Should you get HR Certified as a PHR or SPHR? Your Guide to HR Certification

Should you get HR Certified as a PHR/SPHR?

Your Guide to HR Certification

Interview with Jon Orozco

Woman studying at a table

Which HR certification is best for me?

If you’re asking this question, you’ve come to the right place. Today we’ll answer a few of these important questions, and explore the PHR/SPHR certification in more depth. Determining which HR certification is best for you involves research, budgeting, and defining your career aspirations. Like any investment, it’s worth taking the time to get it right. Thankfully, the long-term value is clear. HR certifications are linked to increased compensation for HR professionals over a ten-year period! 

How do you become a certified HR professional? 

After you learn about the different HR certifications and find your ideal option, the real work begins. Most certifications require that you register for an exam in advance. After registering for your HR certification exam, the next step is finding a preparation course. If you’re serious about HR certification exam success, signing up for a prep course is a must. That’s because an HR certification prep course will help you complete your full review of the exam study materials. 

What are the different certifications for human resources? 

There are two main organizations that issue HR certifications: HRCI, and SHRM. The certifications created by these organizations are the best known among employers and across the HR field.

The common HRCI certifications include:

  • PHR – Professional in Human Resources
  • SPHR – Senior Professional in Human Resources
  • PHRca – Professional in Human Resources in California
  • GPHR – Global Professional in Human Resources
  • aPHR – Associate Professional in Human Resources
    • The aPHR certification is tailored for entry-level HR professionals.


The most common SHRM certifications and micro-credentials include:

Which is better – HRCI or SHRM certification?

This is the age-old question that each person needs to answers for themselves. While each certification type is beneficial, the exams, costs, and materials are all structured differently. Think about your desired expertise and preferred learning style as you review the HR certification exam details. Today, you can start by learning what the classic HRCI certifications, the PHR and SPHR are all about! You’ll also get to know instructor Jon R. Orozco, whose PHR/SPHR prep class is starting on October 6.

All About the PHR and SPHR Certifications

Meet the PHR 

According to HRCI, “the PHR demonstrates your mastery of the technical and operational aspects of HR management, including U.S. laws and regulations. The PHR is for the HR professional who has experience with program implementation, has a tactical/logistical orientation, is accountable to another HR professional within the organization, and has responsibilities that focus on the HR department rather than the whole organization.”

The PHR exam content consists of:

  • 39% Employee and Labor Relations
  • 20% Business Management
  • 16% Talent Planning and Acquisition
  • 15% Total Rewards
  • 10% Learning and Development   

Learn more about the PHR exam here.

Meet the SPHR

According to HRCI, the SPHR is a credential designed to showcase the HR leadership recognition. From their website: “The SPHR demonstrates your mastery of the strategic and policy-making aspects of HR management as practiced in the U.S. The credential is designed for big-picture thinkers responsible for planning rather than implementing HR policy. Organizations seek out SPHR professionals for their proven accountability for HR department goals, for breadth and depth of knowledge in all HR disciplines, and for understanding business issues beyond the HR function.” A study published by PayScale in 2018 showed that HR pros with an SPHR credential saw a 9.6% pay boost compared to their peers without certification.

The SPHR exam content consists of:

  • 40% Employee and Labor Relations
  • 20% Business Management
  • 16% Talent Planning and Acquisition
  • 12% Total Rewards
  • 12% Learning and Development   

Learn more about the SPHR exam here.

The upcoming PHR/SPHR prep course is led by instructor Jon R. Orozco, SHRM-SCP – Senior Executive Trainer & Chief Operating Officer. Mr. Orozco is an experienced Subject Matter Expert (SME), Trainer, and Human Resources Business Partner. Adept at providing leadership & development training, Mr. Orozco brings a fresh approach to conflict resolution, professional boundaries, diversity, inclusion, and sexual harassment training that minimizes future incidents and creates an inclusive, equity-based workplace.

