon receiving this certification, you should be able to apply what you’ve learned to the workplace.  

The four-hour SHRM-CP exam is administered online through a remote proctoring service. It tests your knowledge of fundamental HR concepts related to people, organization, and the workplace. It also assesses your ability to handle situations appropriately with situational questions that test your interpersonal, leadership, and business skills.

SHRM does not require any prerequisites for this certification but recommends basic working knowledge of HR practices and principles. If you decide to pursue this certification, you must first apply (there’s a $50 application fee). From there, SHRM offers a variety of ways to prep for the exam:

  • Self-paced study
  • Instructor-led course
  • Study teams
  • Webinars

Once you pass your exam, it’s valid for three years. After that, SHRM requires that you recertify. Exam fees vary based on membership status and whether you take advantage of early-bird discounts.

According to the latest data, individuals with the SHRM-CP certification earn about four percent more in their annual salary than those who do not have this certification.

Take the practice course for the SHRM-CP exam here!

Best for: individuals just starting out in their HR careers

Society for Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP)

For more seasoned HR professionals who are looking to advance to a strategic level role in HR, SHRM also offers the Society for Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP)

The four-hour SHRM-SCP exam is administered online through a remote proctoring service. It requires at least three years of experience in an HR role and assesses competencies in developing HR policy, oversight of HR operations, and strategic leadership.

When applying for the SHRM-SCP exam, applicants must be able to show that they hold at least 1,000 hours of strategic HR work within the calendar year. Like the SHRM-CP, there is a $50 application fee for this exam as well. 

As with the CP exam, SHRM offers a variety of ways to prep for the SCP exam:

  • Self-paced study
  • Instructor-led course
  • Study teams
  • Webinars

Once you pass the SCP exam, it’s valid for three years. After that, SHRM requires that you recertify. Exam fees vary based on membership status and whether you take advantage of early-bird discounts.

According to 2018 data, SCP holders earn about six percent more in their salary than those who do not have this certification. 

Check out this practice course for SHRM-CP Certification!

Best for: mid- to advanced-level HR professionals who want to reinforce and add to their HR knowledge.

Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR)

The Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) offers a variety of HR certifications for every career stage, and each offers a slightly different content-area focus. 

The Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR) certification is a knowledge-based certification for individuals who have no experience in HR but want to acquire basic HR knowledge. It’s perfect for those who are just starting out as HR professionals or who are not in an HR role but manage people. 

The aPHR exam is two hours and 15 minutes long and tests individuals on the following areas:

  • Compliance and risk management
  • Employee relations
  • Talent acquisition
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Learning and development

Applicants must pay a $100 application fee and can then begin prepping in several ways:

  • Practice exams
  • Exam content outlines
  • Webinars

To save money, it’s possible to bundle the exam fees with course preparation options. The exam itself is administered at an authorized testing center or online via remote proctoring.

Given that the salary boost for the PHR certification (see below) is at about three percent, we can conclude that any bump in salary as a result of obtaining the aPHR would be negligible. However, earning this certification is great to have if you’re applying for entry-level HR jobs and want to stand out from other candidates. 

Best for: professionals who want to start a career in HR or who do not work in an HR role but manage people on a daily basis. 

Professional in Human Resources (PHR)

For the next career stage within HR, the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification is also available through HRCI.

The PHR certification demonstrates mastery of the technical and operational sides of HR management, such as laws and regulations. It’s designed for those who have experience implementing HR programs and whose duties fit squarely within HR functions. 

The PHR exam is two hours long and tests individuals on the following areas:

  • Employee and labor relations
  • Business management
  • Talent acquisition
  • Total rewards
  • Learning and development

In order to take the exam, applicants must meet the eligibility criteria:

  • One year of experience + master’s degree or higher
  • Two years of experience + bachelor’s degree
  • Four years of experience + high school diploma

In addition to meeting the eligibility requirements, applicants must pay a $100 application fee. 

After that, HRCI offers a variety of ways to prepare for the exam, such as practice exams, exam content outlines, and more. To save money, it’s possible to bundle the exam fees with course preparation options. The exam itself is administered online via remote proctoring.

2018 data reveal that HR professionals with a PHR certification earn three percent more than those who are not certified. 

Take this practice course for the PHR exam!

Best for: early-career HR professionals who seek a deeper understanding of the legal side of HR that entails labor laws and regulations. 

Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)

HRCI additionally offers the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) which demonstrates mastery of the strategic and policy-making aspects of HR management. In contrast to the PHR, the SPHR is geared towards those who engage in strategic, “big picture” plans in HR and understand the role that HR plays within an organization. 

Those who lead within an HR department and possess broad knowledge of HR disciplines should look into this certification to become more effective HR leaders. 

The PHR exam is two and a half hours long and tests individuals on the following areas:

  • Leadership and strategy
  • Employee relations and engagement
  • Talent acquisition
  • Total rewards
  • Learning and development

In order to take the exam, applicants must meet the eligibility criteria:

  • Four years of experience + master’s degree or higher
  • Five years of experience + bachelor’s degree
  • Seven years of experience + high school diploma

In addition to meeting the eligibility requirements, applicants must pay a $100 application fee. 

After that, HRCI offers a variety of ways to prepare for the exam, such as practice exams, exam content outlines, and more. To save money, it’s possible to bundle the exam fees with course preparation options. The exam itself is administered online via remote proctoring.

According to 2018 data, a professional who holds an SPHR certification earns almost 10 percent more in their annual salary than those who do not.

Take this practice course for the SPHR exam!

Best for: experienced HR professionals who want to move into strategic and/or management roles in HR.

HR Analytics Certificate

The HR Analytics Certificate is one of Cornell University’s many HR certificates. The HR Analytics Certificate empowers HR professionals at any stage in their career to make data-driven decisions. This certificate is therefore intended for a range of roles:

  • HR Associates
  • HR Managers
  • HR Directors
  • HR analysts
  • CHROs 
  • VPs of HR 

In this program you will learn how to source, analyze, and visualize HR data to inform decisions and recommendations for hiring, employee engagement, employee retention, and workplace diversity. Upon receiving this certificate, you will possess strong analytical skills to apply in your HR role. 

The program entails four courses: 

  • Essentials of HR Analytics
  • Strategic Talent Analytics
  • Applied Predictive Analytics in HR
  • Valuing HR Initiatives

Each course is two weeks for a complete program duration of two months and requires three to five hours per week of time, making it a viable option for full-time professionals. The four courses are also completely online and instructor-led. 

To obtain this certificate, the total cost is normally $3,600 but is often discounted with promo codes. While it is the most costly option, there don’t appear to be high-commitment barriers to entry, such as enrolling full time as a student. Your employer may also be able to cover some or all of the costs.

Best for: HR professionals of all experience levels who want to strengthen their analytical skills for HR use cases.

People Analytics for HR (PAHR) Certification

The Human Capital Institute hosts three HR certifications:

  • Change Management for HR (CMHR)
  • Strategic HR Business Partner (sHRBP)
  • People Analytics for HR (PAHR)

The PAHR certification instructs on a range of subject areas that enable you to understand and work with data analysts and statistical analysis tools:

  • Cross-functional understanding and collaboration with data analysts
  • Hypotheses development and testing
  • Data interpretation
  • Data storytelling
  • Alignment between HR and broader organizational goals and initiatives

HCI offers two formats for obtaining the PAHR certificate: a virtual or in-person two-day program or a virtual series of half-day sessions that span four weeks. Regardless of your chosen format, you take an exam at the end of the sessions and their accompanying coursework. 

Once achieved, the certificate remains valid for three years. This training also counts towards recertification credits for HRCI, SHRM, and Association for Talent Development (ATD).

In comparison to Cornell University’s offering, HCI’s PAHR is a more cost-effective and less time-intensive option. Plus, HCI’s site features a detailed outline for the two-day program, so that you can get a better sense of what you’re signing up for. 

Best for: HR professionals of all experience levels who want to strengthen their analytical skills on a smaller budget and tighter timeframe. 

Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD)

The Association of Talent Development (ATD) provides two certifications related to talent development: the APTD and the CPTD. The Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD) is for early-career HR professionals who want to acquire broad foundational knowledge of the field. To be eligible you must meet both prerequisites:

  • At least three years of work experience
  • 28 hours of professional development in talent development within the last three years

Preparation for the APTD exam is self-guided and affords you a lot of flexibility in terms of how and for how long you study, depending on your experience level and current knowledge of the field. For instance, expect prep time to take between 60 and 80 hours. 

The content outline is a good starting point for your prep plan, as it covers the three tenets of the Talent Development Capability Model that are tested on the exam. APTD prep courses and practice tests are available for an additional charge. 

The exam is two hours long and can be taken online via remote proctoring service or at an authorized testing center. Upon receiving this certification, it remains valid for three years. Exam costs depend on membership status and whether you opt for additional study resources that ATD provides.

Best for: HR professionals who want to strengthen their foundational understanding of the profession and how individual capabilities fit into departmental and organizational capabilities. 

Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD)

Obtaining the APTD makes you eligible to pursue ATD’s second certification: the Certified Professional in Talent Development for mid-level career professionals. Eligibility requirements for the CPTD include:

  • At least five years of work experience
  • 60 hours of professional development in talent development within the last five years

Alternatively, you’re eligible if you have four years of work experience and possess a valid APTD certification. 

As with the APTD exam, preparation for the CPTD exam is self-guided, though studying will require a greater time commitment of 80-100 hours, depending on your experience and knowledge level in the field. ATD offers a CPTD Study Planning Guide free of charge, but for an additional fee, learners can avail themselves of ATD’s CPTD practice test and CPTD prep courses. 

The exam is three hours long and can be taken online via remote proctoring service or at an authorized testing center. Upon receiving this certification, it’s valid for three years. Exam costs depend on membership status and whether you opt for additional study resources that ATD provides.

Best for: HR professionals who want to deepen their foundational understanding of the Talent Development Capability Model by applying learned skills to the workplace, particularly in decision-making processes. 

Choosing the Right HRIS Certification

The right HRIS certification for you will depend on logistics like cost and time commitment, as well as your level of work experience and whether you’d like to focus on a particular subject area of the vast HR field. 

For more niche interests, the HRIP, HR People Analytics, and the PAHR certifications are technical and tech-oriented options for HR professionals, while the aPHR and PHR target legal aspects of HR.

For general knowledge, pursue either the SHRM-CP or the APTD.

More experienced professionals may want to look into strategic and management-oriented certifications, such as the SHRM-SCP, SPHR, or the CPTD.


Read next: HRIS Trends for 2022: The Future of HR Management

Lauren Hansen
Lauren Hansen
Lauren Hansen is a writer for TechnologyAdvice, covering IT strategy and trends, enterprise networking, and PM software for CIOInsight.com, enterprisenetworkingplanet.com, project-management.com, and technologyadvice.com. When she's not writing about technology trends, she's working out or spending time with family.

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