Jon Orozco Headshot, PHR/SPHR Prep Course InstructorMr. Orozco serves as the Chief Operations Officer (COO) of Employers Choice Online Inc., which is headquartered in Southern California. Mr. Orozco leads the executive team for Employers Choice Screening, Compliance Training Group, and Diversified Risk Management. Mr. Orozco’s achievements include motivating and leading a high-performance management team; attracting, retaining, and recruiting required personnel; and providing mentoring to the management career development program. Previously, Mr. Orozco has held several executive roles and was responsible for implementing the HRIS system and designing total compensation packages and benefits, and crafting work cultures that inspire employees to learn and grow – and do their best work. 

Jon’s work has led HR professionals on the path toward certification and exam success. We’re grateful for his time to sit down with us (virtually) and answer a few questions for us about the PHR/SPHR!

Jon, can you share a bit about your background as an HR instructor?

Jon Orozco: My first career path was in banking, working as a branch manager of a credit union. I was also a financial literacy instructor, teaching people how to manage their money better and grow their savings. I’ve joined the SHRM board in Washington State and served on it for five years. After earning my master’s in HR and certification, my career progressed in HR, where I eventually became an executive trainer. I teach areas of diversity & inclusion, ethics management, and essentials of effective management, and I also conduct the course, Train The Trainer. Teaching HR is a natural progression of a career path, and I love teaching people to be better HR practitioners.  

In your professional opinion, what sets the PHR and SPHR apart from the rest of the certification options out there?

Jon Orozco: I have multiple certifications, and I do not feel there’s a vast difference between SHRM-S/CP and S/PHR. SHRM-S/CP and S/PHR do include a great learning system to master the content and pass the test easier. There is another certification: IMPA-S/CP (public sector human resource), which is also an excellent certification if you are in public service.

What can participants expect from your PHR/SPHR prep course?

Jon Orozco: The needs of the students drive my course. I lay out a tentative schedule for the class but reassess weekly to refocus on areas of need or move onto others if the students have the content locked down. We also take several tests together to get all students into the groove of test-taking to eliminate the jitters and uneasiness that students feel. My idea behind this is that students take 10+ tests in our class, master the content, walk into the testing center, and ace the test on the first attempt. I expect the practitioners to be able to leverage this credential in their current role and follow them as they develop their careers. 

Who is eligible for the PHR/SPHR Certification?

Jon Orozco: At a minimum for the PHR, you have at least four years of experience in a professional-level HR position + a high school diploma. However, the PHR requirements reduce with a college degree or graduate degree. In comparison, the SPHR requires seven years of experience in a professional-level HR position. Similarly, those SPHR requirements reduce with a college or graduate degree.

Why are you excited to teach the PHR/SPHR Prep Course this summer?

Jon Orozco: Our workplace has changed significantly from daily in-face interactions to virtual talks via the webcam. I see HR evolving into a strategy, and tactician role as more of our tasks and work becomes automated. I think that competent, strategic HR practitioners will fill the void of the needed culture advisor in various workplace issues and problems – I enjoy teaching through that lens. As I tell my students, it is not about memorization, it’s about the application and providing competent advice to be a trusted advisor.

What feedback have you received from HR professionals about the PHR/SPHR? How has this credential helped them professionally?

Jon Orozco: A credential shows a baseline for competence and a commitment to professional development and lifetime learning, which will be a distinct advantage over other candidates. Lastly, the 60 credit recertification requirement through continuous learning credit, activities, and events keep HR practitioners on their toes and updates new HR knowledge.

To be led by Jon this fall, sign up for PIHRA’s PHR/SPHR Prep Course!

Join a virtual cohort of HR professionals to study for the PHR/SPHR exam! Under Jon’s instruction, you’ll cover exam materials during a 9-week preparation course.

PIHRA’s HR Certification Prep Courses are always offered at competitively low rates. Additionally, HR professionals enjoy more hands-on instruction in PIHRA’s prep classes thanks to our exclusive class sizes. Furthermore, once you’re certified, you can always rely on PIHRA webinars, conferences, and programs for ongoing recertification credit opportunities. 

Learn more about our upcoming PHR/SPHR prep course!
Registration closes October 9, 2020 at 8:00pm.

Register Here for the SHRM California Law HR Specialty Credential


More HR certification courses starting soon:

SHRM California Law HR Specialty Credential  
(Coming Soon)